Living in Sweden: Finding an Apartment

5 Nov
2009

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.

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40 Responses to Living in Sweden: Finding an Apartment

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Andrew

November 8th, 2009 at 21:49

Thank god for this post. Since I’m now staying here, I’m gonna be trying to find my own place, outside of Hammarby Sjöstad. Something closer to work and walking distance to the green line. Hopefully under 10,000kr a month!

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Puntino

November 14th, 2009 at 13:20

Hi over there :)
I want to add another thing: when you find an apartment that meets your needs, reply to the advertisement at once, don’t waste a second !!

Maybe these other links can be interesting:
http://www.ny-bostad.se
http://www.hyrestorget.com.
http://www.studentlya.nu.

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what the what

November 16th, 2009 at 15:44

You know you can get your money back if you have been overcharged on your rent? So pay while you live there.. and then stab them in the back when you move.. moahaha. Just don’t do it to me :p

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Anne

November 16th, 2009 at 16:08

Just a quick addition, in case someone is really struggling! My husband and I got a great apt (but expensive) through his university international office, so definitely get in contact there if you are coming to study.

We also arrived a month before we could move in to said great apt, so I signed up for Bostad Direkt to find something temporary. Yes, super expensive. But I had issues with logging in, and they responded within hours of me emailing, and also followed up to make sure I was satisfied. So they aren’t all terrible with customer service!
We stayed in a nice apartment in a super location in Söder using the service. But before we got the nice place, we definitely had near-misses with a few possible scams. So be careful of Satan in a Sunday hat…if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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Isha

November 17th, 2009 at 23:51

hi my friends..
I badly need en ettan.
plzz help me

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Sapphire

November 18th, 2009 at 17:48

Thanks Puntino for the additions.

Anna, Good to hear it wasn’t all bad news with BostadDirekt. How long do you have the apartment for?

what the what, you’re always full of devious ideas. :p Though it would be nice to get my money back!

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CB

November 24th, 2009 at 09:02

Of course you should get your money back, this has become rather trendy as of late, getting your money back that is. Even if the contract only states 5000, you agreed to pay 13500 – that verbal agreement is as binding as any written contract, it’s just harder to submit as evidence but surely 8500 every month has left a trace somewhere, you didn’t have a big roll of 500 SEK bills to cover this with cash payments I bet ;) Most people, knowing the consequences, would likely agree too settle. There are organizations there to help you get your money back!

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Erik

November 24th, 2009 at 14:40

The apartments are hopelessly expensive here in Stockholm, I’ll just get myself a cardboard box and live out on the street. If you wanna live in central Sthlm you have to pay atleast 1,5mil per room if you wanna buy. To rent is shit expensive aswell.

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Rikard

March 28th, 2010 at 00:46

My sister had to pay over 6000kr/month for a tiny “second hand” apparment in Södermalm, Stockholm. She complained because the rent is above the markup cap per square meter and she is getting her money back.

13500/month is one of the worst I’ve heard of when it comes to second hand renting and to be honest it sounds alot like she wanted to take advantage of you just because you are a foreigner and not used to the swedish market.

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Zerian

January 7th, 2011 at 14:37

I am trying to find a appartment in stockholm aswell.
Together with a friend we want to do internship for 5 months there.

So we are looking for a appartment but it’s very hard.
The first 6 that we found were most likely scamms.
As they all answered with the same story of being English people living in sweden but because of there parents dying they had to move back to england and rent out there appartment in Sweden.

Kinda strange…. hope anyone can help us find a appartment in stockholm
Thanks in advance

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Bröl

April 26th, 2011 at 13:15

This is what the state-controlled rents gets you. An insane black market. In Manhattan or LA, you can find a place to live in minutes. Further out or smack dab in the middle. Priced accordingly, of course. But at least you can find something. In Sthlm, even if you have the cash, you can end up homeless. It’s insane.

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Mele

July 5th, 2011 at 11:56

I’m looking to move to Stockholm next March. Reading your post I’m alittle afraid to enter a 2nd hand rental agreement. Im guessing 2 bedroom apartments are a rare…….. so no one is looking for a flatmate / room mate?

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Sapphire

July 5th, 2011 at 20:21

Mele – Don’t be afraid of secondhand contracts. However, be smart.

1. The co-op board MUST approve your contract, if not it is illegal to live there. You should ask to speak with a board member to verify that your contract is approved.

2. Take a Swede with you to read the contract. Don’t sign a contract you do not understand.

Finding a roommate is more difficult than finding an apartment for just one person. If you are coming for studies, connect with future/current students through the university. They are most likely to want to share an apartment than anyone else.

Keep us posted!

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Anna

August 10th, 2011 at 19:24

Where and how do you complaint, if your rent is too high?

I’m moving to Sthlm in a couple of weeks, and I found an affordable apartment, but I know that the landlord is not allowed to sublet it. Anywhere else in the world I wouldn’t accept this, but given the situation in Sthlm, I could actually end up homeless if I didn’t. Crazy market!

I do hope to find another place while I’m there, so I want to be prepared for the next round of apartment hunting.

Great blog and tips by the way!

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Ophelia

January 24th, 2012 at 10:24

Hello!

I have got a new job in Stockholm which is really exciting, however what people on the internet saying about the cost of living, finding a place to live etc, tax rates etc make me terrified ..

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Dan

March 26th, 2012 at 11:18

Hi,
I was living in a secondhand aparmtment for 20 months while I didn’t know that my landlord could only rent out for maximum 1 year. In those 20 months, he had been overcharging me 1500kr each (I had confirmed with the housing company). So, is that possible to ask for my money back and how should I do that? I actually moved out 2 months ago but still paying until the end of March. Thanks very much for help in advance.
Dan

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Heidar

March 26th, 2012 at 19:49

@Dan:
Yes, according to Swedish law, subletting an apartment for any amount greater than the original rent is a crime, and the one who rents it out is obligated by law to pay back any over-charge; assuming it is brought to the attention of the proper authorities.

Here’s an article (in Swedish) to get you started: http://nyheter.se.msn.com/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=160855702

And here the link to Hyresgästföreningen, the Swedish organization handling matters such as this:
In Swedish: http://www.hyresgastforeningen.se/Sidor/default.aspx
In English: http://www.hyresgastforeningen.se/In_English/Sidor/default.aspx

The front page of the site has a link to a legal advice forum, where you can find the necessary information. Also, if you’re still unsure, you can contact them directly at: http://www.hyresgastforeningen.se/In_English/contact-us/Sidor/ask_for_advice.aspx

Good luck!

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Jonas Bergkvist

June 26th, 2012 at 13:40

“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.” Could you elaborate on this?

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Sapphire

June 27th, 2012 at 21:15

@Jonas – In the US, when you rent, you rent directly from the owner/company of the building. This would be equivalent to a förstahandskontrakt.

In rare instances, you can sublet, known as andrahandskontrakt. Most people never sublet unless they’re renting a house from a family who’s away or renting a small apartment in a very large city. New York City would be one of the few places andrahandskontrakt is common.

So in the US if someone asks you if you ‘rent’ or ‘own’ and you say ‘rent’, by default, it means a first-hands contract. You don’t own the contract for life, just a few years, renewing when the contract deems so. You report issues directly to the supervisor/co-op board. You don’t have to worry about some owner coming back and kicking out early.

Stockholm is a very special city when it comes to rental agreements: a NYC married London and had a bastard baby called Stockholm. It is entirely fucked up and no matter what people say, not in favor of lessees.

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cesare

July 4th, 2012 at 15:05

I need an apartment (or similar accomodation) in Stockholm for 5 nigth from 17 to 22 August.
We are a family of 5 people ( three children 18-15-15).
For holiday reason
Thanks for cost and availability.
CEsare

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Sapphire

July 10th, 2012 at 12:52

Check http://www.airbnb.com for apartment rentals. They’re worldwide and you could find a good deal!

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nazari

July 15th, 2012 at 20:03

hello,i need to rent an apartment or room for 1 person nearby halmstad university, for 1 year. i will be studying there and i have difficulty in finding any reasonable site to help me with the search. the period is from 1st of september 2012. i can afford amounts between 3000 to 4000 sek monthly.

any help will be appreciated,thank you in advance.

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David

July 30th, 2012 at 23:05

Hi, I’m renting in Stockholm and typically paying about 30,000 SEK per month. Because I am subcontracted to a Swedish company I am not sure when the contract will end exactly so am renting apartments month to month – renting one for a month and then moving to another one the next month. This is becoming a real pain in the ass dealing with bad owners and bad lying agents (redappleapartments.com). I recently tried to get a contract for 3 months with a 30 day notice period. The owner was subletting and wanted 31,000 SEK per month for about a 90 m2 apartment near Zinkensdann. I asked them ‘as you are subletting please can you provide me with proof that you are allowed to sub-let from the person who let the apartment to you’. They got especially offended when I referred to them as ‘tenants’ and said ‘we are NOT I repeat NOT tenants! We own a contract!’ So they own a contract just like erm a Tenant!!

Does anyone have any advice on what to do in my situation. I am not too concerned about the cost because my company is paying but I have fould using these agencies like Red Apple a very poor experience and I am sure we could get kicked out at any minute if the owners so chose. Is there any safer way to rent month by month with a 30 day notice period?

Thanks for this page – very enlightening.

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Sapphire

August 1st, 2012 at 15:40

@David – Sorry for your unfortunate situation.

I think there is some lost in translation between you and ‘owner’ of the apartment.

There are three ways of having an apartment:

Buy/own a share – People who want to buy an apartment will own the share of the apartment through the coop board. These contracts are the most lenient when it comes to leasing out and ownership.

Förstahandskontrakt – This is essentially what a “regular lease” looks like in America, except for a couple big differences. One, a förstahandskontrakt is lifelong unless deemed otherwise by the coop board. Two, renting out the apartment (“subletting” – andrahandskontrakt) must be approved and signed off by the coop board. If the coop board does not approve the renting out, the subletting is illegal.

Andrahandskontrakt – This is the contract that 99% of foreigners have. You don’t own the apartment and you are not renting first hand from the building owner, you are subletting from the owner (be it they are owner or first hand contract holder).

So, I don’t know what kind of lease your landlord has, regardless though, he/she must have written proof that apartment can be rented out to someone else.

As for rental companies, you can try http://www.remax-sverige.com which is part of Remax.

There is also a rental board of Stockholm to complain to. I don’t know who exactly — ANYONE READERS KNOW?

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David

August 2nd, 2012 at 18:45

Thanks Sapphire I don’t know if they were ‘owners’ or Förstahandskontrakt. Do even owners have to use sublet contracts? That’s really confusing! In any case they certainly did not mention anything about the co-op board even though I asked lots of times for proof that they had the right to sub-let the apartment. They were obviously trying to get an illegally high rent.

The apartment owner of the place we are staying in now (via an agency) has said we can make a contract with him directly and it doesn’t need to involve the Co-op board. Even if he bought ‘a share’ he still must have co-op approval right?

I think to truely own something in Sweden you have to own a house or an entire apartment block.

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Sapphire

August 8th, 2012 at 12:42

@David – As far as I know, there always must be approval by the Co-op board.

You can make a complaint in the courts of Stockholm at: http://www.hyresnamnden.se/Hyra-i-andra-hand/Hyran/

This is the form to fill out: http://www.hyresnamnden.se/Domstolar/hyresnamnderna/ansokan.pdf – it’s pretty easy.

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aila

October 8th, 2012 at 12:05

Hi!
When the board approves the second hand leasing, do they send to some governmental organization (like hyregastföreningen) or does it just stay within the board?

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Sapphire

October 11th, 2012 at 18:21

@Aila – I am not sure. Let me check on this for you. Anyone can chime in?

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Elizabeth

November 9th, 2012 at 19:47

Hi… we are looking into what it would mean for us, if we moved to Stockholm area (Sollentuna). Since we are a family of four (2 little kids incl.) we are looking into possibly renting a house… Are there things we need to watch out with renting an entire house? I found an offer for 15TSEK, including yard. Is that a good price? What kind of salary should I be asking for in order to afford something like that? We are trying to gather as much information as possible, before we make this decision. Thanks so much!

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Jenny

November 11th, 2012 at 18:08

hey all,
im really sorry for all the hazzle of finding an apartment in Stockholm. The reason is, that by, it is almost impossible for owners to rent their apartments. If you own an apartment, you are only allowed to rent it for 1 year. Then, if you dont live there yourself, you are forced to sell it. It is true and it is insane. Im swedish and live in New York and had to sell my STO apt since I couldnt rent it and didnt want to pay for an empty apartment. SO the truth is that there are PLENTY of empty apartments in Stockholm but for legal reasons the owners are not allowed to rent them. Hence the impossible “second hand” market. My mom says they are going to ease up on the rental laws, so hopefully this craziness will end soon. Anyway, good luck…

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Sapphire

November 18th, 2012 at 00:32

15,000sek per month for a small house (rådhus) is reasonable for renting. You should be looking in the suburbs like Sollentuna, Solna, Hammarby, Liljeholmen, Hägersten, Kista.

Besides the 15,000sek, you’ll need to consider, electricity, gas, cable, phones, food, daycare, etc. I would expect to spend 25,000sek a month. With 25,000sek in expected payments , you should get at least 35,000sek in after tax monthly salary. Pre-tax that would be around 50,000sek.

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Amanda

February 14th, 2013 at 04:38

What are daycare costs like? I was reading that it’s only 1256 SEK per child per month. Is that true? I live in America and pay $1200 a month for my 2 children to go to preschool (7540 SEK). And when I’m looking for an apartment and the website asks for “number of rooms?”, I assume that’s total number of rooms( including bathroom, kitchen, living-room,..)? I want a 3 bedroom rental so I should look for a 6 room apartment??

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Sapphire

February 24th, 2013 at 15:44

@Amanda – You can expect to pay from 1000-3000kronor per month for daycare here. Yes, so it is true :)

When you are looking for an apartment, the number of rooms include the bedrooms, living rooms, and possible extra large hallways (something that would fit a sofa). Kitchens and bathrooms do not count.

If you want three bedrooms, then look for a four room apartment.

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HummingBird

March 30th, 2013 at 17:32

Hi Sapphire,
I need studio apartment nearby Stadshagen T-bana..Don’t know anyone from der..My budget is around 4000 sek…can you help me getting nice rental apartment for myself..reply

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Melker

April 29th, 2013 at 18:12

Hi –
I’m transferring from the Boston area to Stockholm this June to work for two years. Really struggling with finding an apartment before arriving. We are a family of 4 and are looking for an apartment in Hammarby Sjostad. The company is paying 20,000 SEK per month in rent for us. Anyone who can provide help/advise?

Thx,

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Sapphire

April 29th, 2013 at 18:16

Hi Melker,

If the company will pay your rent, won’t they find you a place?

If they cannot find you a place, would they be willing to be a cosigner on your lease? Having a corporate cosigner will OPEN up your possibilities for good apartments.

The best is to for agencies that specialize in corporate rentals. Let me put my feelers out and see if I can find a company.

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melker

May 1st, 2013 at 15:13

Thanks Sapphire –
It’s an international company however they don’t have anyone in Stockholm who knows or can inspect the places. Yes, they are willing to sign the rental contract. Very open to suggestions!!! My kids are attending Vittra Sjostaden so would like to find a place walking/biking distance from there.

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Najib Hari

September 26th, 2013 at 22:31

Blocket is a good bet. I can advise you to reply in Swedish and be quick.

This app (iPhone) might help, it sends an alert when a new apartment has been placed on Blocket.se.

https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/blockalert/id695124966?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

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Maddy

October 1st, 2013 at 13:07

Hi:

This seems to be nice blog with lots of experiences shared. Thanks a lot to all of you!
I am planning to come to Stockholm (client location) in the mid of Oct’13 on my company (located in Solna Business Park Area) internal transfer to work for a couple of years.
I did not worry about apartment rental until I see this blog and I am little scared now, frankly! I lived in North America region for 5 years and is the reason why I did not bother at all!!
How are the rentals in Solna area? How is life there? Any English pre-schools in this area?

I might look for 1 BHK or 2 BHK (family of 3 (1 kid)) in a peaceful area.

Could you please let me know the living expenses and taxes as well? I will get about 50K SEK a month.

Appreciate your help!

Thanks
Maddy

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Gabriele

October 2nd, 2013 at 13:21

Hey,
i want to live in sweden next year, i am a student but i want to take a gap year before i start actually studing there, i want to rent a flat or something along the lines so that i would be able to live there, but i cant find any websites or anything like that where i could see the prices and places i could live… could i get some help?

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