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PROPERTY

7 key things to think about before you sell your home in Sweden

The property market tends to move fast in Sweden, but if you want to sell your house or apartment it's a good idea to prepare well in advance. These are seven things you should be considering if you want to make a sale.

7 key things to think about before you sell your home in Sweden
How can you maximise the value of your property before selling? File photo: cottonbro/Pexels

Timing

Should you sell your home before or after you've bought somewhere new to live? There are pros and cons to both approaches, and it depends on your own personal and financial situation.

If you sell first, you know exactly how much money you've got to put towards your new home, but you might find yourself rushing to find your new place. Banks will usually tell you that selling first is safer. If you buy first, you may need to use a bridging loan and might feel rushed to sell.

You should also think about timing in terms of both seasonal variations in the housing market and the wider economic situation, although try not to get too worried about this – if you need to move, it is not always possible or sensible to wait for the optimum time. Summer and Christmas are slower seasons for property sales due to holidays, but that can also mean less competition.  

It is hard to know how the economy and house prices will change in future, but if you know you will be selling a property before too long, it is smart to start following the news. This way you will know if any laws are set to come in that make it more expensive to sell, for example, and can follow expert predictions of how prices will develop. Just be aware that even the professionals won't always know for sure! 

Coronavirus concerns?

At the moment it's impossible to say how the coronavirus crisis will affect the Swedish economy and housing market. As of July, no major changes to the buying or selling process have been made in Sweden, but the market has still been affected. Expert estimates have predicted that in a worst-case scenario, property prices may drop as much as 12 percent but at the moment this has not happened.

Because of the increased uncertainty, you might want to think extra carefully about any gap between selling and buying – it's possible the market could change significantly.


Photo: Erik Johansen/NTB scanpix/TT

Valuation

You can do your own research on property values by using sites like Hemnet and Booli to find out how much similar properties have sold for recently. Bear in mind that factors like which floor an apartment is on, what condition it is in, layout, and extra bonuses like a spectacular view or laundry room in the building can all change the overall price. It could be a good idea to follow some bidding processes on Hemnet, to start getting a feel for property values in your area.

Then, most estate agents will carry out a valuation with no obligation to pay for their services, so it is worth shopping around and comparing a few quotes.

Presumably you will be hoping to get the best price possible, so think about what you could do to increase the value. That could be something small, like leaving the home in great condition before taking photos for the ad, or it could be a big step, like carrying out some renovations to make it more attractive to buyers.

Fixing up small flaws is usually worth it, and newly renovated apartments tend to fetch the highest prices, but will it be worth the cost and hassle to you? These are questions that you probably want to talk through with an expert, which brings us to…

Choosing an estate agent

There's no legal obligation to hire an estate agent, and you can take care of the selling yourself to avoid the extra cost, but it is by far the most common way to proceed in Sweden. Websites like HittaMäklare.com (linked to the bank SBAB, and only available in Swedish) or MäklarOfferter (also only available in Swedish) allow you to compare fees and customer satisfaction ratings.


Your estate agent will be representing your property, so you need to be confident in them. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

You can meet a few different estate agents to get a feel for who you would like to work with. If you are following bidding on similar apartments, make sure to keep track of different estate agents – how do they present the properties, and how successful do they seem to be? 

You will also need to look into the fee, which is usually mostly based on a commission rather than a fixed fee. When you speak to estate agents, ask about the fees, how they carry out market research and what they would value your property at, and how they manage viewings and bidding processes. 

Know your property

When you prepare for the viewing, you need to present prospective buyers with as much information as possible about the apartment. Things like extra storage, shared facilities, and recent renovations could all help you bump up the price so make sure your estate agent knows about them.

Think about questions a prospective buyer might have, and help your estate agent prepare to answer them. Perhaps the property has some especially charming features you would like them to highlight, or the area has a popular restaurant. You want the viewers to be able to imagine themselves living here.

It is also important to be honest about any problems. You can be held liable if you give incorrect information to the buyer, and may even need to pay damages in future, so it is very important that you give the correct facts, including any known flaws. If you are selling a house that is not part of a housing association, you generally get a full survey done to help with this. 


Photo: Fredrik Persson/Scanpix

Know your red lines

As you may remember from buying your property, the Swedish housing market moves fast and sales can be concluded within a matter of days. As the seller, you need to make sure you have set your own goals so that you will be able to work with prospective buyers and avoid slowing down the process at the crucial final stages.

Two of the most important things to think about are the lowest price you would be happy settling for, and any requirements you have about the move-in date. If you have already set a move-in date for your next home, you probably want to be out of your current apartment (and stop paying the mortgage) as soon as possible. If you are moving in with a partner, you may be able to be more flexible.

Viewings and bidding

By this point, your home is ready to go on the market.

There is a lot to think about, from the length and timing of the viewing, and whether you want open viewings (the most common, meaning anyone can attend) or only host viewings for individual interested buyers.

Hopefully, after the viewings someone will make an offer – perhaps at the listed price, or below it. If you live in a popular area, you may well receive multiple offers in which case a bidding process starts, or a buyer might make an offer above the starting price before the open viewings start in an attempt to take the property off the market.

It is a good idea to have thought about what you want to do in each of these scenarios beforehand so you do not have to make a decision in a hurry.

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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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