Iceland at a Glance
Accommodation in IcelandiStockphoto
It is best to find a place to live before starting your life in Iceland.
For expats it is always best to find a place to live before they start their life in Iceland. You can do so during a fact-finding trip or preliminary visit. However, not every expat has the time and money to travel to Iceland solely for the purpose of undertaking an apartment search. Instead, a guesthouse may be a convenient short term solution.
The Apartment Search
Most Icelanders prefer buying a house or apartment as opposed to renting one. In fact, 75-85% of the housing stock is privately owned. The rental market is thus rather small which makes the apartment search even more difficult. Also keep in mind that rents are considerably higher in Reykjavik than in smaller towns or villages.
This is why you should try to go about the apartment search in different ways. First of all, you can take out an ad in local newspapers and on bulletin boards around town. It is also always a good idea to activate your expat network or to speak to friends and co-workers in Iceland. Somebody may know of an apartment which hasn’t been advertised yet. If you don’t find your apartment through word-of-mouth, try to conduct an old-fashioned internet search.
There are some websites which offer up-to-date housing ads. Visir and mbl.is, for instance, are the websites of two Icelandic newspapers with an extensive classifieds section. Although both websites are in Icelandic, you can look for housing by searching for “Húsnæði í boði” on each website. The same applies to online rental agencies, such as Leiga.is or Rentus. While both agencies offer lots of housing for rent, their websites are in Icelandic.
If you have not picked up on the basics of the Icelandic language yet, you may use a rental agency like Leigulistinn. You have to pay a monthly fee and, in exchange, you will receive a list with apartments and houses which are currently for rent. Make sure to check with them regularly to figure out if new rentals have become available.
If you plan on living and working in Iceland for more than six months, you need to prove that you have a legal domicile in Iceland. Your legal domicile or fixed residence is the place where you spend most of your free time, where you sleep, and where you keep your belongings. It must have a definite address and cannot be a guesthouse or hotel, for instance. In order to register your house or apartment as legal domicile, you have to have a personal ID number and, if you are not an EU/EEA-national, a residence permit. Contact Register Iceland for more information.
But before you register your legal domicile, you need to register as a resident of Iceland. This is required of anybody who plans on living and working in Iceland for more than three months. Make sure to register within seven days of your arrival at the office of your municipal authorities or Registers Iceland in Reykjavik. Unlike it is the case when registering your legal domicile, your residence may also be a guesthouse or hotel. You may submit your registration form via mail, fax, email, or in person.
Rent Subsidies and Cost of Living
The cost of living in Iceland is exceptionally high. A small apartment in Reykjavik may cost you at least 110,000 ISK in monthly rent. Although rents are not exactly low, items like food, clothing, and luxury goods like alcohol are particularly expensive. Even if you managed to negotiate a generous salary with your future employer, you may find yourself in need of support at some point.
If you have signed a lease for at least six months and are at least 18 years of age, you may apply for rent subsidies and receive financial compensation. Each application is valid for one year and must be renewed then. However, you can only receive compensation for residential housing. Visit the Social Services Office (þjónustumiðstöð) in your municipality for more information.