This Post is part three in the Living in Sweden series. Need to catch up? Here are the others:
Find a Job in Sweden
Going for a Swedish Interview
Finding an apartment in Sweden sucks. Finding an apartment in Stockholm, sucks beyond recognition. Because in Sweden they have a nonsensical system where people go crazy to get a rental contract (yes just a lease) and once they get one, most try to die with it.
It’s a bad system, unlike the US, where you just rent directly from the owner of the building for a year or two and then move on. In Sweden as a foreigner you have to two options: 1) sublet from someone else (also known as second hand contract); 2) or buy an apartment. Choice two is rather expensive and futile if you don’t indeed on staying in Sweden for a while. Which leaves you with the other, tedious choice of getting a second hand apartment. What? But you want a first hand lease? Forget it. The wait time in Stockholm is well over ten years, you’ll most likely be dead or had 10 babies before a first hand contract comes up. And besides, you have to be Swedish or with a Swedish residence permit to get on the list.
So again, if you are foreign, you are left to little choice. I found my first apartment via the website Bostad Direkt. Now I’m not going to give you their website address, because well they suck. First you pay 700kr just to see the list and the people who run that site are well, greedy bastards. The customer service reps at Bostad Direkt do not answer emails, phone calls, and most of the time, their office is “closed.” And of course you pay 700kr to get amazing service like that. However, you do get access to a list of apartments available and since people don’t want to spend 700kr to see a list of apartments, the number of people searching on that site is less than others.
BUT, you will pay a lot. Most of the apartments are super high priced, you get ripped off again. My first apartment was over 13000kr per month, plus I got to pay the awesome 700kr to Bostad Direkt. Thanks to apartment owner (Lisa), I was overcharged while she snidely circumvented Swedish rent laws to pocket 8000kr in profit every month. The Swedish rental system works.
Now the remaining choices are in Swedish and a few newspapers. Prepare yourself for the following things when looking for an apartment in Sweden, especially Stockholm:
1) Everyone lies. The Swedish Rental market is about as black as the black abyss of the sea. No one, mainly people you will be renting from, will tell you the truth.
- Make sure that when you rent secondhand (ie. andrahand), that the coop board of the building has approved and signed off on it. If they have not, you are not legally living there.
- Also make sure to have it writing, what the rent will be and stick to it. Here’s the fun part. Swedish law has a maximum markup cap on apartments. Now see, my lovely friend Lisa Soderlindh rented her apartment for just under 5000kr per month. She rented it to me for 13000kr per month. Sounds insane? It is. She’s only allowed to give around a 15% plus maybe a little more since the place was furnished. To make it more fun, she wrote on the contract that I would pay 5000kr. See? Liars, since I had to pay 13000kr. You could end up in the situation too, it’s quite normal. But if you get tired of it, stop paying the markup and just pay the price written into the contract. These firsthand renters don’t have much defense if they complained. Hellow tax evasion and rental violations otherwise.
- Right, and the buying apartment industry is also opaque. Because the Swedish governement doesn’t give a rat’s ass about honor and integrity in the rental market, it’s basically a free for all. Just like in any other country, the rental markets are asymmetrically controlled by the rentors or sellers. It is the same in Sweden, except that no one thinks it’s a problem the market is completely perverted.
2. It takes time to find an apartment. Be prepared it could take a good month to get an apartment. If you have friends, send out your feelers and see if someone has a place available. Just know that getting an apartment is not an easy process.
3. Check the listings on websites everyday. Listings go fast, dozens of people call minutes after a listing posts. Be diligent and check the bostads sites at least twice a day.
4. Bring a Swedish friend when you sign a contract. They can help make sure that the contract covers everything and that the right people sign it (rentor and coop board).
Now that you are terrified of getting a place, here’s a list of sites that list places to rent.
AndraHand.se – http://www.andrahand.se/
AndraHandsGuiden.se – http://www.andrahandsguiden.com/
The Local – thelocal.se
Blocket – http://www.blocket.se – Like Craigslist but for the Swedish market.
Have pointers on finding a place in Sweden? Share your thoughts so none of us foreigners are left to the sharks in the housing market.