Buying an apartment in Stockholm is like starting a new relationship. You’re instantly attracted, and the conversations and butterflies you have on the first few dates are so promising. Then you wait for days for a phone call, you start wondering what he is thinking and if there is someone else, and soon you’re three-quarters into a bottle of wine and staring at your phone for hours.
If you think this example is an over-exaggeration of the buying process, well, you’re wrong. The process inspires such anxiety it could rival waterboarding as the most torture one person can take. In other countries, you see an ad, set up a meeting, spend days getting to know every corner and cupboard of the place and make an offer. Here in Sweden, you see a place for 10 minutes and then begin the agonizing bidding process against other interested buyers until someone finally names a price too high for everyone else.
In a healthy market where there is balanced demand this process is much easier. But in a market where there are more buyers than sellers and interest rates are rock bottom, it becomes far more racking because of the sheer competition. We went on Sunday viewings for several apartments in our first week. Some were too small, others too expensive and a few were just ok. Then after the second (and last) viewing on Monday the bidding began. We watched the price on the one apartment we liked tick up nearly 50% from the asking price in a matter of 24 hours. Shit.
The pressure built to a fever pitch after we fell in love with a 1-bedroom apartment in Birkastan, a trendy and popular Stockholm neighborhood with all of the amenities and conveniences one would want. It was love. I began decorating from the pictures on the internet ad. I envisioned dinner parties and cuddly Sunday afternoons. It was mine and I had to have it. Problem was, two other people had to have it as well. Bastards.
The bidding shot up almost 18% from the asking price minutes after the first viewing. Then we topped the bid and waited. And waited. And some anonymous Swede rode in on his high horse (not sure the Western analogy works in a Scandinavian country but just go with it) and outbid us. Then we upped the ante. He followed suit. And it continued as the price ticked up closer and closer to our highest bid.
I spent hours trying to outthink this arrogant Swede that was trying to take my dream home away. I looked at every angle, every option he had. What was likely his limit? Why hasn’t he bid in two hours? Could I convince the real estate agent to give me his name so I could track him down, hog-tie him and steal his cell phone, thus preventing him from submitting more bids? Then he bid our limit. SH%¤ DA#& Aa”#!! I sat numb. What do we do? Go over our limit?
The next few hours were agony. Text boyfriend. Wait for text. Call real estate agent and hang up. Call again. Hang up again. Answer phone from said real estate agent wondering why I keep calling. Check phone. Have a coffee. Mull prospect of having to live in a box.
In a last act of desperation, we raised our bid. Thinking all was lost and that this mystery Swede who I so wanted to mace was going to steal it away, I went to have drinks with some girlfriends. And then I got the call. We won! I felt like Rocky at the top of the Art Museum steps, embarrassingly pumping my arms and fist-punching the air (don’t judge, I was caught up in a moment). Aside from the elation of having just bought our perfect apartment, there was relief that, like so many others who look for apartments in this city, we wouldn’t have to go through the torturous bidding process again. But it was worth it…
…and we move in next week! And redecorate. Immediately.