My housing-hunting experience: what to do when you need to find accommodation by yourself

Stockholm is well known by its city hall and colourful buildings in Gamla Stan. But is not all rosy, because Stockholm is also infamous for the difficulty of finding housing, especially for international students. I was one of the unlucky ones that did not receive a student room for my first year, and I experienced first-hand how challenging is to find a good accommodation in Stockholm. Now that I gained all the experience I can share how did I manage to find my accommodation, which turned out to be really good, without any troubles apart from the unavoidable “house-hunting stress”.

moving
One of the biggest challenges before coming to Sweden is finding accomodation.

Accomodation options for EU master students

As you already know, EU students don’t pay tuition fees (yay!) but we are not guaranteed accommodation by Karolinska Institutet since the limited amount of rooms are prioritized for those other students paying tuition fees. This leaves us with three main options for looking for housing:

  • Apply for KI housing anyways: I would really recommend this! Although KI student rooms are reserved for fee-paying students, there are always some extra rooms given to EU students. Many of my EU friends are living in one of these rooms, so don’t forget to apply as soon as possible! For more posts about KI housing check the accomodation tag.
  • SSSB: SSSB has many student rooms and apartments in and around Stockholm. A SSSB room is a great idea for the second year of the master’s, since it’s common to have gained enough points to get a corridor room by then. Sadly, SSSB is not really an option for the first year of studies. I would register as soon as possible to start accumulating queue days: they let students register 90 days before becoming a student union member, and that’s a great way to gain some points before you get here.
  • Look for your own housing: this was my case last year. I didn’t get a room by KI accommodation, and I didn’t have enough points to get a SSSB corridor room either. This put me in the unlucky situation of having to find a room in an unknown country from home. As difficult as this might sound (it was a bit difficult to be honest) is totally possible if you start early to look for rooms and are careful with the contracts and payments that you need to do.
housing_timeline.PNG
Timeline of my accomodation-hunting experience.

 

April 2018: SOS! I don’t have where to live

This time last year I was very excited to come to KTH, SU and KI for my master studies. Everyone I spoke with recommended me to start looking for a room immediately: many people struggle to get a room or leave it until last minute, so they have to pay an overpriced rent or live very far away from the city. I was a bit scared by all these comments, so I checked this KTH website to know more about how to find accommodation by my own.

I started looking to those websites and emailed every landlord whose rent description looked good for me. I don’t exaggerate, I wrote several emails per day because I know that some of them wouldn’t even reply, and the others would give the room to another person that signed the contract first. I had never lived in Sweden before, so I didn’t want to pay any deposit without signing a proper contract and having visited the room first.

The first 20 emails I sent were all in response to advertisements that turned to be scams, and they had these some or all of these characteristics:

  • The landlord was not living in Sweden, but he/she could send me the apartment keys by post. Of course, visiting the room before signing the contract was not an option.
  • The landlord wanted me to pay some money as a deposit (all of them more than 5,000 sek) to make sure I really wanted to keep that room. Also, the deposit had to be payed immediately for me to have the room.
  • I got the exact same reply to my rental interest from two completely different email addresses “renting” different rooms.
  • The pictures of the building where one of the rooms was supposed to be were from a non-residential building. I discovered this by chance when I arrived to Sweden!
scam
Avoid paying a deposit in advance and be aware of scammers.

All of these replies were very discouraging: I thought I’d never get a room! I know it sounds very frightening to know that these kinds of things really happen, but better safe than sorry! I hope that my experience gives you some advice about how creative people can be and the red flags to look for to avoid being scammed.

 

May 2018: Looking at rental websites as a daily routine

After all the fradulent emails I decided to look in other places. The two websites that I was luckier with were:

  • Blocket: is the Swedish version of “Craiglist”, in which people sell bikes, furniture… and mostly everything you can imagine. There is also an option to post rental advertisements. There are a lot of rooms here, and you can message the landlord though the website. I visited one of the rooms in Blocket, and also I Skyped several landlords to see their apartments. I didn’t get any of those in the end, but if you are careful and make sure that you don’t need to pay before visiting the flat and sign a good contract many students get rooms though Blocket and are happy with them.
  • Qasa: I rented my current room using this service. It has the advantage that everything is mediated though a company, so it’s more safe. Also, both the landlord and the tenant have to upload their IDs and other information that make scams less probable. However, this also makes the prices to be higher since the company takes part of the rent.

At the end of May I had several candidate rooms, but I wasn’t very sure about which one to get because of their different prices and locations. I decided to keep looking some more, and to buy the cheapest flights I found to Stockholm so I could see the rooms before renting any of them. I know this situation is ideal and that I was very lucky to be able to come to Sweden before the course started, I would really recommend doing so if you have the chance. Other people could not come to see the rooms in person, so they skyped the landlord to see the flat and made sure their contract looked legitimate.

balance.jpg
One of the most important decissions you’ll probably need to take about your accomodation is to prioritize commuting-time to class vs. price of rent.

June 2018: 48 hours of house hunting

I came to Stockholm for a couple of days in June to see all the apartments. I expected it was going to be very tiring since I had to visit several rooms every day and had to spend the hours in between visits stumbling around Stockholm. After all the visits, questions and hours of walking here are my best tips and recommendations if you are in the same situation:

  • Prepare a list with questions beforehand: it’s very difficult to remember everything you want to ask and to come up with important questions on the spot. Spend some time before visiting the rooms brainstorming for questions and ask your family or friends about what would they ask and what do they consider a must when they rent a place to live.
  • Expect anything and everything: some places might surprise you by how big, luminous or nice they are, and other places may provoke the opposite reaction on you. Even if the room has potential and many good characteristics, take into consideration that the person currently living there might be messier or not-as-clean as you are. And prepare your poker face to avoid being unpolite in these situations. One of the best things I took from my housing-hunting experience is all the funny anecdotes I could tell my friends after coming back home.
  • Talk to the landlord or current tenants about life in the neighborhood: not only the room is important, but also the area and building in which the room is. You can learn about what can you do in your free time, what is the best way to commute to class from there, tips about the best shops or restaurants…
  • Make compromises: most probably you won’t find the perfect room to live. One would be further from school, other might be smaller…It’s all a matter of prioritizing what about the room do you like the most and choosing the one that will make you happier.

And I lived happily ever after

After a lot of work, I found a place I liked! I have been living there since august and I’m very happy with it. I can see that all the time I spend emailing people and worrying about housing were worthwhile. The moral of the story is that finding housing on your own is a difficult task, specially if you aren’t living in Sweden yet, but it is totally possible to find a good place to live if you put some work on it 😊

Special information for future Molecular Techniques in Life Science EU students

Since KTH takes care of the admissions to the MTLS Programme, MTLS student housing is also provided by KTH. KTH accommodation webpage says that EU MTLS students can apply for accommodation for the first year of their studies. The application period closes the 31st of May 2018, don’t forget to apply!

 

I hope this post was helpful for all of you who are in need of housing, and please email me all your questions if you need extra help. Good luck with the application process and don’t give up – your perfect room is somewhere out there! 🙂


email: ines.rivero.garcia@stud.ki.se

LinkedIn: Inés Rivero García

 

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