Let me preface the rest of this post with a few of things...
---Our company provides us with a relocation agent (sometimes within the company and sometimes a third party) to assist us with finding a home.
---Our company also pays for our housing and we are given a budget to work with.
---We last lived in Gabon and had housing drama from day 1 including insufficient electricity to robberies to something breaking almost every single week. We were ecstatic with the standard of living in Norway and would have been able to live in any one of the places we looked at.
Stavanger's real estate market is intense as with most cities who are home to a thriving industry housing thousands of expats. It boasts some of the most expensive rental property in the country ahead of Oslo & Bergen because it's the hub of the oil & gas industry and thousands of expats with big salaries are continually arriving. Pair that with large companies willing to pay large rental bills and the average prices continue to rise.
From Gabon, we started scouring Finn.no. Finn is basically Norway's online classified section where one can advertise and list just about anything. We were told that 99% of all real estate listings would be listed on Finn and while some get insider tips from elsewhere, we solely worked off that website. It was impossible to do anything but research before we actually visited Stavanger. First, we wanted to know and see the neighbourhoods and houses before we settled on something and second, it's rare for a landlord to rent to you without meeting you. So, research
By the time July rolled around and we had made the move, we knew what to expect for our budget and had a few neighbourhoods we wanted to investigate. I began emailing Finn listings to our real estate agent and she set up the viewings for us. While the process was sort of similar to what we were used to in Canada, there were a few differences:
---Even though we were looking mainly at apartments, it was always individual landlords who were leasing out their properties. Not once did we look at a building owned by one company with a superintendent.
---We had to be prepared to be fairly transparent when it came to our personal lives. The landlords showed us the apartment but they also treated it like an interview. Salary, future plans and family situation were all on the table.
---While they expect us to be transparent, they are too. We had landlords telling us things we weren't even asking about and occasionally they were negative. (This apartment is hard to heat and therefore cold in the winter. There is a 3 year old child above this apartment. etc.)
---It's not necessarily first come, first served. The landlord will continue meeting with potential tenants until they feel they have someone they want to rent their property to.
---It certainly helped to have a company guarantee. Without it, landlords will ask for several months of rent upfront and they'll be much more critical of your financial situation.
---The majority of rental properties in Stavanger come furnished and many of the landlords are very accommodating to change pieces of furniture or add things you think you might need. Friends of ours got a new bed, a BBQ and a blender written into their lease agreement. We had our landlord remove the bunk-beds in the spare room and replace them with a sofa bed.
---We were able to negotiate all of our utilities into our lease. High-speed internet, cable TV, gas, electricity & water are all included in our rental price.
Aside from our own problems, we found the process fast-paced, a little stressful but also completely predictable.
Stay tuned for a tour of the apartment - you just might get to see more than that terrace I keep teasing you with!