Our Guide on Renting or Buying a Home in Sweden
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Finding housing in Sweden is considerably more difficult than in other European countries. Renting a house or apartment in Sweden is so competitive that there is a black market for long-term leases. Foreigners intent on staying in the country long-term may want to buy a house rather than join the rental fray.
As you begin your search for accommodation in Sweden, you will notice the terms first-hand and second-hand rentals. These refer to apartments rented directly through a landlord (first-hand) or sublet through the current tenant (second-hand). First-hand rentals are limited and, in really popular areas, there may be years’ long waiting lists. Second-hand rentals are sometimes the only option, but be aware you may only be allowed to live in the unit for one year. Expats just arriving in Sweden should look into short-term rentals to give themselves plenty of time to find a more permanent place.
A perk to Swedish housing, however, is that you can hardly go wrong with any living situation. Whether you want to move to the city or countryside, there are many different types of houses to choose from such as high-rise apartments or standalone modern homes. It is possible to find furnished or unfurnished homes, depending on how long you plan to stay in the Nordic country.
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Short term rentals
Renting a House or an Apartment
While the process of how to rent a house or apartment in Sweden is not difficult, expats will struggle to find a place. In recent years Sweden has experienced a housing shortage, which has been felt most in Swedish cities by students and foreigners. However, there may be hope on the horizon. In 2019, less than 250 municipalities (out of Sweden’s 290) reported a shortage, compared to more than 270 that reported it in previous years.
Average Rent in Sweden
Swedish rent prices vary based on municipality and whether you live in an urban or rural area. On the whole, rent is high and consumes an average 30% of every resident’s salary. To try to combat the problem of an increasingly expensive market, the Swedish government sets rent caps every year. Since 2000, rental prices have not seen an annual increase above 2%.
Most expats choose to live in one of Sweden’s five main cities: Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg, Uppsala, or Solna. In these cities, unless you are looking for a private room in a home, the minimum house rent in Sweden rarely dips below 10,700 SEK per month (1,200 USD).
How Much is the Rent in Sweden’s Most Expensive Cities?
Stockholm City Center
Housing Type SEK USD One-bedroom apartment 12,300 1,400 Three-bedroom apartment 21,200 2,400
Gothenburg City Center
Housing Type SEK USD One-bedroom apartment 10,000 1,150 Three-bedroom apartment 16,500 1,900
Utility bills payments between these cities are fairly reasonable in comparison with the rent. For basic utilities estimations, see our Living in Sweden section.
Rental Process and Rules in Sweden
Whether you are renting as a foreigner in Sweden, or you are a native Swede, the greatest problem throughout the Scandinavian country is a lack of housing. This is especially prevalent in Swedish cities and largely effects students and expats.
Unless you get really lucky, chances are you will live in a series of second-hand rentals in Sweden before landing a first-hand contract. A first-hand contract refers to direct renting from the landlord of a property. Second-hand renting is where you rent from the tenant who has the first-hand contract (in most other countries, this is called subletting).
Second-Hand Leases in Sweden
Second-hand leases are typically more expensive than first-hand leases. According to recent statistics, second-hand leases can average up to 65% more than a first-hand lease. Sweden has also seen a recent rise in landlords who overcharge second-hand leases simply because they know people are desperate for accommodation.
Second-hand leases will rarely last longer than a year, and in most cases they will only be for a few months. Because of this, many newcomers to Sweden find themselves having to move frequently during their first few years in the country.
Rental Contract and Deposit
To be eligible for a first-hand rental contract, you will need the following:
- a personnummer (Swedish identification number)
- employment contract
- proof of sufficient income
Some landlords may also require a guarantor if they believe your income is too low.
A second-hand contract will have similar requirements and documents for renting. However, one difference is ensuring that the second-hand leasing has been approved by the original landlord. Some landlords do not allow second-hand leasing, or may want to vet the second-hand tenant themselves. If you end up being in violation of this, you may find yourself evicted.
Those with a second-hand lease should also check that they are paying the same amount of rent as the original tenant. It is illegal for a first-hand tenant to make money off of a second-hand lease. The only allowed extra cost is for a furnished versus unfurnished apartment.
Short-Term Rentals in Sweden
As finding a first-or second-hand lease can take some time, expats would be wise to set up a short-term rental in the meantime.
Short-Term Rentals: Average Price
The average monthly price of a short-term rental will not vary much from the standard yearly rent found around Sweden. While a short-term rental will be cheaper than the nightly rate of a hotel stay, expats should be prepared to not catch much of a break with housing costs whether they be long- or short-term.
Short-Term Rentals: What Documents do I Need?
The only required document that is standard with a short-term rental in Sweden is your original passport and a copy. Depending on how long you need your short-term rental, you may also be asked for proof of income and/or an employment contract, but on the whole you should only need your passport.
Short-Term Rentals: Things to Know
Regarding short-term rentals, second-hand leases can also be considered temporary rentals. Most will not last longer than a year, and some may only be available for a few months at a time. If your short-term accommodation is a second-hand lease, you will want to verify that the landlord has approved of the arrangement.
Buying Property as a Foreigner
As one of the most challenging rental markets in Europe, expats may want to look into how to buy a house as a foreigner rather than rent. The country also boasts low interest rates, which could end up saving newcomers money in the long-run, especially when compared to the moving and rental fees they would have to pay going from second-hand lease to second-hand lease. Whether you are looking to live in the city or countryside, you can use this as your guide to buying a home in Sweden.
There are many types of properties to choose from in Sweden. Choices range from condominiums, detached houses, link houses (similar to a townhouse), and even countryside cottages. Some terminology may be confusing to expats, such as a “villa” referring to a single-family home, rather than a large mansion-like estate.
Other useful Swedish housing words to know include
- radhus—link house;
- kedjehus—terraced house;
- fritidshus—vacation house.
House Prices in Sweden
The average price to buy across Sweden is around 53,500 SEK per m² (5,200 USD). The average price to buy a home in Stockholm, Sweden’s most expensive city, is around 74,900 SEK per m² (8,600 USD).
The three most expensive municipalities in which to purchase property are Lidingö, Solna, and Danderyd. The cheapest prices can be found in the Greater Stockholm area in Nykvarn and Södertälje.
Process and Steps for Buying a House in Sweden
There are no legal restrictions against a foreigner buying property in Sweden. Once two parties agree to a sale, the transfer is fairly swift and painless. However, just like with renting, the process of finding a house to buy may be the greatest challenge.
Although not as competitive as finding an apartment to rent, buying a home in Sweden often results in bidding wars.
Requirements to Buy a Property
Although not required, it is advisable to buy your home with the help of a real estate agent. Many documents will need to be translated into Swedish. A real estate agent should be able to help you with this translation at no-cost or for a nominal fee. Consider enlisting the services of InterNations to help you find a trusted real estate agent when buying a property in Sweden. Our Settling-In Services also help arrange professional services such as translators.
To buy a home in Sweden, you will need a mortgage. To secure a mortgage, you will need the following:
- proof of employment and a steady income
- credit history
- residency permit
- Swedish ID card
Depending on the bank, you may be asked for extra documents, but in general these are standard. Banks can only loan you up to 75% of the value of the property. Luckily, 30% of what you borrow is tax deductible.
Steps to Buy a Home in Sweden
Step One: Bidding
Although purchasing a home in Sweden is a bit less stressful than renting one, there are still some practices that may surprise expats. For example, whereas applying to rent a place can feel like a never-ending waiting game, purchasing a home can feel like an auction house. Once you have found a home that you like, you will need to place a bid. As other expats and native Swedes are also more interested in buying than renting, you may find yourself in a stiff bidding war. Be prepared to keep your options open and your negotiation skills sharp.
Step Two: Negotiate and Survey
Once your bid has been accepted, you will need to negotiate a purchase agreement. While these negotiations are going on, you should hire surveyors to come out and inspect the property. The real estate agent, although typically hired by the seller, is legally supposed to work on behalf of both parties. They should be able to help you hire surveyors if you feel unable to do so.
Step Three: Sign
After the inspection is complete, you and the seller will enter into a contract. This contract will be drafted and validated by the real estate agent. You may ask for a translated copy in English, but know that one copy will have to be in Swedish. InterNations can help set you up with a qualified translator or a real estate agent who speaks your language.
Step Four: Down Payment
Although down payments may vary from seller to seller, on average you should only be asked for 10%.
Step Five: Banks and Final Signing
The final steps to secure the property will involve going to yours or the seller’s bank, or the real estate agent’s office. This is when you will receive the keys for the home, sign a Contract of Sale, and work out what you need with the mortgage details. In addition, this is when the bank or real estate agent will send your final contract to be registered under your name. You should receive verification that everything went through and that the property is officially yours within a few weeks.
Can You Buy a House in Sweden and Get Citizenship?
Unfortunately, it is not possible in Sweden to buy a house and receive permanent residency or citizenship. The requirements to get permanent residency or citizenship are instead based on the amount of time you have lived in Sweden. Buying a house also does not guarantee a visa because you first need a residency visa in order to buy a home.
When searching for which utility company to use, most Swedish residents use compricer.se to compare the best companies and prices within their specific municipality. If you are renting an apartment, heating and water should be included in your rent. Other basic utilities such as gas and electric should be fairly reasonable.
Most of the energy in Sweden comes from renewable energy. Nearly 80% of its electricity production comes from nuclear and hydroelectric power. Eleven percent comes from wind power. This emphasis on renewable, green energy not only helps keep costs down for users, but helps the country as a whole provide a more sustainable way of life for its residents.
Things to Know About Electricity
In 2011, Sweden was divided into four separate electricity areas: north (elområde 1), south (Stockholm / elområde 2), and two middle halves (elområde 2 and 3). The price of electricity differs between each area. The electricity companies available may also vary, although in recent years Swedish electric companies have discussed making themselves available throughout all four regions, but still at differing prices based on the needs of that area.
The purpose of the four sections was to both comply with the EU’s efforts to promote competitively priced electricity and provide better service to rural areas, where electricity used to be weaker and more expensive.
There are three main utility companies in Sweden: Vattenfall, Fortum, and Uniper. Together, these three dominate about 75% of Sweden’s electricity output. Required documents to set up utilities include:
- your name, address, and telephone number
- date in which you want the new contract to start
- the electrical system specifications and area of your accommodation (this may be on your lease or you can ask the landlord)
When you move to a new address in Sweden, you simply need to change the contact information on your contract.
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Internet and Mobile Phones
As an expat, staying connected is important to keep in touch with friends and family abroad. One of the first things you will want to know upon landing in Sweden is how to get a SIM card, phone number, and internet access.
Internet and Cell Phone
Signing up for a mobile phone or internet contract may be a longer process than most expats are used to. For starters, most telecommunications companies require a new subscriber to have lived in Sweden for at least six months before allowing them to sign a new contract. Luckily, most apartment rentals throughout Sweden provide internet as a basic utility, and it is possible to find pay-as-you-go cell phone plans.
When you are able to sign-up for a cell phone contract, plans tend to last for two years. You will want to keep this in mind when choosing a provider. If you decide to leave Sweden before your contract is up, you may be asked to pay out a lump sum completing the contract. An alternative, however, is to change your contract to a cheaper option and continue making the monthly payments. Obviously, if you are not living in Sweden at this time, this option is not ideal, but it may be cheaper than paying out the rest of an expensive contract.
Whether you sign-up for your own Wi-Fi contract or use what comes with your rent, you can rest assured that connectivity should not be an issue. No matter if you are in the center of bustling Stockholm or in the Swedish wilderness, internet connection is of fairly high quality throughout Sweden. Nearly every provider offers cable, DSL, fiber optic, or wireless.
The top telecommunications providers in Sweden are
- Com Hem;
How to Watch Your Home Country’s TV in Sweden
While Swedish television does provide a lot of international options, some expats may want the comfort of being able to access their own TV shows whenever they want. If normal streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon refuse to work in your new home, install a VPN. This will help you access shows and sites as if you were sitting back in your own country. Likewise, flash routers will help ensure your VPN stays active all the time, so that you can kick back and relax anytime you want.
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- Nathan Reed
With InterNations I quickly connected with other Canadian members who became close friends over time.
- Barbara Melington
The best thing about InterNations? Definitely the offline get-together. Meeting other expats in real life helps a lot.