Renting and Living in Europe Advice
A lot of Americans wonder if they should rent a home or apartment, and what they can expect. You might appreciate some tips on the cost of living in Europe.
Renting and the Cost of Living
So, you're an American seeking to rent a place to live off post, but don't know what to expect. The majority of those stationed or otherwise employed for the U.S. government in Europe will receive some form of Command Sponsorship, including housing allowance. If you plan to live off post, then you should be aware of the following.
Rent is more expensive for American's than local nationals. Why? The mentality that a lot of American's are wealthy is certainly one of the reasons, but I digress. Finding a cheap place to live will be somewhat difficult, and I suggest you ask your local Housing Office for advice and recommendations on where to live, but don't take what they say at face value. Do you're own digging as well.
Your proximity to post is also a major factor with regards to rent. The closer you want to live near post, the higher the rent you can expect. The very high demand on housing for American's who want to live closer to base is enormous and the rent will reflect this. The prices are unavoidable, and without housing assistance you will get a very raw deal indeed, so be cautious.
You will be exchanging dollars for Euro's, so expect to see a part of your income disappear on the local economy. Most likely you will shop on post, but you may not always find what you are looking for and shop on the local economy. If you do shop on the local economy, be sure to use your VAT form when making large purchases. A VAT form will take away a large percentage of the taxes you would normally pay on products. This should help you a lot. But, either way you will still be losing money when converting Dollars to Euros.
Also consider the utility bills, which will be a considerable drain on your income. Be sure to ask others what they pay for utilities in their area. You might be better off renting an apartment and not a house, but that depends on preference, your marital status, and if you have kids. Don't let yourself be fooled by the fact you may receive housing allowance. The utility bills for a big home consume a large portion of your income. Energy and water prices can be very high in the neighborhood you might live in, so always be cautious.
Consider what I have mentioned above. If you're planning on living in a house or apartment for a few years be sure to choose one that is right for you, your family and income. I have known plenty of people who have been ripped off by local nationals when renting. For some houses, rent may be 2,000 Euro a month, including utilities and the size of the houses were relatively small. Be sure to check with the people you work with and online for what you can expect to pay on an average monthly basis for living in your area.