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Securing accommodation in Sweden can be one of the most difficult, and priciest, parts of an expat’s relocation to this Scandinavian country. It is important that newcomers give themselves enough time to look for accommodation, especially if moving to a larger city such as Stockholm, which has a severe housing shortage.
That said, the standard of housing in Sweden is exceptionally high. Many rentals come with high-quality appliances in the kitchen, central heating and access to high-speed internet.
Most expats who move to Sweden rent accommodation for the duration of their stay. The rental market in Sweden is regulated and expats will find that the prices are competitive compared to the rest of Europe. This depends, of course, on which part of the country a person moves to – the prices in a large city will be much higher than those in rural or suburban areas. In fact, Stockholm has one of the most expensive housing markets in Europe.
And while most expats do settle in Stockholm, cities such as Malmö, Jönköping and Gothenburg also have expat populations.
Types of accommodation in Sweden
Apartments are the most common form of expat housing in Sweden, especially for those living in Stockholm. Most apartments are unfurnished, but basics such as bathroom and kitchen fittings are provided.
Expats will find houses for rent in small towns, rural areas and in some suburbs outside of cities. The best way to find a house to rent is through a Swedish estate agent or a relocation company. Expats can also use the internet and get in touch with other expats in the area who may be able to assist them. Word of mouth and networking are often the best route in this regard.
Finding accommodation in Sweden
Local newspapers, estate agencies and personal contacts are all good ways of finding accommodation in Sweden. Unless an expat’s employer arranges housing for them, the best option would be to stay in a hotel or serviced apartment when first arriving in Sweden and then start looking for more permanent accommodation once in the country.
Expats should look online for private housing agencies. This is also a good way to find housing in Sweden. The ideal way to find accommodation would be to find another expat at the end of their lease and to contact their landlord directly.
Renting accommodation in Sweden
Private and government rentals
In Sweden, few properties are rented directly by landlords to the tenants. Only certain properties are allowed to be rented directly and the rest are rented through the Bostadsförmedlingen, the government organisation that redistributes vacant housing.
Expats will have to pay the Bostadsförmedlingen a fee to place them in accommodation and the waiting list is usually rather long. Because of this, many expats use private housing companies to find accommodation in Sweden.
These housing companies can find “second-hand” rentals that are not directly leased by the owner to a tenant. These are much easier to find than direct rentals, and expats won’t need a Swedish identity number to qualify. The expat tenant will then sign a lease with the holder of the first-hand rental contract.
Leases and deposits
Usually, expats will have to pay one month’s rent as a deposit on the property. It is also expected that a tenant gives three months’ notice before moving out. Expats should ensure that they have read their lease agreement carefully before signing anything.
Heating and water are usually included in the cost of rent in Sweden, while gas and electric bills are typically for the tenant's expense.
Buying property in Sweden
There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Sweden. As with rentals, prices in large cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg are much higher than in outlying areas.
Expats should look in local newspapers, online, and contact estate agencies for listings. Estate agents usually charge from three to five percent of the sale price for their service. Expats will also have to pay a 20 percent deposit to the seller to secure the property once their offer has been accepted.
It is wise to hire a solicitor to deal with the legal side of the sale. Solicitors generally charge between one and four percent of the purchase price of the property. All in all, the process of buying property in Sweden is uncomplicated, and if expats are willing to spend a little extra on estate agents and a solicitor, it should go very smoothly.
Once an expat has purchased a property they need to apply for the deeds of title within three months. It is helpful to hire a lawyer during this process.
"Sweden, and it seems most of Scandinavia, have a unique method of getting a rental contract. You do not go through the traditional methods of finding a leasing agent to help you with your search. First, you can find something through qasa.se or blocket.se for a short-term lease, and then when you get your personnummer (personal identity number), you can join the housing queue. Then, as long as you are on the queue accruing days, you can ‘book’ an apartment. Those with the most days then get to view and rent the apartment. Although, depending on where you are, it can be years before you find something steady." Read more from expat Crista.
"The standard of accommodation is excellent. I would recommend expats make use of sites such as Blocket, which is a sort of Swedish Craigslist. Facebook groups are also useful, but word of mouth probably works best. So, those expats with friends or acquaintances in the city should definitely make use of them to get the word out that they’re house hunting." Read more about Steve's expat experience in Sweden.
Are you an expat living in Sweden?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Sweden. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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