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HOUSING

A studio in Stockholm or a castle in countryside?

The gap between Sweden's least and most affordable homes is growing. The average apartment in the capital now goes under the hammer for the price of 17 similar digs elsewhere in the Nordic country.

A studio in Stockholm or a castle in countryside?
A sign advertising an ongoing apartment viewing in Sweden. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Property prices are soaring in Sweden. But not everywhere – and the gap between different parts of the country is growing even more rapidly, figures from Svensk Mäklarstatistik, which compiles data for estate agents, revealed on Friday.

“There's an enormous housing shortage in Sweden and it is not surprising that property prices are continuing to rise and that there are huge variations,” explained Ingrid Eiken, chief executive of the Association of Swedish Real Estate Agents (Mäklarsamfundet).

READ ALSO: Gatecrashers fry up Swedish home viewing

After a summer dip – which saw apartment prices fall by 1.0 percent in June compared to the previous month – those in the market for selling their homes can expect to make a sizeable profit this autumn, especially in Sweden's biggest cities.

So, if you are hoping to buy your own living space in central Stockholm, you can expect to cough up 86,617 kronor ($10,222) per square metre. In more practical terms, that translates to around 4.7 million kronor for the average apartment on offer in the capital. For the same price you can snap up 17 different similar homes in, for example, the town of Härnösand in northern Sweden, Friday's figures revealed.


Property prices are soaring in the Swedish capital. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

On average, apartment prices have risen by 14 percent across Sweden in the past year, compared to 17 percent in Stockholm, 8 percent in Malmö and a whopping 22 percent in Gothenburg. Meanwhile, the average price for a detached home has gone up by 10 percent.

But Eiken believes there is little risk of a bursting housing bubble, as long as Sweden's interest rate and the number of available apartments both remain at historically low levels.

“Households also trust that prices are going to continue upwards, our studies show. And the more people think that, the more likely it is that it is going to be the case,” she said.

READ ALSO: Five questions before buying a home in Sweden

However, prices are not soaring everywhere. In semi-rural towns like Ludvika in central Swedish region Dalarna, they have fallen by 7 percent as movers instead flock to nearby Falun – which has seen a 33 percent rise.

“In each county there is almost always one town that is the so-called growth town – like Växjö, Linköping or Luleå – often a town with a higher education seat where students head, and that's where the prices increase, while they fall in other towns,” said Eiken.

And despite the soaring property prices, the Swedish market does still offer surprisingly cheap bargains – as long as you stay out of the bigger cities.

Johan Vesterberg, head of press for Sweden's largest estate agent, Fastighetsbyrån, told The Local earlier this year that with just a €100,000 budget “you can find a decent property in most parts of the country”.

SEE ALSO: Find your dream home in The Local's property section

For members

RENTING

Five tricks Swedes use to avoid the long wait for rental apartments

The official waiting time for apartments in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö varies between three and eleven years. But Swedes have their own tricks for jumping the queue.

Five tricks Swedes use to avoid the long wait for rental apartments

There’s no requirement for landlords or renters to use the queuing systems run by the municipalities in the big cities, but most of the big ones do, the intention being to reduce corruption and increase fairness in the rental market. 

The Stockholm Housing Agency, or bostadsförmedlingen, has a queue between seven and eleven years long. Boplats Gothenburg has an average wait of 6.4 years, and Boplats Syd in Malmö has an average waiting time of nearly three years.

According to Kristina Wahlgren, a journalist at Hem & Hyra, Sweden’s leading rental property magazine, the system puts foreigners and recent arrivals to Sweden at a significant disadvantage. 

“It’s extremely difficult if you are from another country. You don’t have any contacts, and it’s quite difficult to understand if you haven’t grown up in this culture,” she says of the system. “There are some quite subtle aspects, and there’s vänskapskorruption [giving special advantage to friends]. ” 

Listen to a discussion about Swedish queue systems on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Obviously, the biggest advantage faced by locals in Sweden is that they normally joined the queue the moment they turned 17, so by the time they’re looking for an apartment as a young adult, they’re already near the front. 

But even for new arrivals in Sweden, it’s possible to wait a much shorter time if you know the tricks, says Wahlgren, who has been nominated for Sweden’s Guldspaden journalism prize for an investigation into how Malmö finds housing for homeless people. 

Kristina Wahlgren, a reporter for the Hem & Hyra newspaper. Photo: Hem & Hyra

1.  Apply for more expensive new-build apartments to start off with 

If you’ve got a good enough salary, and are willing to pay high rent for your first few years in Sweden, this can make it easier to get an apartment, as there is less competition for more expensive, new-build apartments, Wahlgren says.

“If you’re willing to pay high rent, then you can get an apartment within a couple of months [in Malmö]. If you want a cheaper apartment, it can take years. So it’s quite a big difference.”

2. Rather than wait for your perfect apartment, take what’s available and then swap 

The rules recently got a little stricter, but it’s still relatively easy to swap between apartments once you have a first-hand contract. There’s even a website, Lägenhetsbyte, which acts as an interface. 

This means, if you use the method above, and decide to rent a more expensive new-build apartment with a shorter queue, you can then downgrade to a cheaper apartment with someone who is after somewhere newer and swankier.

Rental queues are also shorter in less desirable areas of Sweden’s cities. For example, the waiting list in Norra Hissingen in Gothenburg is only five years, half what it is in Majorna. It can be quicker to make do with living in a relatively dreary area, and then swap with somewhere better, than to insist from the start on an apartment in your dream location. 

“If you can’t wait for the right department, just take the one that you get, then you can keep on looking and when you do have a lease, you can change the lease with someone else,” Wahlgren says. 

To change apartment, you need to have a so-called “acceptable reason”, such as needing a bigger or smaller apartment. With any luck, your landlord should accept the swap. If they refuse you can challenge their decision at your local hyresnämnden or “rental tribunal”.  

3. Use the tricks for contacting landlords directly  

Landlords in Sweden are not required to use the municipal rental queues to find their tenants, and if a suitable tenant presents themselves just as an apartment becomes free, they may prefer to take someone they know.

This is particularly the case with the smaller, private landlords. It’s possible to find lists of private landlords online, such as here. But Wahlgren recommends putting in a bit of legwork.

“One way to find who owns an apartment block, is to just go around and check on the buildings for the names of the landlords, and look in the stairwells for the number of the landlord’s agent.” 

Once you have the number, you have to ring both regularly, at least once a month, and also strategically. 

“It’s important to call at the right time,” Wahlgren says. “Because normally apartment rentals end at the turn of the month, so that’s when you’re going to call. You don’t call on the 15th, you call on the 31st or the 1st of the month.”

4. Exploit all the friends and contacts that you have 

When someone hands in their notice on a rental agreement, they may try to shorten their notice by finding a replacement for the landlord, or they might find a replacement simply as a favour. This is why it’s important to ask your friends and work colleagues if they know of any apartments becoming free. 

“If they use the municipal queue, they have to follow the rules. This way, they can choose their own tenants,” Wahlgren says of the appeal of this to landlords. “If you’re a nice person, you might be able to just talk your way into an apartment.” 

5. Be a student 

“If you’re a student, there are special housing companies in the university cities, different foundations that rent out apartments,” Wahlgren says. But then you have to study.” 

Illegal ways of getting an apartment

All of these ways of getting a rental apartment are legal, but there are some ways of getting a rental apartment more quickly which are not.

1. Paying a fee

You may also find landlords or intermediaries on websites such as Blocket, who ask for a one-off payment to jump a rental queue, or get a rental apartment. This is illegal. “You can lose your money, you can lose the apartment, and in the worst case, you can go to prison,” warns Wahlgren.

2. Getting an illegal subtenancy 

It’s perfectly legal to rent out your rental apartment to someone else for a period, if you have a valid reason for doing so and your landlord agrees. But such is the pressure to get housing that a market has sprung up in illegal subletting. Before signing a contract for a sublet, make sure that the landlord who owns the property has agreed to it. 

3. Bribing someone running the queue 

There have been cases of people working for municipalities logging into the housing queue and altering it, either as a favour to their friends, or for money. This is fairly rare, and in the unlikely event that someone offers to do this for you, it’s best to decline. 

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