With our impending lifestyle change only a few months away, my nesting instinct is strong, and so we have begun our search for a new home.
Real estate is a funny business here. Due to low interest rates, and tight regulations, Norway has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world.
You can still rent of course, as we are now, but your pickings are slim, and it works out as being about twice as expensive as buying.
So, for the past few months we have immersed ourselves in to the daunting journey of house-buying, this time Norwegian-style.
In New Zealand, in a strong market, properties are typically listed for a month.
A sale involves several open homes, which you can attend multiple times, first by yourself, and then again under the wise eyes of your parents, and finally with a building inspector, before deciding whether you will make a bid at auction.
Here, most properties are on the market for less than a week.
The property is listed, and the asking price is the regulated market rate.
The viewing is often 2 – 3 days afterwards, in the evening. You attend the viewing, and if you like it, you are expected to make a bid the next day by noon. If you want your parents to look at the property with you, you are out of luck (particularly if they are in NZ).
Norwegians, it seems, have no concept of risk. When I discussed this with my boss, the conversation went something along the lines of:
“Just buy it. It looks like a nice place”
“But we just looked at it, I need some more time to think”
“What is there to think about? What are you worried about?”
“Well, it’s a lot of money, I don’t want to be crippled by massive debt due to an impulsive mistake. What if the plumbing is bad?”
“Well, then they would have specified this in the listing. You know, I bought my last house without even going to the viewing. I saw the photos in the listing, I drove past, liked the look of it, and put a bid on it”
To their credit, Norwegians have some pretty tight regulations around real estate transactions. As a seller you are legally obligated to list all known issues with the property. If for example, the seller neglects to mention that the basement floods, and you as buyer discover this within seven years of ownership, your insurance company will fix, and go after the previous owner for the money. Furthermore, with perhaps the world’s most boringly stable economy, and government-controlled oil reserves for the next 50 years, you can be confident there will unlikely be any drastic changes to interest rates, home-regulated taxation, or anything else that might impact 90% of the population.
Buying a house, it seems, is as simple as going to the supermarket and picking out the right brand of canned tomatoes.*
Still, the idea of going to an open home, and then making a bid immediately afterwards is a scary one, and will take some getting used to.
What all this does mean though, is that listings come with very extensive information (albeit in a foreign language) and the photos usually are a pretty accurate representation of the property.
But despite this, even here, real estate agents can’t help themselves to indulging in a bit of photoshop.
Browsing through the listings you could be mistaken for thinking Bergen is the sunniest town in Europe. Owners just have this really strange habit of hosing down their driveways and decks prior to photo-taking.
I came across this listing today: ‘Attractive 2-level house with sunny garden‘.
If you’re going to photshop the sky, at least try and also edit out the streaks of rain**…
*Actually, there is only one brand of canned tomatoes.
**Also, in the same listing – remove the bodies from the bed.