Living in Iceland?
Accommodation in Iceland
As an expat, it is usually more practical (and less stressful) to find a place to live before making the move abroad, with many deciding to find a place during a shorter preliminary visit to the country. However, not every expat has the time or money to travel to Iceland solely to search for an apartment. Instead, a guesthouse or Airbnb may be a convenient short-term solution until you find your ideal place.
The Apartment Search in Iceland
Most Icelanders prefer buying a place rather than renting, and about 80% of property in Iceland is privately owned. As a result, the rental market is rather small, making the apartment search even more difficult. Rent is also considerably higher in Reykjavik than in smaller towns or villages.
There are different ways to find an apartment. It is not uncommon to post an advertisement in a local newspaper. However, these papers are published in Icelandic, so it could be useful to connect with your expat network or perhaps speak to Icelandic co-workers to see if they can help.
There are also a few websites which offer up-to-date housing listings: Visir and mbl.is are the websites of two Icelandic newspapers with extensive classifieds sections. Although both websites are in Icelandic, you can look for housing by searching for “Húsnæði í boði”. The same applies to online rental agencies, such as Leiga.is, which conveniently offers an English version of its website.
You may also wish to use a rental agency, like Leigulistinn. You pay a monthly fee to receive a list of apartments and houses which are currently for rent. Make sure to check with them regularly to find out if new rentals have become available.
Upon arrival, one of the first things you need to do is register as a resident of Iceland. Anybody who plans on living and working in Iceland for more than three months is required to do this. Make sure to register within seven days of your arrival at the office of your municipal authority, or Registers Iceland in Reykjavik. For the purpose of registering as a resident, your residence may be a guesthouse or hotel. The registration form may be submitted via mail, email, or in person at the office.
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 fixed address and cannot be a guesthouse or hotel. In order to register your house or apartment as your legal domicile, you have to have a personal ID number and, if you are not an EU/EEA-national, a residence permit. Contact Registers Iceland for more information.
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 175,000 ISK (approximately 1,600 USD) a month. Although rents are not exactly low, items like food, clothing, and luxury goods like alcohol are particularly expensive. Even if you manage to negotiate a generous salary with your future employer, there is a chance you may find yourself needing financial 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 then be renewed. However, you can only receive compensation for residential housing. Visit the Social Services Office (þjónustumiðstöð) in your municipality for more information, or read further information about Housing benefits here.
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