We have been planning to buy our own place here in Sweden for a while. After living here for 8 years, I feel like this is a place I can call home.
But honestly buying an apartment is not necessarily our choice to make. There has been a huge shortage of renting apartments all over Sweden, but it wasn’t difficult at all the first few years, when I was a student in smaller cities in 2008, it did not seem to be an issue at all. That is until we moved to Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, we realised that there is almost no other alternative than buying.
We moved here 3 years ago, March 2014, while Alexander kept working in the northern city and joined me in the later summer same year. I moved to 5 different apartments during the first 2 years time and never had a valid contract because there is simply no chance to get a long-term first-hand deal. The system here for renting apartment is quite different, because you’ll need to register with your social security number in an official website as early as possible to collect ‘days’; for example I registered in 2013 now collected 1000+ days, and is interested in a particular apartment, if other people who are also interested have less than 1000 days, I will be able to get the contract. The days are basically your ticket number in the queue.
Here is a screenshot from the official renting page ‘Boplats’ for Gothenburg, showing an 1 room apartment located in a quite popular area. It also says ‘2931 people are applying and 1008 people are before you’. Which basically mean, if all these 1008 people before me changes their mind and withdraw their application of this particular apartment, I will have the chance to get it.
Here in comparison is an apartment in an unpopular area, which is about where we live right now. This is the area often associated with riots, cars burning and gun fights and maybe the people are a bit more paranoid, but we have to admit that we don’t always feel safe here. After 3 years waiting and collecting ‘days’, we still have 150 people before us in the queue.
Sounds like a depressing situation, doesn’t it?
But hold on, the second-hand renting part is even worse…There are people who started collecting days long time ago and got a contract, and since the demands are so high, it makes sense that some people are willing to risk it and make a profit of it. They will rent it out as a second-hand but without a valid second-hand contract, even if it means that they will lose their own contract if they get caught.
Years ago we were so desperate and had to live in one of those unsafe apartment, in an unsafe area and being charged double as much as the as normal price.
And after that we found a ‘student’ apartment listed out by a graduated student couple but was still faking to be students and rent out their room for some cash. Eventually the university found out and we had to move in about 10 days notice. But it wasn’t very surprising, we were very aware that those people aren’t trustworthy and therefore always prepared for the worst.
Of course we always have been trying to rent a second-hand apartment with a real contract, but it has become a lot harder as well. You’ll need to write a “resume” or profile about yourself and your family, proving that you are a responsible and agreeable person that deserve this apartment more than all the other applicants, and after many cringy and pathetic attempts and not getting any response, we gave up this approach because you have to agree it is ridiculous.
Now speaking from my heart, I wish people are more aware of the problem. Or stop pretending not to be aware of the problem.
I might be mistaken, but I have had impressions that Swedish people have accepted the fact that the chances to rent an apartment in big cities are like winning lottery these days, and it frustrates me that people almost think this is just a funny little problem and some day it will just magically go away.
We are grateful that our current apartment landlord is giving us 3 to 4 months of time to move out, even if it seems like a really short period of time. And for the past few months we have been saving *almost* enough money for the down payment because we know that second-hand renting won’t last. We are not 100% ready to be honest, but I guess we just have to get on with it.