Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Apartment Blues in Stockholm

Since I will be in Stockholm, Sweden in less than one month, I feel that I must make the inevitable post addressing the myriad of difficulties surrounding the Swedish housing market.

Firstly, Stockholm is built on 14 islands so there is a lack of available land for expansion. Stockholm is a bustling international city with an increasing number of new residents every year, then factor in the fact that there has been a severe lack of new construction in recent years. What do you get? A ridiculously complicated and scam-filled housing/rental market!

From reading articles and from listening to my Swedish friends, I have heard numerous horror stories of unsuspecting foreigners getting ripped off by online scams. Even I, the well-seasoned traveler, almost fell for a scam.

What NOT to do:
1.     DO NOT use Swedish Craigslist!
2.     DO NOT use Swedish Craigslist!
3.     DO NOT use Swedish Craigslist!
Did you get that? I repeat DO NOT USE SWEDISH CRAIGLIST! From my own personal experience and from word of mouth, this is the number one sure-fire way to lose your money, dignity and end up apartment-less in Stockholm!!

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Nowhere does this saying ring more true than on Swedish Craigslist.  Almost all the listings are for apartments located in coveted downtown Stockholm. You will look at these listings thinking you have hit apartment gold, but NO my friend, look again! You will be temporarily dazed by the possibility of living in a centrally located apartment that is stylish yet affordable, but after that initial excitement has worn off, you may want to take a second more careful look at the posting. You will notice that the pictures in the apartment-posting look “too good”, almost like they came straight from the pages of a design magazine, or that the shots of the many rooms look like they came from completely different apartments with utterly different styles. MMM… suspicious yet?

If you are a trusting "utlänning" (like me), you may even respond to one of the *amazing* apartment listings on Swedish Craigslist. You will get an email from the "owner" of the apartment telling you how special the apartment is and how much they want to make sure you take good care of it in their absence. He will tell you that he wants to trust you, so he will kindly ask you to provide him ALL you personal information including but not excluded to your birthday, job, current address, phone number and a scanned copy of your passport! Then the "owner" will tell you that he is currently not in Sweden, but hey! no problem, you can conveniently transfer him the first months rent plus security deposit and he will mail you the keys.

WHAT?!!  DO NOT send in your passport! DO NOT transfer ANY money! Because believe me this, once you send in your precious kronas, you will NEVER hear from the "owner" again or see your money again.

I am embarrassed to admit that after struggling for weeks to find an apartment in Stockholm, I foolishly responded to apartment listing on Swedish Craiglist. I even provided my information to the "owner" of the apartment, but when the "owner"of the apartment asked me for a copy of my passport and the first two months rent up front, thank god, I had enough sense to stop and think. When I hesitated is when the harassing emails demanding money started-five emails in one day asking me to transfer money or I will lose the apartment! When I did not respond to the emails, is when I started getting calls from international numbers. I picked up the phone thinking it was my mom calling from China, but instead the caller actually turned out to be the "owner"of the listed apartment, who had a distinctly NON-SWEDISH accent, calling to again to demand an immediate money transfer. Needless to say… I was no longer interested in the apartment.

To avoid getting ripped off, I would recommend googling the apartment address provided in a listing. Often times you will find other listings with the same address that have already been reported for being scams. Also, google the name of the apartment "owner" and the email address, or even better, copy and paste their entire email to you and click “search”. More often than not, you will find identical copies of the email online listed as confirmed scams!!

I have included link for Swedish Craigslist because of the off-chance that there could be some legitimate apartment postings on there, but I warn you again…click it that your own risk:

Now I understand that after reading my post you may feel discouraged and overwhelmed by the daunting task of finding a reasonable apartment in Stockholm, but do not worry there ARE still many ways to search for legitimate apartment. Here is a great blog breaking down the right ways to apartment hunt in Stockholm:

Personally, I found my apartment in Ă–stermalm by creating a want-ad on . Apparently since  there is a lack of apartments, it is more common for the would be rentee to put in the effort to make an want-ad than for the owner of the apartment to post an apartment listing. If you decide to post on, then I would recommand getting a Swedish friend to translate your ad to Swedish, because while it is true that many people in Sweden are fluent in English, Swedish is still the universal language there. For example, the owners of my apartment are not very fluent in English and have mainly communicated to me in Swedish.

So what is the take home message from this post? Yes, the Swedish housing/rental process can be throughly confusing and even hair-pullingly frustrating at times, but if you start searching in advance, are persistent and make smart decisions, then you too CAN find your own little piece of Stockholm to call home! ;)
Success! All mine!

To all my fellow apartment hunters-Good Luck and DON’T GIVE UP! –Ran-xoxo-A Nomad in Heels.

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