Expat Essentials

Polya Pencheva: The secret to finding a new place in the Netherlands is patience, organization and a roomie

Moving into a new place in the Netherlands – the nightmare of every student, foreigner, or expat. It is stressful, exciting, nerve-racking, and crazy. Or at least this was my experience.

I came back to the Netherlands after a vacation to find myself hunting for an apartment in the middle of work and everything else going on daily. What I didn’t know was how many different types of documents I have to collect in order to apply for certain locations.

Did you know that sometimes you even have to write a motivation letter explaining why you want to live in this place? Neither did I ….

But one thing definitely makes the search easy – searching for a flat with somebody else. Once agencies figure out you’re a couple, they are more likely to rent out a place to you. A friend was looking for an apartment with her friend. She told me that agencies and landlords prefer couples because they are less likely to leave. I believe that once landlords see two incomes, backed up by savings accounts and steady contracts (which was the case of my boyfriend) it is easier.

Also, if you’re lucky enough you’ll get in touch maybe with somebody who is moving out and you could just take over their place.

This is the story of how I moved from one place in Groningen to another one and everything that happened in between, all the stress, excitement, and hassle.

The hunt

Hunting for an apartment, room, or house to rent in the Netherlands is probably the activity everyone hates the most. The housing crisis has been getting worse and worse every year and many students have to face extraordinary circumstances in order to make it to the university of their dreams. However, I was lucky enough to move out not only after I graduated but also when I had somebody to move in with, which made the whole process a lot easier. I moved in with my partner, who came to the Netherlands practically because of me. We thought it would be easier to just move in together to share bills and rent. 

When looking for a room or an apartment, prepare to send a bunch of reactions to people or real estate agents via Kamernet, Pararius and Funda. These are probably the largest websites for housing in the Netherlands. In addition to these, once you know where you are relocating, you can look for local agencies that rent out places.

There is a high chance that the places are out on the above-mentioned websites, but it is worth the effort. Taking a look and doing some extra research won’t hurt. Best case scenario – you land accommodation quicker than you’ve expected.

Last but not least, ask people around you! You never know who knows who and where your new living place would be.

Honestly, this is how I found my current apartment. After a few days of sending out emails to real estate agencies and sending emails back and forth, I finally received a message that somebody knows somebody.

Connecting is everything.

The paper collection

Once you have a response from a real estate agent or you set your eyes on a place, prepare to collect a number of documents.

• First of all, start with having a copy of your ID or passport. Regardless of the location you’d need to submit one of them to prove your identity.

• Second, you would need to show income statements, but this doesn’t really apply to students. It also depends on the type of accommodation you’re looking into, how you found it, and the landlord. While some landlords request your income to be 3-to-4 times the rent, some just need to know you can afford to pay your rent on time.

I would say that the standard for this is that your income should be approximately three times the size of your rent. Keep in mind that the more documents you submit the better. If you’re relocating for a job, then providing a valid employment contact should be enough.

• Third, another document you may have to submit is a ‘landlord statement’. What this means is
basically a recommendation from your landlord about what kind of tenant you are or whether they
had any issues with you. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what this is until earlier this year.

• Lastly, we were looking at an apartment and we were asked to write a motivation letter explaining why we want to rent out the place and talk more about ourselves. However, I am not so sure that every landlord will request this. But keep in mind that you may have to write something to justify yourself. And I know as somebody who has been in the same boat – “I don’t have anywhere to live” – isn’t enough.


Moving itself turned out to be way better than expected. Everything was wrapped up in boxes and had to go. Finding boxes in the Netherlands is pretty easy, I would say. You can get them from HEMA or Action for really cheap. If you know somebody working at a grocery such as a Aldi or Plus, you can even get them for free.

So basically, this is the one thing you shouldn’t worry about.

Now, moving the boxes can happen in different ways. One thing you can do is hire a bike that has a big basket and do it yourself. You can also rent a car or a van. There are multiple renting services in Groningen and across the county.

One such service is Pouw Rent which is not expensive at all. If you have a driver’s license, this could be your thing. If a car isn’t enough, there are other service such as renting out of trailers. (In case you have a car and not enough space check Pak ‘n Bak – they’re quite affordable. Renting out a trailer for three hours costs 28 euro, or 35 euros for the whole day.

Again, in order to move, keep asking people you know if they can help. Somebody may be able to help you with moving of the boxes up and down, somebody may have a car. My best advice is to be resourceful and try to think of anyone that could help you in any way. So far, this has turned out to be my best trump card and has worked in the best way possible.

The aftermath

Once all of this is done … well there is still a lot more that has to be done. First and foremost is unpacking because I believe you don’t really want to be buried in boxes, suitcases, and unpacked bags.

Second is the bureaucracy. Once you’re at the new place you have to take care of your municipality registration. Generally, doing all of this in the Netherlands is quite easy. You just have to go to the website of the respective municipality (Gemeente) and fill out a form. In one or two working days you’re going to receive a confirmation email with your new data.

What I thought was great is that they forward the change of address to other institutions such as health insurance and KVK (Dutch Chamber of Commerce) registration. This is something that all freelancers have to keep in mind. Once you move, do not forget to change the address of your company registration.

Unfortunately, this is not all. You have to think about anything else that you have such as phone bill, bank account, and utilities contract. Changing the address of your phone provider and your bank account is relatively easy – everything is done online through the app.

When it comes to utilities – if you’re moving within the Netherlands – you can just take your current contract with you, which makes things easier instead of terminating the contract and setting up everything again.

Just a piece of advice for everyone planning to move – brace yourself with a lot of patience and willingness to make phone calls and send emails.

Polya Pencheva

Polya Plamenova Pencheva is a young Bulgarian journalist based in Groningen, Netherlands. Polya holds a Master's degree in journalism from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and loves writing and telling the untold stories of interesting people. You can find her dining at cute café, shopping at markets, scouting second-hand shops or just chillin' at home with something great to read.

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