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PROPERTY

What fees do you need to budget for when selling your Swedish apartment?

Whether you're moving on from Sweden or simply relocating within the country, selling a property is a big step – and comes with a price tag. Here are the costs to be aware of so you're not caught off guard.

What fees do you need to budget for when selling your Swedish apartment?
Ready to sell your Swedish apartment? Here are the fees to expect, and the tax deductions you can receive on them. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Note that fees vary depending on whether you are selling a bostadsrätt (a condominium apartment) or a house; the following applies to apartments, and you can expect extra fees if you are selling a house, with the property survey one of the key differences.

Estate agent fee

The biggest cost for most apartment-owners is hiring a broker (mäklare) to take care of the selling.

This isn’t compulsory, and you can choose to handle the sale independently — but that means finding a buyer, showing them the apartment, and completing the paperwork. Most people enlist the services of a broker in the hope of getting the property seen by more potential buyers, and to simplify the process.

It’s most common for an estate agent to charge a flat fee (which varies depending on the property value) as well as an extra percentage-based commission on any money above an agreed target sale price.

When choosing an estate agent, find out exactly what’s included in the fee, for example how they will market your home and whether there are any options that cost extra. 

You can compare different estate agents’ sales history and customer ratings on websites like HittaMäklare.com (linked to the bank SBAB, and only available in Swedish) or MäklarOfferter (also only available in Swedish). HittaMäklare also offers a calculator so you can get a rough idea of how much the fee will be, and you can find similar tools (in Swedish) on the websites Boupplysningen and EkonomiFokus

Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT 

Measurements

You may need to get a certified professional to carry out a measurement of your home, so that it is marketed at the right size.

This isn’t essential and you might already have the relevant document (mätbevis) from when you bought your home, but having this document protects you from the buyer later accusing you of falsely describing the apartment, which can be very costly. 

Be aware that if the official size changes, your property’s value could also change significantly.

Hemnet

Sometimes, your property will be sold very quickly before it is even advertised. This might happen if your estate agent already has a list of interest buyers (spekulanter) and persuades one of them to make you an offer to take your home off the market.

But in most cases, your home will be advertised on property portal Hemnet – which you probably remember from when you bought it.

The fee depends on which package you choose (Basic, Plus or Premium), and the location and value of your home, but you can expect to pay a few thousand kronor for an apartment in a big city. You can calculate an estimate on the website.

Home stylist

Home-styling is a big thing in Sweden; some home-owners choose to pay a professional to make the property look its best, both for the photos in the advertising brochure and for the viewings themselves.

This service could range from being given advice on how to rearrange your furniture to make optimum of the space, to renting extra items; your broker may include some home-styling help in the fee. Typical costs can vary from 5,000 to 30,000 kronor or even more, depending on the size of your home and how many items the stylist provides.

This is very much an optional expense. If you’re happy with the way your home looks, preparing for the photos and viewings could just be a case of tidying up. Which brings us to…

Professional cleaning

Another optional expense is hiring a professional to clean the home, either before the viewings and/or before you leave.

One thing to know about this cost is that cleaning costs are eligible for the 50 percent tax deduction on home maintenance services (called RUT deduction or RUT-avdrag). It’s the person carrying out the work who makes the deduction, so you will only pay half the ‘total’ cost.

Photo: Erda Estremera/Unsplash

Transfer of ownership

When a bostadsrätt is sold, there is fee for transferring ownership from the seller to the buyer called an överlåtelseavgift, which is around 1,190 kronor as of 2021.

Either the buyer or seller will pay this, depending on the housing association’s rules, so if you paid it when you bought the apartment you won’t pay this fee again when you sell.

Capital gains tax on any profits

This isn’t exactly a fee, but when you sell property in Sweden, you are liable to pay 22 percent tax on any profits.

Profits are defined as the difference between the price you paid for the apartment and the price you sell it for, but you can deduct the amount you spent on any home improvements (as long as they were carried out in the five years before the sale) as well as the costs of purchase and selling. That includes the fee for the broker, Hemnet, the överlåtelseavgift and any home-styling, but not cleaning (because this is eligible for the RUT tax deduction). 

If you use the money from the sale to buy another property in Sweden or the EU/EEA, you can postpone paying this tax.

And in the event that you make a loss on your property sale, some of the loss is tax deductible. 

This all happens when you file your taxes in the year after the sale, so if you sell in 2021, you’ll need to keep a record of all the details to add to your 2022 tax return. Your mäklare should help you with this, and it should be included in their basic fee.

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PROPERTY

These are our readers’ top tips for buying a property in Sweden

Buying an apartment or house in Sweden can be a daunting process, but with rentals so hard to get, many foreigners end up taking the plunge. Here are the top tips from readers who have done it.

These are our readers' top tips for buying a property in Sweden

Get prepared! 

Most of the respondents to our survey stressed the importance of preparation. 

“Spend time on defining your requirements properly, including visits to different locations to narrow down your search,” advised Julian, a Brit living in Malmö. 

As well as working out your requirements, other participants argued, you should also get to grips with the way the bidding system works in Sweden, with one British woman recommending buyers “speak to professionals about the buying procedure”. One respondent went so far as to recommend hiring a buyers’ agent, something international employers sometimes provide for senior executives moving to Sweden. 

Elizabeth, a 26-year-old charity worker from South America, recommended that all buyers “learn to read a bostadsrättsförening årsredovisning”, the finance report for a cooperative housing block. (You can find The Local’s guide here.) 

Get to know the market 

Maja, an anthropologist from Hungary, said it was important to take time to get a feel for the market, suggesting buyers visit different areas to find the one that they like. 

“It will take 6-12 months easily,” she predicts. “Don’t rush. Visit the neighborhoods where you are thinking of buying.”
 
Others recommended spending time surfing Sweden’s two main housing websites, Hemnet and Booli, to get a better feel for how much different types of housing in different areas typically sell for, before starting to look seriously yourself, with one even recommending going to viewings before you have any intention of buying.  
 
“Start visiting houses and monitoring bids. That will give you a sense of the process,” recommends Shubham, 31, a software engineer from India.
 

 
Think about your expectations
 
While house prices have soared in Sweden’s cities over the past decade, the same is not the case in all rural areas, something some respondents thought buyers should take advantage of. “To buy a house at a lesser price, look at areas as far from urban areas as is possible for you and your family,” wrote Simon, a 61-year-old living in rural Sweden. 
 
Julian warned bidders against areas and types of homes that “will attract tens of ‘barnfamiljer’ (families with children), meaning “bidding wars will result”, pushing up the price. 
 
On the other hand, one respondent warned people to “avoid buying apartments in vulnerable areas, even though prices will be lower there”. 
 
An Italian buyer recommended looking at newly built apartments coming up for sale. 
 
 
Get a mortgage offer before your first serious viewing 
 
Getting a lånelöfte, literally “loan promise”, can be tricky for foreigners in Sweden, as our recent survey of banks’ policies showed. 
 
Shubham warned against applying for a loan promise from multiple banks, arguing that this can affect your credit rating if your finances are not otherwise good. He suggested using an umbrella site like Ordna Bolån and Lånekoll, although he warned that the payment they take from the ultimate mortgage provider might ultimately be taken from borrowers.  
 
READ ALSO: 
 
Get to know the estate agents, but don’t necessarily trust them 
 
Gaurav, a sales manager based in Stockholm, recommended getting to know local estate agents in the area where you are planning to buy, as they might be able to direct you towards owners who are in a hurry to sell. “Those can be the best deals as you have greater chances to avoid bidding on such properties,” he argued. 
 
Maja, from Hungary, warned, however, against believing that the estate agent is on the buyer’s side. 
 
“You cannot really make friends with them, they work for commission and they will also try to raise the selling price,” she said. “It’s how they present you to the seller that matters. Seem like a serious buyer.” 

 
Should you try to make an offer before bidding starts? 
 
Morgan, a 33-year-old marketing manager from France, said it was worth studying the kommande (coming soon) section on Hemnet and Booli to spot houses and flats before they are formally put on the market. “Be alert. Book an appointment asap and get a private visit to reduce competition. If the apartment is what you’re looking for, make a reasonable offer with a condition to sign the contract in the next 24 hours,” he recommends. “You will cut the bidding frenzy and save money.”
 
Gaurav also recommended getting a private viewing and making an offer while the property was still off the market, as did Julian. 
 
“If you are lucky, you might find owners who are in a hurry to sell,” Julian said. “Those can be the best deals as you have greater chances to avoid bidding on such properties.” 
 
But other foreigners warned against bidding before a property is publicly put up for sale on housing websites, arguing that estate agents used this as a way of getting higher prices than they would expect to get at auction.  
 
“You are essentially negotiating directly with the owner, without finding out the actual market price via bidding,” argued a 31-year-old Indian business analyst. “Usually this will work only for an apartment not in top condition.” 
 
What to watch out for in the bidding process 
 
Morgan advised buyers to take what estate agents say about rival bidders with a pinch of salt. 
 
“Estate agents will play the competition card. Don’t fall for their trick and keep a cool head. Ask yourself if it really worth it before increasing a bid,” he wrote. 
 
In Sweden, it is possible to make a hidden bid, which is not disclosed to other bidders. One Indian software developer warned that estate agents would often claim that there was such a bid to pressure you. 
 
“The hidden bids are really confusing as you don’t know the bid placed,” he said. “It’s a trap to get higher bids. “
 
A 21-year-old Romanian agreed it was important to watch out for estate agents who try to rush or panic you. 
 
“[Look out for] those that try to rush you into it by saying stuff like ‘this will be gone by Monday, the owner wants to sell fast’, or if they don’t want to include a two-week period to have the property inspected as a clause in the contract,” she said. 
 
Maja recommended choosing an estate agency that required all bidders to supply their personal number, with all bids made public, “because other agencies might cheat that price rise”. 
 
“Don’t be the first bidder,” she added. “Keep your cool, and if the agent calls or messages, just hold on. There is no official end to the bidding. Only when you sign the contract. So the best game is to seem very serious but not stupid. You have a budget, and try to sign the contract the same day or the next if you are the highest bidder.” 
 
Is now a good time to buy? 
 
The respondents were, predictably, divided. 
 
“It’s risky for both sellers and buyers,” said Carl, a Swede who recently returned home from China. “The market seems to correlate pretty well with central banks raising interest rates. If that’s the case, then it’s still a sellers’ market since central bank [Riksbank] will continue to increase interest rates until 2024.” 
 
“It’s difficult to predict anything at the moment,” agreed Gaurav. “Prices should fall a bit but that’s not happening in all the areas. Avoid buying or selling if you can for a few months.” 
 
“I see there is no difference in buying in total cost. You can get a property at a lower price but end up paying more in interest and the price is the same in five to ten years,” said one Indian software engineer. “Buying is still better than renting.”

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