In this week’s 1-3 month apartment rental interview, Frankie from http://www.asthebirdfliesblog.com/ shares her experience renting in Amsterdam.
1. Please tell us about your apartment, the location, when and how long you rented it for?
I would always recommend Old West as a great place to stay if you’re planning on visiting Amsterdam. We were 12 minutes from the centre of town on our bikes and we lived in a friendly community surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants we loved. It’s fair to say we really miss Amsterdam!
We stayed in Amsterdam’s Old West in a fourth floor apartment in an early twentieth century terraced house, typical of the old working class houses found in Amsterdam’s central suburbs which are now incredibly smart looking and beautifully sturdy old houses. It was a family friendly, peaceful and charming area with lots of bars and cute restaurants tucked away on street corners but the best part for me was that we were only a couple of streets away from Vondelpark, one of the city’s most popular parks and it took only 10-15 minutes to get across town on our bikes.
2. How did you find your apartment rental?
We went a very traditional route. We contacted real estate agents! Once we knew we wanted to be in Amsterdam for 3 months and we didn’t really have much loyalty to an area we decided to let the professionals do the hard work in finding us places and showing us around. My partner went over there and did most of the leg work viewing places while I was on a trip to Barcelona and within a few days he’d seen a handful of places and found the right one. Because Amsterdam has a high turnover of ex-pats staying for short term work contracts, many rental agents are used to being tasked with short term rentals.
3. How much did you pay and did you negotiate (price or terms)? What are your negotiating strategies when renting short-term apartments?
I think the total price including all our bills and agency fees for one month’s rent was around 2000 Euros. There wasn’t really much room for negotiation because we went with a very professional agent that had good feedback and reviews online. This was something that we didn’t mind paying extra for because it ensured a contract was in place, which they translated into English for us to sign. That’s the other good thing about Amsterdam – English is a common working language. We got very lucky with our apartment because we were effectively house sitting for a couple who were away on long term travel; their apartment had just been refurbished with lots of stylish features and fittings and ultimately they wanted somebody to respect this. When they returned we received a lovely email from them saying that because the process had worked so well for them they would definitely do the same process again. Oh and we’re going to all meet up for drinks when we’re back in Amsterdam!
4. Did you try any strategies for finding a rental that didn’t work ?
For this scenario we tried to find places online at the same time as contacting agents. Once agents started to come back to us with properties to look at it seemed pointless pursuing the online rental/Airbnb route as this is often a lot more legwork. I actually also think for the apartment we got using an agent worked out cheaper. That said I’m a big fan of websites like Airbnb and HouseTrip and we’ve also had success using Gumtree to find apartments.
5. Did you experience any unanticipated problems, either with your rental or the location?
We had mice! We suspected this was the case as soon as we moved in when we found unused traps in one of the kitchen cupboards but even then I wasn’t prepared when a tiny little mouse popped his head out of one of our floorboards one day. I am fine with spiders but mice make me scream. However, we’re city folk and mice don’t necessarily shock us though I was very reluctant to kill them. Luckily my partner worked out a humane way to remove them (by trapping them in an empty bin!) and we took them for a walk down the street.
Everything else was perfect. The location was wonderful, they’d recently had their kitchen redone so I had some wonderful new toys to play, I mean, cook with and our neighbours were very friendly. We particularly loved having a roof terrace from which we could drink a glass of wine at the end of the day together.
6. Now that you’ve done your rental, what would you do differently? What would you do the same? Would you recommend where you went as a good place to spend a month?
We learnt from that experience to not assume that old ways of doing things, i.e. using a real estate agent, are redundant. While the internet has also helped us find other rentals in Berlin, Phuket and London, we also try to find out if there are agents we can contact who can do some of the work for us. This may mean paying more money but we both run businesses online so finding the right house for us is also a case of finding the right office too.
7. What advice would you give to other travelers looking for a reasonably priced apartment in the same location?
You can’t really go wrong in the Old West of Amsterdam with lots of families and young professionals living there making it fairly safe and secure with beautiful old houses to live in, but I would also recommend checking out the Old South and De Pijp areas which are similar but may have more variety in terms of budget and style. It’s definitely well worth being close to Vondelpark or the city’s other parks. While Amsterdam isn’t the cheapest city in Europe – and you definitely get what you pay for there in terms of space and style – staying outside of the main canal rings can be considerably cheaper and also quieter.
8. Other than the rental we’ve focused on, if you’ve done apartment rentals in other places, what were some of the best ones?
We’ve done quite a few short term rentals this year, but our best experiences include staying in a luxurious holiday villa during low season on Phuket in Thailand – we scored an absolute bargain and again this was organised through an agent. We also found one month rentals in South Kensington in London and in Waverton, Sydney by putting an advert up on Gumtree. It’s funny because both these areas of London and Sydney are very expensive and we wouldn’t have looked at finding a place there because we just assumed they would be too expensive for us but we got lucky because we put an ad on Gumtree saying we needed somewhere. We also got really lucky staying in a beautiful spacious loft apartment in the Mitte area of Berlin that I found via Facebook of all things. I know we’ll definitely go back to that apartment if we ever return to Berlin.
About the interviewee
Here’s where you can find Frankie/Bird!
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If you’ve done a 1-3 month overseas apartment rental and would like to participate in this series, please get in touch (must have photos of the apartment interior).
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