We have been looking for a rental home that we can move into upon our arrival in Leiden August 1st. We discovered it was a little difficult to do this from overseas, so we took the advice from another expat, and booked an AirBnB for the first month as a landing place. The difficulty with searching for a rental is primarily the time difference. The Netherlands is 9 hours ahead of us here in Portland, and by the time I wake up in the morning, their work day has ended. And unlike it is in America, no one is expected or even tempted to check their work emails after work hours. So I am lucky to get one email transfer per day. I have also been waking up at about 3AM to check emails when needed. The other difficulty is the language barrier. While most everyone speaks very good english, not everyone is as comfortable writing in english. Understandably so as I imagine I will speak and understand Dutch much earlier than I will be able to write it.
After a few weeks of light looking, we discovered a rental website called Portaal that seemed to have great family homes, in central locations for very reasonable prices! The only problem is that they do not offer interior photos on the website. We learned that these homes are owned by the municipality and are offered to qualifying applicants on a lottery system (how very fair!). Basically they have one open house, you come and view it, you submit an application, and they randomly choose the winner.
The other totally new-to-me element is that these properties are rented to you unfinished (see above). Meaning you install your own flooring, baseboards, kitchen appliances, light fixtures and paint if you want. The condition is that when you move out, the home has to be returned to exactly the way it was when you moved in. Yep! Take everything including the flooring with you! Sounds crazy, and its definitely a financial investment, but once you do it the first time, you have almost everything you need moving forward.
That said, I found a vacancy on Portaal a couple weeks ago. The location is more than ideal for us with a huge park along the Zoeterwoudsesingel canal, perfect for walking Django, it is a 5 minute bike ride to our cousins house, and walking distance to two large grocery stores. We applied for it and should hear back next week. The lovely Eefje toured it for us and sent us lots of photos, a video tour, and sweet talked the rental agent as much as she could. In her words, she “went full monty for us!” We are hopeful, as it sounds like there may have only been one other applicant for the property. The funky layout and the fact that it was completely unfinished was likely a deterrent for other applicants. There are three levels in this house, and the kitchen and living space are on the middle level. There is a large “master” bedroom big enough for our American King sized bed, but the 2 smaller guest rooms are TINY. We can fit a european double bed in there, with about 17 inches to spare along the side! Get ready friends and family…this could be your room! Don’t worry, we will make sure it is comfy and you have other space to store your clothes and bags.
We know we might not get this one, and thats OK. But it has been fun planning our layout, and problem solving the micro bathroom, and the angled walls. It has also been a fun opportunity to learn more about the Dutch housing system. About 75% of Dutch rental properties are owned by the municipality, and as said, they can be significantly cheaper than private rentals but there are sometimes very strict rules to qualify and you have to have the money to invest in finishings.
To learn more about renting in the Netherlands, check out the always helpful Expatica.com. Otherwise, we are off to Manzanita on the Oregon coast for the weekend and will try not to obsess too much over this property!