Sweden has suffered from a housing shortage since 1905. You heard it right, for 116 years we have had a problem that hasn’t been properly addressed.
What are the national consequences of a limited housing market?
- Young people are not able to accept placement in universities unless they can find housing.
- Young people are not able to start their adult life and live at home way longer than anyone is comfortable with.
- A limited market has many restrictions, special laws, and regulations that further make it dysfunctional. There are many scams.
- Foreign talent has a major hurdle to conquer when they move to Sweden to take on a job.
The latter is what we have been battling for over 26 years.
For the first time ever we had some use for the knowledge, processes, and learnings we have gained during this time. Our partner, a relocation company located in the UK, reached out and wanted help!
“You have worked with a housing shortage forever, what can you teach us”?
So what is the secret sauce?
We have tried many different things over the years and this is what we can share.
In a market with limited resources, it’s not possible to learn by seeing. While you can see 30 properties in locations around Europe and where a 3-4 day Home finding is actually possible. To do the same in Sweden would take many months and some serious flexibility in terms of what you are looking for.
Hence, preparing the client for the limited choice, explaining the market, and helping them to be ready to make a decision without having seen more than 3-5 properties is essential.
It has taught me that when (on rare occasions) many properties are viewed, it can be even harder to make a choice. Less is more.
How to widen the choice
Many people have some requirements that are non-negotiable. So we try to meet them all, but not at the same property.
If you want to have a low price, it won’t be found in an A location. If a seaview is important, perhaps there won’t be a spare bedroom.
While some believe that it’s a waste of time to view properties that don't exactly match the wishes. We’d beg to differ. Saying NO is part of the process that will bring a person closer to finding a new home. It’s part of the learning process.
We have learned to open up more options.
Viewing the properties
In a limited market, the viewing of properties is the tip of the iceberg and going out to view, however little there is will glean insights. One of the first home findings I did 26 years ago was with an American lady who absolutely wanted a modern apartment, yet she ended up choosing an apartment in terrible shape outside the area she wanted to live in and refurbished it herself.
That taught me that there’s chemistry between properties and people and they need to meet to feel it.
Do it all on the same day!
Even a small selection is a selection and to successfully be able to secure the property you need to know you want it on that exact day. Just like our peers in San Francisco, a decision has to be made more or less on the spot.
If the viewings are spread out over several days or weeks, you essentially no longer have a choice given that the properties viewed first will no longer be available.
We have learned that being flexible with terms and viewing properties at one time will provide wonderful possibilities and make for a better move.
Market the client well!
Landlords choose tenants and a corporate lease always trumps a personal lease in Sweden. In the UK and other countries, landlords look for different criteria to be met to choose a tenant.
We have learned that creating a bond with the landlord or letting agents can make or break the deal. One of our consultants routinely tells the client that “I will be talking to the landlord in Swedish and it’s to get to know him/her, to understand what is important to them, and to position you the best way we can.”
Work with what you have!
The market won’t change, will you? One thing that we have learned is that we can’t change reality no matter how much we’d like to. So we have to accept and do the best we can.
One time I had a client that completely lost it. He got furious so he got out of the car, walked around it, and came back. He said “I’m past shock, past anger and now I’m in the acceptance phase so let’s get to the solution. He found a house the same day and lived in Sweden happily for many years. He had a pragmatic approach that worked for him and his family.
The long invisible line behind our clients for properties, viewed or scheduled will require fast and firm decision making.
Helping a client feel comfortable with their choice is an art. To underline the fast action needed without infusing stress into the process. This is not easy and can take many years to master. We have seen that once the decision is made, there’s a sigh of relief and the more exciting portions of the move to a new country and company will replace the worries.
It’s not a lifelong commitment!
Swedish leases are, compared to many other countries, short and easy to break. To find the first apartment is to get started. After that, a tenant can break the lease with 1-3 months which means an employee can search from the comfort of their own home and still have a place to live.
Putting the weight of the decision into perspective is helpful. It’s not forever, it can be changed, and it’s a good start.
Working in a cumbersome market is not only hard for the persons moving to Sweden, but it’s also not entirely comfortable for people that are innately service-minded and want to please to work under such difficult terms. To carve out a model that allows for successful outcomes and a pleasant experience has taken a long time. Our client testimonials that are 96% collaborate that the relocation team is successful in spite of the shortage.
It was nice too, for once, to have some use for the difficult circumstances we are working under in Sweden. I will add that once a person finds a home, they usually love living in Sweden and stay way longer than anticipated.