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Swede turns one krona church into dream home

Property prices in Sweden may have doubled over the last 10 years, but there are still opportunities to get a real bargain in the countryside. Dennis Toth tells The Local how he renovated an old church he bought for just one Swedish krona.

Swede turns one krona church into dream home
The church near Landskrona. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Dennis Toth is currently transforming the church, Örja kyrka outside Landskrona in the south of Sweden, into a 350 square metre private home for his family of seven.

“All the paperwork is basically done, now it’s time to start the renovation. I wanted to make sure I had everything planned out before I started the work,” Toth tells The Local.

It was after seeing an article about the church in local newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad that Dennis Toth contacted the Church of Sweden to ask about buying the building after hearing that it was on the verge of being destroyed.

Officials immediately organized a meeting with him to show the building. Toth says he instantly decided to buy the church, which was built in 19th century.

The price? One Swedish krona (around 0,12$).

“They would rather give it to me than demolish it, they said,” he explains.

He says he wants to keep as much as possible of the old decor in his new home. The pulpit will become a bar and the church tower a terrace, for example.

The 35-year-old says the churchyard will become a public memorial.

The purchase and current renovation have already captured attention in Swedish media, and his story is spreading fast on social media.

“It’s quite exceptional in Sweden to transform churches into private houses, I guess that’s why everybody’s reacting. It’s far more common in countries like the UK and Germany.”

The attention doesn’t seem to disturb Dennis Toth, who has been involved in the building industry his whole working life and will carry out the renovations himself.

“I like the attention this gets, as long as it’s positive,” he says.

How much the work will cost is still unclear. The Church of Sweden estimated that it would cost around 17 million Swedish kronor ($2,053,760) to make the church inhabitable. The building has not been used since the mid-1990s.

“I don’t know what the exact total cost will be yet, I’d like to keep it a secret. Everything’s about money nowadays,” says Toth.

The Church of Sweden, which formally held the position as state church up until 2000, owns around 3,400 church buildings in the country, a number which is reducing.

More and more churches are being sold or demolished, as a consequence of a stretched economy and the dropping number of members.

The church had around 6,000,000 members last year. But it loses around one percent every year, according to its own statistics. 

Article written by The Local's intern August Håkansson.

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PROPERTY

COMPARE: Which Swedish banks give mortgages to foreigners?

Some Swedish banks are more likely to decline mortgage applications to foreigners without a permanent residence permit in Sweden. We asked 16 mortgage providers what their rules are on loaning to immigrants - here are their responses.

COMPARE: Which Swedish banks give mortgages to foreigners?

Mortgages or bolån in Sweden can be granted directly by banks, such as Swedbank, Danske Bank or Handelsbanken, or given out by other mortgage providers that are then used by multiple banks. The loan agency Borgo, for instance, is behind the mortgages given out by ICA Banken, Ikano Bank, Söderberg & Partners, Sparbanken Syd and Ålandsbanken.

This means that in some cases the banks themselves do not decide who to lend to, hiring out their mortgage service to another company.

It is important to note that banks may still have requirements that applicants are resident in Sweden or can prove connection to the country in another way, such as by earning in Swedish kronor, so it may still be difficult for individuals without a Swedish personal number to take out a mortgage in Sweden unless they can prove that they currently work, study or live in the country, or plan to do so.

The Local contacted 16 Swedish mortgage providers to ask whether non-Swedish citizens and people without a permanent residence permit can take out a mortgage with them. Here are the responses.

Nordea

Nordea – Sweden’s largest bank according to the Swedish Bankers’ Association – has some of the least strict regulations among the banks we contacted for immigrants in Sweden. The bank told The Local that prospective home buyers in Sweden may, in some cases, be able to buy a property before they’ve even moved to the country.

“If you live in or are planning to move to Sweden, you can take out a mortgage to buy a property in Sweden without a Swedish personnummer or a residence permit,” press officer Hugo Laigar said.

“Nordea offer individual advice and a decision will be made in each case,” he added. “The best thing to do is to get in touch to talk about the possibility of you taking out a mortgage with Nordea”.

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Handelsbanken

Sweden’s second-largest bank, Handelsbanken, are also willing to lend to immigrants without permanent residency, Niklas Eklund, business development chief at Handelsbanken’s mortgage subsidiary, Statshypotek, told The Local.

“You don’t need to be a Swedish citizen or have permanent residency in Sweden to take out a loan with Handelsbanken,” he said, explaining that loans were based on “an individual assessment of your specific situation and your financial situation.”

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

A falu-red cottage in the Swedish countryside. Photo: Henrik Holmberg/TT

SEB

SEB, Sweden’s third-largest bank, does not require Swedish citizenship or permanent residency, press officer Niklas Magnusson told The Local.

“You can also look at the New in Sweden | SEB page on our website for more information on how you can become an SEB customer as a non-Swedish citizen and which documents you’ll need,” he said.

Non-EU citizens will need to provide a copy of their Swedish residence permit – meaning this service is not available for non-EU citizens without a personal number.

There are currently no rules against EU citizens without a Swedish personal number joining the bank or taking out a mortgage with SEB, although applicants do need to provide proof of address in Sweden, so those wishing to buy a property before moving to the country may have issues.

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Swedbank

At Swedbank, “the short answer is no”, you don’t need to be a citizen or permanent resident of Sweden to take out a mortgage, press officer Ralf Bagner said.

“The longer answer,” he added, “is that the same customer information process applies, where the person taking out the mortgage must prove the origin of whichever funds they use to purchase the property, that they are over 18 years old, and must open an account and internet banking with us.”

It is possible to open an account with Swedbank without BankID or a Swedish personal number, although, according to their website, applicants must provide valid ID (foreign passports are accepted) as well as “some other document, such as a residency permit, work permit, extract from the Tax Agency or school attendance certificate”.

This means that it may be difficult to apply for a mortgage for a property in Sweden if you have not yet moved to the country, unless you already have your resident documents or work permit available.

Additionally for those planning on moving to Sweden, he said Swedbank placed “somewhat higher requirements on credit checks” on this group, “as we don’t have the same possibility to carry out a credit check on the applicant via UC [Sweden’s largest credit check agency], for example.”

“In addition to this, we always ask for references from the customers’ bank in the country where they are a resident,” Bagner said.

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Danske Bank

Although originally a Danish bank, Danske Bank is also active in Sweden, offering mortgages and banking services in the country.

According to communications officer Natalie Rudarp, it “is difficult to get a loan approved without a permanent residence permit and work permit”.

“In line with current guidelines, as a bank we need to be sure that the customer can repay the loan, which is difficult if the customer only has a temporary residence permit.”

However, applicants “don’t need to be Swedish citizens”, Rudarp said.

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? Yes, perhaps also a work permit

Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

SBAB

Stare-owned SBAB Bank is one of Sweden’s most popular mortgage providers, which is understandable given its history: SBAB was originally set up in the 80s to handle the finances for state mortgages.

SBAB “do not have any requirement for citizenship but you must be registered in the Swedish population register,” press officer Erik Bukowski told The Local.

He said that lenders also needed to demonstrate “a stable income and no records of non-payment.”

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Borgo (ICA Banken, Ikano Bank, Söderberg & Partners, Sparbanken Syd och Ålandsbanken)

Borgo is a mortgage institute used by five Swedish banks: ICA Bank, Ikano Bank, Söderberg & Partners, Sparbanken Syd and Ålandsbanken.

Borgo confirmed to The Local in a phone conversation that those applying for mortgages with them do not need to be Swedish citizens, but do need to have a personal number and a permanent residence permit.

This means that mortgage applicants with these five banks must have permanent residency for their mortgages to be approved.

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? Yes

Landshypotek Bank

Landshypotek Bank offer mortgages for houses or summer houses in Sweden (not bostadsrättsföreningar, so apartments and most terraced houses are not eligible).

According to press officer Jonas Feinberg, Landshypotek offers mortgages to those who are “over 18 and registered in the Swedish population register, have income in Swedish kronor and have a private property (such as a detached house or summer house) which can be used as security for the loan”.

“When you apply for a mortgage, we carry out the usual credit check. If you, or the person you apply with, has a record of non-payment, we will not be able to approve your application,” Feinberg added.

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT/

Skandia

Skandia Bank “does not have any requirements for Swedish citizenship or permanent residency,” press officer Jonatan Ohlin told The Local.

According to its website, applicants must be “over 18 years old and registered in the Swedish population register.”

“You also need a guaranteed base salary from a permanent position, lifelong pension or declared income from self-employment. We do not count incomes such as bonuses, commission or supplements received for working evenings or weekends which are not guaranteed.”

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Hypoteket

Hypoteket is not a bank, rather a bostadskreditinstitut, literally a “property credit institute”, meaning it only offers mortgages and no other banking services.

At Hypoteket, prospective mortgage applicants need “BankID and therefore also a Swedish personal number,” CMO Patrik Fjelkegård told The Local.

“You also need your income to be in Swedish kronor”.

“When you apply, we take an automatic UC credit check. There, we get an overview, and if there are any issues we may need more information like a certificate from your employer, payslips, or an estate agents’ valuation, for example.”

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Länsförsäkringar

Länsförsäkringar offers private banking and mortgages in Sweden. According to communications officer Ola Kallemur, Länsförsäkringar has “no requirement for Swedish citizenship or permanent residency in order to take out a mortgage”.

Do you have to be a Swedish citizen? No

Do you need permanent residency? No

Stabelo

Stabelo, a digital mortgage provider, had not yet responded to our emails at the time of publication, but we will update this article as soon as we receive a response.

 

Vocabulary

Tillsvidareanställning - permanent position of employment

Betalningsanmärkning - record of non-payment

OB-tillägg - supplementary pay due to working outside of normal working hours

Kreditgivare - loan provider

Bolån (occasionally hypotekslån) - mortgage

Folkbokförd - registered in the Swedish population register

Arbetsgivarintyg - employer certificate (a certificate provided by your employer detailing your position, salary and how long you have worked in that role)

Lönespecifikationer - payslips

This information was correct as of August 2022. This is not financial advice, and we strongly encourage those considering taking out a mortgage in Sweden to do their own research before approaching a mortgage provider for a loan.

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