Finding an apartment in Stockholm is like looking for polar bears on the streets. It is hard, it is aggravating, and it is downright elusive to find. Sometimes it takes days and sometimes months to find an apartment in the city of no hope.
This is part 42 of the living in Sweden series. Apartment hunting never ends, it’s always hiding in the shadows.
Living in Sweden: Finding a Job
Job Posting in Sweden
Living in Sweden: Swedish CVs and Job Interviews
Living in Sweden: Finding an Apartment: Part 1
Living in Sweden: English Bookstores
Learn Swedish: Don’t Sätt på en Skygg Lapp
Sweden’s welfare system on first hand apartments has led to a distorted housing market. If the real estate market did not already have asymmetric advantage in knowledge, the welfare based/rent controlled model adds more corruption and consequences to society at large.
Let’s look at it this way. Residential infrastructure is the lowest in Sweden (3% of the GDP) than any other OECD country (6% of the GDP). Add to that, overvaluation of Stockholm housing prices, uncompetitiveness in the market, high barriers to entry in construction, heavy taxations, disincentives to open up land, and you can see the whole housing system is a mess.
And regarding the rental queue system in Sweden, it’s worse. “Eight percent of the Swedish population is queuing for a new apartment, with an average waiting time of 10 years.” There’s little hope, you or I as immigrants will ever have a shot at a reasonable apartment in the major cities (Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö).
How do you go about finding an apartment in Sweden then? Vigilance, determination, and the knowledge that everyone and anyone can/will screw you over. The housing market in Sweden is like legal prostitution. It exists out of a necessary evil, even though no one knows how to regulate the market to prevent corruption, abuse, and distortion.
How to find an apartment in the Swedish major cities:
1. Write an introduction letter (in Swedish) about yourself. Even if your Swedish is poor or you are very new to the country, write that your Swedish is poor. What you need to say in your letter: you found the apartment via Xxx site, you have a job, your job is in xxx industry, you don’t smoke, your partner is XXX and he/she works in xxx industry.
2. Search blocket.se several times a day for a new apartment. Email immediately.
3. If you have 700SEK to spare, get a bostaddirekt.com account. I hate those people but they have “slightly” better apartments (though I met some seriously crazy owners on there too). Better yet, if you want to share your BostadDirekt access code or want to split the cost with some, post on the BostadDirekt Free Access page.
4. Call apartments that sound most interesting to you.
5. Get your paperwork together: Reference letter from last landlord, personbevis, arbetsbevis (that you actually work and earn from a company), and other information asked about you. This information is required for the Coop board to sign.
6. Once you make it through the weeding with an owner, you will submit your application to the board. There is now a 70% chance you will get this apartment. DO NOT STOP looking for other apartments.
7. Find at least one more apartment and apply to the board there. In case you are denied from the board, you have a backup. And you haven’t lost time looking for a place either.
8. Pray pray pray.
9. Sign the lease. Take a Swedish person to read over the lease and ask any unfinished questions.
10. In peace hopefully, move in.
Signs of under the table and corrupt apartment owning:
- The landlord wants you to pay in cash
- You write one amount on the contract, yet pay another amount. This is illegal. You can sue the owner for the amount because he/she has a firsthand apartment where there is rent ceiling for secondhand renting. Obviously, this gets out of control in Stockholm since few people possess the common sense and moral values to obey Swedish law.
- Scammers want you to pay in advance a deposit to see the apartment. DO NOT!!!!
- You are unsure if the coop board approved you. Concerned? Do NOT sign until you meet the board.
- Trust your instincts. Most rentors are out to make extra money and circumvent the law. Don’t be a victim to greedy bastards.
- You are not allowed to put your name on the door. Again, this is a sign that the owner never received approval to rent.
Apartment hunting in Stockholm sucks (we’re on day 64 of apartment hunting). It’s a vicious cycle which has no hope of ending soon. The government turns a blind eye at corruption while people participate in a black market. Information is asymmetric for foreigners; you don’t know the law, the owner can trick you.
Most of all, stay positive. You will get an apartment. Soon. One day.