Bostadsrättsförening can be broken down into bostad (home/property), rätt (right) and förening (association).
A bostadsrätt means the right to live in a property, and this is almost always what you buy when you purchase an apartment in Sweden.
You also buy into a collective, the bostadsrättsförening which is the association that's in charge of running the property, usually one or several blocks of apartments, but can also apply to groups of houses, especially terraced houses.
An English translation would be tenants' association or housing cooperative. Before you can move into a newly bought apartment, you need to be accepted by this cooperative, although this is usually just a formality.
Each month, as well as your mortgage, you'll pay fees to the bostadsrättsförening, which is often shorted to BRF in Swedish. These fees cover maintenance of common areas like staircases, lifts and the all-important communal laundry room, as well as things like plumbing, upkeep of external doors and windows, and often heating and water.
When you look into buying an apartment, it's important to check exactly what that monthly fee covers, because if you have to pay extra for hot water or electric heating, for example, that could mean a big increase to your bills each winter.
On the other hand, some bostadsrättsföreningar offer extra perks such as a shared gym, sauna, or guest apartments for when members have visitors staying. In the plushest of BRFs, there might even be something like a pool or cinema just for residents.
The BRF also sets rules for members, with the idea being that this ensures everyone can live comfortably. These rules will usually include something like no loud noise after 10pm, and no smoking in common indoor areas.
So who are these mysterious people in charge? The bostadsrättsförening is made up of tenants living in the building, who take on roles on the BRF's board.
They will work together to make decisions on how to use the money; for example in a good year, they might decide to invest in some new benefits for members, and it would be the board who decide whether to build a new playground or an outdoor dining area. Everyone living in the BRF would get a say, though, not just those on the board. There's no goal of making profit, so any extra money should be put back into benefits for BRF members.
Of course, since the associations are run by ordinary people, there's a risk of mismanagement of money. Before thinking about buying a house or apartment in a BRF, it's important to look into the association's finances.
There are also external factors to these; a cooperative that rents out some space to businesses, or owns its land rather than renting it from the municipality, will often have a stronger financial situation. Factors such as a low loan per square metre can make the property a lower-risk investment, since there will be a lower debt to pay off if something goes wrong.
Trevligt område, stabil bostadsrättsförening med bra ekonomi
Pleasant neighbourhood, stable housing cooperative with good finances (you'll see phrases like this in estate agent adverts)
Det är viktigt att analysera en bostadsrättsförenings ekonomi innan man köper en lägenhet
It is important to analyze a housing cooperative's finances before buying an apartment