Finding a home when you first move to Copenhagen can often be a long and difficult process – especially if you are doing it without any professional help. Expat forums are currently are full at the moment with people trying to find somewhere to live, whether it is a room in a shared house or their own place.
There are a number of steps you can go through which can help make the process of finding a home in Copenhagen’s increasingly tough housing market a little easier.
Number One: Your budget
Is this all you'll be left with after paying rent? Photo: Colourbox
You need to be honest with yourself about how much of your monthly budget can you actually use for your rent and other associated costs. It is useful to think carefully about your ideal amount and then the amount that you could afford if you made some cutbacks elsewhere.
Remember it is usual here for renters to be asked for three months’ deposit up front and sometimes three months’ prepaid rent. Looking closely at the adverts will show you this.
Number Two: Your expectations vs reality
Once you have settled on the budget, you need to determine if it is realistic for the types of places you want to live and the lifestyle you hope to have once you are settled in. I strongly believe that an average apartment in a great area is the best compromise when you are first moving to a new city.
Looking around at what is available within your budget could mean that the parts of the city you hoped to live in are too expensive or the size of place you hoped for isn’t realistic.
You need to do some clear thinking about how you see your new life. Do you want real city living in a central apartment or a more suburban feel in a house? We downsized from a four-bedroom detached house in the UK to just over 100sqm four-room (excluding kitchen and bathroom) city apartment, but we loved it.
You need to think about how many rooms you really need. When we were just a couple we wanted a second room that could function as an office and a guest room for the few weeks of the year when we would have visitors. But you need to think about how important that extra room is and whether it is worth the extra money in rent.
Many expats moving to European cities want to have a lifestyle and home that is similar to what they had in their home countries, but city living isn’t the same the world over and you need to adjust some of your expectations.
Number Three: Your time and energy
I am the first to admit that looking for a home in a crowded rental market can become soul destroying very quickly when landlords and agents are ignoring your calls and messages, apartments seem to be rented the instant they are listed and open houses are a zoo. If you have already started working or you are juggling a family, home searches can just add to the stress of relocating and settling in.
This is the point when you may need to call in someone to help. Relocation advisors who assist in finding you a place can really save you time and money in the long run and from my varied experience are worth speaking to, at least to find out what they can do for you.
Number Four: Look at your options
It's easy to get around, so don't confine your search to a small area. Photo: Alex Berger/Flickr
At the start of your search it is easy to reject somewhere for being ‘too pokey’ or ‘too noisy’ or not having a lift (very rare here in Copenhagen) or not being in the exact area you had in mind. I have loads of clients who have ended up renting a lovely place that was smaller than they hoped, not in the neighbourhood they were keen on at the start and with no lift and they are delighted with it. Copenhagen is a very small city and it is easy to get to most places regardless of where you live, so overly narrow searches are not only unnecessary, they are counterproductive.
If your options are realistic you should at least have places you can apply for but if you are still not coming up with options you need to have an honest reappraisal of your expectations and search criteria. Make sure you are clear on what the real deal-breakers are.
Number Five: Success at last, but take care!
Be aware of what you sign. Photo: July/Flickr
Finally (or so it feels) you have beaten off the competition and found somewhere to rent. You feel your life here can really start but this is the time to be careful about the small print. Make sure that the lease contract is satisfactory and never transfer any money before documents have been signed. If you are lucky enough to have a Danish friend willing to look over the paperwork, that is great but you can find a professional to translate and advise you for a reasonable price — it really is worth it.
Never take a rental that won’t allow you to register for your personal ID number (CPR-nummer) at the address no matter how desperate you are — this is illegal.
Make sure you understand all the stipulations of the rental agreement – for example will they expect you to paint the walls and redo the floors when you move out (something that is fairly normal here)?
Number Six: Pop open the bubbly and start to enjoy you new home!
Melanie Haynes is originally from the UK and has lived in Copenhagen for eight years. She writes about life in Copenhagen on her blog Dejlige Days and after experiencing relocation to Copenhagen and Berlin, she runs a settling-in service aimed at expats called Dejlige Days Welcome and works with Copenhagen Housing to offer an integrated settling-in and home search service. Her ebook, 'Dejlige Days: A Guide to Relocation', will be published soon.