The end of our one year lease on the apartment is fast approaching. We decided that we wanted to look for a new place for a couple of reasons.
-we really want two bedrooms. Not because we are having a baby (as most Amsterdammers believed including the sandwich shop guy, the bartender below our house, the realtor, current landlord) I guess in Amsterdam you only have more space for more people. But we have had an outpouring of visitors and even friends in the city that need a place to crash. So if we were able to find a 2 bedroom we wanted the room.
-We want more space in general. Space to entertain and put in a decent sized table.
-I want a real kitchen. Not a play kitchen with an easy bake oven.
-We would enjoy some outdoor space or a view. A “nice to have”
-We want an unfurnished apartment. As I mentioned in my previous post we want to be here for an extended period. Our current apartment is fully furnished. Which means when we came to Amsterdam all we had were 6 bags of clothes. Our apartment came complete with silverware, plates, champagne glasses, furniture, linens, candles, vases, trash cans everything. This was such a relief when we first arrived as we were adjusting to a foreign country, making friends, figuring out where to buy a broom. However, now I want to build my own home. I love searching for house pieces, making photo walls, being creative with colors, everything that goes along with decorating. I can’t do that now because it would be slightly wasted to decorate more or buy new furniture.
So we began the house hunting process but a little differently than before. You have to understand that EVERYONE struggles with finding apartments in Amsterdam. The market is flooded with potential renters and limited properties. Living space in the city center doesn’t increase. They can’t and won’t demolish the existing small houses and replace them with big condo units to accommodate more inhabitants. We are all fighting for housing space that was created 400 years ago. In this time, people were apparently short, loved steep stairs, long tight spaces, and low ceilings. It is also hard to find good apartments at affordable prices. Last year we used a rental agency to conduct the search, plan appointments, and in general help us understand the mayhem of renting. We found our apartment on the second day we hopped off the plane (well I hopped while Sam manhandled our luggage). As you can imagine this service comes with a hefty fee and expats are targeted as easy bait by agencies. They walk a fine line of legality which annoyed me but more importantly pissed off Sam. This time around we would search for our own house, call the listing agent, and make our own appointments. The property market is highly competitive and there are multiple websites and sources to search. Once you find an apartment that looks somewhat appealing you can request a showing by phone or email. You will be competing with anyone else that also saw the posting. Basically whoever can get there first and put in an offer wins. It’s slightly infuriating unless you’re the winner. I have work colleagues that took months (one 2 years!) to find an apartment within their budget and location. We didn’t have that luxury after we gave our landlord 30 days notice.
We quickly found 2 apartments that we wanted to see and made appointments. The first one was in the center and on the Prinsengracht. An incredible location and 3 minute walk to my office. It was listed in our price range and as a 2 bedroom. We went up a steep flight of stairs and the apartment was truly lovely. The living space was small (about the same size as what we currently have). But the 2nd “bedroom” must have been a closet in a previous life. The realtor suggested bunk beds. I actually think it might have been the same square footage as our closet in Denver.
The second apartment was outside of the city center but looked very light and new in the photos. We absolutely love living in the center but we knew we would need to compromise on central location. And there are some very hip and vibrant neighborhoods that are still close to everything. In fact it would be exciting to explore new areas. Over our lunch break we started biking east. And we kept biking and biking. The cute Amsterdam houses started to disappear and the neighborhood did not feel like us. That may sound picky but we have always just known where we were supposed to live and location is very important. Plus if we live in Amsterdam (oceans and continents away from family and friends) we better live in Amsterdam. We finally reached our destination. It was a big, new apartment complex that looked pretty modern on the outside. We stood outside waiting for the realtor and surveyed the cluttered assortment of kid toys, bak fiets (bicycles with attached buckets for multiple children), a sandbox…unfortunately the realtor was 7 minutes late. We decided we could have our own kid in the center of Amsterdam if needed. We got back on our bikes and breathed a sigh of relief when the canals came back into view.
After 3 weeks of more failed appointments we were beginning to ask our friends if we could just sleep in their living room for the next couple of years. And then we found our dream house…
I know this will be suspenseful for some of you (like my mom and maybe an aunt or two) but I need to get better photos!
Here are two quick shots.