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Reader question: Should I buy now if I’m looking for a property in Sweden?

Property prices on the Swedish market are falling, so does that mean buyers need to act quickly to snap up a home? We ask an expert for some advice.

Reader question: Should I buy now if I'm looking for a property in Sweden?
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

“Making a decision on buying a house or apartment is a long term decision. Prices will go up, prices will go down,” said Robert Bergqvist, a senior economist at Swedish bank SEB.

Bergqvist’s analysis indicated that property prices will continue to fall during the autumn. He based his view on SEB’s housing price indicator in which they ask house owners in Sweden once a month a simple question of whether they think property prices will go up or down over the coming 12 months.

“Last month we saw a collapse in our indicator and that suggests that we should be prepared for a decline in the housing market”, said Bergqvist.

He pointed out there was a current mismatch in house prices between those selling and those who want to buy. 

Buyer’s market

The majority of Sweden’s estate agents are also expecting a sharp drop in flat and house prices over the coming year, with most now calling a buyer’s market.

“Prices will have to be adjusted downwards,” Johan Engström, the CEO of Fastighetsbyrån estate agents, told TT in June.

“At the beginning of the year, things still looked positive on the property market across the country,” he told TT. “Then Russia’s war in Ukraine came, followed by inflation, stock market turbulence, and increased interest rates, and it shifted. The market has seen a dramatic shift in a relatively short period.”

Previously, sellers had a clear advantage. But according to Fastighetbyråns latest panel of estate agents, where Sweden’s estate agents answer questions on the state of the property market, it is now a buyer’s market to a much greater degree.

Engström also believes there is a mismatch in house price expectations between buyers and sellers in the current market.

“Sellers haven’t really adapted, rather they’re stuck in the ‘old market’ and the buyer in turn has other concerns and hears that the situation is completely different,” Engström told TT.

“Right now we’re seeing extremely clear signs that we have a market where buyers and sellers are far apart.”

To wait or not to wait?

However, this buyer’s market doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right time to buy for everyone – interest rates are going up, meaning buyers must be prepared if they continue to rise, Robert Bergqvist, senior economist at SEB said.

“If you wait it’s possible you will get a better opportunity to buy a house,” Bergqvist said. “But, if the interest rates continue to rise, will you have enough money to pay for those higher rates?”

Buyers therefore faced the conundrum of having to balance the fact that house prices were going down and interest rates on mortgages were going up.

Long-term investment or short-term purchase?

For those planning on living in Sweden for a short while – such as foreigners looking to move to Sweden who aren’t yet sure if they want to stay in the country permanently – it may be better to hold off on buying if possible, until the situation becomes more stable.

Another matter to keep in mind if you’re thinking of buying an apartment in Sweden but aren’t sure if you’ll be staying for the long-term is that profit made from the sale of property is subject to capital gains tax – 22 percent of the profit.

That tax can be deferred if you’re using the money to upgrade to a new house in Sweden or within the European Economic Area (EEA), but if it’s elsewhere, you’ll have to pay up. If you’re coming from a country outside the EEA and are considering buying an apartment in Sweden before eventually moving back home, that’s worth keeping in mind.

“On the long-term perspective we still have a housing shortage in Sweden. This should provide support on the long-term perspective for house prices,” Bergqvist said.

In other words, even though house prices are currently falling, there will come a moment when they stop falling and start to rise again, he says.

Eventually, property prices will pick back up, therefore making the investment of buying property worth it, especially if you plan to hold on to the property for a few years or more.

Don’t wait too long to buy

In two to three years’ time, Bergqvist hopes that the global economic situation will be such that the central banks, including the Swedish Riksbank, could cap interest rates and make it more favourable to borrow money again.

“In a few years’ time there is a good chance that borrowing costs will come down,” he said. “Hopefully we will see an end to the Ukrainian war and we should also see the rate of inflation going down”. 

That could lead to more people buying property and see an increase in the value of the housing market.

“Supply is lower, if you think about the amount of people interested in moving,” Johan Engström, CEO of Fastighetsbyrån, told TT. Higher interest rates and lower demand for property is pushing prices down.

“When we’ve had a situation with extremely low interest rates, a high interest in property and many buyers interested in the same property, it pushes prices up.”

Basically, those waiting for the housing market to reach the sweet spot where prices fall and lending rates are low shouldn’t wait too long, because it will be impossible to tell when this moment is, Bergqvist warns.

Buying a house is a long-term investment so if the right property in the right location is available then it could be worth buying now, he says.

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PROPERTY

How do I prep my apartment for sale in Sweden?

Here's the first part of The Local's new property series from reporter Becky Waterton, who is currently going through the process of selling her apartment: how do I prep my property for sale?

How do I prep my apartment for sale in Sweden?

Choosing to sell your house or apartment is a big step – when is the best time to sell? What should the asking price be? How do I choose an estate agent?

You’ve done all that, so what’s next? It’s time to prepare yourself – and your apartment – for the upcoming move. But how do you make sure your apartment stands out?

Your estate agent will want to take photos of your apartment as soon as possible for property sites Hemnet and Booli, as well as their own website. However, this isn’t just a case of a photographer coming round to your apartment the next day – you will need to carefully style your apartment beyond recognition first.

Some estate agents offer a styling service as part of their fee (arvode). Some include it as an add-on, which can cost anywhere from 1,500 kronor to 5,000 depending on the estate agent. If you don’t fancy paying that amount, you may be able to get your estate agent to give you some tips on what to do, or you can do it yourself. Here’s a rough guide if you choose the latter route.

Light and airy

Swedes love light. Therefore, you want your apartment to look as light and airy as possible. Nothing on your kitchen or bathroom countertops is allowed to stay – apart from a small (expensive) bottle of hand soap.

The one exception to this rule appears to be if you have a colourful mixer – like a KitchenAid, or a bowl filled with a random selection of fruits and vegetables.

You should also, if possible, make sure photos of your property are taken in summertime (even if you’re not planning on selling for months). This is so your apartment is bright and sunny in photos, rather than dark and grey like the Swedish weather for most of the year.

If in doubt, get a plant. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

If you get kvällssol (evening sun), try to time the photos so they’re taken at the same time. If possible, time your flat viewings for a sunny evening, too, to show off the opportunities your apartment offers.

Avoid anything which could give away the date at which pictures were taken, though. If a keen-eyed potential buyer looking at your flat in October spots that your calendar is from July in your photos, it will just make them suspicious as to why your flat has been on the market for so long.

If possible, you want to get rid of as much furniture as possible without the room feeling empty. If that means getting rid of your work-from-home setup to dedicate half of your living room to a large monstera plant until the flat is sold, so be it. (I may be speaking from personal experience here.)

Spots of colour

Swedes love neutral colours. Most apartments have white walls, wooden floors, and furniture in varying shades of grey, white, brown or black. However, too many neutral colours together looks boring, so you need to break up the neutral palette with pictures, blankets, pillows and plants in varying colours.

For some reason, no one is allowed to see your bedding. I presume this is seen as incredibly private to Swedes, who will do everything they can not to intrude on your personal space (which admittedly, is quite difficult when they are touring your house full of all your personal belongings and deciding whether it’s nice enough for them to buy).

Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

This means that you need to put a throw on your bed, which goes all the way down to the floor. While you’re at it, scatter some colourful cushions on your bed, too, as the throw is probably white, like your walls, and you don’t want it to look boring.

If you have plants, use them. Put them on your bedside table, your windowsills, even in your bathroom (yes, this also applies if your bathroom has no windows, meaning the plants would die if left there for too long – it’s just for photos and flat viewings). 

Assume people have no imagination

It may seem obvious to you that people will be able to imagine themselves living in your apartment, but this doesn’t mean it is. You need to make your flat feel luxurious, even if it seems borderline ridiculous that you would ever have nothing but a bowl of lemons and a perfectly-dishevelled dishtowel on your kitchen countertops.

Similarly, if you live in one of Sweden’s big cities and are lucky enough to have a balcony, you must decorate it with some sort of attractive blanket (in, you guessed it, a neutral colour), a bowl of berries, a bottle of champagne and two glasses. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never used your balcony for anything other than storing drinks in winter, people must be shown the opportunities your balcony can bring. Swedes love to spend time in the open air, so show them that this is possible.

In a similar vein, if you have a garden, it must contain a barbecue. Barbecuing is a favourite Swedish pastime in summer, so show prospective buyers that yes, they can also have the pleasure of barbecuing in the garden, if they buy your property.

Get rid of everything which suggests someone lives there

Okay, almost everything. Leave nothing but a pair of shoes and two jackets on your clothes rack in the hallway. People need to be shown that someone lives there, in a way which is generic enough that they can imagine living there themselves.

Remove everything from your bathroom which isn’t attached to the wall. Don’t even show prospective buyers that you use soap.

Take down any family photos or photos of people. Privacy-focussed Swedes don’t want to be rudely reminded of the fact that someone actually lives in this apartment they are considering purchasing.

Oil, vinegar, salt and pepper are only allowed in your kitchen if they are expensive brands which you have never opened and bought specifically for photos. Your desk must have nothing but a computer on it.

Books are no longer for reading, they’re for putting plants on top of. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Your books are no longer for reading, they are decorative items. This means removing the vast majority and instead displaying them in a few carefully-composed piles on your bookshelves, preferably colour-coordinated.

Your coffee table is nothing but a surface on which to display a lit candle and a bunch of flowers. 

The one exception to this rule is your kitchen table. Cover it with a tablecloth, set out a couple of attractive mugs or champagne glasses, a candle and a bunch of flowers to make it look like you regularly have romantic candlelit dates in your kitchen. Like I said, it needs to feel luxurious.

By the end of this process, the goal is to make you feel like you live in an IKEA catalogue.

There’s a bonus, too. By the time you’re finished, so many of your personal belongings will be hidden away in boxes that it will take you half the time to pack when it’s finally time for you to move house.

One final tip…

If you’re not sure how to style your apartment, have a look at what others have done. Look at estate agents’ websites, as well as Hemnet and Booli for inspiration.

And if you want some ideas on what not to do, have a look at Instagram account @hemnetknarkarna for a collection of some of Sweden’s weirdest property ads.

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