Tuesday, January 4, 2011

a quest for a home...

... can be exhausting in another country. Its been so cold here (25ish) and snowy but check it out: we found a place! The hard part was choosing between neighborhoods: 'burbs or city center? When I say 'burbs, I really mean its only about 10 by bike to the city center or a 10-15 min walk to most life's essentials (only some restaurants and bars, but grocery store, bookstores, cafes, etc). After seeing eight apartments it came down to three places: two in the city center and one in the ‘burbs. Both city center apartments are a stone's throw from a major grocery store, an organic grocery store, TONS of shopping, restaurants, bars, the metro (at which to meet guests!!), etc. So here were the final 3 contestants:

a. Ramlehweg
On the ground floor (boo), about 900 square feet of gorgeous hardwood floors (yay!); a beautiful remodeled kitchen; a bit dark but awesome 8-person oak dining table and plenty of space. Outside deck plus garden; washer/dryer and storage in the basement. AT our budget.

b. Blaak
On the 8th floor, about 900 square feet of white carpet (boo), brand new everything kitchen and interior (yay!). Good light, great views of the whole city - bridges, cube houses, pencil building, and the first 'high rise' in Holland (the old looking one). Not the best interior design, but plenty of space. Comfy bed, plenty of storage and a nice covered balcony. Will need different art! ABOVE budget, slightly.

c. Mariniersweg
Down the street from (b) and on the 4th floor, about 900 square feet of laminate flooring (hmm) with amazing natural light (yay!) and views of the trees. An older but manageable kitchen, a spacious bedroom with a good size balcony away from main street; oddly, shower and sink are in the bedroom, toilet in the hall. Interior is simple and tolerable, could easily/cheaply be updated. UNDER budget.

In the end, we put in a bid on that last place (c) on Mariniersweg (pronounced: Meh-rin-EARS-vegh) - and got it! Our real estate agent got us a great deal on the place and you just can’t beat nearly 30 feet of window light and lovely tree views.

So we got the place and moved in on the 23rd, after a long and frustrating several hours on the phone with banks about wiring the funds. Apparently, if you want to wire money, Chase AND Bank of America sends you a code on your mobile phone that you need to enter online--obviously our phones don't get service here. Fun times. But it all worked out. Luckily our hotel was about 1/5 mile from our new place, so schlepping our 6 bags of luggage wasn't too much of a hassle.

We went to Ikea in Delft, a town 12 minutes away by train, then a short 10 minute bus ride (gratis a la Ikea!) Got most of what we needed (which was pretty minimal) and had them deliver it to our door for an extra small fee--nice!

So far we've spent our days wondering around the city and exploring shops and markets, trying to get a sense of what's what. Our apartment is literally across the street from two great supermarkets (one is entirely organic), a 5 minute's walk to the central farmer's market on Tuesday/Saturday and the main shopping district, 10 minutes to the river front, and 15 minutes to central station. Amazing.

The famous Erasmus Bridge leading to the southern part of the city

Up next: LONDON for NYE


       _________________________ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ____________________________

In case any of you plan to also rent an apartment in the Netherlands, here are some tips from both of us:

1. Yes, you have to hire a real estate agent who works with the broker who works with the owner of the apartment. Agents are paid a full month's rent commission by the lessees (us, ouch!), but they do work for it. Our agent bid for us on the apartment, low-balled the broker, and they settled in between. She takes care of everything for us, including setting up our utilities.
2. Negotiate! Our agent said it’s common to bid 100+ Euro under the asking rent price.
3. What’s included? Utilities are often separate, and may cost up to 150EU per couple per month. TV and internet are also sometimes included. If not (like in our case) you need a Dutch bank account to set it up and for that you often need a residents’ permit number (ie, BSN) which you then also need health insurance for. Some banks (ING, ABN-AMRO) do not require a BSN, so go with those. Once you have a bank account, you can sign up for internet, but watch out: it may take up to FOUR weeks to get a working signal in your apartment. WHAT?! We opted with UPC, the cable company, who charges more but we’ll have a signal in three days. Plus, with them, we can end our one-year early if needed.
4. Wire transfer of deposit + first month’s rent + commission. Apparently, if you want to wire money, Chase AND Bank of America sends you a code on your mobile phone that you need to enter online--obviously our phones don't get service here. You have to call them and ask for the codes. Also, wire transfers cost money.
5. Ask about water levy and garbage taxes! Both of these combined can run 300EU per year. (See #2)
6. Extra items to ask about, especially in terms of how things are paid for and by whom:
  • Heating (water?)
  • Dual-paned windows
  • Laundry
  • Basement storage
  • Smoking in the building
  • Bike storage
  • Maintenance on the building


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...