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What you need to know about owning a second home in Sweden

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
What you need to know about owning a second home in Sweden
A fritidshus in Småland. Photo: Alexander Hall/imagebank.sweden.se

In most countries owning a second home is a luxury reserved for the wealthy, but in Sweden it's very common to have a summer home or 'fritidshus'. Here's what you need to know.

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What is a fritidshus

In Sweden, second homes are generally either classified as a fritidshus, literally a "free time house", or a permanenthus or permanentboende.

A fritidshus is defined as "a house which is not set up for all-year-around living". Rather confusingly, this does not mean that you can't live all-year-round in a fritidshus, or, indeed, that you can't use a permanenthus as your summer house. 

The difference comes down to how the two types of property are treated in Sweden's building code, with fritidshus allowed, among other things, to have lower ceilings, smaller bathrooms, more basic kitchens, worse accessibility for disabled people, a lower standard of insulation. 

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If you decide to live permanently in a fritidshus, you do not need to get approval to do so, but the building committee at your local council can, if they learn of what you are doing, demand that the building be changed to meet the requirements of a permanenthus (although this rarely happens).

There is also a subgroup of fritidshuskolonilott, which are houses with a small amount of land which should be used for growing food (although lots of people just use them as attractive gardens). This is different from an odlingslott, which is just an allotment, essentially a kolonilott without the house.

These are usually in designated kolonilott areas close to or in cities, and are not intended for year-round living. In most kolonilott areas, water supply and drainage is cut off outside of the growing season, and you're not allowed to register them as your permanent address, for example.

Relaxing outside a summer house. Photo: Doris Beling/Imagebank Sweden

How much does a second home cost? 

The average price of a fritidshus fell by about 6 percent in 2023, following a 1 percent fall in 2022, and now lies at about 2.2 million kronor.

But a search on the Hemnet website for fritidshus under 1 million kronor shows that many sell for a lot less, particularly outside the most popular areas. 

As a rule of thumb, anything within an hour's drive of Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö is likely to be more expensive, as is anywhere on the coast (particularly on Gotland), next to a lake, or near one of Sweden's more popular skiing areas. 

A report from Länsförsäkringar Fastighetsförmedling, out in mid-2023, found that summer houses were cheapest in Kronoberg country (the southern bit of Småland), followed by Örebro, Värmland, Norrbotten and Västernorrland, and most expensive in Gotland, Stockholm County and Halland. 

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What's the point of having one? 

Despite its vast expanses of unspoiled nature, Sweden is very urbanised, with nearly 90 percent of people living in built-up areas and 63 percent in the biggest few cities. It's much more common to live in an apartment in a city than in the sort of suburban sprawl of houses with their own gardens so common in countries like the UK and US.

This means that most urban Swedes leave any gardening to their summer houses or allotments.

Given the cold, dark winters, that probably makes sense. 

Fritidshus and other second homes are also at the centre of the long Swedish summer break, when people often take three, or even four, weeks off back-to-back. If you don't have your own fritidshus, you can spend much of the summer visiting people who do. 

What's the downside? 

Aside from the cost, it's a lot of work. Owning a fritidshus means weekends spent at out-of-town building supply shops, and brings a whole new list of chores like cleaning the gutters, mowing, trimming hedges, raking leaves and chopping wood.

If you like foreign travel, and have a lot of other passions and hobbies, you may find owning a summer house squeezes them out. 

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A summer house in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Sara de Basly/Imagebank Sweden

How common is it to have a fritidshus

There are about 607,000 fritidshus in Sweden, and according to Statistics Sweden, about one in three children (35 percent) have access to one.

It most common to have access to a fritidshus in the north of Sweden, with more than half of children having access to one in 51 municipalities north of Dalarna, and it is least common in Skåne, where in some municipalities only 10 percent of children have access to a fritidshus. 

Is it best to have a second home in a fritidsområde or on its own? 

Many municipalities in Sweden have set aside areas, often near a lake or by the sea, specifically for the building of fritidshus, selling off plots, or tomter, on which people can either build a holiday cottage themselves or get a builder to do it.

According to Statitsics Sweden, about a quarter of fritidshus are in such an area, with Stockholm County boasting the most fritidsområde, or holiday home areas, followed by Västra Götaland (near Gothenburg) and Skåne (near Malmö and Helsingborg). 

If you are building your own summer house, the advantage of doing so in a fritidsområde is that electricity, water and sewage has normally already been run along the edge of the plot, making these services cheap and easy to connect. 

If you want to get a summer house near the coast or a lake, it is also cheaper if you buy one in a fritidsområde. 

On the downside, they can feel a little like living in a housing estate, you have to be careful not to make too much noise, and can end up getting complaints from the local neighbourhood committee if you don't maintain your property in the way they expect. 

As many fritidsområde were set up the 1960s and 1970s, with a lot of the houses then built by enthusiastic amateurs, they can also be in desrepair and have structural problems. 

The plots that have yet to be built on, meanwhile, are often the worst, for instance with ground that is damp or prone to flooding. 

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Renting out your second home

One of the advantages of your second home being classed as a fritidshus is that - so long as you're only renting it out short-term -- you are not covered by Sweden's strict rental law or hyreslagen.

This means whatever rent you agree with the tenant is valid, there is no requirement to ask for a "reasonable" rent, and tenants cannot contest the rent with the regional rent tribunal.  

Airbnb makes renting out your fritidshus extremely easy and on the other side makes it a lot cheaper and easier to rent a summer house for three weeks in the summer than to own one all year around.  

If you earn more than 40,000 kronor in a year from renting out your fritidshus, though, you are required to declare it to the Swedish Tax Agency. 

You can then subtract a 40,000 kronor 'standard deduction' from your rental revenue and a further 20 percent deduction for rental income, before it gets taxed. See the guide from the Swedish Tax Agency here

This means if you receive 60,000 kronor in rent, you subtract first 40,000 kronor, then 20 percent of the 60,000 kronor, which comes to 12,000 kronor.

This leaves you with 8,000 kronor to be taxed as capital income at 30 percent, leaving just 2,400 kronor in tax due. 

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Lilo Seelos 2024/02/08 16:43
Shouldn’t that read 20,000 kronor remaining?

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