Home Essentials Housing

Stockholm is divided into many distinctive neighbourhoods, each with their own unique character. Not surprising, considering it’s a city spread across 14 major islands in an archipelago. The island topography of Stockholm is rich with historical architecture, out-door cafés, bohemian boutiques, gourmet markets, posh shopping boulevards, and thriving commercial districts. All of which is set against the backdrop of glittering blue water and gliding sailboats. The following is a list of the various neighbourhoods that make up YOUR living city – Stockholm.

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Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan (the Old Town), is the original Stockholm dating back to the 13th century. Here, ornate 17th-century preserved houses line narrow cobbled streets that splinter off into alley-ways heading in all directions. This area is packed with pubs, restaurants, kitschy souvenir shops, and spectacular harbour views – making this small section the most popular destination for tourists.It’s also conveniently located between, bustling Norrmalm to the north and hip Södermalm to the south bridging the two distinct areas. The bulk of Gamla Stan is on the island of Stadsholmen. Riddarholmen, the tiny island just to the west, is also usually considered part of Gamla Stan.

What not to miss: Mårten Trotzigs gränd - the narrowest alleyway on the island at only 90 centimetres across at its narrowest point.

Local’s tip: Stop for a while under the chestnut tree on Brända Tomten (crossing Kindstugatan/Själagårdsgatan) and feel the heartbeat of the old city. Then head to Gråmunken Café and fika in the cellars under the city!

 

Norrmalm

Norrmalm is an active and hectic district characterized by Stockholm’s buzzing Central Station, the shopping crowds in Drottninggatan, and an abundance of cultural facilities such as: Kulturhuset, the Royal Opera, St. Jacobs Church, Sweden House, and several ample parks.

The neighbourhood’s more modern areas are packed with a variety of retail shops, Stockholm’s largest department stores as well as government buildings. Despite the unavoidable tourist traffic, the vast majority of the crowds in Norrmalm are residents. This area is the beating heart of modern Stockholm.

What not to miss: Shopping in the very heart of the city. Sampling local produce on Hötorget square. The beautiful white structure of Adolf Fredriks Church, where late prime minister Olof Palme is buried.

Local’s tip: For the biggest slabs of cake and cinnamon buns this side of Uppsala – head to Café Egoiste in the MOOD Galleria. They are enormous!

 

Södermalm

Södermalm is a favorite borough among many locals. The island forms the southern part of the main city and is THE definition of urban Stockholm. A hipster revolution has turned this once working-class neighbourhood, into a hot-spot for artists, musicians, hip designers, bohemian cafés, edgy shops, and funky restaurants.

This area is home to some of the most diverse and sought after addresses in all of Stockholm, from the Art Nouveau apartments on Mariatorget to centuries-old cottages stacked on the cliffs above the sea on Mälarstrand and Fjällgatan.

Away from the major sights and museums, Södermalm is most enjoyed by locals. Further south in Söder, things become much more residential with wide streets, tall apartment buildings, and less glam stores.

What not to miss: Götgatan on a sunny day, for shopping and people-watching. The Nytorget area for the nicest and most hipster-friendly bars and cafés in the city. Kaffe on St Paulsgatan, for the best reindeer toastie the city can offer! (Mind they only take cash, though.)

Local’s tip: Walking along Monteliusvägen you get THE best view of the city! Hard to find for most that are not locals -it is a rite of passage to discover this walk!

 

Kungsholmen

Kungsholmen is an expanding residential area, situated between Södermalm and Östermalm. This is a calmer area of the city centre with plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars and is currently undergoing urban development in hopes of creating better access to its sprawling parks and waterfront trails. This project will make it possible to walk all the way around Kungsholmen.

What not to miss: Lunch at Mälarpaviljongen in the summer months, Taylor’s and Jones’ British-style Butcher’s shop on Hantverkargatan.

Local’s tip: If you haven’t met up in Rålis (Rålambshovsparken) with friends for a game of Kubb, then you haven’t lived. Used for all sorts of gatherings, from Midsummer to Guy Fawkes (true story) this is THE park for meet-ups in Stockholm.

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Photo Credit: Ola Ericson/Imagebank Sweden

Djurgården

This island  is ideal for walks and picnics and for families and tourists to visit the open-air museum Skansen or amusement park Gröna Lund. Kungliga Djurgården (The Royal Animal Park) – as it is officially called – is a forested island which serves as the summer recreation area of Stockholm. It’s easily accessible by bus or tram. But many Stockholmers would swear that there is only two ways to get there i the summer: by strolling down the lovely Strandvägen while eating an ice-cream or by enjoying the salty splashes of the water while journeying over on the ferry. The island is host to many museums, galleries and monuments and attracts 10 million visitors a year.

What not to miss: Liljewalchs art gallery (especially for the spring exhibition), the kanelbullar (or any other baked goods) from the little bakery at open air museum Skansen, the virtual dancing experience at the ABBA museum (of course), Rosendals Trädgård.

Local’s tip: In the back streets next to amusement park Gröna Lund, one can glimpse a view of what the area looked like before it was overrun by modern society. yet few people know where to look. Also, don’t miss climbing out onto the cliffs by the water at Waldermarsudde for THE best views.

 

Vasastan

Vasastaden (The Stone City) is marked by the massive stone buildings that line its city blocks and is made up of a fashionable bourgeois residential area located close to cafés, shops and IT and media offices.

What not to miss: Vasaparken, Observatorielunden, Vanadislunden and the Tegnerlunden park square, making this area perfect for a summer stroll.

Local’s tip: Café Ritorno on Odengatan next to the park. Just going in there makes you feel intellectual. Also it is one of the last old school Stockholm cafés left.

 

Östermalm

This is the most elegant and most exclusive part of town with some of the city’s most impressive buildings, high-end specialty shops and stately apartment blocks with flats that are sold for absurd amounts of money.

What not to miss: Humlegården and the National Library. The lovely Karlavägen boulevard and Karlaplan roundabout – the heart of Östermalm. The English Church near the water on Dag Hammarskjölds väg is by far one of the most beautiful in Stockholm.

Local’s tip: There is nothing that beats walking Strandvägen from Nybroplan to Djurgårdsbron. Make sure not to miss the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten) on your way. On sunny days half of Stockholm will be found lounging on its stairs.

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Suburbs

South of the City Centre, a large number of high-density suburbs spread out along the metro system and the three main highways leading towards Värmdö, Nynäshamn and Södertälje. Closest to the City Centre is Gröndal, Midsommarkransen and Hammarby Sjöstad, an ultra-modern large residential district built in an old harbour.

Northwest Stockholm consists of both expensive districts such as Bromma and of high-rise suburbs such as Rinkeby, Tensta and Akalla. Some other major districts close to the City Centre are Solna, Sundbyberg and Kista, the area home to the Swedish telecom and ICT industry.

Northeast Stockholm consists mainly of calm and affluent suburbs along the highways towards Norrtälje and Uppsala. Here one can find Djursholm, the home of Swedish billionares, and neighborhoods such as Sollentuna, Täby, Åkersberga and Österåker.

East of Stockholm the vast archipelago stretches out in all directions. Located in the middle of the archipelago is the large island Värmdö that can be reached by highway, and thousands of surrounding islands, of which several are permanently inhabited. Many of these islands can be reached by passenger ferries departing from Nybroplan or the Grand Hotel in the city centre, or from seaside towns out east such as Vaxholm, Stavsnäs and Dalarö. The archipelago is a very popular place to have a weekend/vacation house, so the population multiplies each summer.

 

Photo Credits: Ola Ericson/Imagebank Sweden and Nicho Södling/Imagebank Sweden

 

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Moving in Sweden can be daunting, especially if you don’t know how change your details with the right authority. Enter – the YLC guide to changing your address within Sweden!

7162624349_48031840ff_b-1Photo: Debarshi Ray/Flickr (file)

When you move from one address in Sweden to another you need to register your move with the government. You must register within one week of the move in order to avoid penalties, but we would advise you register before your move if possible so that your taxes and social benefits can be accurate. If you receive parental leave payments or government-funded schooling, then you need to have your move registered on time in order to have the correct kommun making payments or you may end up with the added hassle of having to pay back the money or missing payments from the new municipality.

Step One

Firstly, you should register your move with the Swedish Tax Authority, Skatteverket.

If you have an e-identification (E-ID) such as BankID, you can do everything online in about five minutes.  Also, if you view the site through the Google Chrome browser, the website (and most others) is translated to English automatically, which makes it all very easy for us Anglophones. Log in using your E-ID in the right hand column of the page.

  • Once logged in, select “Notification of Move” or “Flyttanmälan.”
  • You’ll need to know your old and new addresses as well as your moving date.  Follow the instructions on the website.
  • By registering your move with Skatteverket your address change will be registered throughout the government system, including Forsäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency) and Migrationsverket (the Migration Board).
  • If you don’t have E-ID, then you can skip straight to the 2nd step below. You will then be sent a form in the mail that you can fill out and send to Skatteverket.

Step Two

Register your move with the postal service.

  • Select the blue button on the bottom of the page that says “Starta flyttanmälan Personuppgifter.”
  • If you have E-ID, log-in on this page and then continue with the address change online.  If you don’t have E-ID, you can continue by putting in your personal information on this page and then forms will be sent to your home that you will need to complete and return.
  • Follow the instructions on the page to register your move.
  • On the confirmation page, you will be asked if you want the mail addressed to your old address forwarded to your new address or returned to the sender.  If you select mail-forwarding, then you need to pay 450 SEK for one year of mail-forwarding.  If you select for the mail to be returned to sender, there is no fee. After your move-in date, any mail addressed to the old address will be returned to the sender without any notification to you at either address.
  • After you have completed your address change, you will be redirected to a page where you will be offered to have your address changed for free with other companies such as banks and insurance companies.

Not as bad as you thought, now was it?

Good Luck!

 

Jessica Larson

 

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Has the Stockholm rental market left you confused and frustrated? You’re certainly not alone! Check out the YLC guide to finding a rental flat in the city!

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New digs needed: the YLC guide to finding student accommodation in Stockholm

Buying an apartment in Stockholm

 

It took several conversations before I could even wrap my head around it.  These discussions were peppered with words like “ förstahandskontrakt”,  “ andrahandskontrakt”, “black market”,  “selling leases” and “queuing systems”.  If all this sounds too complicated, that’s because it is. What’s worse is that the housing challenges we’re  currently facing have plagued the city and surrounding suburbs for over a century. One would assume the Swedes have had enough time to sort it out, but unfortunately there is no past evidence that demonstrates a housing surplus in Stockholm since 1902.

Stockholm is home to more than 2 million residents with only 924,000 housing units available. The Swedish queuing system has created a flourishing black market for desperate tenants willing to dish out huge sums to avoid multi-year-long waiting lists for a rental contract.

This isn’t a history lesson, but I would be remiss if I didn’t attempt to give an overview of the rental history in Stockholm. The Stockholm region has had an acute shortage of housing that began in 1904 with approximately 50,000 housing units available for 320,000 people.  It was at this time that Stockholm started putting housing policies into operation; however it was about thirteen years later, in 1917, that the State accepted responsibility for erecting decent homes for its citizens in a period of chronic housing shortage.  In the 1960s, the government started the official apartment queue that is currently in use.

To read in English how the official queuing process works – check out the official city rental market page Bostadsförmedlingen.

However, the dearth of flats and the complicated Swedish queuing system has created a flourishing black market for desperate tenants willing to dish out huge sums to avoid multi-year-long waiting lists for a rental contract.  These large sums are often paid under the table costing up to 20,000 Euro to secure a contract and surpass the regulated queuing system.

Like me, most people simply don’t have the extra money lying around and are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of paying under the table for a first-hand contract. If this is the case for you, the second-hand market may be a more realistic option.  There are many pitfalls and scams in this market. I will describe some of the more outrageous requests my husband and I faced during our rental search, and offer some tips.  Surprisingly, there are vultures in both markets, but if you use good old-fashion common sense and your gut feeling, you should be able to avoid them.

Pitfall #1: “Too Good to be True”

The advertisement shows the perfect place in the perfect neighborhood with perfect rent.  The pictures look amazing and you’re thrilled.  The person renting it out is supposedly living abroad and needs to rent out their place, located in Gamla Stan or somewhere central. You email the person and request to see the apartment.  They give an excuse that they are not in the country and the keys are with them.  Then they try to build up trust and eventually request for you to send a down payment transfer (to show your commitment) and afterward they will mail you the keys.  At this point alarms should be ringing in your head!

Unfortunately many foreigners get caught in this scam because they fear arriving in Stockholm without a place to live and spending a chunk of their savings on hotel bills.  They are so anxious to get an apartment, that despite their apprehension they trust the good natured Swede will live up to their end of the bargain.

Pitfall #2: “Heavy Competition”

You find a place you’re interested in, the price is in your budget and you call to arrange a viewing.  You arrive just as another couple is leaving, having just viewed the same apartment. After seeing the apartment yourself, you leave just as the next couple is arriving to check it out. You thought the place was fine, not spectacular, but now you’re getting nervous about how many people are looking at the same apartment and you need to find a place fast! You express your interest in the place before leaving, but the owners tell you they want to talk it over in private to ensure they pick the right renter to live in their space. Shortly after that, the owner calls to inform you that they have had a lot of interested couples come through but you would be their first choice.

That is, if you’re willing to pay 1, 000 or 2, 000 SEK more than the original asking price. This actually happened to us in Sundbyberg and I was so annoyed. I could understand if the place was in Stureplan or Östermalm, but this place was almost at the end of the blue line. We refused the offer and started a new search.

Pitfall #3: “The Mark Up”

Many people who sublet their apartment often charge more than what it costs for first-hand rental. You can count on a 10-15% markup for a furnished apartment. In extreme cases the renter can hike up the rent two to three times the original price. This is of course illegal, but it has become so commonplace in this market that no one ever reports it or sues.  It is also not unheard of for residents to hop from short-term sublet to sublet. This can mean moving several times in one year.

If you encounter a first-hand owner who only writes 10-15% more on the rental contract to satisfy the rent board and then demands that you pay an extra 100-200% markup in cash ‘off the books’, step away from that deal.  I always like to have a record of any cash transaction and bank transfers are always the safest.

Tip 1: Use a reputable online service to search for rentals.

Avoid places like Craig’s List (Blocket) and other small online classifieds (they often have the ‘too good to be true’ rental offers). This is especially important if you are looking for a place before you land in Sweden. If this is the case, I highly recommend you have a friend or co-worker on the ground to view the actual apartment.

My favorite second-hand rental sites are Bostaddirekt.se and Bopunkten.se  as they provide English versions of their sites; however, the actual advertisement will most likely be written in Swedish.  In any case, you should always be able to call the owners to weed out any unscrupulous people and arrange a time to view the apartment as soon as possible.

Tip 2: When an advertisement pops up that fits all of your needs, contact them immediately.

Places on the market go very quickly and if you snooze, you will definitely lose.  When you contact them make sure you set an appointment for the same day or the very next morning.  My husband and I set-up a viewing for the next day (due to laziness) and regretfully we got a call before the viewing informing us that apartment was no longer on the market and was scooped up by another individual.

Tip 3: If you plan to stay in Stockholm indefinitely, you should sign up in one of the First Kontrakt sites – despite the long wait. 

Truth is – you never know how long you might stay and getting into the queue may pay off in the long run. If you get lucky and actually get a place in 2 or 3 years in a desirable location, you will officially become part of the renting system.

Tip 4: If possible – purchase a property.

I think it is wise to purchase. We finally went with this option and it feels so much more secure than moving from one sublet to another. Of course, there are a whole host of other issues when purchasing a property in Sweden, but thats another story altogether.

Shirley Å Johansson

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In a few months, Stockholm will ready to welcome all the new international students enrolled in the city’s many universities. For exchange students, it’s usually the partner university that arranges the accommodation; but as a regular student, be prepared to face Stockholm’s tough housing situation on your own.

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Stockholm accommodation is often managed through a queuing system: you have to join a queue and every day you stay in the queue your chances of getting an apartment or a room will increase. We don’t want to scare you, but the truth is that the Stockholm renting market is far from easy. However, there are a number of options open to you:

Option 1: student dormitories

If you are a student it might be worth trying to get into one of the few student dormitories around Stockholm. However, keep in mind that the places available are way too few compared to the number of people interested. Sometimes your university will have some rooms that are privately rented out by the university itself, so the first step will be to go on the accommodation section of your university website and look whether your institution is offering this kind of service and what the deadlines are to apply. Still, be ready with a plan B, since the number of rooms managed by universities is not very large.

If you are not offered a place through your department or if your university doesn’t provide this type of service, it’s time to make your next move: sign up to the SSSB queue as soon as possible. SSSB stands for Stiftelsen Stockholms Studentbostäder, it’s the biggest students’ housing company and is managed by the Stockholm Federation of Student Unions. However, don’t sign up too early, since you will have to become a member of your university’s student union within 90 days of joining the SSSB’s queue and you can only do that once the semester starts. If after 90 days you are not a member of a student union yet, you will loose your amassed credit days.

Tip: to avoid your credit days being reset to zero, you can freeze your place in the queue and it will be resumed once you join a student union.

The SSSB system is free of charge and although the queue can be quite long it’s worth a try, especially since from time to time they offer last minute accommodation on a first come, first served basis, disregarding how many queuing days you have up until that moment. You don’t need a personnummer to register through SSSB, but as soon as you get one, make sure to communicate it both to SSSB and your student union since this will make things smoother.

Another provider of student housing is Huge Fastigheter. They offer accommodation in southern Stockholm, mainly in Huddinge – Flemingsberg. You don’t need a personnummer to sign up and queue is free of charge.

You can also have a look at http://www.lappis.org/, a forum for students living in Lappis, one of the biggest student housing complex in Stockholm. Sometimes students living there need to leave their room for a few months or a semester, and will look for someone to sublet their room to. Watch out for scams and illegal subletting: Lappis is part of SSSB system, so these rules for subletting also apply to Lappis housing complex.

Another alternative is to register with Stockholms Stads Bostadsförmedling. This option may be interesting especially if you are considering staying in Stockholm for a few years as the queue is also quite long (Swedes usually get signed up for  this queue as soon as they turn 18). They provide accommodation for both students and non-students (however, you are not competing for the same flats since they offer different options for students and non-students). You need to have a personnummer to join the queue and pay 225 SEK per year to stay in.

A website that intermediates between you and the different housing associations (and one that I recommend) is Fixakontraktet. A subscription to Fixakontraktet costs 285 SEK for the first month and is especially useful to get notifications about last minute accommodation before everyone else, besides relieving you from staying in front of the computer and continuously refreshing the webpage looking for a last minute deal. Moreover, Fixakontraktet is aimed at finding first hand contracts, which are extremely difficult to spot in Stockholm. If you haven’t found a flat in 30 days you can choose to stay on and then pay 149 SEK for the following month until you find an apartment.

Option 2: private rentals

A good starting point into the private rentals jungle might be Akademisk Kvart, a platform founded by Stockholm Federation of Student Unions, financed by Stockholm’s five main universities and targeting students. Akademisk Kvart is totally free, both if you want to apply for accommodation and if you are looking for someone to share your flat with –  or even looking to rent out your apartment. I say it’s a good starting point because since it’s aimed at students you won’t have to compete with non-students looking for accommodation.  It’s also free and you don’t need a personnummer to get full access to the website services. There is also helpful information about Swedish rented property law as well as examples of what is a reasonable rent and downloadable rental agreements.

There are many other websites for private housing aimed at students, for example Studentlya and Easy Roommate. However, scams are not unheard of on those websites, so pay extra attention and arrange for a viewing of the room or flat in person before transferring any money.

Apart from the websites targeting students, there are other websites for finding private rentals, the main two being Blocket and Bostaddirekt. You can find useful tips regarding private rentals in the articles featured in the past on YourLivingCity.

General tips

  • Always be ready with a copy of your letter of enrollment/acceptance.
  • Get familiar with Stockholm’s neighbourhoods: The YLC guide to Stockholm’s neighbourhoods and A guide to Stockholm’s neighbourhoods.
  • Get a mobile phone number as soon as you arrive in Stockholm: if the mobile number is available, it’s better to call the potential landlords instead of sending them e-mails.
  • Prepare a short introduction about who you are, what you are doing in Stockholm and your lifestyle. This will make you stand out among the dozens of other people interested in the same room.

Good luck and happy house-hunting!

 

 

Article: Pamela Cominetti

Photo Credits: Jillian Anne Photography

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Slow. Inefficient. Fair.

These are all words not to describe what it is like to buy a property in Sweden. More than any other, the cut-throat industry of real estate challenges perceptions of the Swedish stereotype.

It resembles nothing so much as riding the ‘Insane’ rollercoaster at Gröna Lund, from the highs of euphoria as you discover your dream home to the sickening lurch of how much it costs. You’re then treated to the tick-tick-tick of the steep ascent of the bidding process before a loop-the-loop of excitement when you’ve secured the deal. And after it’s all over, you wonder how you managed to be suckered into emptying your wallet to that extent.

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I exaggerate for effect. No roller coaster (in Sweden, anyway) is as fast as the process can take. As a French friend of mine remarked, ‘you buy an ‘ouse in this country the same way you buy an ‘air dryer”.  Of course if you’re buying a bostadsrätt in Sweden as most people do, you’re not really buying the apartment: that’s owned by the housing association. What you buy is the right to live in the apartment. This doesn’t alter the pleasure of living in your dream place, but it does mean you can’t hire it out without permission.

Your first step should be to get your loan approval, ett lånelöfte, from the bank, which is built from your deposit and household income. The process has gotten harder since 1st October 2010, when the Finansinspektionen (FI for short; the government body monitoring the financial market) decreed that banks cannot loan more than 85% of the property price. This means that you will need to stump up a 15% deposit from your savings or other ill-gotten gains and it is your deposit that will probably determine your price bracket. But securing a loan for a property in Sweden warrants an article in itself; maybe I’ll write it one day. All you need to know for now is that it is critical to get a lånelöfte before you go a-flat hunting – it will save you heartache.

Once you have your loan agreement, the next step is to actually find your dream home. There are many ways to do this, including www.blocket.se (the ‘’air dryer’ image comes to mind again), your local paper and stepping into your local estate agent, but by far and away the most popular is by checking out www.hemnet.se. Here, the majority of homes in Sweden are put up on to a website by various estate agents, providing a one-stop shop for hopeful home-buyers. You will do well to put some limitations on your search before you discover that you can’t afford that 5-room, top-storey Penthouse apartment on Östermalm, even though it’s perfect.

the bidding process, a terrifying practice, in which you are given the option to text the estate agent with a bid of millions of kronor in the most casual manner, competing in money terms with other buyers texting in their bids

First things first, filter out price, which means the value of the property, but also the ‘avgift’, a communal charge payable to the housing association of the building, which might be servicing a loan from the bank to the housing association (typically for new-builds), cleaning, damages, renovations etc to any communal areas, along with heating, water and cable TV if you’re lucky – do check what yours will include. Be aware that the listed price of a home can have very little to do with how much the seller wants. In Stockholm’s property industry, the free market determines the final cost. There are 2 main categories of price that estate agents use: ‘Utgångspris’, a number used, frankly, to lure hemnet users in to looking at the apartment. This number is then subject to the bidding process, a terrifying practice, in which you are given the option to text the estate agent with a bid of millions of kronor in the most casual manner, competing in money terms with other buyers texting in their bids. Don’t go higher than your lånelöfte. The other main category, used more nowadays in the current slowing down of the property boom, is ‘acceptpris’, which is the price the seller intends to sell at, but is still subject to the bidding process. For both catgories, the seller can decide at any point that, actually, they’d rather not sell after all and you go back to the hemnet drawing board.

Do pay close attention to the transport links, because a 15 minute saunter to the T-bana in the summer becomes the grueling Olympian sport of pushing a pram uphill the same distance in the snow.

The apartment you finally end up with will typically be a balance between the price you can afford, the area and the space. We have an article on the different areas here. Do pay close attention to the transport links, because a 15 minute saunter to the T-bana in the summer becomes the grueling Olympian sport of pushing a pram uphill the same distance in the snow. For the same reason, look at the amenities in the area, the shops, the schools; dare I say it, the gym? Hey, we’re in dream property land here.

Space-wise, Swedes tend to look at size of the apartments in square metres, rather than how many rooms it has, but you can filter by both. Be aware that ‘3-rum’ does NOT mean 3 bedrooms. One ‘rum’ will be the living room – worth finding out before you realize you have nowhere to house the baby. I myself always look at the ‘planritning’, the layout of the flat – it’s the best way of seeing who can live where and whether you could live there at all.

Otherwise, you will have your own priorities when looking at an apartment but things to consider include:-

  • Go through the condominium association’s recent annual report and try to assess the risk of future fee increases.
  • Is it a genuine or spurious association?
  • Find out if the housing association has decided on repairs that can affect the monthly fee in the future.
  • Find out whether any major renovations (question closely about the pipes as these need to be replaced after a certain time) have been recently carried out in the property. Do you want to make any renovations? How much will they cost? Will they be approved by the board?
  • When you can move into the apartment (Typically within 4 months)
  • Whether you will have your own washing machine and dryer or share a laundry room, Tvättstuga
  • Parking possibilities.
  • Storage in the basement and / or attic (ask to see them).
  • What is personal property and what will remain in the flat; often wardrobes are left whilst light fixtures are ripped out.
  • Common areas: the laundry room, hall, stroller parking, bicycle storage and if you strike gold, a lokal or party room, which can include a bed, bathroom and kitchen and is hired out. (Find out what rules apply to those common areas).

So you’ve decided on what you want, in theory. Now to list all the visnings or showings of potential apartments in your area. I would recommend going to as many as you can stomach on a Sunday (the usual ‘visning’ day), even if you’re not interested. It’s the best way to work out what you do and don’t like. Visnings are half hour speed assessments, where other wishful homeowners talk loudly about all the things that are wrong with the apartment. Don’t be fooled, they just don’t want to have to bid against you. In fact, you might want to indulge in some dirty apartment talk yourself, so to speak.

Joking aside, there may be actual flaws with an apartment when you visit it. Determine which are cheap and easy to fix (wallpaper, lights) and which are expensive and time-consuming (flooring, plumbing). The main question to ask yourself when looking around is ‘can I live here? Is this my home?’ If it is, ask for another viewing (always worth doing), speak to the estate agents about any other issues you may have (they have a legal obligation to tell you) and hold onto your hat. The bidding war has commenced.

The estate agent has a list of interested parties that he will pester call with the latest highest price offer. You can increase your bid in as small increments as you like (if small is the right word to describe thousands of kronor) but always be aware of your limit and do not go beyond it. You can bid via the web on the estate agents page, via text or on the phone. Luck can play a huge element, as can time of year (there are a lot less bids in the summer, for example. Then again there are a lot less flats on offer; everyone’s on holiday). Keep cool and remember; you win some, you lose some. At some point no matter how much you want that flat, you might not be able to afford it or it simply is not good value for money. But I know of several people who have snaffled bargains; it does happen.

I’m going to assume that you’ve found your dream flat in your dream area at your dream price (lucky you). You will now get frantic calls from the estate agent to seal the deal as quickly as possible; everyone wants this process done with. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to get a private sale from someone, with no bidding process involved, it pays to have an estate agent at this point to make sure all the necessary paperwork is put together. You will be called into a room with the seller, whom you will generally never have seen before. You will be given all the terms and agreements, pay over your deposit and sign your name several times. After this meeting, any backing out means losing your deposit, although it is comforting to know that sellers have a liability for any errors in a sold property for up to 2 years after the purchaser moves in. The next and probably the last time you will see the seller is on exchange date itself when you move in, sign some more forms and transfer over an enormous amount of cash, represented by that huge debt that appears in your bank account.

This wordy article hasn’t really given the full flavour of the speed of the affair. Not to go all Craig David on you, but it can take even less than 7 days from browsing through hemnet for the first time to handing over a deposit. Most properties are put up on a Friday with visnings held over the weekend and Monday. The bidding starts on Tuesday and the final agreement should be done by the following Friday. Of course that’s the quickest type of sale. The perfect property can take days, weeks and months to find. But it’s usually the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy in your life; it’s worth getting right.

Post by Farrah Gillani

Original image by bomb_tea

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Where do you not want to live? With the scary tattooed man? In the apartment full of dead flies? With the man with a meat fascination?

If you’ve had to search for an apartment in Sweden, you know it’s hard work. Expect to have to join waiting lists. Spend days or weeks sitting in front of the computer refreshing Blocket’s apartment listing page. Spamming every friend and friend of a friend you know to ask them if they have any apartment leads. We get it, we’ve been though that. Read on to find out about Clare Morrison-Porter’s, our newest bloggers, experience meeting with frightening potential landlords/roommates.

As I sit in my high tech kitchen, with its temperamental hobs that may or may not be more intelligent than I am, overlooking a busy intersection in the area of Luthagen, I almost have to pinch myself. For a town – or rather, a country – where the housing situation for students is one of the most contentious issues out there, and the subject of many a fraught conversation, my flat mates and I seem to have done surprisingly well. We are at the forefront, perhaps, of a non-revolution in shared accommodation. It’s near impossible to find shared housing for many reasons, but the short of it seems to be that it’s not part of Swedish culture and there’s nothing to encourage the tiny private rental sector to grow. So here we are: trendsetters for a trend that doesn’t seem to exist

And finding this, or indeed any apartment, was not without its fair share of trial and tribulation. Our last apartment was dearly loved, but never really ours, as holding a second hand contract offers little security in Sweden. When the decision was made by the all-powerful housing association to offer the next person in the ‘queue system’ the apartment, our impending homelessness was of concern to no one.

In England where I am from, as in many other countries, if you have money in your pocket it is easy to relocate. Yet the currency here is patience – or to put it more literally, queue days. Without it, like us, you face an uncertain future. We had no choice but to face two months (only two months – how lucky, in hindsight!) of rejection and unknowing before finally being successful.

I have a dear friend with a mountain of optimism to thank for the brunt of the flat search (as it’s even more impossible when you’re not fluent in Swedish) but I emerge from the ordeal with some stories.

There was the tattooed and overweight man, whose wife had left him lonely and with two bedrooms, rooms that happened to be either side of his, which he would happily rent out to two young female students. He had a washing machine, he assured us, but we would have to hang our wet clothes out to dry around his house. Conjuring images of underwear on the staircase, it still makes me cringe to remember.

Then there was old man who called to tell us he had an apartment to rent out, but who actually had a small spare room in his fly-infested, smelly apartment that he would let us share – for only 6000SEK a month. A kind man in a system that has gone crazy is the nicest way I can describe it.

Perhaps worst of all was the man who was showing out his centrally located apartment to a conveyer belt of groups of young women, a man who just happened to work for a local meat company and whose walls were adorned with meat advertisements. As two vegetarians we were pretty horrified, but the feeling was not enough to stop us pleading for the apartment, to no avail. He never even called back.

It was a period I gladly closed the door on. Since then it’s been five months with no more instability than wondering which flat mate will be buying toilet paper next. But the summer and the end of our contract loom near, and here it seems apt to say that all good things must come to an end. But am I – or indeed anyone – ready to dive back into the unknown?

By Clare Morrison-Porter

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

Image by TureyChik via Flickr Creative Commons

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Stockholm is a mosaic of unique areas and districts. Here’s a description of the neighborhoods and boroughs on the 14 islands that make up our cosmopolitan city, along with a few funny insights from blogger Sebastian Lindholm of Stockholms Universitets Studentkår.

Sweden_Relocation

Stockholm Neighborhoods in Brief:

Stockholm is divided into many distinctive neighborhoods and quarters each with their own unique character. Not surprising, considering it’s a city spread across 14 major islands in an archipelago. The island topography of Stockholm is rich with historical architecture, out-door cafés, bohemian boutiques, gourmet markets, posh shopping boulevards, and thriving commercial districts. All of which is set against the backdrop of glittering blue water and gliding sailboats. The following is a list of the various neighborhoods that make up Stockholm.

Gamla Stan:

Gamla Stan (the Old Town), is the original Stockholm dating back to the 13th century. Here, ornate 17th-century preserved houses line narrow cobbled streets that splinter off into alley ways heading in all directions. This area is pact with pubs, restaurants, kitschy souvenir shops, and spectacular harbor views making this small section the most popular destination for tourists.It’s also conveniently located between, bustling Norrmalm to the north and hip Södermalm to the south bridging the two distinct areas. The bulk of Gamla Stan is on the island Stadsholmen, Riddarholmen, the tiny island just to the west, is usually considered part of Gamla Stan. Don’t get your hopes up of getting a first hand rental contract here, the average wait list time for that golden rental contract is 21 years!

Norrmalm:

Norrmalm is an active and hectic district characterized by Stockholm’s buzzing Central Station, the shopping crowds in Drottninggatan, and an abundance of cultural facilities such as: Kulturhuset, the Royal Opera, St. Jacobs Church, Sweden House, and several ample parks.

The neighborhood’s more modern area is packed with a variety of retail shops, Stockholm’s largest department stores and the national Parliament. Despite the unavoidable tourist traffic, the vast majority of the crowds in Norrmalm are residents. This area is the beating heart of modern Stockholm. Average wait list time for 1st hand rental contract in Norrmalm is around 8 years.

Södermalm:

Without a doubt Södermalm is a favorite borough among many locals. The island forms the southern part of the main city and is the definition of urban Stockholm. A hipster revolution has turned this once working-class neighborhood, into a hot-spot for artists, musicians, hip designers, bohemian cafés, edgy shops, and funky restaurants.

This area is home to some of the most diverse and sought after addresses in all of Stockholm, from the Art Nouveau apartments on Mariatorget to centuries-old cottages stacked on the cliffs above the sea on Mälarstrand and Fjällgatan.

Accommodation in this district tends to be more affordable than in other parts of the city center. Away from the major sights and museums Södermalm is most enjoyed by locals. Further south in Söder, things become much more residential with wide streets, tall apartment buildings, and less glamorous stores. Average wait list time for 1st hand rental contract in Södermalm: Around 14 years.

Who lives there, Sebastian Lindholm wrote in his blog:

“On Södermalm you most likely work at an advertising agency and listen to indie music. If you are a female it is very probable that your role model is Robyn. Your political vote always ends up on the left side even though it would benefit you economically to vote more conservative. You were able to buy your apartment since your middle class parents put in the money for it. Since you, on the contrary to them, are a bit of a rebel you decided to move to Södermalm and you only come home once every year for Christmas. Regardless if you are male or female you dress a lot like Waldo and rarely put on a suit. You also find it important to wear glasses at all times – if your vision is perfectly clear you wear them anyway. Other important characteristics is that you feel strongly for the environment, your favorite time of the year is the fall, you hate the Royal family, and you don’t tell your friends that you go to the gym even if you do so. You are also most likely a vegetarian…”

Kungsholmen:

Kungsholmen is an expanding residential area, situated between Södermalm and Östermalm. This is a calm area of the city center with plenty of cafés, restaurants and locals.

This is a heavily industrialized neighborhood that is currently undergoing urban development in hopes of creating better access to its sprawling parks and waterfront trails. This project will make it possible to walk all the way around Kungsholmen. Average wait list time for 1st hand rental contract in Kungsholmen: Around 5 years.

Who lives there, Sebastian Lindholm wrote in his blog:

“Regarding Kungsholmen I can’t really tell anything because if you don’t live there you don’t and won’t go there. If by now you don’t know what irony and satire is, I won’t be able to help you.”

Djurgården:

This island is ideal for walks and picnics, and for families and tourists to visit Skansen or Gröna Lund. Djurgården (Animal Park) is a forested island that is the summer recreation area of Stockholm. Here the open-air folk museums of Skansen, the Vasa man-of-war ship, the amusement park Gröna Lund, and the Nordic Museum.

Vasastaden:

Vasastaden (The Stone City) is marked by the massive stone buildings that line its city blocks and is made up of a fashionable bourgeois residential area located close to cafés, shops and IT and media offices.

There is also no lack of greenery with Vasaparken, Observatorielunden, Vanadislunden, and Tegnerlunden park square, making this area perfect for a summer stroll. Average wait list time for 1st hand rental contract in Vasastaden: Around 8 years

Who lives there, Sebastian Lindholm wrote in his blog:

“Vasastan is the place to live if you are not indie enough for Södermalm or posh enough for Östermalm but still have enough money to buy an apartment within the city limits. Vasatan is the Switzerland of Stockholm – it’s very neutral. If you are in search of having a good time you are at the wrong place. You can’t really visit any clubs, restaurants, or bars here because there are none. Vasastan only exists of apartments and service shops where you can get help tailoring your pants or fix your flat bicycle tire.

Östermalm:

This is the most elegant and most exclusive part of town with some of the city’s most impressive buildings, high-end specialty shops and stately apartment blocks with flats that are sold for absurd amounts of money

Like Vasastaden, Östermalm centers on its parks; particularly the magnificent Humlegården, which encircles the Royal Library. The lovely Karlavägen boulevard and Karlaplan circle are the heart of Östermalm. Average wait list time for 1st hand rental contract in Östermalm: Around 17 years.

Who lives there, Sebastian Lindholm wrote in his blog:

“On Östermalm we find the nemesis of the Södermalmare [name for a person living in Södermalm]. An Östermalmare comes from a wealthy family and most likely studied economics or law in school. If you were lucky you got your degree at Handelshögskolan, if you were not you got it at Stockholm University, but that’s something you keep quiet about. You dress a lot like Patrick Bateman or Ebba von Sydow even though you have no idea on which one is a made-up-character and who is not. You always spend your Saturday night around Stureplan with a glass of champagne in your hand; if you are a woman you don’t need to pay for your drinks, they come for free. The highest dream of a young Östermalmare is to date Princess Madeleine, and if you have the right surname you might get your chance. The females have at least once in their lives administrated a blog about fashion and hooked up with Bing”

Suburbs:

South of the City Centre, a large number of high-density suburbs spread out along the metro system and the three main highways leading towards Värmdö, Nynäshamn and Södertälje. Closest to the City Centre is Gröndal, Midsommarkransen and Hammarby, an ultra-modern large residential district built in an old harbor.

Northwest Stockholm consists of both expensive districts such as Bromma and of high-rise suburbs such as Rinkeby, Tensta and Akalla. Some other major districts close to the City Centre are Solna, Sundbyberg and Kista, the area home to the Swedish telecom and ICT industry.

Northeast Stockholm consists mainly of calm and affluent suburbs along the highways towards Norrtälje and Uppsala. Here one can find Djursholm, the home of Swedish billionares, and neighborhoods such as Sollentuna, Täby, Åkersberga and Österåker.

East of Stockholm the vast archipelago stretches out in all directions. Located in the middle of the archipelago is the large island Värmdö that can be reached by highway, and thousands of surrounding islands, of which several are permanently inhabited. Many of these islands can be reached by passenger ferries departing from Nybroplan or the Grand Hotel in the city centre, or from seaside towns out east such as Vaxholm, Stavsnäs and Dalarö. The archipelago is a very popular place to have a weekend/vacation house, so the population multiplies each summer.

 

To read more on Stockholm, head to Sebastian Lindholm’s Blog: http://www.sus.su.se/en/blog/user/243

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Image by VS Mooth

Image by VS MoothHas the Stockholm rental market left you confused and frustrated? You’re certainly not alone. It took several conversations before I could even wrap my head around it.  These discussions were peppered with words like “ förstahandskontrakt”,  “ andrahandskontrakt”, “black market”,  “selling leases” and “queue systems”.  If all this sounds too complicated, that’s because it is. What’s worse is that the housing challenges we face in 2011, have plagued the city and surrounding suburbs for over a century. One would assume the Swedes have had enough time to sort it out, but unfortunately there is no past evidence that demonstrates a housing surplus in Stockholm since 1902.

Stockholm is home to more than 2 million residents with only 924,000 housing units available. The Swedish queuing system has created a flourishing black market for desperate tenants willing to dish out huge sums to avoid multi-year-long waiting lists for a rental contract.

This isn’t a history lesson, but I would be remiss if I didn’t attempt to give an overview of the rental history in Stockholm. The Stockholm region has had an acute shortage of housing that began in 1904 with approximately 50,000 housing units available for 320,000 people.  It was at this time that Stockholm started putting housing policies into operation; however it was about thirteen years later, in 1917, that the State accepted responsibility for erecting decent homes for its citizens in a period of chronic housing shortage.  In the 1960s, the government started the official apartment queue that is currently in use.

To read in English how the official queuing process works from the  Stockholms stads bostadsförmedling click here. You can also visit bostad.stockholm.se or bokabostad.stockholm.se to learn more or sign-up.

Today, Stockholm is home to more than 2 million residents with only 924,000 housing units available. The Swedish queuing system has created a flourishing black market for desperate tenants willing to dish out huge sums to avoid multi-year-long waiting lists for a rental contract.  These large sums are often paid under the table costing up to 20,000 Euro to secure a contract and surpass the regulated queuing system.  Sounds like bribery to me.

Like me, most people simply don’t have the extra money lying around and are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of paying under the table for a first-hand contract. If this is the case for you, the second-hand market may be a more realistic option.  There are many pitfalls and scams in this market. I will describe some of the more outrageous requests my husband and I faced during our rental search, and offer some tips.  Surprisingly, there are vultures in both markets, but if you use good old-fashion common sense and your gut feeling, you should be able to avoid them.

Pitfall #1: “Too Good to be True”

The advertisement shows the perfect place in the perfect neighborhood with perfect rent.  The pictures look amazing and you’re thrilled.  The person renting it out is supposedly living abroad and needs to rent out their place, located in Gamla Stan or somewhere central. You email the person and request to see the apartment.  They give an excuse that they are not in the country and the keys are with them.  Then they try to build up trust and eventually request for you to send a down payment transfer (to show your commitment) and afterward they will mail you the keys.  At this point alarms should be ringing in your head.

Unfortunately many foreigners get caught in this scam because they fear arriving in Stockholm without a place to live and spending a chunk of their savings on hotel bills.  They are so anxious to get an apartment, that despite their apprehension they trust the good natured Swede will live up to their end of the bargain.

Pitfall #2: “Heavy Competition”

You find a place you’re interested in, the price is in your budget and you call to arrange a viewing.  You arrive just as another couple is leaving, having just viewed the same apartment. After seeing the apartment yourself, you leave just as the next couple is arriving to check it out. You thought the place was fine, not spectacular, but now you’re getting nervous about how many people are looking at the same apartment and you need to find a place fast! You express your interest in the place before leaving, but the owners tell you they want to talk it over in private to ensure they pick the right renter to live in their space. Shortly after that, the owner calls to inform you that they have had a lot of interested couples come through but you would be their first choice.

That is, if you’re willing to pay 1. 000 or 2. 000 SEK more than the original asking price. This actually happened to us in Sundbyberg and I was so annoyed. I could understand if the place was in Stureplan or Östermalm, but this place was almost at the end of the blue line. We refused the offer and started a new search.

Pitfall #3: “The Mark Up”

Many people who sublet their apartment often charge more than what it costs for first-hand rental. You can count on a 10-15% markup for a furnished apartment. In extreme cases the renter can hike up the rent two to three times the original price. This is of course illegal, but it has become so commonplace in this market that no one ever reports it or sues.  It is also not unheard of for residents to hop from short-term sublet to sublet. This can mean moving several times in one year.

If you encounter a first-hand owner who only writes 10-15% more on the rental contract to satisfy the rent board and then demands that you pay an extra 100-200% markup in cash ‘off the books’, step away from that deal.  I always like to have a record of any cash transaction and bank transfers are always the safest.

Tip 1: Use a reputable online service to search for rentals.

Avoid places like Craig’s List and other small online classifieds (they often have the ‘too good to be true’ rental offers). This is especially important if you are looking for a place before you land in Sweden. If this is the case, I highly recommend you have a friend or co-worker on the ground to view the actual apartment.

My favorite second-hand rental sites are Bostaddirekt.se and Bopunkten.se they provide English versions of their sites; however, the actual advertisement will most likely be written in Swedish.  In any case, you should always be able to call the owners to weed out any unscrupulous people and arrange a time to view the apartment as soon as possible.

Tip 2: When an advertisement pops up that fits all of your needs, contact them immediately.

Places on the market go very quickly and if you snooze, you will definitely lose.  When you contact them make sure you set an appointment for the same day or the very next morning.  My husband and I set-up a viewing for the next day (due to laziness) and regretfully we got a call before the viewing informing us that apartment was no longer on the market and was scooped up by another individual.

Tip 3: If you plan to stay in Stockholm indefinitely, you should sign up in one of the First Kontrakt sites.

If you get lucky and actually get a place in 2 or 3 years in a desirable location, you will officially become part of the renting system.

Tip 4: Purchase a property.

There have been warnings of a housing bubble (which quickly get re-tracted by some official in the news).  Actually, I think it is wise to purchase.  We finally went with this option and it feels so much more secure than moving from one sublet to another. Of course, there are a whole host of other issues when purchasing a property in Sweden, but thats another topic altogether.

Story by Shirley Å Johansson

shirleyjohansson.eu

This feature on the rental market will be followed with a how-to guide and more information later in the week.

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