Oslo offers a good variety of housing in a range of neighbourhoods with something to suit every taste and lifestyle. Indeed, each of Oslo's neighbourhoods has its own 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.
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 plenty of character.
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 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 built in classic styles with high ceilings, long thin hallways, one or two bedrooms and one bathroom. There is normally 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.
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.
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 settled with their bank or company and, if their dream home is found, make a bid as soon as they can.
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.
Making an application
Once expats have found a property that meets their requirements, they will be expected to complete a detailed application form and provide evidence of their income and legal status in the country. In some cases, they may be asked for a reference from a previous landlord or a certificate indicating they have no outstanding rent due. Agreements between landlords and renters are usually private and not fixed, and each party is protected by certain regulations.
Leases and deposits
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.
Most rentals will already have gas, electricity and water connected and working, but expats may need to transfer the accounts to their name while responsible for the rental.
Whether utilities are included in the rent or not is determined by the rental agreement, but most rentals come with kitchen appliances.
Expats are free to change utility providers. There are online services to help determine the best electricity provider, such as the Competition Authority's website. Another is an electricity calculator.
The tenant will usually have to pay a quarterly bill for electricity, which may come as a shock after a cold winter. Payment can be set up automatically with an expat's bank, or else they will get an invoice in the mail.
Tap water in Oslo comes from melting snow in the surrounding hills and gets into Oslo via a network of streams running into Oslo’s water reservoirs. The quality is good by global standards and it is perfectly safe to drink. Like electricity, the water will most likely be already set up upon moving in and an expat will just need to transfer the account into their name.
The city of Oslo has an integrated waste management system which aims to drastically reduce pollution. Only a small fraction of household waste goes to landfill, and the rest is reused, recycled or used to generate energy at two plants managed by the Agency for Waste Management (Renovasjonsetaten).
An expat will need to separate their waste into different coloured bags and place these bags into the demarcated bins provided by the city. The second bin is labelled papir (paper) and is for cardboard and paper. The bins will be emptied by the Agency for Waste Management. Any waste that doesn’t fit into these categories or which is too big for the bags or bins should be delivered to a recycling station.
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.