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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No.. Camping is not an option

To say that housing in Sweden is a cause for headache would very much be an understatement. Those of you living in Sweden..
There is nothing more practical and relaxing than living in a Swedish city, that is once you settle in. Moving to a Swedish city on the other hand is an entirely different headache.

When I first moved to Göteborg, I dealt with all the usual stress that comes with moving to a country where you don't speak the language and don't really know anyone, a large portion of which was related to a very important question: "Where am I going to live ?"

Recently, I've taken the decision to move again, and this time to Stockholm. While I wasn't looking, that same question slowly took over the bulk of my free time and has become the topic of almost every conversation I've had with my friends in the last month.. And when something of supposedly little consequence takes over your life in such an unprecedented and ruthless fashion, you just have to give in and blog about it.

Housing in Sweden is a bit of a cause for headache. Now there's an understatement for you.

In Sweden, queuing is an essential part of life. For every service you need you take a number and wait for your turn. House rental in Sweden is no different, only the queues are quite longer. For instance, in Göteborg it takes the average person around five years to reach a position in the queue where they can seriously hope to get a first-hand contract on a decent apartment. It's perfect if you move there before you enroll in university, since by the time you're done with your studies and are no longer eligible for the student apartments you can start hoping to get an apartment of your own, but it's a bit less practical if you're moving here for work. I'm told the average waiting time in Stockholm is more or less ten years.

So where do people live in the meantime ?

One of those things: They either get a second-hand contract (sublet) or they buy an apartment. If commitment is not an issue and you make a fairly decent amount of money, by all means go for option 2 (although I'm told that's a whole new can of worms you'd be opening). Otherwise, you can always opt in for option 1, but keep a moving van close by, because second-hand apartments that are leased for longer than a year are quite rare, that is assuming you can get one.

So here's where the fun starts, because really, we're only getting started:

- Be quick or be dead: In a city like Stockholm, demand for apartments is rather insane. Just so you get an idea of how brutal the competition is, unless you call within the first ten to twenty minutes following the posting of an ad for an apartment on an online personal ads site, you don't stand a chance at even getting considered as a candidate. And even then, nothing is certain, although I've seen people commit to an apartment they haven't even visited within ten minutes of the ad being posted. It's crazy I tell you.

- "Make an offer, and make it count": Although in Sweden a home owner is not allowed to make more than 10% profit on leasing his apartment, I'm told it is quite common to make an "under the table" offer to the person leasing the apartment, effectively turning your apartment search into a high stakes bidding war with a hint of breaking the law.. and that's in Sweden !

- Don't ever trust the English: Apartment ad postings are notorious for being riddled with scams. An advertiser could mail you back about an apartment you applied to telling you he lives outside of Sweden (usually in the UK), and somehow makes a case for you to make a deposit to reserve the apartment (most of the time they sound terribly honest). He might even schedule you for a visit to the apartment, to make it all the more believable. Only there is no apartment, and you just got scammed. In a market full of personal ads where almost nobody writes you back no matter how early you applied, it's really not all that shocking to see the success rate of such scams.

So cross your fingers for me, and hopefully I'll have an apartment in Stockholm soon and I'll be able to have regular conversations with my friends again (probably about how horrible/awesome my new place is), which inevitably will lead to more inspired posts.

Recommended media: 51 things to hate about Stockholm (in Swedish) - Sent to me by my dear Göteborg friends to make me feel better about moving.. Do you feel the love ? :)


October 5, 2011 at 11:31 AM Hany

Same problem everywhere.
You should've seen Uppsala last year! Not that better this year either.
But one thing's for sure, is that the Swedes can't queue even if their lives depended on it.
Good luck!

October 5, 2011 at 3:59 PM Life with Subtitles

Hany at some point I came across an apartment that is closer to Uppsala than Stockholm, listed under "apartments in Stockholm" on Blocket.. maybe that's why it's hard to find apartments in Uppsala now, it's filled with Stockholm commuters :P

October 10, 2011 at 8:33 PM ritakml

I think that camping should be an option :D

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