Antonella Serrecchia, a first year master’s student in journalism from Italy, is one of the many international students still looking for somewhere to stay. The UK is following her in her ongoing quest to find a home in Groningen.
When Antonella arrived in Groningen for the very first time, she stored her luggage in a locker at the station and set out to go sight seeing in the city. Even though she had a place to stay at a friend’s house for the night, she was still distracted by her house hunt.
She wound up at the Maxx Vastgoed real estate agency. ‘But when I explained to them what I needed, they asked me to pay a 30 euro registration fee,’ she says. ‘I felt that it was wrong, so I decided not to do it. You cannot pay a registration fee to all the agencies you visit. What if they don’t have anything to offer in the end?’
‘If I were in my country, I would just visit an agency and tell them exactly what I want, ask them to show me what they have and rent the room that matched my criteria’, she says. ‘Apparently, it doesn’t work like that here.’
She visited a couple more real estate agencies to no avail: they had no rooms. But even at the agencies where there was a glimmer of hope, she was stunned to learn that some Dutch landlords demand tenants provide a presentation about themselves.
‘It is really frustrating. When it comes to the tenants and the fact that they have to choose the person who will rent the room, it is fine and I get it because they will live with you. But sending a presentation to the landlord is a bit much.’
Eventually, Antonella managed to arrange four viewings, but that also yielded nothing. ‘Even though some of the rooms were what I was looking for, in the end I always got the same answer: ‘‘Sorry, we chose someone else.’ This phrase more or less summarises what happened in my first weeks here’, Antonella says.
Having to prove that she would be the ideal roommate every time was also frustrating. She showed up at one room viewing and quickly realised she was merely one of 20 other house-hunting hopefuls waiting there.
‘I freaked out’, she says. ‘I don’t like being in a position to compete with other people and prove that I clean, I cook, I pay the rent right on time and I am the best. If people think that we could get along, that’s fine, but I don’t want to be the one to tell them that I am the best, and unfortunately this is how it works here. A viewing is like an audition, actually.’
So far, she has stayed in a hostel and in the houses of a couple of different friends, and now she is sharing an Airbnb property with two other Italians who are also still looking for a room. ‘The house is big and has a garden and everything we need. It is a bit over my budget, which is 400 euros, but I think it is still doable for me.’
She can stay in her current room as long as she needs, but she is still hoping to be able to find a permanent place soon. ‘I am not giving up, but I would like to wait until the situation settles down a bit, so maybe then I will find a better room. But if by the end of this month I still don’t have a room, I will start freaking out.’
Read part one of Antonella’s story here. Check back next week for part three.