Apartment hunt begins

For sale! For a lot!

To buy or not to buy, that is the question we are trying to answer.  We don’t have to start searching really hard until March, but we took our first apartment tours last night to get a feel for what to expect.

We have to expect to pay a lot, it turns out, and for not much space if we look for something to buy in the city.  Of course, we visited the priciest neighborhood yesterday, in Östermalm, so we should have expected the high price to space ratio.  Nevertheless, Matt and I walked away a bit shocked.

The place we saw last had two stories, and maxed out at about 65 square meters (nearly 700 sq. feet).  The balcony was lovely, the stove was gas.  The rest consisted of a small bedroom upstairs, a tiny bathroom in an old closet, no closets to speak of, and a small galley kitchen with eating area, next to a livingroom that would hold a couch and t.v. (and not much else).

And despite being perched at the top of a building near a small park, all the windows facing north meant the apartment/cave would get no light. The brokerage brochure stated that the windows got light until 10 am in the morning and after 7 pm.  So, that means not at all in the winter.

The bidding started at 3.45 million kronor; that’s about $540,000 USD (or more than 390,000 euro).  The place will probably sell by Thursday for 4 million kronor ($625,000 USD), according to the broker at the open house.

Needless to say, this all made us rather distressed — the walk home found us talking about what to do.  Immediately after we got home, Matt looked at places listed north of the city.  Thankfully we can get 80 square meters or more for about half to two-thirds the price of what we saw last night.  But these apartments will be outside the main city, even if they are near a train or T-bana stop.

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At least we now have a feel for the process.  Showings follow a pattern, something like 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon, 30 minutes on Monday or Tuesday evening.  Bidding starts on Tuesday-Wednesday, and closes on Thursday-Friday.  Prices will end up about 30% more than the bidding start price.  And that doesn’t include the avgift, or the monthly fee paid to the building management or co-op, which can be low (2,500 SEK) to outrageous (4,500 SEK or more).

One broker works the deal throughout, representing the seller and taking the buyers’ bids. The brochures are big and glossy, with fish-eye lenses to make the rooms look bigger.  We wondered how much the companies spend on photographers and printing, how much the brokers make — the system seems a bit broken.  I feel like there’s room for overturning it, that I should start a business representing buyers and searching out the best deals for them.  But it would make me crazy.

Fish eye: This brochure shot is of the apartment for sale below ours. The perspective from the kitchen (which runs along the wall behind the photographer) shows a bedroom and living area that fill the same space as our living/dining area.

Unbending space and time: This image shows almost the same space, taken with my normal camera lens.

Expect more installments in the apartment search in a few weeks, once we get news from the bank about our loan status and get more serious about this.

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