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How to navigate Sweden’s crazy rental market

Whether you've moved to Sweden to study or are about to get kicked out of your third short sublet in a year, The Local's ultimate guide to tackling one of the trickiest rental markets in Europe will help you out.

How to navigate Sweden's crazy rental market
Accommodation in Sweden is a big talking point. Photo: Niclas Vestefjell/

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Sweden’s rental market: the basics

Living in Sweden might be your dream, but renting often ends up a bit of a nightmare for people moving to the Nordic nation from abroad, and even for Swedes relocating to a new city. 

In theory, the market is tightly controlled. Rental companies are banned from charging tenants above a certain level, a policy designed to stop young people and low earners being driven away from urban centres. This contrasts to the unregulated market in the UK, for example, but there are similar schemes in place in Germany and some American cities. 

But in reality, rents still reach high prices in Sweden, and the exact amount varies significantly. Rural areas are typically far cheaper, but even within Stockholm’s city centre, prices can range from 5,000 to 17,000 per month ($620-$2,111) for a studio apartment, and rental costs in Gothenburg and Malmö have also soared in recent years.

READ ALSO: Here’s how much it costs to rent an apartment in Sweden

Why are prices so varied?

There are a few reasons. The rent caps keep prices low on apartments owned and rented out by Swedish municipalities or state-regulated rental companies, but these only make up a small proportion of the total rental apartments. There just aren’t enough of them to go round.

Contracts are handed out on something like a first-come, first-serve basis: you join the housing queue, and your position in that queue dictates which rental contracts you can bid for. But in Stockholm it can take as long as 20 or 30 years to reach the front of the queue, with many signing up years before they plan to leave their parents’ home.

As for everyone else, they’re left battling for the remaining apartments. These are also in short supply, due to Sweden’s huge population growth, which has not been accompanied by home-building on the same scale. These properties are rented out ‘second-hand’ by residents, and the process for doing so is tough due to strict rules about subletting.

It’s usually only permitted to sublet for a maximum of one or two years, and property owners (or first-hand renters) must prove to their housing authority that they have a good reason to sublet, for example a job offer or university degree abroad or elsewhere in Sweden. In theory, they should not charge tenants more than 15 percent extra compared with their own rent, but in practice there is a huge black market. According to classifieds site Blocket, prices for second-hand sublets have risen by 70 percent in seven years, with a significant difference between first- and second-hand prices.

In this market, competition is stiff, meaning that often landlords are able to charge disproportionately high prices.

Check out The Local’s listings of apartments and houses for rent in Sweden

So how do you find an apartment? 

The good news is: it is possible! And before you get too downcast, there are several advantages to being a renter in Sweden (no, really). The strict regulation of the housing market means most properties in Sweden are very well-maintained, with clear rules about which aspects of maintenance are the responsibility of the tenant and which of the landlord.

Of course, in the land of Ikea, most properties are cleverly designed with lots of storage, making the most of small spaces. The trend for minimalistic design means you’re unlikely to be lumbered with a curtain or carpet pattern that gives you migraines. And in Sweden, you’re rarely too far from a forest, lake, or park when you need to stretch your legs. 

So if you’re ready to dive into the world of Swedish rentals, these are our top tips.

IN DEPTH: The story of Sweden’s housing crisis

1. Contact everyone you know (and we mean everyone)

Networking is one of the best ways to find an apartment, which can put new arrivals in a tricky position.

Because the housing market discourages buy-to-let and means that most landlords will be renting for a couple of years at most, often as a second-hand renter you’ll be living in someone’s home for a relatively short period of time. This means the landlord or leaseholder is going to prioritize friends, family, or friends-of-friends – basically, someone they can vouch for – over complete strangers. 

Even if you’ve not yet arrived in Sweden, let everyone know, on every form of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and anything else you can think of), that you’re moving and looking for a place to stay. Don’t let any connection, however tenuous, go unused. 

For those starting a new job, make sure to ask if assistance with house-hunting is included as part of any relocation package. Some companies will set up viewings, while others will pay for a stay in a hotel while you find your feet. If that’s not an option, you could ask your future colleagues or HR manager to spread the word through social media or any internal company messaging service. It’s in their best interests for you to feel settled, so they’re likely to offer help where they can.

The expat community is often very supportive too, so it’s worth searching on Facebook and other sites for groups relevant to your interests and asking for help there too. And once you arrive and start socializing or professional networking, make sure to keep mentioning it to all your new connections.

2. Advertise yourself online 

Take all the help you can get, but be proactive as well. Blocket or Bostaddirekt are two of the most popular online marketplaces for rental properties, while others include QasaMyPlejs and The Local’s property page.

Blocket is only available in Swedish but has far more listings, so if you’ve not tackled the language yet, download a plug-in like Google Translate that will translate the website into your native language. Bostaddirekt has an English-language option, though some property descriptions will only be available in Swedish. 

Once you’ve created a profile, you can contact landlords and subletters directly. Bear in mind that they’ll typically receive hundreds of messages within the first hour. There are two things you can do to stand out: be quick (check the latest listings as regularly as possible), and be memorable.

To achieve the second, work on an e-mail template you can send to landlords. Ideally, you’ll write this in Swedish – again, use your network if possible to find a friend, colleague, or helpful stranger to help you translate. Start with a quick introduction (name, age, why and since when you’re in Sweden, and how many people will be living in the apartment) and something directly relating to the advert, for example a comment about the area, to show you’ve actually read it.

Then, make sure to mention anything that will act in your favour: a permanent job, stable income, references from previous landlords/employers, and anything which they’ve mentioned in the ad, such as being a non-smoker or available to move in immediately. Save any questions or negotiation for if and when you’re offered the apartment.

As well as firing off messages to anyone advertising an apartment, you can also post your own advert on both Blocket and Bostaddirekt. Again, this will ideally include a Swedish translation, and all the information listed above. You should also outline any clear requirements, such as maximum budget, preferred area, whether you’re looking for something furnished or not, and so on. And add a photo – one that clearly shows your face is ideal.

Remember not to hand over any money until you have viewed the property and met the leaseholder, and trust your instinct if anything feels suspicious. Legitimate landlords should be willing to tell your their personal number and offer proof of their identity, such as a copy of their passport or a work reference, or you can confirm their identity yourself by some searching on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Swedish websites such as Hitta and Eniro.

If budget isn’t an issue, private rental companies such as Residensportalen offer high-spec properties geared at business professionals. 

3. Be quick

As mentioned above, it helps to reply as quickly as possible to any adverts you’re interested in. Make sure to keep up that momentum even after getting a response, since the landlord will probably have responded to several prospective tenants who met their requirements.

Organize a viewing as early as possible – if you’re working, speak to your boss as soon as possible to find out if they’re able to offer you some flexibility to fit these in. At the viewing, make sure to take along all your references from previous landlords, ID card or passport, employment certificate, and anything else they’ve requested or which might show them what a great tenant you’d be.

Before you get there, think about all the things you need to ask: access to a laundry room, move-in date and length of contract, and any questions about the area, for example. And have an idea of what requirements the apartment needs to meet in order for you to say yes. Some landlords will be keen to find a tenant they really like, while others will go with the first person who expresses an interest, so if you see somewhere you like, say so as soon as possible.

That doesn’t mean you should go ahead with something you’ve got doubts about; make sure you’ve got answers to all your questions before signing anything or handing over money. Some of the biggest red flags are being asked for money before seeing the apartment or signing a contract, or being asked to pay in cash.

4. Consider renting a room rather than a whole apartment

Sweden has one of the highest proportions of single-occupancy households in the EU, but house- and flatshares are becoming increasingly common. So if you’re willing to live with a stranger, you could get lucky by searching for a flatshare or including this option in your online advert. Again, reach out to your network: if someone’s sharing their property they’re likely to be even more picky about who they rent to than if they’re merely subletting.

You could also try searching for a multi-room apartment with friends, which can often work out cheaper than renting separately, although not all landlords will be open to this idea.

5. Head for the suburbs

Consider expanding your search to the suburbs in order to get more space for your money. You may also find the market slightly less competitive here. Since all of Sweden’s major towns and cities have excellent transport connections, you can usually still guarantee a comfortable train to get you into work or university and 24-hour buses to help you get home after a night out. Make sure to check what your commuting options would be, and how close you are to the nearest transport hub.

Also look out for adverts for garden guest houses (‘gästhus’) or annexes. Many Swedish homeowners rent out small, separate houses in their garden or remodel part of their property, for example a converted garage, into small apartments. Although beware of the pros and cons of living so close to your landlord.

6. Keep calm and consider temporary solutions

Finding a long-term rental is tricky, but while you search, there are several temporary options to help tide you over.

Think about using sharing economy sites such as Airbnb to find short term apartment or room rentals, although you will find prices aimed at visiting tourists rather than new locals on a budget.

Couchsurfing is a global network of people who are prepared to open their homes to travellers for short periods for free. The community also arranges events such as language exchanges, hikes, drinks and dinners where you can make new friends in your adopted new home. Be sure to read through the company’s safety guidelines before signing up though.

And once again, someone in your network may be able to help – for example if they know somebody who’s moving away for a short amount of time, but may not be bothering to advertise their property for rental.

7. Know your rights

If you think you are being mistreated by your landlord, try contacting the Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen), which offers advice on what to do if you feel you’ve been overcharged or told to leave a property without enough notice. Under Swedish law, you have up to three months after leaving a property to start a dispute against the leaseholder, so even if you’ve already moved on, you can start proceedings.

The association can help look up what those with first-hand contracts in similar neighbouring properties pay for their homes and use this as a basis for your case, and provides legal help to members for free. It costs between 80 and 85 kronor a month to join the organization. You can also take your grievance directly to a regional rent tribunal.

8. Get in the queue for a first-hand contract, just in case

Don’t get your hopes up – queues for first-hand leases are long – but you could get lucky. It’s well worth signing up to your local housing service (usually known as ‘bostadsförmedlingen’ or something similar) if you plan to stay in Sweden for the longer term.

In many towns this is free, but in Stockholm you will be asked to pay 200 kronor a year. However, if you work in the capital and are willing to commute, many of the nearby municipalities (for example Upplands Väsby, Nynäshamn or Tyresö) offer free spots on their first-hand rental lists. You need a Swedish personal identity number in order to join the queue.

After a few years in the queue you may also be eligible to apply for first-hand short-term contracts, which sometimes become available, for example when residents move away temporarily. This option isn’t generally well-known, and many newcomers are so put off by reports of the length of the queue that they don’t bother to join, so it could be a good insurance policy.

Looking for somewhere to live? Check out The Local’s property page

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For members


Seven gorgeous Swedish holiday homes for less than a million kronor

Fancy owning a beautiful red wooden cottage in Sweden for the same price as a shed in London or New York? It's the best time in years for foreigners to buy property in the Nordic nation, thanks to the weak krona.

Seven gorgeous Swedish holiday homes for less than a million kronor

With its chilly winter climate, famously expensive restaurants and unfamiliar language, Sweden might not seem like the obvious place to move to or buy a holiday home in. But if you’re paying in foreign currency, now may be the time to buy.

Swedish properties offer owners the chance to enjoy some of Scandinavia’s most pristine lakes and deep green forests alongside historic towns and villages. Plus Sweden has longer days and more sunlight than much of Europe during the summer months, when temperatures can regularly climb to 25 degrees in the south.

In general, Swedes look for holiday homes closer to the coast and nearer to major cities, so prices are much lower inland near smaller towns. Central Skåne is a good bet for warmer weather and easy access from the rest of Europe, but if you want really cheap prices you should head further north.

Here is an entirely impartial selection of properties costing less than a million kronor (at the time of publication: €90,084, $96,691, £79,023).

Andåsen 152, Härjedalens municipality

This red wooden summer house in Härjedalen, northern Sweden complete with its own sauna is a steal at just 450,000 kronor (€40,380). Although the property ad states that it only has two rooms, you’ll actually have access to two wooden cottages.

The first has one bedroom, as well as an open plan kitchen/living area with a woodburner and an open fireplace, and the second has a large reception room with windows in three directions as well as your very own woodburning sauna.

If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also have access to a guest cottage with space for up to four people to sleep.

The cottages are located by Andåssjön lake, on a small hill surrounded by forest and ten minutes away from a sandy beach with a bathing spot and space for you to put your boat.

Andåsen lies a half an hour drive from Härjedalen-Sveg airport which has direct connections to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. Why not spend a few days in the Swedish capital before heading out into nature for the summer?

Sandy beaches on Seskarö in northern Sweden. Photo: Simon Eliasson/TT

Seskarö, Haparanda

This one-story three bedroom house on the market for 850,000 kronor (€76,615) is suitable as a summer house or permanent residence. The house lies on the island of Seskarö, 24 kilometres southwest of Haparanda in northern Sweden.

Just a stone’s throw from the beach, this summer house provides easy access to swimming and fishing spots, as well as a number of restaurants on the island.

Although it comes into its element in the summer – there’s a garden with enough space for growing vegetables – this house also has a cosy open fireplace and a sauna to keep you warm during the winter.

Seskarö is around an hour and a half by car from Luleå, which has direct flights to Stockholm.

Hultsfred, Småland

This four-bedroom house in the small town of Hultsfred in Småland could be yours for 795,000 kronor (€71,357). Hultsfred is a popular town during the summer with nearby lakes providing great opportunities for swimming and walking, with Knästorp nature reserve on your doorstep.

The house, located in central Hultsfred, has recently been renovated with a modern kitchen and two bathrooms perfect for a large family. It’s not classified as a summer house, which means you’d be able to live here all year round if you wanted.

It takes around two hours to reach Hultsfred via train from Linköping, which has direct flights to all major Swedish airports, as well as Toulouse and Amsterdam.

Småland is known for its lakes and forests. Photo: August Dellert/

Yxenhaga, Småland

These red cottages situated in the summer house resort of Yxenhaga in Småland are surrounded by nature, with forests and lakes within walking distance. The cottages are now on sale, with a mix of one bedroom, two bedroom and studio cottages on offer. Prices range from 725,000 kronor (€65,160) for a one bedroom cottage to 1,050,000 kronor (€94,370) if you want to buy a one-bed and studio cottage together.

Despite their location on a summer resort, these cottages are classed as all-year residencies, meaning you can stay in them whenever you like – even full time, if you wanted.

These cottages are very family friendly with playgrounds on the resort site, and there are many activities on offer in the surrounding area, such as canoeing, fishing, swimming, ball games and even a sauna with a view of the water.

Jönköping is the closest town, with the bus from nearby Kinnebro – a fifteen minute cycle ride away – taking around 40 minutes.

The closest major international airport is in Gothenburg, which can be reached in two hours by car or three and a half hours by public transport.

Vittsjö, Skåne

This charming two-bedroom torp cottage, priced at 795,000 kronor (€71,357) and built in 1915, is situated 6.5 kilometres outside the Scanian town of Vittsjö with a view over forests, fields and meadows. It takes around 10 minutes to walk down to Öresjön lake for a swim.

The Skåneleden bike route runs through Vittsjö, making this a great option for cycle enthusiasts. Photo: Apelöga/

Despite its location out in the countryside, it takes under two hours to get to Vittsjö from Copenhagen Airport via train through Hässleholm, making this a great choice for a summer house if you live in the rest of Europe and would like to be able to get here in under a day.

Slite, Gotland

This little summer house in Slite on the island of Gotland has one room and a kitchenette, as well as a little veranda with a view of the sea. It’s on the market for 950,000 kronor (€85,450), and can be rented out to earn some money when you’re not using it.

Just a stone’s throw away from Gotland’s only archipelago, this is the perfect summer house if you like spending time on the water, with daily boat tours available to book during summer.

There are a number of activities on offer within walking distance, such as a tennis court, sports hall, ice skating rink, mountaine bike routes and walking trails. You can also rent kayaks and bikes in the resort.

The association also offers a floating sauna which can be rented for 50 kronor.

There is a direct bus from Slite to Visby, which takes one hour, and direct flights from Visby airport to Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Norrköping airports.

Fårösund, Gotland

A timeshare in this tip-top summer house in Northern Gotland, where you would be able to stay for five weeks a year, is currently on the market for 450,000 kronor (€40,495).

This house has three bedrooms, one bathroom and a guest toilet, as well as a smaller building for guests. It also has ample outside space with two gardens, a sheltered inner courtyard and a patio with sea views.

Fårö island off the coast of northern Gotland. Photo: Simon Paulin/

The house is by Kronhaga beach in Fårösund, a small town with restaurants, shops, cafes and other amenities. Suitable for relaxation or active holidays, there are walking trails, tennis and padel courts nearby, as well as Fårö island – the home of late Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman – which can be reached by an eight-minute ferry ride.

Fårösund is an hour and a half away from Visby by direct bus, or just under an hour by car.