Housing and Living
What to expect in a Dutch house?
- Houses are smaller and more compact than in many countries.
- One bathroom is standard; ‘en suite’ bedrooms are very rare.
- The toilet is often separate and on the ground floor.
- Showers are more common than bathtubs.
- Dining rooms are a luxury – normally there is an open kitchen and living room with a dining area.
- Ovens and dishwashers are not always standard.
- Separate utility rooms are found only in larger houses.
- Garages that fit your car are not always present. There will usually be a shed or storage space to place your bike, in apartment buildings these can be shared spaces with the neighbours.
- Parking permits are needed in some areas, particularly if you are living in or close to the city centre.
- Houses are well insulated, with gas heating and newer buildings will be double-glazed.
Fun Fact: The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, with more than 400 people per square kilometre. The high population density explains why many houses are small and compact. Dutch builders are extremely skilled in maximizing the use of space.
Renting a house
As an expat in the Netherlands you will most likely rent a house or apartment. Basically there are two types of rentals: social renting through a housing association and private renting through a real estate agent. In both cases be aware of the composition of the rent. The rent can include or exclude the cost for gas, water and electricity and in social renting you might have to pay local taxes for garbage and sewer.
Houses and apartments for rent are available in three different states of furnishing:
- Bare (kaal): there are no carpets, curtains, light fittings, etc., though there will probably be a fitted kitchen. Sometimes the rooms needs to be (re)painted.
- Soft-furnished (gestoffeerd): like the ‘bare’ category, but with carpets and curtains and sometimes a more complete kitchen.
- Furnished (gemeubileerd): generally includes all of the above, plus furniture, appliances, cutlery, crockery, bed linen, etc.
Rental houses offered by social housing associations are houses meant for people with a low or medium income. You have to register with the association upon arrival in the Netherlands to become entitled to a house. Be aware that there can be a waiting list, but some associations work with lottery systems where the computer randomly picks one of the people that subscribed to the house. Rental costs are relatively low (around € 700 per month, unfurnished).
Estate agents manage private rental housing. The rental price for these houses is considerably higher than accommodation found through a social housing association, but in general these houses are available for immediate tenancy and there are no requirements regarding income. The owner can however require a minimum income to make sure you can pay for the house. Rent varies widely, but you could expect to pay the following (excluding service costs and utilities):
Type of housing with rental price per month (indication):
- Studio apartment € 300 – € 800
- Two-bedroom apartment € 600 – € 1200
- Three-bedroom terraced house € 1000 – € 1450
- Semi-detached house > € 900
- Detached house > € 1200
Dutch housing rental contracts generally consist of the actual contract plus ‘General Terms and Conditions’. The latter document is standard for all properties rented by the agency in question. You will have to sign the Dutch version of the rental contract, as only this one is legal, but you can ask for an English translation so that you know what you are signing for.
Major points to look for in the contract are:
- The correct rental price (whether it includes service charges and energy bills, etc.)
- The correct deposit (one or two month’s rent is normal).
- The correct date of entry.
- Duration of the contract. Most are fixed for one year, with a notice period of one month from either party thereafter.
- Who is responsible for maintenance, repairs and the garden?
- The ‘diplomatic clause’. It is advisable for expats to insist on a clause allowing them to break the contract quickly if they need to return to their home country unexpectedly.
Fun Fact: Houses in the East of the Netherlands are less expensive and/or more spacious than in the Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag and Rotterdam area (known as ‘de Randstad’) This region offers a wide range of housing – from the city feel to village life in the surrounding countryside.
For obtaining a gas and electricity connection, you can choose your own provider. But to know which one suits you best (depending on your personal situation), you can compare the providers using: www.easynuts.nl
The supply of water in the province of Overijssel is always arranged by Vitens. Information about getting connected can be found on their website www.vitens.nl (in Dutch) or by phone 0900-0650.
It is customary in the Netherlands to pay your utilities in advance with monthly payments. After a year, the utility company will check your actual usage and payments you’ve already made. Depending on the total amount paid, you will get a refund or have to pay extra. Most companies will offer you a price based on estimated use for your type of house and family composition. After a few months you can review your actual use online and adjust your monthly payment. When you do this be aware of using more gas in winter for heating.
Fun Fact: Gas is relatively cheap in the Netherlands, as we have our own gas reserves in the province of Groningen and under the North Sea. But pumping gas from the bell in Groningen led to earthquakes in the North of the Netherlands, causing damage to houses. After large protests, the government decided that the gas tap will be turned off completely in 2030.
In case your income is relatively low in proportion to the rental cost of your house, there is a rent benefit that is granted by the government as compensation to your costs. This arrangement can also be applied to the housing possibilities that are described, as long as the monthly rent costs do not exceed a certain amount. To find out if you eligible for this grant, go to the website of the tax authorities.
Buying a house
Although most people will rent for a while before buying a house, the difference in monthly payments can make purchasing property an attractive option for those staying longer.
The difference comes largely from the fact that (for the time being at least) the Dutch government repays some of the mortgage interest as tax relief. But before you acquire your new property you need to go through a time consuming process with quite a lot of third parties involved, such as the real estate agent (property broker), the bank that is granting you a mortgage, the civil law notary and the tax consultants
Some parts of the process include:
- Starting to look around for the house (research).
- Doing the negotiations with the selling estate agent and making sure that the right conditions for the purchase are accepted.
- Taking care of the technical survey.
- Making a proper judgment of the (legal) contents of the purchase agreement.
- Taking care of the mortgage with the requested conditions.
- Collecting the required documents for the mortgage.
- Contacting the civil law notary for setting up the legal deeds for delivery to you of the property and the mortgage (including translations).
- Taking care of the involved tax matters.
For finding a house and assistance in tax matters, we can recommend our partners, listed in the section ‘Partners’ at the end of this guide.
There are several possibilities for mobile phone providers. Some will offer a complete package with phone and contract, others prepaid or simcard only. Some providers also offer discounts when you register several sim-cards at one address for the whole family.
A lot of the information can be found online. Good websites to compare the providers are: www.prijsdokterexpat.nl
In the city centres you will find general telecom shops and specific shops per provider.
TV and internet
Some providers for mobile phones, also offer connections for TV and internet. You can choose an all-in-one package: phone, TV and internet or just one or two of the connections. You can order your subscription online or at the shop of the provider. You can request for a technician to set up the system in your home, which is sometimes included in the price.
To compare the various providers, you can use the websites