Renting an apartment in Amsterdam - how it works
What’s the cost of living accommodation in Amsterdam?
Congratulations! You’re moving to Amsterdam - one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of budgeting your living costs, and sorting out all the logistics. Like, where are you going to live? And how much will it cost?
This is a significant factor in planning your move to Amsterdam. The cost of living accommodation, such as rent or mortgage payments, will make up the biggest chunk of living costs for most people.
While Amsterdam is not as expensive as other capital cities (such as London or Paris), it’s relatively more expensive compared to most of the Netherlands. Unless your employer is paying for your housing, this will need to be carefully considered. There are two options: you can either rent, or buy a place to live.
Cost of renting in Amsterdam
As in most of Europe, the majority of people in Amsterdam rent the apartment or house they live in. It’s convenient, and flexible (for the tenant), and there are many legal protections that mean you usually won’t get evicted unless you don’t pay your rent.
The cost of renting in Amsterdam is based on two main features: the square-meter cost, and the number of rooms. An apartment of 95m2 with 3 rooms will cost slightly more than one of the same size with 1 or 2 rooms, for example. The biggest factor overall however, is the square-meter price which is determined by the property values in the same neighborhood.
Social or free-sector?
Dutch residents who earn a low-to-modest income are eligible for housing in the social sector. These are rent-controlled properties that are affordable for the average person. There is limited availability for these properties, and a long waiting list in most cases.
As an expat, you are less likely to be eligible for housing in the social sector (though it’s always nice to pay less rent). It’s also very difficult to get social housing in Amsterdam, unless you have been on the waiting list for some time - so instead you are going to be looking for a place in the ‘free sector’.
Free sector rental properties are self-contained apartments or houses that are not rent controlled. Instead, the prices are determined by supply and demand.
In Amsterdam, there is limited supply and high demand, and this means that rental costs in the free sector are much higher than social housing. Being close to public transport, shopping and other amenities makes a big difference to the rent - and your everyday life. So you pay for the privilege of being well-connected.
Good to know: once you have signed your rental contract, the owner is unable to raise rental costs by more than the specified amount in the contract (usually in line with inflation). Changes to the rental system mean that renters in the free sector are also able to ask the Rent Tribunal (huurcommissie) to adjudicate in certain cases. This applies if the rent is increased after improvements, if repairs are needed (and the owner isn’t doing anything), or if there is uncertainty about additional costs that the renter is being asked to pay for services and utilities.
Duration: Long term rent vs. Short-stay rental apartment
The period of your stay in Amsterdam will affect whether you need a short stay apartment or a long term rent. Some expats come to Amsterdam for specific work that lasts for just a few months. In these cases it can be more advantageous to find a short-stay apartment to rent in Amsterdam instead of a longer contract.
There are a number of organizations that offer short stay apartments in Amsterdam. Short-stay accommodation however, is very limited and it costs more per-month than a ‘regular’ rental contract. It also offers less protections for the tenant, and no guarantee of accommodation after the initial term is finished. These apartments are licensed by the municipality, and any that operate without a license are illegal. If you rent an illegal short-stay apartment you run the real risk of being kicked out at any time by the authorities. Property owners and tenants in the free sector (with the landlord’s permission) are allowed to offer short-stay accommodation in their own properties for a limited period (maximum 30 days per year) without a license, but only under strict conditions.
Long term renting is a better option in almost all cases, but this does mean a minimum contract of 6 months or a 1 year. You also need to give notice if you intend to leave according to the contract conditions.
What affects the cost of renting an apartment in Amsterdam?
Some parts of Amsterdam are much more expensive to live in than others, so it’s hard to put a fixed amount on how much you might pay.
The range can be between €19 to €28 per m2 per month, or more, depending on the area.
As an example, in 2021, a typical 3-room apartment of 80m2 located in the picturesque Oosterparkbuurt will cost around €2000/month, but if you walk just 10 minutes or so southeast across the Transvaalkade to the equally picturesque Watergraafsmeer area, you could be paying 10% less for the same space/layout.
In the upmarket Willemspark area however, you can expect to pay at least 10% more (or much more).
One interesting thing to know is that the rental price doesn’t always have a linear relationship with the square-meter size of the apartment.
In practice, this means that an apartment of 80m2 might cost €2000/month, whereas another apartment in the same street that’s 50% bigger (120m2) might only cost 15% more.
This is because the demand for smaller (more affordable) apartments is much greater – quite simply, very few people can afford to pay €3000 or €4000 every month just on rent, so you often get more ‘bang for your buck’ if you can afford the bigger space. Because there are more renters than owner-occupiers, this affects the rental market disproportionately.
What’s the average rent in Amsterdam?
Given the wide variation from the highest to lowest possible rent prices, you’re probably left wondering what the ‘average rent in Amsterdam’ is. To properly plan your finances it’s essential to know your potential costs - and your rent is certainly one of those.
There is limited housing stock in the city, and that means that calculating the rental value of a property is an exact science. There is no such thing as an average rent in Amsterdam - but you can determine an average (per m2) for a particular area of the city.
You can also determine which areas of Amsterdam are best for you. If you’re happy to commute via public transport or drive a distance, there are more options for properties that have ‘cheaper rents’. However, you should keep in mind that they’re cheaper because you ultimately pay for it via travel costs and lost time instead.
If you really need a number in mind for an ‘average’ rent in Amsterdam, you should assume you will need to budget €2000 to €3000 for renting a 2-3 bedroom apartment in a reasonably central location (within the A10 ring road). It might be less, or more, depending on location and condition.
Renting an apartment in Amsterdam gives you flexibility over the location, because you can more easily change this by moving to another apartment if needed. However, most people who rent in Amsterdam find it to be a convenient way of living, and will happily stay in the same apartment for many years.
A little advice goes a long way
There are many pitfalls to avoid when looking for a place to live in Amsterdam, and there are some key bits of knowledge that can make your stay more enjoyable. Knowing the best neighborhoods for your situation will give you a strong advantage, and help make your time here easier and more pleasant. We’re confident that you’ll find your dream home here in Amsterdam - though it may take a little time and effort - and we’re always here for you, if you need help or advice.
Last updated: August 3, 2022