Photo: Cecilia Larsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Finding a home

Here are the basics of the Swedish housing market and finding a home – whether you want to rent a flat or buy a house.

The housing market

One of the first things to consider before moving to Sweden is finding a place to live. The process of finding a flat or house will vary. In larger cities, the housing market can be quite competitive, making it relatively difficult to find housing. In other areas, it can be much easier. Wherever you plan to move, leave plenty of extra time for your housing search.

Typical Swedish housing

Swedish homes maintain a high standard. Flats and houses are well-insulated and equipped with well-functioning and modern kitchen and bathroom appliances.

In larger cities like Stockholm (in particular), Gothenburg and Malmö, flats are more expensive and the housing market is competitive. It is generally easier to find a spacious and central flat or house for a lower price in smaller cities, towns or the countryside.

Renting a home

Renting a flat is a good option for those who are not yet ready to buy a home. Flats are rented through either first-hand contracts (förstahandskontrakt) or sublets (andrahandskontrakt).

A first-hand contract is signed between the tenant and the owner of the building. These contracts can be either permanent or for a set period of time. The most common way to get a first-hand contract is to register for your local municipal housing queue (bostadskö). In larger cities, it can be difficult to find a first-hand flat, as queuing can take several years (Stockholm has one of the highest queuing times for rentals in the world). In smaller towns, you can often register with the local municipality and get a flat right away; however, you will need your Swedish personal identity number and landlords will often ask for proof of income or employment before signing the contract.

Contact your municipality to find out how to sign up for your local housing queue.

A subletting contract is signed between the tenant and the person who either owns or holds a first-hand contract for the individual flat. Though subletting is common in Sweden, especially in big cities, it is important to make sure your landlord is trustworthy – especially if handing over a deposit – and to receive a signed formal contract. The contract is also handy if you find out that you’ve been paying more rent than the landlord can legally charge; in which case you can contact the regional rent tribunal to apply for compensation from the landlord.

There are a number of ways to find available sublets. One of the most common accommodation sites is blocket.se; others include bostaddirekt.se, hyralya.seandrahand.seEasy RentalHyrabostad.se and Business Apartments (Företagsbostäder). Most of these sites are in Swedish, as are the ads, so familiarise yourself with some basic Swedish housing vocabulary:

Lägenhet/hyresrätt: flat/rental flat
Hyra lägenhet: let a flat
Uthyres (i andra hand): to let (sublet)
(Number) rum och kök: The number of rooms the flat contains aside from the kitchen and WC. E.g. 2 rum och kök is a 2-room flat (1 bedroom) with a kitchen.

The amount of interested tenants sometimes exceed the amount of available flats by far, especially in the larger cities, so make sure to craft an informative cover letter or to be ready to make a phone call and present yourself properly.

If you need temporary accommodation while looking for something more permanent, the following websites may be useful: HomeAwayAirbnb and Wimdu.

Also, beware of accommodation scams – they do occur occasionally. Please check out How to avoid frauds – the ultimate guide.

Your rights as a tenant

As a tenant in Sweden you have comprehensive rights regarding everything from your monthly rent to maintenance in your building. The Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen) is a membership organisation that can assist you if you have any questions regarding your rights as a tenant.

The Swedish Union of Tenants

Tony Töreklint/imagebank.sweden.se

Buying a home

A flat that you buy in Sweden is called a bostadsrätt, which literally means that you purchase the right to live in the flat, similar to the concept of a leasehold in some other countries. You actually buy a share in the building, which includes access and joint decision rights concerning the building’s courtyards and common facilities. It also means that you must ask your building’s housing board (in which you may choose to take part) for permission if you want to sublet your flat to others.

In addition to the price paid for the apartment itself, you will also pay a monthly fee (månadsavgift) that covers building maintenance, renovation and other costs. Still, this is normally way lower than the monthly rent for renting a flat – though newly produced apartment buildings tend to have high monthly fees.

If you purchase a house in Sweden, you will have full ownership of the house and its property.

As in many other countries, real estate agents (mäklare) in Sweden assist individuals in locating and purchasing houses or flats. There are real estate agents that specialise in specific areas, cities or types of housing.

The websites hemnet.se and booli.se are a good starting point for finding a home. There you can browse homes for sale throughout the country and get an idea of the offerings and prices in different areas. Swedes are very keen on their home, as well as interior design, and tend to browse hemnet.se just for fun.

Welcome services

Many of Sweden’s regions and municipalities offer welcome services for new immigrants, called invandrarservice. Staff at these centres can often help you with finding a flat. To find out if your municipality offers this type of service, either contact them directly or do a web search for invandrarservice + your town.