Sweden’s housing market

One thing that is really strange for newcomers to Sweden is the housing market.

Stockholm’s queue for rent-controlled housing is so long it’s being considered for the Guinness Book of World Records. You can be in a queue from nine years to two decades to obtain a rental contract of your own.  It is approximately 70 per cent more expensive to build housing in Sweden than in the rest of Europe, so the construction of new builds is far lower than it should be, and is not keeping pace with population growth and urbanisation. In addition, almost half of households are single households.

Most of the rental market is in the hands of the municipalities – public sector housing. Alongside the huge public landlords, there are smaller private landlords. But there is rent control so the amount you can charge for a first hand contract is limited. And companies are severely restricted from buying apartments as overnight apartments for their staff.

Most people sublet an apartment or a room for their first years, and hope to find a rental of their own. Once you have your own rental contract, you can use it to swap contracts – a bigger for two smaller if you divorce or your children need somewhere to live, a bigger for a smaller one in a better area. Often money changes hands under the table…

If you decide to go the other way and buy, apartments are really expensive.  As an example, our apartment has been valued at $10 000 per square metre. And you don’t own your apartment in the same way as other countries.

Bostadsrätt (tenant ownership) is the most common purchase form for apartments. But you don’t buy the apartment. You buy the right to live there. A number of people go together to form a tenant-ownership association. The members of this association buy the building and thus have the right to live there. BUT…you can be evicted by the association, you are restricted in how long, why and whether you can sublet, companies cannot buy an apartment, and the association can go bankrupt, leaving you homeless and without money.

The situation is so ridiculous that some associations are selling their parking spaces to fund renovations of their building. This bicycle is parked in a 12 square metre (129 square foot) parking space that sold for $124 337,33/€106 475,99 in our neighbourhood last year. I still cannot get over the price!

And here is a 14 square metre/150 square foot one-room apartment that recently sold for $ 321 458.


A new housing form has started in recent years, aganderätt (the right to own). Companies can buy apartments, you can sublet as long as you want, and you own your apartment. But the prices are really really high.

Sweden’s government had to step down a few months ago because of a proposal to abolish rent control and introduce market rent for new builds from 2022. So we shall see.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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