• Sweden edition
 

Finding my new home sweet home

Published: 16 Sep 2011 11:54 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Sep 2011 11:54 GMT+02:00

A recent study by the Association of Swedish Real Estate Agents reported that the average Swede moves ten times over the course of his or her life. I’ve got them beat.

Two weeks ago, I moved into a new flat – apartment number eight in the last four and a half years. At this rate, I will have moved 142 times before my eightieth birthday.

Many foreigners in Sweden – especially in bigger cities – find themselves in a similar predicament. Finding a decent place to live is arguably at the top of the list when it comes to the challenges of immigration (along with finding a job that pays enough to cover rent should you ever actually find a flat).

If you’re lucky enough to arrive in Sweden with a job already lined up and have the necessary financial means, buying an apartment might be the way to go, although this comes with its own set of challenges. But the overwhelming majority of foreigners find themselves cast directly into the sea of the Swedish rental market.

A rental contract is known as a “hyresrätt” in Swedish. There are two types of these contracts: first-hand (förstahand) and second-hand (andrahand). A first hand contract means that the apartment is in your name and you deal directly with the landlord. This is wishful thinking for most new arrivals since a first-hand rental contract is harder to come by than December sunshine in Lappland.

In the last few years the average waiting time for an apartment in inner city Stockholm from the municipal housing queue run by Stockholms Stads Bostadsförmedling AB has been up to 11.1 years. If you’re willing to live in the suburbs, you have to wait a mere 5.6 years.

Want an apartment? Wait in line

Hans Lind, professor of real estate economics at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), says that rent regulation keeps rent below market value, which in turn creates queues, especially in the older, more attractive districts of larger cities.

“The argument for the system of rent control is that it protects the sitting tenant against rent increases and also that it could reduce segregation as the rental apartments in attractive areas are more affordable. But a number of studies have shown that the segregation argument does not hold, and there is growing criticism of the system,” Lind said.

Lind said there has been some talk of real estate reform that would allow the landlord to set the rent closer to the market level when an apartment is vacated. He explained that the rent for current tenants would gradually increase over a period of time. “It is, however, unclear what the new middle-right government will do,” he said.

That leaves the second-hand market. A second-hand rental is essentially a sublet, which may or may not occur with the knowledge and consent of the landlord.

Avoiding the neighbours

There are several totally legitimate reasons for a lease holder to sublet his or her apartment: study or work aboard or in another part of Sweden, moving in with a significant other (samboprov), or illness. In these cases, lease holders can sublet their apartments for a specified period of time with approval from the landlord.

But there are just as many situations where you have to duck if you see the neighbors since you aren’t technically living there. Since a first-hand rental contract is worth its weight in gold, very few people are willing to let them go, even if they have no intention of ever living there again.

Many of these people simply sublet these apartments out to friends at the cost of rent, but the less scrupulous will jack up the price by several thousand kronor since they know that potential subletters are often desperate and willing to pay the price.

There is a system of “apartment swapping” (bostadsbyte) that allows you to trade your rental apartment for another apartment in a different part of the city or even in another part of the country. This encourages people to hang onto their leases as it could prove to be an essential bargaining chip in any subsequent moves they make.

The second-hand market can be likened to a game of musical apartments. After three years of standing in the queue for student accommodation, I cashed in on a 19 sq meter student room.

After I had lived in my shoebox for almost 8 months, my friend Lisa announced she was transplanting to Gävle to move in with her new boyfriend and asked me if I wanted to take over her 35 sq meter apartment (and incidentally, it’s her father’s name that is actually on the lease). In turn, I rented out my student room. In short, Lisa’s decision to move created a ripple effect.

On the streets again

When Lisa told me last month she and her now-fiancée had decided to move back, I once again joined the hordes of apartment hunters roaming the streets of Stockholm. Fortunately, I proved that it is possible to find an apartment in Stockholm in less than a month with a lot of legwork and a good sense of humour.

After checking out ten different leads in the course of a week and a half, I had three viable options. One apartment was perfect – a two-bedroom loft in the middle of the Old Town. The only problem was the flatmate that came with it – a 20-year-old Swedish rocker wannabe who told me his main leisure activity was “drinking”.

The second apartment was in Södermalm and was shown by a Swedish girl acting on behalf of her ex-boyfriend, an Icelander who had moved to Thailand and had subsequently gotten married. He seemed to have no plans of ever coming back to Stockholm. He was, however, quite willing to tack on an additional few thousand kronor for the “privilege” of using the ratty old mattress he left behind.

The final apartment was a 50 sq meter flat in the suburbs. The apartment was completely furnished with a fantastic floor plan. The woman offering the apartment had just moved in with her boyfriend and had gotten permission from the landlord. That was the selling point for me.

After several years of housing uncertainty, I’m willing to give up living in the middle of the city for the security of knowing I can make myself at home. The landlord knows I’m here, so I don’t have to pretend I’m her American cousin just stopping by to water the plants. No more moving around for me – at least for the next twelve months.

See also:Stefan's story:ten apartments in four years

Check out Charlotte West's top tips for finding an apartment

Housing in Sweden: useful links

Charlotte West

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
Photos: Henrik Montgomery/Fredrik Persson/TT

Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats

While a record number of ministers and party leaders will participate in the Stockholm Pride Parade this year, there are notable exceptions - including SD leader Jimmie Åkesson, who is not only 'uninterested' but banned. READ  

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary
Photo: The Local

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary

The ever-controversial pronoun 'hen' has won its battle and is set to officially become part of the Swedish language. READ  

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival
Photo: Danny Chapman/The Local

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival

The Urkult music festival in northern Sweden may be less sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and more family fun, chai and polska dancing - but Danny Chapman says it’s one of the most magical Swedish experiences he has had. READ  

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
You want one of these. Photo: Skatteverket

Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm

When it comes to data-driven life, from daycare to healthcare, Sweden is in a league of its own. Above all, your personal number is the key that unlocks life in Stockholm. READ  

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

All aboard! We're off to the island of Gotland for our Property of the Week - a home right in the heart of Medieval Visby. Whether you're looking to buy or dying to look - this is the place for you. READ  

Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year
Stockholm Pride. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year

The largest pride festival in Scandinavia is back for the 17th year in a row. The week promises to be packed with activities - and a glamorous opening gala with Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. READ  

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

732
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se