Expat Life
February 22, 2023

Housing in Rotterdam: Property types, taxes and renting

Housing costs can take a significant share of your earnings, so it’s vital to choose living accommodation in Rotterdam that suits all of your needs. It’s important to understand the property market and housing in Rotterdam so you can make informed decisions. With so many possibilities for different places to live, it’s understandable you might feel overwhelmed. Is renting the right choice for you? Do you need a short-term or long-term contract? What are the possibilities for expats to buy a house in Rotterdam?

In this article we’ll cover all these topics and more, to ensure you have a complete overview of all the options available. This way, you can make the best, most informed decisions.

What’s the housing in Rotterdam like?

Rotterdam is a popular place to live; it’s home to numerous companies and universities, and it has great possibilities for housing. It’s around 20% cheaper to rent in Rotterdam compared to Amsterdam, and the living costs are a little lower too.

However, finding the right place to stay is a challenge. With so many people looking for housing in Rotterdam, it’s a challenge to secure somewhere to live. This is compounded when you’re in another country and trying to arrange things remotely.

There’s a range of housing options in the city, and depending on your circumstances some will be more suitable than others. In this blog, we’ll look at the different types of housing available, and guide you through how you can find the right place to live comfortably in Rotterdam.

Getting settled: Short term rent in Rotterdam

As we already touched upon, it can be especially difficult to arrange a place to live from a distance – especially if you’re in a whole other country. When you arrive in the Netherlands, you’re compelled by Dutch law to register with the municipality within the first 5 days of your arrival, if you’re going to be living here for more than four months. Shorter periods (for work or study) still require registration, but this can be a temporary one.

In practice, the 5-day period doesn’t always work out as you need to make an appointment to do this, and this sometimes just takes longer than the 5-day period. Don’t worry – the Dutch are pretty reasonable and they tend to see things from a practical perspective. For this reason, allowances are also made in case of the need to quarantine.

When you register you are required to show a proof of residence. But wait – you literally just got here – so how can you show a proof of residence? This is a common problem, however there are solutions; you just need to plan ahead and secure immediate accommodation that allows you to register.

Some hotels will allow you to register on a temporary basis (you need to show proof of permission when you register), but you can’t count on this. If you have friends in the city, perhaps they’ll let you stay with them and register with their address (temporarily) – but once again, you need to show written permission of this, and copies of the ID documents as well as a copy of their tenancy agreement.

A great alternative is a short-stay rental apartment in Rotterdam. These short-term solutions are perfect for the first six months or so when you are looking for something more permanent. Agents that offer short-stay and expat rentals are used to dealing with the challenges of moving from abroad and are more accommodating to ‘unusual’ circumstances. It is an advantage if you’re able to view the apartment (or get someone to do it for you), because this shows that you’re serious. There’s no shortage of other prospective tenants, and one that’s ‘already there’ is more reliable income for the agent.

You need to check if they’ll let you register with the municipality, but so long as you have a legal tenancy agreement it shouldn’t be a problem.

Short-stay rental is always a temporary solution, but it is a great way to get established quickly. The costs are a lot more than a regular rental, and can be double the normal cost of renting in Rotterdam.

Long term rent in Rotterdam

If you’re going to be around for more than six months, it’s worth looking for a long-term rental apartment in Rotterdam. Long-term rental agreements are usually a one-year minimum contract, but sometimes the minimum period is six months. Renting long-term is cheaper, with a wider selection of available apartments and it comes with better legal protections.  

Apartments to rent in Rotterdam

In the more central parts of the city, apartments are much more common than houses. Most of these are just one or two floors in a building with a shared entrance and access to your own door from a communal staircase. However, there are some more unusual spatial arrangements of apartments here. A peculiar arrangement that is sometimes seen in older buildings in Rotterdam is a sort of ‘apartment-sandwich’, where your two-floor apartment is separated by a whole other floor belonging to a different apartment – so, kind of like a sandwich. Each apartment is still fully self-contained; you just have a really long staircase to get to your ‘second’ floor. Most apartments however are more straightforward.

As a relatively modern city, Rotterdam has a wealth of modern apartment buildings with spacious and energy-efficient living spaces.

Renting a house in Rotterdam

If you look beyond the bustling central areas of the city, you will start to find more houses to rent in Rotterdam. These can be found in numerous suburbs and neighborhoods that stretch between Rotterdam and the other cities in the Randstad. As you move out from the center of Rotterdam, you will find that there are generally fewer other expats around, so you benefit from a more authentically Dutch experience.

Buying a house or apartment in Rotterdam

The Netherlands doesn’t restrict property ownership based on residence or nationality, so you can purchase a house here even if you live in another country. However, you will pay a lot more transfer tax and property tax if you’re not moving into your Dutch property immediately.

Another complication to overcome is that mortgage providers only normally issue mortgages to people who have been resident in the Netherlands for at least 5 years. Some lenders will issue a mortgage to people who have been in the Netherlands for less time, but this is seen as riskier, so it will cost more.

Expats benefit from having a number of specialist lenders who recognize the value of this market segment. Expat mortgages are perfectly possible; they just require a little more proof that you’re a reliable borrower.

As an expat, you’ll need to be an EU/EEA citizen (or have a residence permit), be resident in the Netherlands (ideally for at least six months, and most banks require 5 years+), have a permanent work contract, and your partner must also be resident in the Netherlands.

Self-employed? Then it’s still possible to get a mortgage, but you need to show proof of income over the previous 3 years.

If you don’t need a mortgage, then great! You can just pay in cash. Easy!

Rotterdam Property Tax and Transfer Tax (if buying a house)

If you buy a house, you will need to pay transfer tax at the time of purchase. There’s an exemption if you’re both between the ages of 18 and 35, and if the property value is under €400,000. Otherwise the regular rate is currently 2% of the purchase price.  If you’re not moving-in immediately (or for investors), then the transfer tax is 8%.

Aside from this, every property owner and tenants/users of business properties need to pay property tax too.

This is called Onroerende-zaakbelasting (OZB), and it is based on the official value (WOZ) of the property, which is determined by the government. The WOZ is usually below the actual market value, but it represents a fair way of calculating tax.

If you’re the owner of a residential property (an apartment or house) in Rotterdam, you will need to pay 0.0774% of the WOZ value for the property based on 2021 rates. So if you bought a property for €378,000, the WOZ value might be €360,000, so you would need to pay €278.64 in tax that year. The WOZ value is revised and updated at the beginning of each year.

For non-residential properties including business premises, the owner and user are both liable to pay property tax at different rates. The owner has to pay 0.3574% of the WOZ, whereas the user needs to pay 0.2546% of the WOZ. These are based on the 2021 rates, and the tax rate for OZB can change each year to accommodate the prevailing economic conditions and the ability for people to afford it.

Where to look for an apartment to rent in Rotterdam or a house to buy

Like so many things these days, the internet is the preferred way of finding an apartment to rent in Rotterdam. The same is true if you’re looking to buy; although real estate agents are happy to offer a complete service that includes finding prospective properties, this rarely gives you value for money - unless you are very short on time.

Instead, if you have time, look online yourself on the two websites we mention below. You’ll get a sense for the market, and see the variation in different houses and apartments out there for yourself.

Stay strong!

Looking for a place to live can feel like a full-time job at times, and you should prepare yourself for the possibility of looking for a month or so until you can find the ideal place for you. The apartment may not be available for a few months too – so make sure you plan for this.

The best websites to check for properties are definitely Funda and Pararius – and you should do this daily. If you see a place you like, then just pick up the phone and call the agent to arrange a viewing.

Before long, you’ll be comfortably settled in your new home in Rotterdam!

Last Updated: June 1, 2022