How to rent or buy an apartment in Rotterdam
Welcome to your new life in Rotterdam!
Moving to a new country for work reasons is an exciting adventure; but there are some important details that need to be addressed too. To make your new life as enjoyable as possible, you want everything to run smoothly - and the start of this is finding suitable housing in Rotterdam. It can seem a bit bewildering - but don’t worry! We’ve got all the information you need to make a smooth start in your new home.
Housing in Rotterdam – What are the options?
There’s a wide selection of rental properties in Rotterdam, from studio apartments to entire houses. The housing in Rotterdam includes a number of suburban districts that have spacious and well-planned housing in a variety of sizes and types.
Renting in Rotterdam is a popular way to live, and for good reason. It gives tenants flexibility and the rent in Rotterdam is very attractive compared to Amsterdam or many other European cities.
Renting in Rotterdam – How to find the perfect house or apartment
Renting a flat in Rotterdam from an agent (makelaar) gives you some more assurance of good behavior on their part, whereas renting directly from the owner leaves you more open to problems that may be harder to solve.
When you rent via an agent, it puts the actual owner at arms-length, so they’re less likely to do things like randomly show up to check on you, make ‘repairs’, or suddenly change the rent.
There are many rental scams to be wary of too, so if you’re renting through a reputable agency, you are less likely to be a victim of fraud.
You can register with an estate agent, and they will send email notifications when rental properties that match your specifications come up. However, to get the best results you need to be active in looking for an apartment to rent.
While Rotterdam is not as competitive as Amsterdam, it still has a thriving rental market and you need to be at least as fast as your competition.
Start looking for apartments online
The best way to find an apartment or house to rent is to actively search on the two biggest housing websites, which will have almost every available property listed. These are Funda and Pararius.
You can also register to get alerts from them directly by email, but you should still actively check the websites a couple of times each day, and call the agent immediately if an apartment suits your needs.
If you’re definitely going to be in Rotterdam for many years, and plan to rent the whole time, you can also register on WoonnetRijnmond, which gives access to rental apartments and houses from housing corporations, as well as houses and apartments for sale. There’s a long waiting list for social housing in Rotterdam, but it is a lot cheaper, so it might be worth registering with a long-term perspective.
The reality, of course, is that many expats do not have the spare time to search for a suitable apartment or house. In this situation, it is advisable to consider hiring an expert rental agent who can do this for you. They can take care of all the small details, and set everything up.
The next step once you have seen an apartment for rent that you like, is to arrange a viewing. These are sometimes done as group viewings, but may also be done individually depending on the agent and situation.
To arrange a viewing you should call the real estate agent immediately, or have your agent call on your behalf. Email might be too slow, and someone else might have already booked their viewing before you eventually get the reply: “Sorry, it’s gone”.
Signing a rental agreement
If you decide to rent a house or apartment, you need to let the agent know as soon as possible, and then they will guide you through the process. They will want to see specific documents (such as proof of identity), and some type of evidence demonstrating that you can afford to pay the rent over a long term period.
Documents a Dutch rental agent will need to see:
- EU ID card, or Passport
- Employment Contract (proof of income)
- Residence Permit (unless from an EU country, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland)
If you’re self-employed, the agent will need some kind of other proof of your income because an employment contract is not available. They may also want proof that you have sufficient funds in your savings. This can be negotiated with the agent, but some are more flexible than others.
In any case, you will need the available money to pay the first month’s rent in advance, plus the other costs, below. If you don’t have a Dutch bank account yet, another EU bank account will help keep transactions smooth and protected from exchange-rate volatility.
Rental contracts are always in Dutch, but the agent might also offer an English version so you can understand what you’re agreeing to.
What are the costs of renting in Rotterdam?
You will always need to pay your rent, but on top of this, there are additional costs of renting that you can expect. The usual fees you need to pay are detailed below, but there may also be additional fees which need to be considered if you have contracted additional services (such as a property search) - so make sure these are clear beforehand.
Real estate agent’s costs = 1 month’s rent
The agent will usually charge an agency fee for setting everything up. It covers the costs of advertising, drawing up contracts, and administrative costs. The agency fee can be up to the value of one month’s rent.
Deposit (Borg) = 1 month’s rent
In addition to the agency fees, you will need to lodge a deposit (called a ‘borg’ in Dutch) with the agent that covers the costs of repairing damage or cleaning after you leave. This is usually the value of one month’s rent.
You’ll need to maintain only very basic things (mowing the lawn, cleaning the house) and make small repairs yourself.
It’s the landlord’s responsibility (and cost) to maintain the structure of the building itself and make any significant repairs.
Local Municipal Taxes in Rotterdam = €960 per year (approx)
The local taxes in Rotterdam cover all the services provided by the municipality. Rotterdam charges the property owners for the sewerage charges, not the tenants, so that’s one less thing to worry about. However, there are the other charges that cover refuse collection and other services. As a tenant, you can expect to budget €960 per year for Rotterdam municipal taxes.
Unless it’s explicitly included in the rental agreement, you will need to pay the cost of utilities like gas, electricity, communal heating (if applicable), TV/Internet etc. These costs depend on your contracts and usage rates.
Special things to be aware of when renting in Rotterdam
If you haven’t rented an apartment in the Netherlands before, it’s good to know about some of the peculiarities of the way the Dutch do renting.
Length of contract
Check the length of the contract, but most rental contracts are open-ended. This means that the landlord is happy to have you keep living there as long as you like as long as you’re paying the rent.
The rent can increase each year, but only in line with inflation based on the Dutch Bureau of Statistics (CBS), and as allowed by the contract.
This means ‘bare rent’. When an apartment is rented as ‘kaal’ or ‘kale huur’ it is unfurnished. By Dutch standards, this means it has been stripped down to the concrete floors and walls. This means you may need to put down a laminate floor or carpet as a first step, before you can properly move in.
Beware of rent scams
Demand for housing is high, and there are some people who take advantage of this by running various rental scams that steal money or important documents from people. Expats are a prime target, because they don’t always know what is ‘normal’ and their need for housing is acute.
Ending a contract: giving notice
You might want to add a ‘Diplomatic Clause’ to the rental contract in case your work is moved more than 50km away. In this instance the clause would enable you to end the contract prematurely, if this specific situation occurs.
Otherwise, a tenant can always give 1 month’s notice in written form by registered post.
The landlord however, must give 1 month’s notice, plus an additional 3 months for every year you have been living there, up to a maximum of 6 months.
Rental Allowance (Huurtoeslag)
If you and your partner have combined assets worth € 63,494 or less, AND a combined income of less than €32,200 then you’re probably eligible to receive rental allowance.
You can calculate what you might receive directly on the website of the Tax Office (Belastingdienst).
If you earn more than this amount, you might still be able to receive something if your income is less than €41,000. The thresholds are lower for single-person households.
Is a Housing Permit needed?
In Rotterdam, some neighborhoods require a housing permit (huisvestingsvergunning or HVV) for you to be able to live there. You can check if a particular street is on this list on the Rotterdam municipality website.
There are currently 73 streets on this list, in the following neighborhoods of Rotterdam:
Afrikaanderwijk, Beverwaard, Bloemhof, Bospolder, Carnisse, Groot Ijsselmonde, Het Lage Land, Hillesluis, Hoogvliet Zuid, Kleinpolder, Lombardijen, Oud Charlois,Oud Crosswijk, Oud Mathenesse, Pendrecht, Schiebroek, Tarwewijk, Tussendijk, Vreewijk, and Zuidwijk.
This is done to prevent troublemakers from moving into these areas, to make sure that they are nice places for the residents to live in. If an apartment or house is on a street on this list, then the HVV requires police checks on any prospective tenant, and some of these also have income and other requirements.
What’s the average rent for an apartment in Rotterdam?
It’s hard to give a useful figure for an average rent in Rotterdam, but it ranges from around €13 to €19 per square meter per month. The most expensive area is Centrum, but most other areas sit between €13 and €16 per square meter per month. For a 90m2 apartment, this equates to €1,170 to €1,685 per month in most areas and €1,710 per month for an apartment in Rotterdam Centrum.
The most popular neighborhoods include Centrum, Delfshaven, Overschie, Noord, Hillegersberg-Schiebroek, Kralingen-Crooswijk, Feijenoord, IJsselmonde, Prins Alexander and Charlois.
Buying an Apartment or House in Rotterdam
Rotterdam has a bustling real estate market, but it’s not as frantic as Amsterdam. The whole procedure for buying an apartment or house is the same as the rest of the Netherlands (and Amsterdam), but there’s a little more time and more room for negotiation.
To try and keep prices realistic for the average person, the municipality has banned investors from buying apartments or houses worth up to €355,000 for the purpose of renting it out. Instead, properties like this must be lived in by the new owner, or rented to a close relative.
Another thing you should know is that houses in Rotterdam are not seen as an ‘asset’ in quite the same way as they are in Amsterdam. This means that there is a more lax attitude to material investment in maintaining properties, and there are many apartments and houses that need modernizing or structural repairs.
The housing associations (VvEs) are also not as well organized as in Amsterdam, and often less formally managed (and with less funds held in reserve). This can be a problem when it comes to repairs.
In some areas, the foundations are starting to rot, causing cracks in the external and internal walls. Repairing the foundation is costly, so look out for this.
However, owning property is an advantage in the long-term. If you’re going to be living and working here for more than 3 or 4 years it’s worth considering.
Getting a mortgage in The Netherlands as an expat
As an expat, you need to apply for a mortgage with a slightly different process to a regular Dutch national. Lenders need to be sure that you can pay your mortgage comfortably, so they need to see proof of income and a permanent employment contract.
Almost every bank requires that you are resident in The Netherlands for at least five years before applying for a mortgage. There are specialist expat mortgage brokers who can help smooth the way, and they may be able to find financing if you’ve been in the country for less time.
Renting in Rotterdam or buying a house of your own – which is best?
Most people in Rotterdam live in rental apartments or houses, and property ownership is not as common as many other countries like the UK.
For people not used to renting as a ‘normal’ way of living, there is sometimes a tendency to think of rent payments as ‘dead money’ – a significant expenditure that just disappears. When you own a house your mortgage payments are similar to a fair rent for the same property, except that you get to keep these payments as your equity is built up over the years.
What’s the cost of owning a house in Rotterdam?
Keep in mind that you must pay extra income tax as a property owner, in addition to the property tax (OZB). This is called eigenwoningforfait, and you pay this if you live in the house as well as own it. It is included in your tax return in the ‘Box 1’ section.
As an owner of an apartment or house that you also live in, you will need to pay between 0% to 0.5% of the value, minus deductions. The percentage you need to pay is determined by the ‘bracket’ that the property falls into. Between €75,000 and €1,110,000 this amount is 0.5%, and over this amount you pay 2.35% on the portion above €1,110,000 (2021 rates).
If you own a property that you do not live in, this is treated as an asset and it’s taxed at the same rate as savings or other investments.
As an owner, you’re also responsible for making (and paying for) repairs and maintenance to your house. Renting an apartment comes with the advantages of flexibility and less responsibilities. With a long-term perspective, however, it is more financially advantageous to own property than to rent – despite the extra costs and responsibilities.
Finding your dream home in Rotterdam
The search for a place to live is often complicated and always takes time. Make sure you pace yourself, and be clear on what compromises you are happy to make.
You’ll get the best results if you use ‘a system’. Check the websites daily for new additions, and call the agent immediately to arrange a viewing. And be prepared to move quickly, because when things happen, they can happen fast!
Good luck, and happy hunting!
Last updated: June 30, 2022