“Canals, cobblestones and wobbly houses”: the attraction of Amsterdam

“Canals, cobblestones and wobbly houses, as well as a popular food market every Saturday. That’s exactly how I imagined Amsterdam before I moved here, ”says Henry Hofman, 31, who moved to the Dutch capital from London last June to work for global research and rating provider ESG Sustainalytics.

Hofman rents a two-bedroom apartment in a converted paint factory for € 2,000 per month in the trendy and arty Jordaan district, “where many expats but also Dutch families live, who sit outside their homes in the summer. to dine in the sun ”. , he says.

What no one could imagine, however, was a city of 800,000 people accustomed to seeing 20 million foreign visitors a year, now largely devoid of any visitors. Amsterdam is considered by many to be one of the global victims of overtourism, which has led to the city council banning vacation rentals in the city center, closing some of its coffee shops in cannabis and plans to move the red light district to the suburbs. .

Amsterdam’s annual 20m tourist invasion has led it to be seen as a victim of overtourism: the city council has banned vacation rentals in the center © Getty Images / iStockphoto

Now, “biking downtown feels like the 1700s. It’s so peaceful. Locals appreciate the lack of tourists, especially low-quality tourists, ”said Jaap Russchen, managing director of purchasing agent Amsterdam House Hunting.

While holidaymakers are light on the field, overseas buyers are not, says Russchen, whose clientele is made up entirely of expatriates – around 30-40% from the UK, the rest of the world. “They work in finance, IT, small start-ups. They usually rent here for a year, then come to us with average budgets of 400,000 to 1 million euros when they want to buy, ”he explains.

Just over 8,000 people moved to Amsterdam last year – a number similar to each of the previous four years, according to the World Population Review. Its global employers, such as Netflix Amsterdam and Tommy Hilfiger, are major magnets for many young professionals.

Cycling downtown feels like the 1700s. It's so peaceful.  Local people appreciate the lack of tourists'

“Cycling downtown feels like the 1700s. It’s so peaceful. Local people are taking advantage of the lack of tourists ”© SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty

Amsterdam also overtook London as Europe’s largest equity trading center in January: “This indicates that the city is emerging as a major player, especially in certain specialist areas of financial services,” says Lisette van Doorn, director general of the Urban Land Institute Europe, a research organization.

Amsterdam map

In 2019, the Netherlands ranked as the best country in the world for work-life balance, according to the OECD Better Life Index, taking into account factors such as the availability of services care, sense of community and work schedules. “Working from home was already common here for 35% of the population before the pandemic,” says van Doorn.

According to Russchen, most foreign buyers, especially families, look to homes near schools and parks in the semicircle that runs along the central canal district, from Westerpark in the east to the Amstel river. The wealthiest area is south of Vondelpark, where over a million euros will buy a duplex apartment of around 100 m². Elsewhere in this sought-after semi-circle, a 90 m² apartment with garden is on sale for € 685,000.

“It will sell for around € 750,000. There are always 30 or 40 buyers after each property, so they tend to go 10-20% above the asking price, ”says Russchen. Cadastral figures show that more than two-thirds of houses in Amsterdam sold above asking price during the year until January 2021.

More than a million euros will buy a duplex apartment of around 100 sqm in the expensive district of Vondelpark

Over a million euros will buy a duplex apartment of around 100 sqm in the expensive district of Vondelpark © Alamy Stock Photo

Some foreign buyers engage virtually. Leslie de Ruiter, Managing Partner at Christie’s International Real Estate (CIRE), recently made three video-only sales to buyers in London, Hong Kong and Geneva.

One was a canal house – “They are still in high demand and sell for around € 10,000 per m²,” says de Ruiter, who managed the highest price sale in town last year – a house of 1000 m² on Keizersgracht which cost 12.5 € m.

Line graph of the average purchase price, existing houses (€) showing that real estate prices in Amsterdam have risen sharply in the middle of the last decade

But the lack of parking, schools and – under normal circumstances – the constant rush of tourists means that many shoppers prefer something more modern and less frenetic in areas such as Oud-Zuid (Old South) and the Museumkwartier, where properties cost up to € 20,000 per m².

“We are close to € 30,000 per m² for certain exceptional transactions,” explains de Ruiter, referring to Amsterdam’s most expensive penthouse, a three-bedroom residence in Dam3, next to the high-end department store De Bijenkorf, at the price from € 11m.

Strong housing demand, even during the foreclosure, and Amsterdam’s chronic under-supply mean that the average house price in Amsterdam last year was 4.7% higher than in 2019, according to Statistics Netherlands and Kadaster, the Dutch land register. Nationwide, the average house price in January was 9.3% higher than in January 2020 – the biggest price increase in more than two years.

The NDSM area in the old industrial docks is a good place to look for starting homes

The NDSM area in the old industrial docks is a good place to look for starting homes © SOPA Images / LightRocket via Gett

Last July, the city introduced new restrictions to limit the number of homes used as short-term and vacation rentals, with officials saying one in 15 homes were offered for rent online on sites such as Airbnb. New rules ban short-term rentals in three areas that make up the city’s central Old Town and limit vacation rentals in other areas to a maximum of 30 days per year and groups of up to four people.

In a new attempt to make the city’s housing more affordable, Amsterdam has decided that all new homes built on city land will only be available to homeowners, not homeowners.

“About 20% of our new build buyers were previously to buy to rent, so now that it’s gone, that means these units are taking longer to sell,” says de Ruiter. “But there is still enough demand among people who want to live here.”

Rental prices are now falling across the country for the first time in six years, according to the online platform Pararius. The declines are greatest in cities, he says, mainly because the pandemic has caused many expats to return to their home countries.

In the third quarter of 2020, the average rent in Amsterdam was down 5.9% year on year. According to real estate and investment services firm CBRE, prime apartment rents in Amsterdam fell 3.3% in the year leading up to the fourth quarter of 2020.

OurDomain, a rental program with services for young working people in the south-east of Amsterdam

OurDomain, a rental program with services for young working people in the south-east of Amsterdam © Greystar

A new start for the private rental market, however, is for properties that are promoted as ‘Covid-proof’, with features like contactless elevators and HEPA air filters. One example is Sluishuis in IJburg (also known as IJ), an inverted V-shaped building that forms the centerpiece of a new residential area in northern Amsterdam built on man-made islands, with apartments in from 355,000 € via CIRE.

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For many Dutch buyers and tenants, the rejuvenation of Amsterdam’s outlying docks is the answer to inflated city center prices. North of Amsterdam, “an area known as NDSM is booming, with big developers like Hines building large mixed-use projects,” says Bas Wilberts, director of Savills Netherlands.

“And programs like OurDomain in the south-east of Amsterdam offer plenty of good quality starter houses and student accommodation in an area once considered isolated.

“We have a relatively young population, a lot of one-person households, who are becoming more and more cowardly and happy to live in these new developing areas,” he says.

For foreigners moving to the city like Hofman, however, nothing beats quintessential old Amsterdam. Not that he has seen what it looks like yet. “There have been hardly any tourists since my arrival,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how that changes when the world opens up. “

Information box

  • In 2020, domestic and foreign investment in Dutch real estate was split 50-50 (in 2015 it was 70% Dutch and 30% foreign), according to real estate services company CBRE.

  • In the fourth quarter of 2020, the average real estate price for existing homes in Amsterdam was € 513,031, according to Statistics Netherlands and Kadaster.

Properties for sale: Canal side

Jordan, € 725,000

A two bedroom, one bathroom ground floor and first floor apartment in the once working-class and now fashionable central Jordaan neighborhood. The property is located next to the Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s main canals. Available from Engel & Völkers.


Prinsengracht, 850,000 €

A two bedroom apartment in a converted house along the Prinsengracht in the center of town. The 102m² property on the ground floor comprises a large living room and bathroom, an open kitchen, underfloor heating and a rear terrace. Available from Engel & Völkers.


Leidsegracht, € 3m

An elegant five bedroom townhouse dating from the 17th century, located near the Leidsegracht, which runs through the center of Amsterdam. The 307m² property has nine bedrooms in total and is available through Christie’s International Real Estate.

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