So you've landed in Copenhagen and you find yourself in the envious position of living in the world's happiest country. Consistently ranked high in various studies, its claims to fame include being, among other things, a smart and green city, one with the best work-life balance, one of the best cities for foodies and the city with the best reputation. And another distinction that's not so great: one of the most expensive cities to live in.
What you are probably also discovering is how hard it is to find a place to live despite your readiness to shell out big money. So, here's a little primer on what you need to know about renting a home in Copenhagen.
1. Timing is everything:
In Copenhagen, it's hardly ever easy to find a place to rent, but there are two periods when it's doubly difficult: January and September. A large number of international professionals who come to Denmark on expat contracts begin work on the first day of the year, meaning there are more people looking for a place to live. Some of them have a relocation agency helping out, giving them an advantage over those who don't.
“The city of Copenhagen grows by approximately 1,000 people every month, but it has not been able to build new properties to accommodate this growth. There is no doubt, however, that the busiest period in Copenhagen's rental market is around September 1st, when there is an influx of students heading to Copenhagen to study at the universities”, says Henrik Løvig, the CEO of BoligPortal.dk, one of Denmark's largest rental housing portals.
Are there any periods when the market eases a bit?
“There are no easy periods in Copenhagen because of the massive demand for housing. But, relatively and statistically, you have the best possibilities in February, March and April”, he adds.
2. A long wait:
Brace yourself for a long waiting period. On average, it takes about three months to find an apartment or house that meets your expectations, not to mention your budget. You will end up sending emails to several prospective landlords and estate agencies. Be prepared not to receive replies from a large number of them.
“I've been looking for an apartment for over a month. Most landlords don't respond. I sent nearly 50 emails, but so far I've had only three viewings,” says Andriy Tevelyev, a game developer who moved to Copenhagen from Ukraine.
The sheer demand for housing means that available properties go off the market quickly and often landlords don't feel obliged to let you know that the listing is no longer available.
Put your network to good use and spread the word around among colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Several apartments and houses get leased purely through word of mouth. Being the first to know about a prospective availability increases your chances of securing it. If you are new to the city and don't have a social network yet, scour the bulletin board and intranet of your company or university for listings from your colleagues.
And don't limit your search to empty apartments. Renting with a roommate not only saves you money, it can be a great way to meet new people.
4. Make an effort to impress:
The demand for good apartments and houses far exceeds the supply. This means you have be to fairly serious about your search and make an effort to convince a landlord that you would make a good tenant.
“Use every chance you get to make a good first impression on a landlord. Remember, you usually have only one chance to make a good impression, and some landlords receive a lot of applications. So provide relevant details about yourself and present yourself in a manner that helps you stand out from the crowd”, says Løvig.
5. Where to look:
So where does one start the search? The best place to search for apartments and houses is online. In addition to our roommate-finding service, there are a host of rental agencies like AkutBolig, Boliger, Bolig Portal and Lejebolig. If you are looking for fully furnished apartments, try City Apartment. DBA, more popular for selling and buying second-hand goods, also has a section on housing. For students on a tight budget, the best option is to look for a dormitory, or kollegium as it is called in Danish. Students can apply for a room through KKIK or CIU. You can also sign up for an apartment in housing associations like Boligforening 3 B , FSB and Lejerbo but they generally have a long waiting list.
Above all use your common sense at all times. Never sign a contract or put down a deposit for a place you have not seen yourself or if you have not met the landlord in person. Once you move into your home, you have 14 days to report any defects or problems you notice. This is to ensure that the landlord does not ask you to pay for their repairs when you move out.
Good luck in your house hunt.
Sarita Rajiv is a freelance writer and founder of The Orange Gift Bag, a niche blog on gifting. She tweets as @OrangeGiftBag.