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The hassle-free housing solution for international residents in Europe

Few things are more exciting than embarking on a new life abroad. But if you’re worldly enough to take the leap, you probably also realise how many practical challenges you’ll face.

The hassle-free housing solution for international residents in Europe
Photo: LifeX

In many European cities, housing is one of the biggest headaches for international residents. Half of all property rental ads in Paris are illegal, according to one study, while many German cities have seen protest marches against “rental insanity”.

It’s hardly what new arrivals want to hear. But how about moving into a large, fully furnished apartment, with cleaning provided and flexible arrangements to match your life?

You could get all this with LifeX co-living if you need a place in Copenhagen, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Munich or London. With the opportunity to share with a diverse set of international professionals, residents say the apartments also offer a great way to make new friends.

Hassle-free housing: find out more about what you get when you move in with Life X

Clean, classy and always convenient

“Everyone knows these days that time is the only thing you can’t buy more of,” says Paul Sephton, a 30-year-old South African who lives in a LifeX apartment in Copenhagen. “LifeX is a ‘plug-and-play’ model to move into a new city and feel like you’ve had a home for years.” 

He describes the services he receives as “phenomenal”. In addition to a furnished room, you get pillows, sheets, and a weekly clean. If you enjoy cooking, you can expect mixers and modern appliances, as well as basics like pots and pans.

“Things like the cleaning really save you time on a daily basis to focus on the things you want to do,” says Paul.

Ivana Jelic, 32, from Serbia, moved from Paris to Munich, where she works in venture capital, in June 2019. “If you’re coming as a foreigner, it’s complicated and the search for a flat is a nightmare,” she says. After first moving into a private rental on her own, she moved into a LifeX apartment four months ago.

“I just came in with one suitcase,” she says. “It was so easy. There were pillows, a duvet, towels, the whole kitchen is equipped – you even have coffee. You have modern furniture and it’s light and clean. It’s like a serviced apartment with everything provided but a lot more personalised.”

She also praises the administrative approach, including digital contract signing. “All this paper is removed from the picture,” she says.

Photos: LifeX

Your very own friend finder

Between four and eight people live in a typical LifeX apartment. That means around 40-50m2 of space per person on average – a far cry from a cramped studio flat. But having plenty of personal space doesn’t mean you’ll be short of potential friends.

Paul shares his apartment in the elegant and green Østerbro district with six people from six countries: Brazil, Finland, France, India, Iran, and Zimbabwe. While their origins are diverse, Paul says they all have a similar mindset about co-living that he finds “uplifting”.

“You’re sharing with people who have the common point of coming far from home and are interested in meeting and engaging with other people,” he says. 

Social events that the company facilitates encourage “organic” connections whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, he adds.

“I have colleagues who pay huge subscriptions for expat events with buffet table brunches,” says Paul, a brand communications manager. “It’s a very forced social facilitation where you try to walk away with friends.”

Ivana shares her apartment in Haidhausen, a trendy area of Munich by the Isar River, with two flat-mates from Switzerland and Lithuania. “I was in Munich for nine months before coming to this flat. I didn’t really like it and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay,” she says. “My job, which I love, together with this flat, my flat-mates and the neighbourhood actually sided in favour of staying.” 

Around one in five people living in LifeX properties are locals – so you might even find a friend who can show you around your new city.

Community and convenience: view all LifeX’s available apartments now

A home from home

Many international residents worry about a lack of flexibility in rental contracts. You may be asked to commit to a lengthy minimum period – or worry that a landlord could force you out when you have nowhere to go.

With LifeX, the minimum stay in most cities is three months – and you can stay as long as you want. Paul, who has been in his apartment for more than two years, says the experience has helped him develop a wide network that makes him feel at home in Copenhagen.

“There are lots of familiar faces,” he says. “You never really feel like you're alone in a new city.”

The size of the home and the inclusive atmosphere also helped him avoid the “strong sense of isolation” that friends who live alone experienced due to coronavirus-related restrictions.
 
Video: Ivana Jelic and Paul Sephton talk about LifeX

Ivana, who moved into her apartment near the height of the pandemic, says she had initially planned to stay for just a few months before going back to living alone.

“I moved in with LifeX during a very hard period but it was the biggest help to lift me up,” she says. “A different Munich started to exist. I no longer need to go and live on my own.” 

Moving to a new city or looking for a better home? Find out more about LifeX and its range of apartments in six major European cities: Copenhagen, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Munich and London.

For members

PROPERTY

EXPLAINED: How to restructure and reduce your mortgage in Denmark

Denmark's unique borrowing system has enabled thousands of people to restructure their mortgages this year, cashing in on high interest rates which have caused a drop in market value of covered bonds. We explain how it all works and how you can potentially pay off a sum of your mortgage.

EXPLAINED: How to restructure and reduce your mortgage in Denmark

How does the mortgage system work in Denmark?

Denmark has a unique mortgage model, which is regarded as one of the best in the world.

When you take out a loan to buy a house in Denmark, the bank finances the loan through a covered bond [Danish:realkreditobligation,ed.] What makes the model unique is that you as the borrower know exactly what covered bond is issued to finance the loan.

“This direct link is very special to Denmark,”  Peter Jayaswal, executive director at Finans Danmark told The Local.

“You can follow what the market price is for the bond that is funding your loan in the capital market. A German borrower for example has a mortgage by the German bank issuing a loan using a covered bond. But there is no link, so the homeowner doesn’t know what the bond is.

“In Denmark, you can see it exactly. You can go onto your bank website everyday and follow the market price. That means that we have this early repayment system where I as a borrower am allowed to prepay my loan by buying back at market price the bond that has funded my loan,” Jayaswal explained.

When interest rates are increasing, it means that the price on the bonds is decreasing and this is why thousands of homeowners in Denmark have bought out their bonds this year, at a low market value and paid off a portion of their mortgage. 

READ ALSO: Interest rates encourage Danes to restructure mortgages

So how can I make this early repayment on my mortgage?

The first thing to do is to set up a meeting with your bank so they can assess whether you will benefit from the drop in bond value.

The market price of covered bonds is well documented in Danish media but you can also follow them on your bank’s website or by asking for an appointment with your bank to assess your current mortgage.

“You may at some point in the past have taken out a mortgage of 1 million kroner with a one percent fixed interest rate. To keep it simple, let’s say the loan is without amortisation.  When you took out this mortgage, the bond was issued at 99 kroner meaning that the nominal debt will be around 1,010,100 kroner to give a 1 million kroner revenue.

“Today you can see the interest rates have increased and the price on the bond financing your loan is say 80 kroner. As a borrower you can buy the bond in the market at market price and prepay the mortgage loan. But you only need to take out a new loan of around 808,000 kroner to do this.

“So you can take a new loan out at 808,000 kroner and use this to repay your existing loan and reduce your debt by around 200,000 kroner. This transaction can be done simultaneously by your bank, so you won’t end up with two loans,” Jayaswal told The Local.

What about interest rates on my mortgage?

The interest rate you get for your mortgage can be fixed or variable and they mirror the prices investors pay for the bonds. 

Fixed rate mortgage

Today, the fixed interest rate is five percent. This means that if you decide to buy your bond at the lower market value, you will have to take out a new loan at a higher interest rate.

“Using the example of reducing your mortgage by 200,000 kroner by buying the bond at a low market value, every month you are now paying an interest rate of five percent fixed term, rather than your one percent you had before. So you are paying more each month for the benefit of paying off a portion of your mortgage early and the benefits will decrease over time. 

“You usually break even after around ten to fourteen years but the bank will calculate this for you,” Jayaswal said.

“If you know you’re moving in two to three years, it makes sense to get a new loan with a higher interest rate because you’ll have to repay the loan anyway when you move. But if you think you’ll be in your home a long time, keeping this loan, then you need the interest rate to decrease in ten to fourteen years.

“And that’s the problem because we must be frank and say we can do all the forecasts but in the end no one knows what future interest rates will be, so it has to be the decision of the borrower,” Jayaswal explained.

Variable rate mortgage 

The other option is to take out a variable interest rate mortgage to buy the bond, which today is around three percent. However this carries a risk, as the interest rates are adjusted on a regular basis. F3 loans, for example, are adjusted every three years, while F5 loans have adjustments every five years.

“Changing from a fixed to variable interest rate, to reduce your debt and avoid an increase in interest rate, comes with a risk that you don’t have a fixed rate for 30 years, so you are more exposed and that’s very important be aware of,” Jayaswal told The Local.

On Monday, the company Totalkredit, the largest provider of real estate loans for private homes, auctioned flexible loans with resulting interest rates exceeding 3 percent on the F1, F3 and F5 loan types. That means the interest on these types of mortgages will be at their highest for several years.

According to Finans Danmark, Danish home owners have repaid 337 billion kroner of their mortgages in the first three quarters of 2022. Many of these home owners have chosen to switch to variable interest rates. You can swap back to a fixed-rate mortgage at any time but you also have to be aware that these rates may have increased by then too. 

How do I decide which option to take?

“I always say to people, feel free to go to your bank, ask them to make the calculations for you, so you have the foundation to make a decision”, Jayaswal says.

“Some might think a 30-year mortgage at a fixed rate of one percent is great, especially because today interest rate is five percent. Others won’t mind paying a five percent interest rate for a few years, because they want to reduce their debt today and believe interest rates will decrease. It is up to the borrower to decide.

“It’s not that one option is better than the other, it’s that you have opportunities and this is unique in Denmark,” Jayaswal said.

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