A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Since my own move to Leiden lies not too far in the past, I thought it would be helpful for future Leideners to hear about my experience on how to save one or the other €uro when setting up camp in this city. For this reason I decided to write a short series on my personal money saving tips and tricks, both when getting settled here and also while living in Leiden. I want to start the first part of this series with a topic we all simply can’t get enough of: housing.
Obviously, the first step when moving to a new city is finding a place to live. This is something that can be a bit tricky in Leiden since (as everyone who’s living here knows) rooms for students are scarce. Most landlords are well aware of this situation and especially towards the beginning of a new semester, room prices can therefore get quite hefty. However, having observed the Leiden housing market for a good while now, I think there are ways of getting relatively good deals when choosing your new home.
I believe that one of the main problems (apart from the fact that too many people want to live in this relatively small city) is that most students who come here are looking for single rooms in established flat shares. This results in a proper rush for every room available on the market and these roommate auditions that everyone loves so much.
Rather than competing against a multitude of other students to convince someone to take you in their home, why not go another direction and build your own flat/house share? After doing some research I quickly realised that the offer for renting entire apartments and houses in Leiden was much better than that for single rooms.
At this point many people are hesitant, and I do understand that the thought of renting out a whole place and having to find people to share it with can be daunting. However, ask yourself this question: why audition for basically any room that is on the market when you can simply team up with other people who are moving to Leiden and have much more flexibility in creating your new home? Applying for single rooms on the market will limit your influence on the choice of location, price and layout of your accommodation considerably. Setting up your own flat share, on the other hand, will give you the chance to actually move in with people that you know you like and connect with beforehand.
True, renting out an entire place will be a bit more work than simply taking over someone’s room, but if you are willing to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops you could end up getting some great deals on housing and sharing them with some really lovely people. And believe me, finding people who are willing to partner up with you in the search of a house or flat in Leiden will be as easy as … errr … well … it will be very easy. Just go on ‘Leiden Housing’, ‘Housing in Leiden’ ‘Leiden House Sharers’ ‘Rooms in Leiden’ – you get the idea: one of the seemingly hundreds of Facebook/Couchsurfing/Yahoo (yes, that is still a thing) groups filled with people looking for a place to stay in this marvellous little city.
Once you have your team together, you can start scouting the housing landscape for good deals (I found ‘Pararius’ especially helpful in my search). In this regard, it can be advisable to register (for free) with several agencies from around town which can help you with your search. When my partner and I planned our move to Leiden, we booked a few personal appointments with agencies and even convinced some of them to give us a ‘first pick’ option on newly listed properties (which was great because at that time we were still living in London and could not just pop over for viewings). However, as practical as this was for us, I have to add that agencies here charge a considerable fee and that if it had been possible, we would have tried to avoid renting through an agency. Realistically speaking, renting deals through private persons are very hard to find though and while the customer service of most agencies (at least all the ones I have ever dealt with) stops once the contract is signed and the fees are paid, they can be of assistance when looking for a place and also provide protection from scams.
Another important point that needs to be considered when renting an apartment is to start looking for it early enough. The notice period in the Netherlands is usually two months, so if you want to move in right when you arrive, you should start looking for a rental flat at least 1-2 months before coming here.
When trying to find good deals on housing, I think it is important in general to take matters into one’s own hands and show some extra initiative in order to find a place one is truly happy with. Thus, I think renting an entire apartment with a set group of people can be a viable alternative to searching for single rooms and can save you a lot of money that can be much better spent on tons of appeltaart in one of the many cosy cafés Leiden has to offer (or whatever it is that you spend your money on).
Please let me know in the comments below if there are any specific things in regards to money saving tips for Leideners that you would like to know more about and stay tuned for part 2 of this series next week.