Stockholm's suburbs: the secret to finding 'home'
Publish date: 19 April 2016
It's hard to deny Stockholm has a housing issue. The Swedish capital was recently ranked the fastest-growing city in Europe - so of course there's plenty of competition on the real estate market. But the situation isn’t quite as bad as some apocalyptic headlines might have you believe. There’s housing available – if you just know where to look. We spoke to multiple expats in Stockholm’s tech world about how they found home.
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘suburbs’? Do you think of two-hour commutes? You’re not alone.
“We come from a huge city where it’s common for it to take more than two hours to get to work,” says Leslie Wittig Quintanilla, who moved to Stockholm from Brazil with her partner Fabricio Leotti. “But in Stockholm everything is close.”
The couple works at Swedish startup Klarna, where both are system developers. They now live in Saltjö-boo, east of central Stockholm.
“The entire city has a great transportation system, not to mention good access to super-markets and healthcare,” Fabricio says. “And it doesn’t take long at all to get to the office.”
With Stockholm’s population set to swell by 17 percent in the next nine years, long housing queues and expensive second-hand contracts are very real issues.
But finding housing would be much easier for many expats if they only realized how accessible the suburbs are, says Mohamed Hamid, co-founder of housing service Homii.
“Many people who are new in Stockholm think that they have to be central – but they don’t realize all the opportunities there are outside the city,” he says.
Mohamed, who grew up in southern Sweden, now lives in Solna, a suburb just north of Stockholm with a mere “eight minute” commute to the city centre.
“It doesn’t feel like being outside Stockholm at all,” he says. “I have everything I need here. It’s not as crowded but it’s still central. You can go to the cinema or go running out in nature.
American expat Lindsey LaMont agrees the Stockholm suburbs have a lot to offer.
“Living in the suburbs it not as bad as people think,” she says.
The Seattle native has lived in Stockholm since 2012 and for the past couple of years she has worked as Community Manager at startup Truecaller.
She admits finding housing was rough at first, in part because she was looking in the wrong places.
“I was looking in typical areas on the metro like Södermalm and Östermalm,” she says. “Of course, the apartments there are expensive and super cramped.”
After moving outside the city, Lindsey has discovered that she thrives “out in the ‘burbs’”.
“Since 2012 I have lived in Sundbyberg, Ulriksdal, and now Barkarby,” Lindsey says. “It’s on the commuter rail line and the door-to-door commute is just 40 minutes. There are outlet malls and a nature reserve with a giant lake – so I get the best of both worlds.”
And it’s not just renting that’s easier outside the city centre. Buying becomes more feasible as well.
“In the suburbs the house prices are much lower,” says Prashant Dang, who came to Sweden in 2010 to work with company Seamless Payments (one of Stockholm’s ‘grown-up’ startups).
He’s now a proud home-owner in Upplands Väsby. It’s half an hour by train from downtown Stockholm, and Praschant says it’s a great area for nature and schools.
“We love living here,” he says. “I think foreigners tend to look for housing in central Stockholm – but I would advise people to look in places like Sollentuna, Täby, Uppsala, Järfälla, and Upplands Bro. The connectivity is fantastic.”
As with any large city, there are challenges involved with moving to Stockholm. But the innovative city also has plenty of unique solutions to help expats make the move.
“We had help from Human Entrance, a company that, among other things, makes searches for places based on the profile of who is looking,” Leslie says.
Prashant used services like BostadDirekt and Blocket. Mohamed Hamid tried all the usual routes, and when they didn’t work out, he created his own solution - Homii.
The service works much like a dating app that matches you with people your friends know, connecting home-seekers to potential apartments through their extended network. For expats using the service, just one well-connected colleague can be enough.
“Posts on Facebook only reach out to 10 percent of your friends,” Mohamed explains. “On Homii you can also reach out to your acquaintances.”
Lindsey agrees that networking is key to the Stockholm housing search.
“I took full advantage of my social media to find people who had connections in Stockholm, and also used The Local forums,” she says.
But above all, you’ve got to be open-minded, she says.
“Use your social networks, get on forums – and take a chance living in ’the burbs’!”