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The Ins And Outs Of Finding A Student Room

It’s that time of year again. Returning International students in the Netherlands know it all too well: that nagging feeling you get when your rental contract is about to expire. It’s time to find a new place to live. Newcomers have it even worse. After all, how in the world are you supposed to find a student room when you can’t attend viewings in person? Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled the ins and outs of finding a student room in the Netherlands. This will help ensure that you’ll have a roof over your head by the start of the semester. 

Whether you’re a returning or first-time (international) student in the Netherlands, it's always a good idea to make sure you're well aware of how the Dutch rental market works. Also, know what you want, and don’t get discouraged.  

Is it really that hard to find a place?  

It depends on the Dutch city you’re moving to and the budget you have. But it can’t be denied that finding housing in the Netherlands is more difficult and expensive than in other European countries.  

The reason for this is due to the large number of English-language courses offered by universities. On top of that, most higher institutions currently are not allowed to limit the number of students enrolling in English programs that don't have a numerus fixus. If check all the required boxes, you can likely enroll for a psychology or international relations bachelor's, even though you might not get a spot in the lecture hall.  

This makes it harder to guarantee both the quality of education, as well as the housing conditions on offer. This year, some universities, such as those in Utrecht and Groningen, have been warning students that they should not come to the city if they have not found a room by the start of the academic year.  

It’s also common that international students are not accepted to join all-Dutch flat shares, which complicates matters further.  

However, with our tips and tricks, you should be able to set yourself apart from your fellow room-seekers and start (or continue) your Dutch adventure in the fall.  

Know your budget and wishes  

It’s a good idea to determine right off the bat how much money you’ll be able to spend on a room or studio, as well as what living conditions are the best for you. For example, do you know that sharing a kitchen with 8 people will be a dealbreaker? Then don’t bother responding to those listings. The same goes for rooms that are totally out of your budget.  

However, remember that, depending on the scarcity of housing available in the Dutch city you are currently living in, or will be moving to, you can’t have the highest expectations either. A room that is a bit smaller than what you’d ordinarily go for is still better than sleeping in a tent.  

Personalize your messages 

I can tell you right off the bat that you’ll be sending out messages until the cows come home. There will be days when you’ll want to give up. Frankly, pushing out 21 messages in a day, just to receive no response back from anyone, sucks a lot. But as long as you carry on with your determination, you’ll probably be invited to a couple of viewings. And, in my experience, one good viewing is often all that it takes.  

There are a number of things you can do to increase your chances, however. The biggest mistake is having a text ready that you copy and paste to every potential flat share or landlord. Don’t get me wrong, the bulk of it is relevant to every listing, such as your introduction, hobbies and characteristics as a renter or house mate. However, if you’re applying for a studio, make sure you don’t rave about how good of a flat mate you’re going to be, as this makes you look a bit careless. Instead, personalize your messages by addressing the person directly and show them that you actually took a few minutes to read their listing.  

Where to start looking? 

1. Private housing market

Most students in the Netherlands find their room through Facebook. There will be a number of housing groups dedicated to your university or city of study. Join them all and monitor the posts that come in each day. However, while there are countless legitimate rooms being advertised there, you’ll also have to look out for scammers and “landlords” with ulterior motives.  

If a place looks too good to be true for the price, it probably is. If the pictures are grainy and blurry, it’s likely not a good idea not to trust it either. What has worked for me in the past is to reverse image search a picture to see if it has appeared in a housing group of another city. Either way, don’t sign a contract until you can be 100% certain that the room you want to rent actually exists. It's always a good idea to go to a viewing, even if it’s via video. 

Aside from Facebook groups, there are a number of private student housing corporations from whom you can rent a room or studio. These two are arguably the biggest: 

  • The Student Hotel: available for long-term or short-term stays
  • XIOR Housing: studios and apartments available; in some cases, universities may partner with XIOR to reserve spots for incoming Bachelor or Masters students

There are also various other platforms, where both landlords and flat shares can advertise empty rooms. Here’s some of them:  

  • Roomplaza: allows you to register for an apartment with a group of people  
  • Housing Anywhere: guarantees that you’re booking a place that actually exists; downside: you cannot go for a viewing  
  • Kamernet: lets both flat shares or landlords advertise rooms, apartments or studios 
  • Pararius: advertises whole apartments; great if you’re looking with a group of friends  

2. Public student housing

There’s a number of public student housing availabilities out there for students to take advantage of. These can range from rooms with and without private bathrooms to studios. The nice thing is that, if you’re over the age of 18 and living in a studio, you may also be entitled to rent allowance, or huurtoeslaag.  

Here’s two public student housing coorporations:  

  • DUWO: possibility to choose between a studio or a flat share; register on room.nl to start looking  
  • SSH: short and long-term offers of both rooms and studios/apartments; rent allowance pre-calculated in listings  

Pro-tip: for both DUWO and SSH, you are more likely to be invited for a viewing if you’ve been registered on the platform for a long time. Many Dutch students are aware of this fact and, therefore, register when they are 16, well before the start of their university years. Even if you already have a place to live, or if you think that student housing will never be for you, it’s still worth registering on SSH or room.nl. You may thank yourself in the future.  

3. City-based agencies

It’s also worth googling which rental agencies are active within the city you’re looking for housing in. Have a look at which apartments or rooms they are renting out or send them an email directly to see if they have anything that fits your requirements. Asking can never hurt.  

4. Neighboring cities/villages

Of course, you’d rather live in the city where you’re studying, why wouldn’t you? But the good news is that the Netherlands is a small and well-connected country which makes commuting relatively doable.

If you’re finding it very difficult to find a room in Leiden or Delft, for example, check out The Hague or Rotterdam instead. Bigger cities usually have more housing options available. And the good thing is that they’re also usually connected along the night train route, which means you won’t even have to miss all the good parties.

Get yourself a Tripkey Mobility Card and commute headache-free and with a nice student discount!

5. Make use of your network  

The truth is that many people find their accommodation through their social contacts. Oftentimes, a person can recommend their friends to take over their rooms, and, in 9/10 cases, the landlord will be fine with this. If you’ve already been living in the Netherlands for a year or two, make sure to ask around in your course group chat to see if you can take over someone’s room. Even if you’re a first-time international student, it’s still worth checking if you know someone living in the city you’re moving to. If you don’t, maybe your friends have friends who do.  

Don’t be shy, take advantage of your own social network and that of your acquaintances and quickly increase your chances in finding a place.  

These were the ins and outs of finding a student room in the Netherlands. We hope that our tips were helpful. If you use this knowledge and react to listings frequently, you’ll be able to find a nice place to live eventually. Good luck!  

We also wrote an article on everything that you can expect once you move to the Netherlands, which may be helpful. Check it out here.

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