Finding an apartment in a new country is always a bit of an adventure until you get the hang of the new system. Finding an apartment in Stockholm is a situation that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most adventurous, even after years in the city.
This is because unlike in every other city in the world I have lived in, as a foreigner it is almost impossible to get a first hand rental. Swedes can wait up to 10 years to get a first hand rental contract in Stockholm, an option not open to foreigners who might only remain in the city for a handful of years. As a result, the second hand rental market is flourishing, as people are not prepared to wait a decade for a reasonably priced apartment in the centre.
Here are a few tips to make this experience a little easier:
1. Someone who knows someone
This is the way I have found all of my apartments in Sweden, generally through someone who went to school with someone 15 years ago who saw a message from someone else on Facebook and forwarded the details to me because I said I was looking.This might sound a bit hard if you are new to the country and don’t know anyone, but you will be suprised how helpful people in Stockholm can be, even if you just met them once at a bar in Thailand 5 years ago – a sense of apartment seeking camaraderie seems to form in Stockholm.
Put a message on facebook telling people you are looking for a place, tell people you meet at parties, ask your HR department at work if they can send an email around to all the staff at your company or if they have someone who can help you look, post up a message on your blog that you are looking. Someone I met even found his place on twitter as someone he followed posted up an ad.
This is a great site to find accommodation on, but keep in mind that to every apartment advertised, they will receive around 200 replies, so you have to make yours stand out. A friend of mind who found her apartment this way said she wrote a friendly email, telling the woman about herself and responding to key points in the message, making it obvious she was not simply copying and pasting the same reply, but had in fact composed a personal email. The woman replied saying she was one of only two who had written a personal reply, and after a viewing she got the apartment.
Go to Bostad – Lägenheter – Uthyres i Stockholm – and then choose the area you want to look in.
Write your replies in Swedish if you can, unless the ad is in English. It will make your chances of a response much higher – if needed, get a friend to help you create a template in Swedish that you can change around fairly easily.
You will need to search every day, multiple times a day, and reply as soon as possible. Apartments tend to go fast, and viewing are often the same day the ad is published.
Another tip with Blocket is to compose your own ‘looking for an apartment’ ad in the Önskar hyra i Stockholm section. Here the key is to write a nice description of yourself, about your work/studies, and remember to include a picture of yourself. Again, write in Swedish if you can, and you can always write a longer message in English after if you like.
This is another site to find apartments on, although this one is a paid service/highway robbery, where you pay 695 SEK per 45 day period to access contact information about various apartments.
The apartments here tend to be quite expensive, particularly in relation to their small size, but this is certainly an option while you look for something else at a better price.
Additionally they offer corporate rentals, and these tend to be a bit better than the public rentals, so have a chat to your company and see if they would be willing to help. Keep in mind prices can be negotiated, I know of a few people who have brought the prices of corporate rentals down but a few thousand crowns a month as the owners would rather rent through a company than straight to the public.
4. Other website and options
If you are a member of couchsurfing they have a section under the Stockholm group for those searching for and offering apartments.
I have even heard of people buying Google adsense advertisements, or placing advertisements in newspapers such as DN in the bostad section.
5. Short term rentals
Companies like Citylivingapt offer expensive apartments for short term rental. This could be an option if you need a place for a couple of weeks while you wait to move into another apartment, or if you are only in Stockholm for a month or two.
6. Advertise yourself in buildings you like
I have seen plenty of people place posters up in the entrance ways to apartment buildings they like saying they are looking for a rental, a bit about themselves and their contact details. Even if the poster gets taken down after a day, it might pay off. You can also do this on the notice boards of supermarkets, and I have seen people also post on street lamps… yes really.
I have also heard of people who call up new building developments in Stockholm saying they are looking to rent any apartment that becomes available there. One particular couple with a baby managed to get a great apartment in Hammarby Sjöstad this way. Why restrict yourself to new developments? Check out companies that build apartment buildings in Stockholm and give them a call – they might be able to put you in touch with whoever manages their old builds.
7. Buy an apartment
After moving a few times in a year, you might be fed up and decide it is time to buy. Given the ridiculous pricing of second hand rentals in Stockholm, I know people who pay less for their loan per month than they did to rent. I’ll post about buying in more detail later, but for now, the best place for you to look is Hemnet – this is where pretty much every apartment for sale in Stockholm is listed.
Things to be aware of
There are of course many scammers around trying to make money. Be aware of people who are unable to show you the apartment in person because they are living overseas for various reasons/have had to pop out of the country on a business trip etc, and want you to transfer money to a bank account as a deposit after which they will send you the keys. Generally these apartments are very attractively priced and in excellent locations.
Now this sounds pretty obvious, but often attached to these emails are scanned ID cards/passports of a Swedish person, contracts, etc, to make it appear legitimate. Suffice to say, if you are not able to meet in person, forget it.
But don’t give up
The main tip is to keep looking, and try not to get too disheartened. Put in enough time and effort and you will find something. Even if you need to stay six months in the outer suburbs, once you have made a few more friends your network will widen and someone will know someone who has a place for rent.
Good luck! (and if you have any more tips and trick, post below and share your knowledge)