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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?
Hide away your toothbrush and replace it with a plant, a fancy hand soap or some incense. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

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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PROPERTY

Can I get a Swedish mortgage without permanent residency?

The Swedish rental market is notoriously difficult for immigrants to break into, so many consider buying a property instead. But can you get a Swedish mortgage without a permanent residence permit?

Can I get a Swedish mortgage without permanent residency?

The answer, as with many of these questions, is ‘it depends’.

Do I need permanent residency?

There is no legal requirement that mortgage holders in Sweden must be permanent residents, citizens, or even registered in the country. On the other hand, there is no legal requirement for banks to accept mortgage applications from just anyone either, which leaves them perfectly within their rights to deny applications to temporary residence permit holders if they deem them to be too big of a risk.

Why might a bank say I need permanent residency to take out a mortgage?

One reason your bank could require you to have permanent residency is that they deem it too risky to lend to someone who they think might not be staying in Sweden for long enough to pay off their mortgage.

Banks want to be reassured that they will get their money back if they lend to you, and if you don’t have permanent residency in Sweden, there’s always a chance your temporary residence permit will run out and a renewal might not be approved, leaving you forced to leave Sweden before you’ve had time to pay off your loan.

Similarly, banks which may once have been more willing to approve mortgage applications to more ‘risky’ applicants may be more wary in the current climate, where house prices are dropping and interest rates are going up.

Ultimately, a temporary residence permit is one of many risk factors for a bank – if you’re forced to (or choose to) leave Sweden after a short while and your property has lost value, that could leave you in a position of negative equity – where you owe the bank money after you sell your property.

Is there anything I can do to make sure I don’t get my mortgage application rejected?

First off, mortgage applications are often stressful – you’ve successfully bid on a property and you’ve set a date for signing the contract, so you want to get your paperwork in order and make sure you can finance the property quickly.

Additionally, banks are slow, so the last thing you want is to wait days just for your bank to turn you down for a mortgage.

The best way to ensure you get a mortgage approved in time is to keep your options open and apply to multiple banks, as different banks weigh different risk factors more highly than others.

Danske Bank, for example, appear to reject mortgage applications for people without permanent residency, as I was told when my mortgage application with them was rejected.

Be aware though, that every time a bank takes out a credit check on you, this affects your credit rating. A good way to get around this is to apply for a mortgage via services like Ordna Bolån and Lånekoll, who take out a single credit check for you and use that to apply to multiple banks on your behalf.

Another way to increase the chance of your application being approved is to borrow less money, if you can. Just because your bank has given you a maximum budget you can buy for in your lånelöfte or lender’s note, doesn’t mean you have to buy for that much, and the less money you apply to borrow, the more likely the bank is to approve your application.

There’s another benefit to this, too – it lowers your belåningsgrad, or the percentage of the property’s value you’re financing with your mortgage. If you loan more than 70 percent of a property’s value, you have to amortise (pay back) 2 percent of the value of your mortgage per year. If you loan between 50 and 69 percent, you must amortise 1 percent of your mortgage per year, and if you loan under 50 percent of the property’s value, you don’t have to amortise anything (although it could still be a good idea to do so, if you can).

Additionally, in Sweden there is something called a skuldkvot or “debt quota”, meaning if the amount you’re loaning is more than 4.5 times your yearly salary (or the yearly salary of you and your co-applicant, if you’re applying with someone else), you need to amortise an additional 1 percent per year, on top of anything you have to amortise based on the percentage of the property’s value you’re borrowing from the bank.

This means, if you can put in enough cash to reduce your belåningsgrad from above 70 percent to under 50 percent, as well as loaning less than 4.5 times your yearly salary, you can cut down your amortising from 3 percent to nothing.

This will all be factored in by the bank when deciding if you can afford to pay your mortgage, too, so cutting down your monthly costs will make it more likely for them to approve you.

Finally, have a look at the driftkostnad (running costs) for a house, or the avgift (monthly fee) if buying an apartment or terraced house in a bostadsrättsförening (BRF) housing co-operative. The lower this is, the lower your monthly cost, and the more likely your bank is to determine that your monthly costs aren’t too high in relation to your income.

Are there any other reasons foreigners might be rejected from buying property in Sweden?

Many – but not all – banks require mortgage applicants to be registered in the Swedish population register (this means you need to have a personnummer) and have your salary paid out in Swedish kronor.

If you earn money in another currency, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a mortgage, but it could mean that you can’t loan as much as you could if you were paid in Swedish kronor.

This is due to the fact that banks will always be conservative in their calculations when deciding if you can afford to pay back a loan (especially so in the current climate), and will calculate your budget based on how much your income would be worth if the currency you are paid in became much weaker than the krona, despite the fact it could be much stronger at the time you apply.

Some may require that you have BankID in order to apply for a mortgage, which in practice also means you need to have a personnummer and a Swedish bank account.

These criteria aren’t usually published on the banks’ websites and could change now that the market is becoming less stable as lenders seek to reduce their risk, so call your bank in advance to ask if you want to be sure. 

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