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PROPERTY

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

Can I get a Swedish mortgage without permanent residency?

The Swedish rental market is notoriously difficult for immigrants to break into, so many consider buying a property instead. But can you get a Swedish mortgage without a permanent residence permit?

Can I get a Swedish mortgage without permanent residency?

The answer, as with many of these questions, is ‘it depends’.

Do I need permanent residency?

There is no legal requirement that mortgage holders in Sweden must be permanent residents, citizens, or even registered in the country. On the other hand, there is no legal requirement for banks to accept mortgage applications from just anyone either, which leaves them perfectly within their rights to deny applications to temporary residence permit holders if they deem them to be too big of a risk.

Why might a bank say I need permanent residency to take out a mortgage?

One reason your bank could require you to have permanent residency is that they deem it too risky to lend to someone who they think might not be staying in Sweden for long enough to pay off their mortgage.

Banks want to be reassured that they will get their money back if they lend to you, and if you don’t have permanent residency in Sweden, there’s always a chance your temporary residence permit will run out and a renewal might not be approved, leaving you forced to leave Sweden before you’ve had time to pay off your loan.

Similarly, banks which may once have been more willing to approve mortgage applications to more ‘risky’ applicants may be more wary in the current climate, where house prices are dropping and interest rates are going up.

Ultimately, a temporary residence permit is one of many risk factors for a bank – if you’re forced to (or choose to) leave Sweden after a short while and your property has lost value, that could leave you in a position of negative equity – where you owe the bank money after you sell your property.

Is there anything I can do to make sure I don’t get my mortgage application rejected?

First off, mortgage applications are often stressful – you’ve successfully bid on a property and you’ve set a date for signing the contract, so you want to get your paperwork in order and make sure you can finance the property quickly.

Additionally, banks are slow, so the last thing you want is to wait days just for your bank to turn you down for a mortgage.

The best way to ensure you get a mortgage approved in time is to keep your options open and apply to multiple banks, as different banks weigh different risk factors more highly than others.

Danske Bank, for example, appear to reject mortgage applications for people without permanent residency, as I was told when my mortgage application with them was rejected.

Be aware though, that every time a bank takes out a credit check on you, this affects your credit rating. A good way to get around this is to apply for a mortgage via services like Ordna Bolån and Lånekoll, who take out a single credit check for you and use that to apply to multiple banks on your behalf.

Another way to increase the chance of your application being approved is to borrow less money, if you can. Just because your bank has given you a maximum budget you can buy for in your lånelöfte or lender’s note, doesn’t mean you have to buy for that much, and the less money you apply to borrow, the more likely the bank is to approve your application.

There’s another benefit to this, too – it lowers your belåningsgrad, or the percentage of the property’s value you’re financing with your mortgage. If you loan more than 70 percent of a property’s value, you have to amortise (pay back) 2 percent of the value of your mortgage per year. If you loan between 50 and 69 percent, you must amortise 1 percent of your mortgage per year, and if you loan under 50 percent of the property’s value, you don’t have to amortise anything (although it could still be a good idea to do so, if you can).

Additionally, in Sweden there is something called a skuldkvot or “debt quota”, meaning if the amount you’re loaning is more than 4.5 times your yearly salary (or the yearly salary of you and your co-applicant, if you’re applying with someone else), you need to amortise an additional 1 percent per year, on top of anything you have to amortise based on the percentage of the property’s value you’re borrowing from the bank.

This means, if you can put in enough cash to reduce your belåningsgrad from above 70 percent to under 50 percent, as well as loaning less than 4.5 times your yearly salary, you can cut down your amortising from 3 percent to nothing.

This will all be factored in by the bank when deciding if you can afford to pay your mortgage, too, so cutting down your monthly costs will make it more likely for them to approve you.

Finally, have a look at the driftkostnad (running costs) for a house, or the avgift (monthly fee) if buying an apartment or terraced house in a bostadsrättsförening (BRF) housing co-operative. The lower this is, the lower your monthly cost, and the more likely your bank is to determine that your monthly costs aren’t too high in relation to your income.

Are there any other reasons foreigners might be rejected from buying property in Sweden?

Many – but not all – banks require mortgage applicants to be registered in the Swedish population register (this means you need to have a personnummer) and have your salary paid out in Swedish kronor.

If you earn money in another currency, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a mortgage, but it could mean that you can’t loan as much as you could if you were paid in Swedish kronor.

This is due to the fact that banks will always be conservative in their calculations when deciding if you can afford to pay back a loan (especially so in the current climate), and will calculate your budget based on how much your income would be worth if the currency you are paid in became much weaker than the krona, despite the fact it could be much stronger at the time you apply.

Some may require that you have BankID in order to apply for a mortgage, which in practice also means you need to have a personnummer and a Swedish bank account.

These criteria aren’t usually published on the banks’ websites and could change now that the market is becoming less stable as lenders seek to reduce their risk, so call your bank in advance to ask if you want to be sure. 

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