21 Jun 2024
Looking for a Flat in Stockholm: What to Expect
Essentials Housing

Looking for a Flat in Stockholm: What to Expect

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!

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

Featured Image: Olof Senestam/flickr (file)

9 Comments

  • Cassandra 4 Jun 2013

    The main list says that the current wait for “decent” places is about 6 years. You can find some small apartments in dangerous neighborhoods sooner. I’m fairly certain the main list requires a civic number before you can even apply. However it is important to note that there are many lists in Stockholm state for first hand apartments.

  • celio celli 24 Dec 2013

    First of all I would like to send a cordial salute. My name is Celio Celli.

    I will move to Stockholm on March of next year and need to rent an apartment very near, within walking distance from Stockholm University since I will start studying there.

    The University provided me some web pages to search apartments but to be honest it is been very hard to find one.

    I am very worried because the day is getting closer and I really need to find somewhere to live.

    Please give me an anwser as soon as possible.

    Thank You,

    Kind Regards.

  • Paras 29 Mar 2014

    Can someone please suggest what are dangerous areas in Stockholm. Where one should not take a rental.
    Also Close to Arlanda Airport what would be good areas to live in?

    Max rent 12000/- SEK Per Month

  • Solveig Rundquist 31 Mar 2014

    Hi Paras,

    What counts as “dangerous” is quite subjective – many places in Stockholm have bad reputations due to one or two past events or simply due to a higher concentration of immigrants, which doesn’t necessarily impact the town’s safety in general. There are certain places considered better or worse if you have children. But really the best thing to do is go to these areas and see what YOU think about how it feels.

    However, if you would like to be near Arlanda, take a look at Märsta and Sigtuna. They are both up that direction and are considered quite calm and safe.

    Good luck! 🙂

  • Marai 14 Jun 2014

    Hey there,

    at first, thanks for the informative article. We will be moving to Stockholm at the end of this year. Since you were speaking of “good neighbourhood”, i was wondering if you may be able to give me some advice were to look for a place if you have a small child. We like the nature, it does not have to be in the center but it would be nice if shopping would not grow into a day trip 😉
    Because current living situation (far away) and our small child we won´t probably have the chance to visit stockholm again before we move there, which seems to make things enormously difficult.
    Thanks in advance!

  • hisham Al Hindawi 14 Apr 2015

    Hey hey I’m looking for a flat at stockhulm and I’m new at Sweden this is my contact number 0739257884

  • Francesco De Maria 10 Jan 2016

    Hi, I’m been expact in 5 years. When arrived in Stockholm I used http://www.renthia.com
    Completly free, and in few days they found me a new home for me and my family. They also help me with all documents.
    I strongly raccomend!

    Francesco

    • Hanna 1 Mar 2016

      Great post! Finding a place to live in Stockholm is hard. Finding an affordable place in Stockholm is even harder. You should try sites like http://www.findroommate.se/ and others to get a chance!

      Best regards,
      Hanna

  • Justin 18 Apr 2016

    Thanks for the good article 🙂
    One website i recommend is http://www.rentalspy.se which sends you an alert whenenver new apartments are posted on blocket and other sites. Makes it easy to be one of the first people to contact a landlord and actually get responses (I found that if you contact landlords in stockholm too late you will not get any response)

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