Property market shows signs of cooling

New figures from both the rented and buying sectors indicate that the property market in Sweden could be cooling off. The waiting lists for rented flats in Stockholm shortened by an average of one year in 2004, whilst the price of flats rose modestly during the past year throughout the country except for Skåne.

Stockholm’s municipal housing service, Bostadsförmedlingen, is confident that their success in reducing waiting lists in 2004 is not a flash in the pan. Martin Ottosson, the service’s communications director, told DN:

“The trend is clearly going in the right direction. The waiting lists are shorter now for rented flats, even if they vary wildly depending on the type of flat and the area.”

However, the bald statistics are still sobering. On average, those who got a flat through the service in 2004 had waited five years. The average waiting time for a flat in the city centre has gone down two years, but is still eleven years.

If you’re looking for two rooms and a kitchen, the waiting time varies from twenty years in Djurgården to two years in Haninge.

Supporting Ottosson’s optimism is the fact that over 2004, the housing service had 6,900 flats on their books. That’s double the number in 2001.

“Our selection is increasing in all markets. A major reason for this is that we’ve built up a good relationship with the private sector. The number of flats on our books from the private sector has doubled in a year.”

Meanwhile, the cost of purchasing a flat rose by 4% nationwide during 2004. There were significant drops in the Summer and in the fourth quarter. The figures come from the estate agents’ organisation, Mäklarsamfundet, and the agencies Föreningssparbanken, Fastighetsbyrå and Svensk Fastighetsförmedling.

Lars Kilander, director of Mäklarsamfundet, told Stockholm Metro that it was too early to talk about a turn in the market:

“There’s been a little uncertainty in the market. On the other hand, it’s normal for interest to go down at Christmas time. The general feeling amongst estate agents is that there’ll be a slight rise in the Spring.”

The Stockholm districts of Vasastan, Kungsholmen and Östermalm all experienced drops in the price of flats during 2004, as did the counties of Södermanland, Östergötaland and Kronoberg.

The big exception is Skåne, where prices in Lund, for example, rose by 16% in 2004. Per Johnler, director of Föreningssparbanken estate agents told Dagens Industri:

“The continued upward trend in Skåne is probably due to its increasing integration with Copenhagen, where property prices are considerably higher than in Malmö.”

Talk of ‘cooling’ and ‘property markets’ takes on a different connotation at this time of year if you happen to be homeless and living in the northern town of Boden.

That’s the fate of 44 year old Susanne Collin, who told local paper Norrländska Socialdemokraten about how she ended up in her situation and her day to day life living in a car.

Susanne has a twenty year history of drug abuse and was evicted from her flat two and a half years ago. She spent two years living with a boyfriend and then various relatives and friends, until five months ago when she ended up just with a car.

She receives 5,800 crowns a month sick pay, but spends 300 crowns a day keeping her car warm.

Although she says she’s been given the cold shoulder from the local council, despite managing to get her drug habit under control, she is not bitter:

“I’m mostly sad. It makes me sad when people don’t realise that I need help. Sometimes I feel angry with myself. I don’t feel well, either mentally or physically and I’ve been refused a place at a home for drug abusers. I feel worthless.”

Most of all she wants to find somewhere to live and the chance to look after her 14 year old daughter.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Metro, Norrländska Socialdemokraten, Dagens Industri

Properties in Sweden