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8 European hotspots expats want to call home

Housing is near the top of every expat’s to-do list when relocating abroad. Whether for a month, a year, or a lifetime, we all need to put a roof over our heads -- and hopefully for a price we can afford and through a process that is as painless as possible.

8 European hotspots expats want to call home
Photo: archideaphoto/Depositphotos

After all, choosing to build a life in a new country and city is complicated enough!

Knowing that savvy expats do a lot of their house hunting online, we turned to Nestpick, a furnished apartment aggregator that covers 30 cities across Europe, for insights on where in Europe expats are finding furnished rental apartments online.

What better indicator of expat housing hotspots in Europe than the users of one of the continent’s most popular online apartment comparison services?

Nestpick scans thousands of apartments from various partner websites, giving expat users a ‘one-stop-shop’ featuring the best selection of furnished apartments and rooms. Plus, all the listings are in English, and securing a contract only takes a few clicks. 

So which cities in Europe are teaming with expat apartment-hunters? Have a look at the list below — some of the finalists may surprise you.

Berlin

Photo: Marek Heise Fotografie/Wikimedia Commons

Artists, musicians, writers, and all sorts of creative types have been flocking to Berlin in recent years. And it’s easy to see why. Firstly, it’s affordable. Rent and general living costs are relatively cheap compared to other capitals in western Europe.

But more than that, it’s a city brimming with culture and history. Ever since the wall came down, Berlin has been in a constant state of evolution, and now boasts a vibrant art scene and plenty of trendy restaurants and bars — and the Berlin startup scene is also booming. Expats also rave about the city’s numerous parks, forests and beaches – which offer a welcome contrast to Berlin’s more bohemian neighbourhoods. The German capital attracts new residents from all over the world, giving the city a distinctly international feel with an ever-growing expat community.

Rotterdam

Photo: Der Schmitzi/Wikimedia Commons

Rotterdam may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of the Netherlands. Indeed, the lively port town suffers from ‘younger sibling syndrome’ in the shadow of the more well-known Amsterdam. But make no mistake, Rotterdam is just as cool (it’s even home to a neighbourhood named ‘Cool’).

Heavily bombed during World War II, Rotterdam now boasts plenty of beautiful modern architecture; and sculptures by the likes of Picasso and Rodin decorate the city. In terms of food, the cuisine on offer – local and international – is exquisite.

Milan

Photo: anpalcacios/Flickr

Considered by many to be the fashion capital of the world, Milan is also the birthplace of the classic negroni cocktail, and home to the spectacular Duomo cathedral. And as Italy's financial capital, Milan attracts expats with high-flying careers looking to add and Italian twist — as well as those simply looking for an excuse to live in one of Europe’s most glamorous cities.  

While the cost of living may be high, salaries usually manage to keep pace. And what’s more, Milan is also a bustling student town, home to some of Italy’s larger universities. So whether you prefer the swank city centre or the more artsy Navigli neighbourhood, Milan has something that appeals to expats of all stripes (especially those boasting the iconic stripes of the town’s two main football clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan).

Lyon

Photo: reginaspics/Pixabay

France’s second city certainly has a lot going for it. While it often gets overlooked, expats who give it a chance are very glad they did. The cost of living, firstly, is a mere fraction of that in Paris. And with nearly 100 Michelin starred chefs in the region, there’s no shortage of fantastic food to sample.

Lyon is also home to both modern and ancient architecture – including the Historic Site of Lyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which features Vieux Lyon, the city’s oldest district and the Roman ruins at Fourvière

Expats also enjoy Lyon’s closeness to the wine producing region of Beaujolais, as well as its proximity to the Alps. When you add it all up, Lyon really has the best of everything France has to offer: great food, amazing history, and access to nature.

Barcelona

Photo: Andrew E. Larsen/Flickr

As Spain’s second-largest city and the capital of the Catalonia region, Barcelona has something for everyone — whether you’re a beach bum, football fanatic, or budding entrepreneur.

Expats can’t help but be drawn to the buzz of Barcelona and its heady mix of sun, tapas, and impressive architecture from Gothic to Gaudi. It’s no wonder Barcelona often tops expat happiness surveys.

The city also boasts a bike rental scheme, making getting around the city a breeze. Barcelona is also gaining a reputation as a startup hub, making it a popular destination for expat creatives and techies.

Paris

Photo: Moyan Brenn/Wikimedia Commons

We’ve all heard that Paris is truly is one of a kind. Few, if any cities, offer such an intoxicating combination of history, beauty, and energy. No wonder it’s popular with expats from all over the world. Its pace of life may be slower than that of New York or London – but who can say no to leisurely lunches and the splendours of the city’s cafe culture?

Sure, flat rentals in Paris may be a bit pricier than other European capitals, but with so many expats, students, and tourists flocking to the City of Lights, you have to be ready to pay a little more (although you'll still probably pay less than you would in London or Amsterdam).

Besides, there's also something inherently romantic about a life in Paris: the small cobbled back streets, the grand architecture have long attracted…artists, writers, and intellectuals.  The city’s charm, coupled with a range of employment opportunities and connections that make it easy to explore the rest of Europe make Paris one of the continent’s top expat hotspots.

Dublin

Photo: LenDog64/Flickr

The Irish capital offers expats a plethora of cosy pubs, castles — not to mention employment options at big name tech firms like Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon. It doesn’t take long to embrace the city’s pub culture and soon adopt the philosophy of ‘everything can be fixed by a pint’.

Founded by the Vikings (also expats!) in 988 A.D., Dublin is now home to about 1.8 million residents — about 40 percent of Ireland’s population — and has seen a steady inflow of expats in recent years, making it a surprisingly international city.

As a result, rental apartments are in high demand, meaning prices may be higher than you’d expect — especially in more upmarket areas near the city centre.

Rome

Photo: DomyD/Pixabay

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but expats will find themselves hooked on the city’s energy in a fraction of that time. The ancient historical capital of Italy is truly enchanting and never ceases to awe. Of course, Rome is also a bustling, modern European capital with all of the cultural and career opportunities that come with it. The beautiful Mediterranean climate makes dining al fresco in any of Rome’s famed piazzas a delight. And the ruin-filled city can make every day feel like an adventure.

The “Eternal City” boasts a range of neighbourhoods, all with distinct flavours – from the hipster haven of Trastevere to the more upscale Prati. And while Rome’s brisk tourist trade can make some things pricier than you’d expect, housing prices are generally cheaper than in other major cities – something that makes expats rejoice. Va bene!

Click here to find your own furnished apartment with Nestpick

This article was produced by The Local’s Client Studio and sponsored by Nestpick.

HOUSING

Surge in property demand as Parisians flee the capital

After spending the past months confined to their homes, an increasing number of Parisians seem to want swap their city apartment for a more spacious home outside the French capital.

Surge in property demand as Parisians flee the capital
'For sale'. Photo: AFP

Since end of lockdown, French real estate agencies have seen a surge in demand for properties outside the capital, especially by Parisians who wish to swap their small city apartments for a more spacious home outside the city.

“The lockdown was the final straw that saw people making the move,” said Brice Bonato, head of the real estate agency Sextant, told French newspaper Le Parisien.

A study by a company called Paris je te quitte (Paris I'm leaving you) found that 54 percent of the people asked said they wanted to leave the capital “as soon as possible” – up from 38 percent before the health crisis.

Paris is notoriously expensive

Paris is one of the world’s most expensive cities when it comes to housing, with the average price per square metre set at over €10,000.

The combination of limited space, limited housing and very high demand has pushed prices in the French capital sky high, with prices rising by 62.5 percent over the past 10 years.

As a result, Parisians have got used to paying a lot for little. Few are able to purchase and most people live in rented apartments. 

READ ALSO Almost half of all property rental adverts in Paris are illegal

Earlier this year, a Paris studio apartment at just 30 square metres caused anger when it was put up for sale for close to €1 million.
 
But as soon as you move a little bit out of the capital, prices drop. In the greater Paris region as a whole, the average price per square feet is currently at €6,700, according to Le Parisien.
 
 
Many Parisians spent the two months of strict lockdown inside their tiny apartment, without a balcony or garden to breathe fresh air from. Photo: AFP
 
'Closer to nature'
 
The coronavirus health crisis, by shutting down life in the capital and leaving Parisians without any of the perks of living in Paris, seems to have pushed many into making the final leap.
 
“We told ourselves, 'phew, good that we're leaving',” said Paul, a 41-year-old engineer who was moving out of the capital with his wife and two children in July. 
 
During the lockdown, the couple exchanged their 95 square metre apartment in the 19th arrondissement – one of the least expensive areas in Paris – for a 135 square metre house with four bedrooms and a 100 square metre garden in the centre of Fontainebleau, southeast of Paris. 
 
They bought the house for €620,000.
 
“We're leaving to get a better quality of life, to get closer to nature without being too far from the city,” Paul told Le Parisien.
 
 
 
Where are people looking to move?

Like Paul and his family, most Parisians are looking to move to areas outside the capital in the Île-de-France region. These areas are often well-connected with RER trains that make it possible to commute if needed.

Searches for housing in Sens, in the Yvonne département southeast of Paris, surged by 80 percent from April 2019 to April 2020, according to the real estate agency Seloger. 

In the towns of Evreux and Dreux, both west of the capital, demand has increased by 40 percent over the same period.

“We are seeing a real wish to be closer to nature, far from the stress of the city,” said Antoine Jouteau, Director of the sell-and-buy site Le Boncoin, told Le Parisien.

A house with a garden

Real estate agencies also note that most people want a house (59 percent), according to Seloger, and more and more are ticking of the box for an outdoor area.

“With remote working, people are spending a lot more time at home,” said Corinne Joly, director of the real estate website Pap.fr.

READ ALSO: Frequent mistakes made by French property buyers

Is this a good time to move?

According to real estate agencies, this is not a bad time for buyers to make the leap.

After two months of complete of being completely paralysed during the lockdown, the real estate market is regaining full speed.

But many owners who have been waiting for a long time to sell “have no choice,” said Thomas Lefebvre, Research Director at MeilleurAgents, to the paper.

“They have to sell today,” he said.

That means there is a lot on offer, and buyers have more power than sellers. 

Lefebvre also pointed to relatively good lending conditions. 

“Borrowing today at 1.2 percent over 20 years, even if it has gone up slightly, remains very good conditions,” he said.

 

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