No Dark Magic

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How to Find an Apartment in Sweden

Posted at — Mar 27, 2020

Everything depends on the context. Before I moved to Sweden, “finding an apartment is difficult” meant that to combine having a dishwasher, nice furniture, a boiler, an AC, my favorite internet provider, a reasonable price and a location within 10 minutes from my office is taking me more than a week and requires talking to people.

After I moved to Sweden, “finding an apartment is difficult” became “if you get anything in this town and not the one 60km from here, you don’t ask for pictures, you don’t ask anything, you run and take it”.

…​and praise the gods if it took less than a year.

Rent control means that when you actually get a förstahandskontrakt (meaning renting directly from the landlord company), the price will be pretty bearable. And you get all the service: anything broken or needs replacement — just make a call or send a message.

The problem is that to get this ‘first-hand contract’ in any of the bigger and/or student cities (including, for instance, Linköping, population 163000) you need to either stand in a queue for years or get creative. Therefore, it is quite customary to only have the most basic information about the apartment when you express interest.

The queue route

Be born a Swede, get a personnummer, sign up for the queues in all major Swedish cities when you turn 18.[1] Some of those won’t be free (e.g. to queue in Malmö costs 300:- a year), but who knows where your studies or your work will take you? In a few years you’ll be able to rent.

There were people who got a 2-room apartment in Stockholm in 2019. Here’s how much time (in years) they spent to do so (courtesy of Statistiktjänsten of Stockholm’s Bostadsförmedlingen):

Queuing times in Stockholm

The network route

If you have an employer or any kind of network, ask around if anyone knows a landlord or somebody working for one. It happens that when you contact a landlord directly, they have absolutely nothing available, but when their old friend or business partner calls and speaks in Swedish without accent, an apartment materializes in a month or two.

The small/private landlord route

Hunt the smaller landlords. They do exist. Sometimes they own just a couple of buildings and maintaining any sort of a queue is overhead for them. Contact them directly and ask if they have anything. If you have a permanent job and pay your bills on time, they might be happy to have you.

To find out where they are, go to the municipality’s website and look for something like “Bygga och bo”, “Hyresvärdar” or “Hitta bostad”. There will be a list of names, addressed and phone numbers. If you have a particular area in mind or if the internet doesn’t seem to have up-to-date data, just go and look at the buildings — they usually have the name of the caretaker somewhere.

The second-hand route

If none of this works, an alternative to förstahandskontrakt is andrahandskontrakt — renting from someone who got lucky to get a förstahandskontrakt or who has their own apartment. These contracts are more expensive and always temporary: for example, to be able to rent out an apartment one owns, they have to have a reason like a one-year job contract in another municipality. On the bright side, andrahandskontrakt apartments are usually furnished.

Websites of note

  • Blocket → Lägenheter → Uthyres and Blocket → Lägenheter → Önskar hyra: look for apartments and/or write that you’re looking to rent

  • Qasa: mostly andrahandskontrakt, the service is free for the tenants

  • Kvalster: looks old-school but aggregates apartment ads from different sources very well

  • Willhem: they own 25k+ apartments

  • HomeQ: usually only few expensive options, but the service itself is free and the contracts are i förstahand

  • Facebook: search for bostad/lägenhet uthyres + the town name.

What the landlords look for

  • permanent employment

  • no history of missed payments and debts (no betalningsanmärkningar)

  • no pets

  • no smoking

  • no trouble

1. being born a Swede is optional, but having a personnummer is not; also, a foreign student can register in a queue with just an email in some cases

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