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Don’t panic! How to find student housing in Sweden

Help, I'm starting university in Sweden but I don't have a place to live! Read these top tips.

Don't panic! How to find student housing in Sweden
Finding student accommodation can be tricky. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Student accommodation can be difficult to find in any country, and in Sweden your options can vary considerably between cities. There are always going to be housing shortages, landlords who want to take advantage of your lack of knowledge of the market, and last minute mess-ups. 

Know your options

Sweden does not tend to offer boarding-school halls of residences with breakfast or dinner included as some other countries do. But there’s a range of options: from renting an en-suite apartment with your own kitchen, to student dorms with a communal kitchen and shower in the hallway.

There are several alternatives available, but some of the most common formal routes include renting via the university’s own housing scheme if they have one, the municipality’s official housing queue (which often has apartments available specifically for students) or, if you’re studying in Lund and Uppsala, via the student nations’ own halls of residence (read more about student unions here).

It is worth contacting your university’s housing office for information on your specific options, but do start looking as soon as you get your acceptance letter, as apartments in some towns are hard to come by.

Don’t rely on university housing

Places in university halls are often limited. Partly because of the increasing number of students, and not enough universities to accommodate everyone. Some municipalities offer a “housing guarantee” for all students, but most don’t have an obligation to provide accommodation.

Even if you’re part of the Erasmus programme or some kind of exchange student, a place to stay isn’t always guaranteed.

Check out The Local’s guide to how to navigate Sweden’s rental market if you want or need to look for an apartment outside the university accommodation system. You can also rent second-hand apartments via housing sites such as Blocket, but it is usually easier if you’re already in Sweden and know the system.

University housing can be difficult to obtain. Photo: Magnus Liam/imagebank.sweden.se

What do I do if the semester is about to start and I still can’t find a place to stay?

Have you contacted your university housing office yet? If you are in luck there may be a last-minute opening in one of the university complexes, and even if there isn’t anything available, they can point you to off-campus apartment complexes or housing offices in the area that the university has agreements with or find reliable, giving you the best chance at reasonable rent prices and finding a place that is close to the university.

But if it’s very late in the season, most university housing will be full, so it is best to look into subletting. Some towns or universities have an online notice board where other students can sublet their apartment if they, for example, go on a semester abroad (for example Studentboet in Uppsala).

Subletting, although useful, means you need to check extra carefully that everything is legitimate. Make sure you have approval from the landlord, don’t pay a deposit larger than a month’s rent and make sure you get insurance that covers any damages that may happen while you’re living there. Read more about it here.

Many student dorms come with a communal laundry room. Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Contact your student union

Your university’s student union is a great resource and they are more than happy to advise incoming students. You can get the inside scoop on where the best off-campus housing is and what to avoid, as well as making new friends. Some student unions have temporary housing programmes to help tide new students over when they’re still looking for housing. 

You can also look into youth hostels in the area. It may not be ideal, but it can be a safe place to stay while you get on your feet, and you may meet other students in a similar situation to you and look for an apartment together.

You could stay temporarily with a fellow student. Photo: Tina Stafren/imagebank.sweden.se
Use your friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances to your advantage

This is frustrating advice if you’re a newcomer, but networking is one of your best bets. Know a couple of people already studying in Sweden? Contact them and ask for advice, especially if they’re going to the same university as you. Maybe they know someone who needs a housemate, or are moving out of their apartment and the lease is still up for grabs. Or you could ring up your uncle’s best friend’s cousin’s boss who happens to live in Stockholm and who also happens to be a landlord. 

Connections are particularly helpful in major student towns such as Uppsala and Lund or in big cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg, where the number of students often exceeds the number of rooms offered by universities and are plagued by long waiting lists.

Get by with a little help from your friends. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Lastly, the internet is your ultimate tool

If you don’t have any contacts in Sweden, don’t worry. You can try using online marketplaces such as The Local’s property page.

Thankfully, social media is also useful to find somewhere to live. With Facebook groups such as Rooms/Housing in StockholmUppsala Housing or The Local’s own Living in Sweden group you have somewhere solid to ask questions and survey your options, and talking to people who are, or were, in similar situations can help you better understand the process and the advantages or disadvantages of options.

Article first written by Saina Behnejad in 2016 and updated in 2022.

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PROPERTY

These are our readers’ top tips for buying a property in Sweden

Buying an apartment or house in Sweden can be a daunting process, but with rentals so hard to get, many foreigners end up taking the plunge. Here are the top tips from readers who have done it.

These are our readers' top tips for buying a property in Sweden

Get prepared! 

Most of the respondents to our survey stressed the importance of preparation. 

“Spend time on defining your requirements properly, including visits to different locations to narrow down your search,” advised Julian, a Brit living in Malmö. 

As well as working out your requirements, other participants argued, you should also get to grips with the way the bidding system works in Sweden, with one British woman recommending buyers “speak to professionals about the buying procedure”. One respondent went so far as to recommend hiring a buyers’ agent, something international employers sometimes provide for senior executives moving to Sweden. 

Elizabeth, a 26-year-old charity worker from South America, recommended that all buyers “learn to read a bostadsrättsförening årsredovisning”, the finance report for a cooperative housing block. (You can find The Local’s guide here.) 

Get to know the market 

Maja, an anthropologist from Hungary, said it was important to take time to get a feel for the market, suggesting buyers visit different areas to find the one that they like. 

“It will take 6-12 months easily,” she predicts. “Don’t rush. Visit the neighborhoods where you are thinking of buying.”
 
Others recommended spending time surfing Sweden’s two main housing websites, Hemnet and Booli, to get a better feel for how much different types of housing in different areas typically sell for, before starting to look seriously yourself, with one even recommending going to viewings before you have any intention of buying.  
 
“Start visiting houses and monitoring bids. That will give you a sense of the process,” recommends Shubham, 31, a software engineer from India.
 

 
Think about your expectations
 
While house prices have soared in Sweden’s cities over the past decade, the same is not the case in all rural areas, something some respondents thought buyers should take advantage of. “To buy a house at a lesser price, look at areas as far from urban areas as is possible for you and your family,” wrote Simon, a 61-year-old living in rural Sweden. 
 
Julian warned bidders against areas and types of homes that “will attract tens of ‘barnfamiljer’ (families with children), meaning “bidding wars will result”, pushing up the price. 
 
On the other hand, one respondent warned people to “avoid buying apartments in vulnerable areas, even though prices will be lower there”. 
 
An Italian buyer recommended looking at newly built apartments coming up for sale. 
 
 
Get a mortgage offer before your first serious viewing 
 
Getting a lånelöfte, literally “loan promise”, can be tricky for foreigners in Sweden, as our recent survey of banks’ policies showed. 
 
Shubham warned against applying for a loan promise from multiple banks, arguing that this can affect your credit rating if your finances are not otherwise good. He suggested using an umbrella site like Ordna Bolån and Lånekoll, although he warned that the payment they take from the ultimate mortgage provider might ultimately be taken from borrowers.  
 
READ ALSO: 
 
Get to know the estate agents, but don’t necessarily trust them 
 
Gaurav, a sales manager based in Stockholm, recommended getting to know local estate agents in the area where you are planning to buy, as they might be able to direct you towards owners who are in a hurry to sell. “Those can be the best deals as you have greater chances to avoid bidding on such properties,” he argued. 
 
Maja, from Hungary, warned, however, against believing that the estate agent is on the buyer’s side. 
 
“You cannot really make friends with them, they work for commission and they will also try to raise the selling price,” she said. “It’s how they present you to the seller that matters. Seem like a serious buyer.” 

 
Should you try to make an offer before bidding starts? 
 
Morgan, a 33-year-old marketing manager from France, said it was worth studying the kommande (coming soon) section on Hemnet and Booli to spot houses and flats before they are formally put on the market. “Be alert. Book an appointment asap and get a private visit to reduce competition. If the apartment is what you’re looking for, make a reasonable offer with a condition to sign the contract in the next 24 hours,” he recommends. “You will cut the bidding frenzy and save money.”
 
Gaurav also recommended getting a private viewing and making an offer while the property was still off the market, as did Julian. 
 
“If you are lucky, you might find owners who are in a hurry to sell,” Julian said. “Those can be the best deals as you have greater chances to avoid bidding on such properties.” 
 
But other foreigners warned against bidding before a property is publicly put up for sale on housing websites, arguing that estate agents used this as a way of getting higher prices than they would expect to get at auction.  
 
“You are essentially negotiating directly with the owner, without finding out the actual market price via bidding,” argued a 31-year-old Indian business analyst. “Usually this will work only for an apartment not in top condition.” 
 
What to watch out for in the bidding process 
 
Morgan advised buyers to take what estate agents say about rival bidders with a pinch of salt. 
 
“Estate agents will play the competition card. Don’t fall for their trick and keep a cool head. Ask yourself if it really worth it before increasing a bid,” he wrote. 
 
In Sweden, it is possible to make a hidden bid, which is not disclosed to other bidders. One Indian software developer warned that estate agents would often claim that there was such a bid to pressure you. 
 
“The hidden bids are really confusing as you don’t know the bid placed,” he said. “It’s a trap to get higher bids. “
 
A 21-year-old Romanian agreed it was important to watch out for estate agents who try to rush or panic you. 
 
“[Look out for] those that try to rush you into it by saying stuff like ‘this will be gone by Monday, the owner wants to sell fast’, or if they don’t want to include a two-week period to have the property inspected as a clause in the contract,” she said. 
 
Maja recommended choosing an estate agency that required all bidders to supply their personal number, with all bids made public, “because other agencies might cheat that price rise”. 
 
“Don’t be the first bidder,” she added. “Keep your cool, and if the agent calls or messages, just hold on. There is no official end to the bidding. Only when you sign the contract. So the best game is to seem very serious but not stupid. You have a budget, and try to sign the contract the same day or the next if you are the highest bidder.” 
 
Is now a good time to buy? 
 
The respondents were, predictably, divided. 
 
“It’s risky for both sellers and buyers,” said Carl, a Swede who recently returned home from China. “The market seems to correlate pretty well with central banks raising interest rates. If that’s the case, then it’s still a sellers’ market since central bank [Riksbank] will continue to increase interest rates until 2024.” 
 
“It’s difficult to predict anything at the moment,” agreed Gaurav. “Prices should fall a bit but that’s not happening in all the areas. Avoid buying or selling if you can for a few months.” 
 
“I see there is no difference in buying in total cost. You can get a property at a lower price but end up paying more in interest and the price is the same in five to ten years,” said one Indian software engineer. “Buying is still better than renting.”

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