Sweden has a notoriously high cost of living, although the standard of living is also considered to be very good so many foreign nationals find that the move is worth the expense. Alcohol prices are a much publicised marker of the cost of living in Sweden as they can be as much as double the average compared to central European nations, but in reality other goods show less of a discrepancy. Accommodation in Stockholm and other major cities is usually more expensive than in smaller towns, but in rural areas the cost of goods may be higher because of the logistics of supplying them.
Although there are no restrictions on foreign nationals purchasing property in Sweden, the majority of Swedes rent their homes and expats tend to follow suit. The property market in Sweden works differently to most European countries, with a much higher percentage of social or ‘public’ rental housing managed by local municipal authorities. Although this is the most affordable option for most, waiting lists for this type of property can be very long so private sector rental may be the best option for new arrivals in the country. Be aware that demand for housing outweighs supply in many parts of Sweden, so it’s wise to give yourself plenty of time to search for a good deal.
The rental market in Sweden is highly regulated and is generally regarded as offering a fair deal for both landlord and tenant. Deposits are not usually part of a contract and landlords do not ordinarily ask for references because they are able to check the tenant’s history via a government register. This system flags any unpaid rent or damage at previous properties, so it is in the tenant’s interest to avoid both.
Real estate tax
Property owners in Sweden are liable for a municipal tax charged at a percentage rate against the tax-assessed value of the property. Where rental tenants are not directly liable for this tax, landlords who own properties on higher real estate tax rates may choose to reflect this in the rent they charge.
Water and sewerage costs are state subsidised in Sweden so water bills can be surprisingly cheap – by law they cannot exceed the cost of the service provided. Mains gas supply is not widely used, but electricity, telephone and internet suppliers operate in a competitive market, so shop around for the best deal. Households are also charged for waste disposal, with some municipalities operating pay-by-weight schemes to encourage recycling – so don’t be surprised if you find your bins being weighed!
Sweden has a compulsory TV licence system, so every household that owns a television receiver must pay the annual charge. For the latest rates and payment options, visit the Radiotjänst website.
Healthcare and medical costs
Sweden’s healthcare system is heavily subsidised by the state and regularly ranks amongst the world’s best. The good news for foreign nationals living in the country is that once you have your personal identity number you can usually access the same level of services as Swedish citizens at the same costs. Fees are charged for medical services, but the total cost to the individual per year is capped. Although private healthcare services are also available, the majority of people in Sweden are content with the state provision.
Sweden has excellent choice when it comes to shopping, but prices are high almost across the board. Be aware that alcohol for home consumption is only sold through the pricey state-owned monopoly Systembolaget, and other everyday groceries can be very expensive too. Many shops close earlier than you might think, so make sure you don’t get caught without the essentials – especially at the weekend.
Value-added tax is charged at three different rates in Sweden. Most goods and services are covered by the general tax rate – the highest level – with a middle rate charged on foodstuffs and hotel rates. Sales of items such as newspapers, magazines and books are charged at lower VAT level, which also applies to the cost of some public transport tickets. For current rates and general tax information, visit the Verksamt website.
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – 6,619.94kr (≈£534.74) per month
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – 4,231.50kr (≈£341.81) per month
- Price of apartment in city centre – 49,039.67kr (≈£3,961.31) per square metre
- Price of apartment outside city centre – 28,679.55kr (≈£2,316.67) per square metre
- Loaf of bread – 19.69kr (≈£1.59)
- Milk (1 litre) – 9.31kr (≈£0.75)
- Bottled water (1.5 litre) – 13.85kr (≈£1.12)
- Draught beer (0.5 litre) – 55.00kr (≈£4.44)
- Packet of cigarettes – 55.00kr (≈£4.44)
- Petrol (1 litre) – 14.50kr (≈£1.17)
- Cinema ticket – 115.00kr (≈£9.29)
Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed February 2015)