It's mid-July - that time of the year when hundreds of students and high school pupils desperately look for a place to stay in Tromso before the school year/university semester starts in mid-August. And not just that, there's plenty of other people starting a new job in town after the summer looking for housing too.
So to say that the housing market in Tromso is tough during August is an understatement.
It's actually that bad that every year, lots of international students have to travel back home again and can't do their semester or studies abroad, simply because they can't find a place to live.
Moreover, the university even provides emergency housing for those students who couldn't find a place to stay before they arrived to town.
This arrangement costs you per day and if you're out of luck, you have to stay in a place without internet and showers.
Do you still want to move to Tromso?
Well, fear not cause it doesn't have to be this bad!
In order to facilitate the search for you, I thought I would put together a guide on how to find housing in Tromso - no matter if you're a student or not.
Things to do before coming here:
1. Check Housing Platforms and Facebook Groups
The most common question I get from people is where to actually search for housing. There are several options and I'm going to list them according to what I think offers you the best chances of finding something nice.
Finn is the biggest platform in Norway for finding housing, jobs, holidays and things people don't want anymore.
I've found one of my 5 places I've lived in in Tromso so far through Finn and it definitely shows the majority of free rooms and flats in town.
However, landlords advertising on Finn usually get emails and are called by 50+ people so don't be disappointed when you don't hear back from someone.
Also, don't just get into contact with the people behind your dream apartment - be flexible and consider as many options as possible!
Nordlys is one of the local newspapers in Tromso and the one with the biggest ad part.
You can write an ad for the paper yourself, telling what kind of housing you're searching for and what your budget is and hopefully people will contact you.
This service has a fee according to how much you write and whether you include a picture or not but it's totally worth it!
The boyfriend and I set 1 (!) ad to go live on a Friday morning and already by Friday evening, we went to 2 viewings and decided for our current flat by Saturday afternoon.
Talk about being fast and effective!
ITromsø is the other local newspaper in town and they also offer an ad service. I haven't tried it myself yet but the concept is the same as with Nordlys.
UiT Marketplace is the electronic notice board of the University. Under "Hus & Hybel" you can find rooms in flatshares and apartments, and the ads are often in English too! I found 2 of my flatshare rooms here.
Housing Anywhere is the perfect place for students to find a room for a semester or a couple of weeks during the summer. Here, other students sublet their rooms when they're going abroad themselves. I haven't tried it yet but I think it's a great option if you're looking for short term rental.
Hybel is another housing platform in Norway, though it's considerably smaller than Finn and most ads are outdated. But maybe you're lucky?!
There's also plenty of Facebook groups where people advertise their free spaces. These are the biggest:
2. Apply for student housing if you're coming here to study
If you're planning on coming to Tromso to study, you can apply for student housing.
The University in Tromso has 13 student hostels that offer single rooms, some with, some without bathrooms, as well as apartments for students with partners and/or kids.
When you're applying for a place in student housing at Samskipnaden, you can put your 4 favourite hostels on the list but remember to not get your hopes up.
The student organisation can't consider everyone's wishes so you'll get a place wherever there's something available, regardless of your wishes.
Most student hostels are pretty old and you often have to share the kitchen with 5-15 people.
Student housing is cheaper than the private market though so you should definitely apply for a place, even if you know that life in the student dorms is not for you.
You can move out with 1 month notice which makes it pretty easy for you to find a new place when the housing market has cooled down again.
That's what I did cause I really didn't like living at my first dorm and it went perfectly well.
3. Get your finances in order
Renting in Norway is expensive and most people here prefer to buy an apartment rather than renting it as housing loans are relatively cheap.
That's probably not an option for you as student or newly expat so you have to be ready for 50% of your income to be spend on housing.
Rooms at the student housing in Tromso cost between 3000 and 5000 NOK (318€-530€) while apartments in student housing cost between 5000 and 8000 NOK (530€-850€).
Prices on the private market are higher.
Here you can expect to pay between 4500 and 6000 NOK (425€-640€) for a room in a flatshare and about 10000 NOK (1060€) or more for a 1 bedroom flat - you can get 2 bedroom flats for that price in the suburbs outside of Tromso Island though.
4. Learn Norwegian
Nobody expects you to speak Norwegian fluently upon arrival in Norway but most housing adverts and rental contracts are in Norwegian so it's beneficial for you to at least know the basics!
It just makes searching places easier and people won't ignore you cause you're contacting them in English.
Things to do when you get here:
5. Prepare to contact lots of adverts without ever getting a reply
Like I said, the housing market is tough and there are lots of people contacting the same advert as you are.
It's frustrating but mostly, people don't even get back to you if the flat is already rented out to someone else or you're not among the first 5 or so people calling.
Just contact as many ads as possible and hope for the best.
Make sure to go on a "visning"
Don't ever sign a contract for a room or flat from abroad without having seen the actual space - unless you're assigned a room in student housing, then you have to.
Otherwise, always make sure you go to a viewing (or "visning" in Norwegian) and check the space carefully.
People try to make money out of subletting spaces that are actually worse than the cupboard under the stairs if you know what I mean.
I've once been at a viewing where the room didn't have a window - just an escape door to the roof!
6. Check Hybelrating.no for Reviews
Unfortunately, many landlords in Tromso try to make money out of the tough housing situation and are out to rip you off by renting out old and rundown places for an absolutely unfair price and/or an incredibly high deposit sum.
So before you go on a viewing (or even better, before you even contact the advertiser), you can check Hybelrating.no for a review of that place.
Hybelrating is a place where you can write about your experience with that particular landlord, not by telling his/her name but by telling the address only.
You can find positive as well as negative reviews there so it's good to check either way - whether you have a bad feeling after your viewing or you just want to make sure before you even go there.
7. Ask about the deposit and notice period
To prevent a nasty surprise when you want to move out again, make sure to ask about the deposit and notice period before you sign the contract.
Many places here require you to pay 1-3 monthly rent amounts in advance as a deposit (which is ridiculous if you ask me) so we're back at having your finances in order before moving.
Also, most places have a notice period of 1-3 months.
So far, so good.
What they don't tell you though (and sometimes don't even write into the contract only to later argue with you and refer to the Norwegian laws that you as a stupid foreigner don't know anyway - yes, that happened to me) is that you have to terminate your contract by the last day of the month.
It doesn't matter if you moved in, signed the contract and/or pay the rent on the 12th of the month - you have to terminate the contract by the last day of the month, otherwise your termination won't become accepted until the month after.
So for example, if you terminate your contract on April 2 and you have 1 month notice period, you have to continue paying rent for April and May then.
It's stupid and they should tell you so when you sign the contract but there's a lot of people in Tromso simply trying to make money out of the tough housing market - so be careful!
8. Make sure your new landlord opens a deposit account
This is especially important when it comes to your deposit. According to the Norwegian laws, a deposit has to be paid in a separate bank account that both, the tenant and the landlord have access to. However rarely anyone does that.
Now you could ask why that is so important.
Well the thing is that if you move out and your landlord "suddenly" discovers damages to the space, he can neglect to pay your deposit back and since it's not on a separate account, you can't even get a lawyer and go to court - it would be pointless as the law is against you in this case.
Therefore always take pictures of the place before you move in and when you move out again and insist on a separate deposit account!
9. Take pictures of the place before you move in
Like I said.
10. Get to know your new flatmates
Especially if you're a student, your budget will only get you a room in a flatshare and it can be beneficial to get to know your new flatmates before moving in.
Sometimes it's the people living there who organise a room showing so in that case, you're covered but you also have to rely on them liking you enough to live there.
Often enough however, it's the landlord who organises the viewings and in that case, you might not even meet your new flatmates.
It happened to me and even though I was glad that the landlord wanted to rent out the room to me, I had a weird tummy feeling until I moved in about how the flatmates would be.
Turned out I was stuck living with the world's most annoying, arrogant and obnoxious person on earth for 6 months.
And trust me, it wasn't worth it! I should have rather invested more time instead of desperately saying yes when being offered a place and so should you - no matter how tough the housing market is!
Things to do when you move out:
11. Make arrangements for a cleaning check
When I was living in student housing, I heard a rumour that many international students got a hefty bill once they moved out and were back in their home countries, apparently because they didn't clean the room neatly enough before they left.
Now the stubborn German that I am, I found that sort of cleaning fee ridiculous and wanted to make sure that this didn't happen to me.
I asked around and was told by a few Norwegians that if you contacted Samskipnaden and made arrangements for a cleaning check, this wouldn't happen.
That's of course something not many international students know about (and how would they - nobody tells them voluntarily) so I'm glad that I can pass this little secret on to you.
What you do is to simply ask the student organisation for the number of the caretaker of your hostel and then you call that person and ask for a date and time s/he can come over to check your room.
My caretaker only remarked a little dust under my bed (boohoo) that I quickly removed and so avoided that hefty cleaning fee.
12. Ask your landlord whether or not he's willing to provide a testimonial
In Norway/Tromso, many landlords want to see testimonials from former places you've lived in to make sure that you're a responsible and tidy person.
This doesn't have to be a written statement, mostly it's enough to provide a phone number to your previous landlord.
I admit, I definitely feel that this is a bit over the top - especially when some people require at least 3 testimonials, like how often do they expect you to move?
And it's especially a pain in the ass if you're an expat and don't have any Norwegian contacts to begin with.
But that's the way it is so make sure to ask your landlord whether or not he'd be willing to provide a testimonial for you when you move out.
I've done a lot of mistakes during my 2 years and 5 moves in Tromso so I'm not telling you any of this to scare you - rather to prepare you!
It's no fun to be stuck living with people who like to cook food in the middle of the night or having to argue with your landlord about notice periods and deposits.
It doesn't have to be this way though!
We're really lucky with our current living situation as we didn't have to pay a deposit (and therefore there's nothing to argue about when we move out), they allow us to drill holes in the walls as they regard them not as damage but simple use of the flat, and they didn't want to see any testimonials either.
They even build a sun terrace for us recently and provided us with blinds, lamps, a TV and other interior equipment when we moved in!
The boyfriend already said that we have to get them a Christmas present when we moved in but I feel like that present is getting bigger and bigger in his head the longer we live here!
So I really hope this guide will be of some use for you and if there's anything you need help with, don't hesitate to contact me!