Sweden and Housing Queues

How to find an apartment in Sweden.

Moving to a new country is so daunting! But with the right information, some help, and a good plan, it can become so much more manageable!

I had never lived outside of the US before moving to Sweden. I had traveled for two or three weeks at a time and lived with a host family in Spain during the summer of 2010, but I had never packed up my life and moved to a new country before. So it was pretty daunting to do this back in 2018.

But I did it. And I learned a lot along the way!

Today I am add to my newest series on Sweden and Me called All Things Swedish Immigration, where I share all of the tips and tricks I wish I knew before I moved abroad. Hope you enjoy!

Tip! From my homepage, navigate to the BREAKDOWN section and select this category to see all the posts (more to come!) in one place.

Finding an Apartment in Sweden

In the US it is possible to find an apartment within a week or two. At least it felt that way to me. But Sweden is quite different. Here, you sign up for a housing queue (Swedes love their lines!) and accumulate points. The more points you have – determined by the length of time you have been in the queue – the higher priority you have for renting an apartment.

In Malmö, the time spent in the queue before you have enough points to actually rent an apartment using them is typically between 3-4 years. In Stockholm, it is more like 6. Yes, years to get an apartment.

Of course, you don’t have to go through the housing queue system. You can rent second-hand (subleasing), have some insider information about a friend who is giving up their first-hand contract and try to swoop in, or be employed by a company that gets priority in the line.

The third option is how we actually came to have our first-hand contract apartment. Nick’s employer provided us with temporary housing for the first six months. During that time we actively searched for an apartment, but it was with the help of a Relocation Specialist with Nick’s work that we found our current apartment. And that was because of one simple rule in Sweden: You need a salary to rent an apartment first-hand.

When you apply to rent an apartment first-hand, you will be asked to list your current salary. I’ve even heard that you can’t even submit an application online without listing a salary. Because your salary is really the only thing that rental companies here care about, they often give preference to those who work with stable employers, such as my partner and his current employer. Hence how we were able to essentially cut the line and see one example of how Swedish equality was more of a theory than a practice.

So while finding an apartment here is hard, it is not impossible!

Fun Facts:

  • Many Swedes enter their name in the housing queues from the time they are 18.
  • A first-hand contract (förstahandskontrakt) is between you and the owner or lessor of the building. There is typically a notice period of three months.
  • A second-hand contract (andrahandskontrakt) is a sublet by the tenant from the person who has a first-hand contract or owns the apartment. They typically involved a notice period of 1-3 months and a deposit.

Tess’ Tips:

The order of operations I would recommend for finding housing in Sweden is:

  1. Sign up for the housing queue as early as possible if you want to rent.
  2. Secure a job so you have a salary to put on your application. Curious about job searching in Sweden? Read my post here!
  3. Get help from your employer’s Relocation Specialist, if they have one.
  4. Consider other options, like a second-hand apartment or buying.

Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!


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