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The Local’s 11 insider tips when apartment hunting in Sweden

Taking your first step onto the property ladder is always a big moment, and especially so when you're navigating the housing market in an unfamiliar country. If you're hoping to buy an apartment in Sweden, here's an in-depth guide to the things you should be thinking about.

The Local's 11 insider tips when apartment hunting in Sweden
What's a stambyte and why should you care? Photo: Fredrik Persson/Scanpix

Get to grips with the system

As with any process, when it comes to buying an apartment in Sweden there is a specific set of rules to follow. It’s a good idea to get a lender’s note from a bank before you start attending viewings, and be prepared for the bidding process to begin soon after the viewing, and to be concluded quite quickly (in most cases, at least).

If you haven’t yet got your head around the way this works in Sweden, you can start by reading The Local’s guide here.

Look for the best deal on your mortgage

When applying for your lender’s note (lånelöfte), it’s worth shopping around to see which offers you can get from different banks, since the bank you have a current account with may not always offer the best deal. So compare them online before actually applying.

It’s possible to take out several lånelöften. Multiple loan applications means multiple credit reports, although this shouldn’t have a negative effect if your finances are otherwise good. You can however choose to go through a loan broker if you’re worried, which means only one credit report will be made, but does cost extra money. 

Photo: Helena Wahlman/

You don’t actually have to take out your loan with the same bank that gave you a lånelöfte, if you later find a better deal elsewhere.

Union members are often eligible for lower rates as well, and you can contact your union directly to find out more. Since mortgages are typically high, it may even be worthwhile to join a union if you’re not already a member in order to be eligible for the discounted rates.

READ ALSO: Should you join a union as a foreigner in Sweden?

Do further research

Checking out the apartment isn’t just about how it looks, and as a newbie to Swedish society, it can be a challenge to adjust to the system of the housing association (bostadsrättsförening, or simply BRF). There are benefits to this system – for example, it would be the association’s responsibility to fix any problems affecting the ‘four walls’ of the building such as a broken window or plumbing issue. But it also means there are extra things to be aware of. 

Apartment blocks undergo certain kinds of maintenance every so often, which can be an inconvenience when you’re living there. Check when the building last had a stambyte (replumbing). You should also find out if any renovations are scheduled for the outside of the building (fasad).

And do your research into any planned building works in the general area (you can find this information via your local municipality, or simply ask the estate agent).

Think about things like how construction works might disrupt your life, but also whether the finished project would improve or decrease your quality of life, if you’re thinking of the apartment as a long-term investment.

For example, if a tunnelbana station will be opening near the apartment in five years’ time, that would be convenient if you plan to stay long-term and would likely mean your apartment will stay stable or increase in value, but think carefully about the impact of the construction works on your life in the meantime. Be aware that despite stereotypes of Swedish efficiency, construction projects are not always finished at the projected time (especially long-term ones).

Photo: Hasse Holmberg/SCANPIX

Check the building’s finances

On the financial side, it’s important to look into the BRF’s economic state.

If the BRF has high debts, this leaves it vulnerable to changes to the Swedish economy and interest rate, which could force them to raise your monthly service charge (avgift). High debts are most common with newbuild apartments as well as any which have recently undergone major renovations. You can also check the website Alla BRF which gives information about each BRF and gives them an overall ‘grade’; these grades are often shown on property site Hemnet too.

Bear in mind that any planned works in the building will cost the BRF money as well as being a potential inconvenience, so they could lead to an increased avgift in future.

You may also want to ask about how many apartments in the building are hyresrätter (first-hand rentals) and how many are bostadsrätter (privately-owned apartments). The best-case scenario is having some hyresrätter which are soon to be converted into bostadsrätter, which is generally positive for the BRF’s finances.

View the apartment thoroughly

When viewing the apartment, don’t get caught up in the estate agent’s spiel – or the beautiful ‘home-styling’ that many buyers invest in. If possible, take a tape measure with you to check areas so you can be confident your furniture will fit, and take lots of photos.

Look carefully at how the space is used, and if you already own furniture, think about how it could fit into the area. If the apartment has a particularly quirky layout and has furniture that fits it perfectly, you might consider asking if any of those items could be included in the sale.

Head to the windows. You’ll want to check how easy it is to see into the rooms from outside (if you can see into the neighbours’ kitchen, they can probably see into yours), and to open the windows if possible to check the sound level from outside. Are the windows double- or triple-glazed, and are there any obvious sources of noise nearby, such as preschools, pubs, busy roads, or train stations? Think about how much natural light the apartment gets, and where the sun will be in the apartment at different times of day. 

Make sure to check your mobile signal while in the apartment too, since that’s something that’s likely to affect your day-to-day life but can be easily missed at a viewing.

Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Think about storage

In the big cities, Swedish apartments are often small and that’s especially true for first-time buyers, so think carefully about where you’d store your clothes, where bulky items such as vacuum cleaners and laundry baskets would go, and whether there’s enough surface area in the kitchen to cook comfortably. 

If storage room in a cellar or attic is included, make sure to have a look at that space too. Think about the size of the space as well as security (is the area shared with any neighbouring buildings, and do you need a special code or fob to enter?) and potential worries like damp or pests. 

Test the appliances

Make sure to check as many appliances as possible (the oven, fan, stove, and so on), and test water pressure in the taps and shower. And ask what’s included in the sale; in Sweden it’s common to leave behind appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers, but make sure to get that confirmed. 

Investigate the amenities

When you buy an apartment in Sweden, you get access to shared spaces which almost always include a laundry room (tvättstuga) and often storage for bicycles or pushchairs (cykelrum or barnvagnsrum). Some apartment blocks have extra perks such as a shared events room, sauna, gym, or guest apartments, and if those are part of the appeal you should check them out, looking both at their condition and security. If you have a car, make sure to ask about garages and parking spaces too.

And have a look at the general common areas too: the lobby and stairwell, shared balconies, and the garden or courtyard. Think about how well cared-for they are, and ask about any planned renovations to common areas, since these could push up your monthly fee. Having access to an elevator is important for many people, including those who use wheelchairs or pushchairs, but you’ll need to check the size and ask how recently it was last renovated. 

Look out for red flags

It can be easy to get caught up in a beautiful view or a traditional tiled stove, but try not to. Remember to assess the apartment critically, and look out for the things which would negatively impact your quality of life there.

Some of the things which can be hardest (and most expensive) to deal with are water damage, ventilation issues, and pests, so look carefully for signs of those. That means thinking and asking about the air quality, checking for signs of mould and looking for signs of pests (check around the toilet and sink or bathtub, as well as along floor moldings and in kitchen cupboards).

Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Are renovations needed?

Going for an apartment which needs some work can be a way to get a good deal, but of course you should factor in the potential costs to your calculations. Re-painting a wall isn’t too difficult or costly, but refitting a kitchen or restructuring the floor plan are significant projects.

If an apartment is the right size but wrong layout for you, you might plan to remove or add walls, and you’d need to know which of the walls are load-bearing and look at where the windows are to work out which options would be possible. You’ll also want to ask about the building association (BRF)’s own rules about restructuring.

Ask questions

Think about the things that might not be obvious from a viewing but would affect your day-to-day life if you moved in. You can approach the estate agent for questions, or speak to someone from the board of the housing association. 

Some of the things you might want to find out include the building’s rules regarding pets and smoking, the temperature indoors in different seasons, and whether the radon level has been measured.

You probably already know that in addition to paying towards your mortgage each month, you’ll also be charged a monthly fee (avgift) by the building association. It’s important to ask exactly what’s included in that fee, since it often covers things like heating and TV, but not always. Is internet included? And how does the heating work? Electric radiators in particular can mean higher costs in the winter, if electricity isn’t covered in the avgift.

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For members


What to do if you can’t meet Tuesday’s Swedish tax declaration deadline

The deadline to submit your income tax declaration in Sweden falls on Tuesday May 2nd. Here's what to do if you haven't managed to get it together in time.

What to do if you can't meet Tuesday's Swedish tax declaration deadline

When exactly is the Swedish tax deadline and what help can I have to meet it? 

The deadline falls on the stroke of midnight on Tuesday May 2nd, so you still have a few hours to get your declaration together.

Sweden may have relatively high taxes, but the Swedish Tax Agency seeks to make paying them as easy as possible.

If you have any questions, it is well worth ringing the helpline on 0771-567 567.

Unlike the helplines of the tax offices in most other countries, the helpline is well-staffed with informed people who go out of their way to help you. 

The agency also has a good quide in English on how to file your return. 

What happens if you miss the deadline? 

If you fail to submit your declaration by midnight, you are at risk of having to pay a fee of 1,250 kronor, but this won’t necessarily happen. There is an element of discretion, and if you filed your return at 0.15am on May 3rd, you may well be let off. 

In any case, before the charge is taken out of your tax account or skattekonto, you will first receive a note informing you of possible impending late charge, which you can then appeal. 

So if you fell ill on May 2nd, or the internet broke down at your apartment at 11.55pm, you can inform them when you receive this note and you may be able to avoid a fine.  

If in a further three months (August 2nd), you still haven’t submitted your tax declaration, you risk a second 1,250 kronor fine. Finally, after five months (October 2nd), you risk a third fine of 1,250 kronor. 

How to get an extension if you are self-employed 

You can extend the deadline until May 16th by logging into your page on the Tax Agency’s website or calling them on 0771 567 567 (or +46 8 564 851 60 from outside Sweden).

To find the extension form, go to the Mina Sidor page on your Tax Agency account, press the Skatter och Deklarationer link near the bottom, and then press the Anstånd med inkomstdeklarationen link and filling in the form. 

Jan Janowski, a declaration coordinator at the agency, said that the agency prefers for people to do this than to knowingly submit an incomplete or inaccurate declaration. 

“We want people to live their declaration in as complete a form as possible, but if you are still waiting for some supporting documents we would like people to apply for an extension.” 

If you have an accountant, they can apply for all of their clients’ income declarations to be delayed until June 15th in a measure called byråanstånd, intended to help them with the last minute rush to declare.

This, however, has to be done for all of their clients and isn’t something they can do for you just because you are late. 

Is it better to file an incomplete declaration than a late one? 

If you feel unable to file your declaration even on May 16th, what’s holding you back is likely to be something like declaring capital gains tax on share or property sales, or confusion over calculating one of Sweden’s many tax deductions, such as the ROT or RUT deductions for cleaning or home maintenance. 

If you are employed, the most important element of your tax declaration – your income from your job – will already be filled in on the paper or online form.

Declaring your main income from employment is just a question of checking that the details Skatteverket already has are correct and submitting a declaration either using Skatteverket’s app, or by sending a text message including your personal identity number and signature code to 71144 from within Sweden, or by calling 020 567 100 and following the instructions. 

If you are still wading through spreadsheets of share sales, but have no issues with the Tax Agency’s record of your income from employment, you can make the declaration but inform the agency that you may have other capital gains or other income to declare later on. 

If you do this, it’s good to be as transparent as possible with the agency about what information you are waiting for when you make your declaration.

To do this, find the andra information, or “other information” section in the declaration, and write down, in either English or Swedish, what information you are waiting for. 

You could write, for instance: “I sold an apartment in Florida in 2022 but have yet to receive details of the proceeds and am waiting for my accountants in the US to calculate the capital gains.” 

If you do this, you are much less likely to be fined if the Tax Agency later discovers any undeclared gains. 

How long do you have to make changes to your tax declaration? 

Until the Tax Agency makes a tax decision, normally in June, you can resubmit your tax declaration using the same form on the website you used to declare it the first time, and the agency will use the most up-to-date declaration when calculating your taxes. 

Even after it has made a tax decision for an income year, the agency is liberal about any voluntary changes made in future. 

Once a declaration has been made, you can still request changes to the final tax decision based on new information or corrections you have made for up to five years. 

For the first 12 months after the end of the taxation year (IE, until January 2024), the tax agency will never levy a so-called tax surcharge (skattetilläg), even if one of its officers discovers that someone has failed to declare, or falsely declared, some earnings or income in your return. 

After the first 12 months, if you bring undeclared income or falsely claimed tax breaks voluntarily to the tax agency’s attention before the agency discovers it, you are also likely to avoid a surcharge. 

What happens if the agency catches you not declaring income or falsely claiming rebates? 

If you are caught evading taxes or make a mistake, the penalty is set quite high. You have to pay the tax you should have paid, plus a 40 percent surcharge.