Accommodation in Oslo

Oslo offers a good variety of housing in a range of neighbourhoods so there will be something to suit every taste and lifestyle. However, it's important to realise that while Norwegians avoid excessive displays of wealth, people are judged according to where they live. Suburbs are understood to reveal a person's socio-economic standing to a degree that is uncommon in other countries. In a country that is socialist and egalitarian, this is one way Norwegians differentiate each other.

Oslo has several neighbourhoods, each with a specific character and reputation. When meeting a Norwegian, expats should expect to be asked where they live, even before they are asked what they do. Employers will also often ask this question during interviews, and it can help determine the employee's salary level.

Oslo is essentially divided into its east and west areas. The western areas are generally more expensive, while the eastern areas are often less expensive and have a younger or immigrant population, as well as a lot of character.

Cost of accommodation in Oslo

Although the price of housing in Oslo is generally quite high, it differs by neighbourhood. Accommodation in the city centre is expensive and generally small. If expats want a spacious place with a garden they should look at options in the suburbs. Nordstrand is one option to the east, as is Snarøya (also one of Oslo’s wealthiest areas) to the west.

Types of accommodation in Oslo

Properties in Oslo are of a high standard since the country has strict building laws. Insulation is very good out of necessity, given that the cold season lasts a long time.

Houses and apartment buildings in Oslo differ considerably in both style and layout. On one end of the spectrum are older buildings in a classic style with high ceilings, long thin hallways, one or two bedrooms and one bathroom. There is normally very little storage space except for a basement or attic unit, and rarely any security. On the other end are modern glass apartment buildings with all the amenities expected of contemporary urban accommodation.

Houses offer a similar range, from century-old dark, wooden houses with thatch roofs to square, light, concrete buildings featuring large glass windows and security gates.

Renting accommodation in Oslo

The rental market in Oslo is vibrant and is in constant flux. Before making a decision, an expat should make sure they have proof of income and references from previous landlords (if applicable) in order to start the process smoothly. 

Landlords like to meet renters in person and it is difficult to rent from abroad unless an expat goes through a service. Agreements between landlords and renters are usually private and not fixed, and each party is protected by certain regulations. 

Normally, the landlord is responsible for setting up a joint bank account exclusively for the deposit. It will remain untouched until the lease ends. If damage is caused or rent is owed, it will be taken from the joint account. The deposit is usually between two and three months' rent. 

The length of notice before the contract can be terminated must be decided on and included in the contract. Normally, an expat will be expected to give three months' notice when moving out. Once the lease is up, the landlord decides whether or not to renew it.

Once the lease is signed, the tenant will be responsible to pay on a monthly basis into the landlord’s bank account. This will be done via electronic bank transfer, never by cheque and rarely by cash.

Finding accommodation in Oslo

Good places to start looking for accommodation in Oslo include the real estate sections of newspapers and online listings. Expats should look for the sections marked "Eiendommer" and "Eiendomsmarkedet". These services list all the different offerings for sale or rent by neighbourhood.

Demand for accommodation in Olso is high so an expat may suddenly find themselves in a bidding war. Most places are rented or sold within days of going on the market. Before beginning their search, expats should decide on a budget, get the loan and funding they need settled with their bank or company and, if their dream home is found, make a bid as soon as they can.

Other useful housing information

There is a boligkontoret (housing office) in every bydel (district) in Oslo. The boligkontoret gives advice on housing, so it's a good idea to get in touch when looking for a place to live.

The county of Oslo also charges a fee each quarter for municipal services like garbage disposal, chimney sweeping and water.

Due to Norway's weather, properties can suffer hidden damage. If the property differs significantly from the prospectus given by the seller, the purchaser will normally be able to claim a reduction of the property's selling price or compensation within five years of taking possession of the property.

Anna Maria Our Expat Expert

Based in Oslo, Norway, Anna Maria is an intercultural trainer and consultant. She focuses on supporting inpats, expats and repats through their transition periods. She has spent 25 years as an expat. She has lived and worked in 17 countries on five continents. Growing up she spent 4-5 years each in the Netherlands, the US, Peru, and Thailand. She travels extensively to keep up friendships, writes for expat online and print publications and is learning to ski to survive the dark winter.

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