Thursday, October 15, 2015

Buying a Swedish house - eBay style!

We did not want to purchase any property in Sweden until we thought we "understood" the market a bit better. I placed understood in quotation marks because I don't think anyone truly understands the Swedish housing market. After speaking with numerous real estate agents, they all shake their heads and say, "I don't know. It's just crazy." I guess that's the easiest way to describe it: it's just crazy.

After doing some quick calculus, it dawned on us that we have moved 3 times in the past 3.5 years - Atlanta to Stockholm, Stockholm to Lidingo, and Lidingo to Akersberga. Moving so frequently is not only an expensive logistical nightmare but it is also difficult on the children. Now that our children are old enough to create friendships, uprooting them to the next rental for another year seems irresponsible. Living the gypsy lifestyle seems somewhat pointless when we have no intentions to leave Sweden any time soon. No, we had to purchase a house. It was time to figure out how to do so.

The Swedish real estate market (it's just crazy) is fairly streamlined on two websites - and After monitoring both, we found it easier just to focus on hemnet as there were mostly duplicate listings on blocket.

Jon spent every Saturday for a month driving around to the 4 quadrant neighborhoods outside of Stockholm to see if there were more affordable, livable options for us besides our current neighborhood. We didn't feel good about any of the other options for various reasons so we lasered our focus to the homes posted just in our town.

Here's how the process works for 99% of the houses in our neighborhood - a north eastern suburb of Stockholm:
  • House is posted on with beautiful pictures, description and asking price
  • Within 10-14 days of posting, there is one viewing on Sunday for 45 mins and possibly another on Monday for 45 mins in the evening
  • Bidding (bids accepted anytime after the house is posted) generally begins on Monday
  • Bids are placed via SMS to the realtor
  • Once you enter a bid, you receive an SMS update every time there is another bid. Never has hearing your phone's text message BING been so stressful!
  • After the bidding stops, the realtor calls every single person who attended the viewing(s) and/or placed a bid to see if they want to place another bid
  • Highest bid (usually) receives the house 
  • Home is removed from public listing after contract is signed
  • The end!

There are different bidding styles, not unlike eBay, that we encountered:
  • The Big Spender - places a first bid high above asking price to scare off competitors
  • The Smidgen Upper - stabs your soul in small tiny bid increments within 5 mins of your own bid placement
  • The Sniper - comes in at the last minute to outbid the highest bidder before the contract is signed
Example bidding - note the time stamps
All of these bids were received within 4 days of the house going on the market. It was sold before it's first viewing
The eBay-like bidding process is what makes the entire market unpredictable. We have watched houses that need serious renovation increase 37% in price due to the bidding. 37%! Also, sellers moving from pricier Stockholm are willing to bid up the price in the suburbs to secure whatever neighborhood they want and consequently, the prices are rising 14%-20% every 4 months. 

Jon and I observed this absolutely absurd housing market activity and said, "We may not be able to afford a house in this neighborhood if we wait any longer!" What a scary thought considering just 2 years ago, when we moved, this was a little suburb with a big commute.

What throws yet another wrench into this horrible process is that bids from the buyers are not binding and the seller does not have to sell to the highest bidder. Nope - if you are the highest bidder but bidder 2 is a friend of the seller's then you're out of luck. Also, someone can place a bid that raises the price, you counter, they remove their bid (it's not binding after all) and you are now stuck paying an inflated bid price. Too bad, so sad. 

You can see why we approached this housing market like a roaming lion out on the savannah. We hid, cowering behind a wall for many years so we wouldn't have to deal with it. Now the lion is moving much faster and is much stronger and we have to enter its domain. 

We possibly chose the most stressful way to buy a house and we placed a bid on a house that we had never seen before. We had missed the Sunday viewing and had only seen the pictures on hemnet. After going to enough viewings, we knew how realtors hide very big flaws in pictures so we negotiated for a private viewing. Jon was at work so I took him on a tour of the house via FaceTime. The house buying decision was based on how I felt while in the house. Is this somewhere we can make a home? Yes.

We were the top winners of a long and drawn out bidding war (so many SMS bings!) with our ultimate $605 bid (we had to be a Smidgen Upper at the end). With such a narrow margin of victory and the acknowledgement that at any point someone could outbid us, we raced into the realtor's office the next morning and signed the contract. Phew! 

We will officially move into the new house mid-December and instead of opening brightly wrapped Christmas presents, we will be unpacking boxes! 
The new digs

And back


  1. interesting insight into the Swedish property market. We have just gone through the process of buying in the UAE and although in hindsight it was relatively quick - it felt like a bureaucratic nightmare and that everyone was trying to pull wool over our eyes. We were at one stage bidding with ourselves, with several agent telling the owner there was 'loads of interest', when all it was me emailing multiple agents to ask if they had a property in the area we wanted. Congrats on your new digs I bet you can't wait to move in!! #myexpatfamily

    1. Negotiating a foreign real estate market is so difficult and it quickly becomes overwhelming. Bidding against yourself!? What a communication nightmare! I am in the process of calling all of the utility companies so we will have power when we move and I was told that my ID number is not associated with the house. That's news to me considering I signed the contract and the bank took my money. Hmm...

      Yes, we can't wait to move in and make it our home! Congrats on your new place as well!

  2. Congrats on the new house!!! Another great adventure for the Ferlands :-)


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