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HOUSING

Living in Norway: Everything you should know about renting in Oslo

Hunting for a new home to rent can be a daunting challenge in many cities and Oslo fits that bill. But knowing a few simple things can help you on your way, writes Agnes Erickson.

Living in Norway: Everything you should know about renting in Oslo
Photo: Christoffer Engström on Unsplash

The hunt for a new home can be stressful. It demands research and is a time-consuming task that is riddled with the uncertainty of knowing if you have made the right choice up until moving day. This can be said in most cities and is also true for Norway’s capital, Oslo.

Oslo is a popular city for foreigners with a high international population, rich cultural scene and many job opportunities.  It can be helpful knowing a little history of the city and being aware of what to look out for when looking for your next place to live.

The different districts

Oslo can be separated in many ways and one of the most popular is the east side and west side. Akerselva is a river running directly through the city from north to south. Historically, the more established residents lived on the west side of the river and the labourers and industries were found on the east side. The river divide no longer separates the classes as much as it used to. Like in most cities, many of Oslo’s neighbourhoods have gentrified and built their own reputations. Despite this fusion, vestkant and østkant (west side and east side) are still terms used when describing a specific area, person, or thing.

Districts on the westside such as Marjorstuen and St. Hanshaugen are popular for students, new families and workers. They are centrally located, close to universities like UiO and Oslo Met and are areas with many popular cafes, shops and restaurants.

Farther east, there are districts like Skullerud and Bøler. Rent prices can be cheaper in these areas. They are perfect if you are a nature lover but like the convenience of the city. Eastern districts farther from central Oslo have beautiful lakes such as Nøkkelvann and Østensjøvannet and the forest within walking distance from a lot of the metro stops.

The city is also separated by designated toll rings. Ring 1 is considered to be within the most central parts of Oslo and ring 3 is found on the outermost parts with ring 2 in the middle. Parking spots are limited and the most expensive in ring 1. If you own a car it would be helpful to research if there are parking spots for residents, or what the street parking around the place of residence is like. Also, refer to a zone map when calculating transportation costs for possible housing options.

Image: www.ruter.no

Visninger

Visninger or viewings, are typically a public event. You can request a private wing but are not guaranteed one. The most common place to look for housing options is Finn.no, while Hybel.no is also an option.

Viewings are commonly hosted by a real-estate agent during office hours and on the weekends. Each viewing is open for visitations for around two hours. They can be very crowded and difficult to get an accurate view of the housing. Take your time and ask any questions you want answered to the realtor. If you are interested in renting the accommodation you put your name on a list at the viewing and the real estate agent will contact you with additional questions or if you have been chosen.

The rental market, just like the buyers' market ,is fast-paced in Oslo, which unfortunately doesn’t always lend itself to taking your time before making or accepting an offer. 

Think about public transport

Oslo is a relatively small city and there are multiple options for getting around. Oslo offers a bus, tram, metro, and even boat transportation. All of which are included when you purchase a ticket. Ticket prices and packages can be found at Ruter.no. The city may boast excellent transportation options, but don’t forget to research this while looking for a new home. Interactive maps of Oslo’s public transportation offerings can be found at Ruter.no

If you are not keen on traffic noise, try and stick around at the showings for a while to check if you can hear the public transportation within the building. Also, check where and how far the nearest public transportation stop is before renting. A 15-minute walk may feel like a breeze during the summer months but can be more challenging in the wintertime.

What's the worst time of year to look for a flat?

This can differ for varying budgets but if you are a student or are moving to Oslo on a smaller budget, July and August would be the worst months to try and find housing. Students are typically assigned housing before the summer ends and other locals are keen to officialise their housing accommodations at this time. 

Are there cheaper options?

Typically, the cheaper housing accommodations are found farther out from the city centre (in ring 3 for example). If you are determined to stay central but are living on a strict budget, a kollektiv or shared housing could be a possible option. Shared housing is an apartment or house where you can rent a private room and share the common areas, such as kitchen and bathroom, with other tenants. This type of shared housing is very popular for students and younger residences. 

What documents will I need for renting?

The documents needed will vary according to what type of housing you're renting, your budget, and if you are dealing with an agent or with the landlord directly.

Generally speaking, come with legitimate picture identification such as your passport. Be prepared to have your deposit and first month’s rent ready. You may be asked for pay stubs from your work or a contract of employment from your employer. The flat owner might also request a guarantor in some cases. If you are an expat who came to Oslo (or is planning to come) with a job offer, check in with your company as they might be able to act as guarantor for your housing. 

Can the agreed upon rent price suddenly increase?

Landlords in Norway have strict laws in place in order to protect renters from a sudden price increase in their rent. However, they are allowed to adjust according to the consumer price index with restrictions. According to huseierne, rental price agreements can be adjusted once every third year after a renter has been in the rental housing for at least a year. The price increase must be notified in writing and delivered within substantial warning time (a one month minimum), before the new increased rental price goes into effect. 

What to look out for before signing a contract

It is typical to put down the total of 3 months rent (but no more than 6 months' worth) as a security deposit. Note any signs of damage at the showing and more thoroughly if you get a second chance so it cannot be blamed on you when you decide to leave. If the flat you are renting comes furnished, make an inventory list or double check the one that is available. Be clear on how long your rental contract is for as well as the what notice period is if you decide to move earlier than planned. Tenants have the right to have a copy of the contract, and make sure the utilities costs are understood to be a part of the rental price or if they are separate. 

READ ALSO: The challenges of moving to Norway as an American

Useful Norwegian vocabulary

Leie ut – to rent out

Kontrakt – contract 

Kjøp – buy

Visningsdato – viewing date

 

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MONEY

How and where to get the cheapest fuel in Norway

Norway is leading the pack when it comes to the sales of new electric vehicles. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all new car sales in this country are electric. But for petrol and diesel car owners who have yet to make the switch, knowing when and where to find the cheapest fuel can end up saving you thousands of kroner.

A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs.
A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs. Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

Why is it so expensive to fuel up?

Fuel – gasoline, petrol and diesel — is an expensive monthly bill for many. Norway typically has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe. The at-times sky high prices are mainly due to taxes on fuel imposed by the government, as well as the usual international market factors.

The Norwegian Competition Authority or Konkurransetilsynet recently stated that it is perhaps now more important than ever before to be aware of the ever changing fuel prices.

We have registered price differences of 2-3 kroner in the same local area. There is undoubtedly money to be saved by following along,” said Marita Skjæveland, deputy leader of the Norwegian Competition Authority’s energy section to broadcaster TV2.

The average price to fuel up between the months of July to October this year was 18.8 kroner per litre (2.26 dollars or 1.94 euros). 

READ ALSO: Five things that are becoming more expensive in Norway (and why)

Does it matter which day you fuel up?

As of writing, routinely fueling your vehicle on a specific day of the week will likely no longer save you money. 

“We see that the players in the market still raise prices two to three times a week, but that it happens on different days from week to week,” Skjæveland told TV2. The competition analyst added that by the end of the year, fixed price increases may also happen over the weekend. As such, it’s important to stay updated not only on the weekdays, but on the weekends as well.

Previously, Sunday evenings and early on Monday mornings used to be known as the cheapest time to fill your vehicle’s tank with petrol or diesel.  This is now a practice of the past. 

Where can I find cheap petrol prices online?

Hunting for the cheapest fuel prices in Norway is quite common. It’s also a normal discussion to have with your neighbours and colleagues. So don’t be worried about appearing ‘cheap’ if you want to talk about the high price of fuel. Or share which local petrol stations you have noticed to be less expensive. 

You can check Facebook for groups that are committed to informing the public on where to find the cheapest petrol stations. 

For Oslo and its surrounding areas, you can try here, and if you live in or are driving through the south of Norway, check here.

Drivestoff is an app designed to compare prices of petrol stations you will drive by on your journey so you can plan ahead to get the cheapest fuel. You can find more information and download the app here.

You can also save money by looking for a queue of cars at a petrol station. Yes, it may be just busy. But oftentimes, a queue is a signal for cheaper petrol prices. 

Memberships and credit cards can save you money on fuel

If you’re in the market for a credit card, look for one that might save you money on fuel. Credit cards such as 365 Direct and Flexi VISA will give you good discount options at all petrol stations. If you have a particular station you always fill up at, such as a YX, you can sign up for the company’s credit card to receive discounts on fuel. 

There are also benefits to be had if you sign up for a credit card or a drivstoffkort or “fuel card”.

A drivstoffkort is a special credit card which you use to pay when refuelling your vehicle. The cards generally only work at the stations run by the company to which the card belongs. Different deals and types of card are available, depending on the company.

Specific deals on credit card and drivstoffkort discounts can be found (in Norwegian) here

You can sometimes use membership cards with grocery stores or real estate organisations to give you discounts on fuel. For example, the Coop Medlemskort will save you 45 øre when filling up at Circle K petrol stations. Trumf kortet, which is associated with the chains Kiwi, Meny, Joker and Spar, gives you bonuses when you fill up at Shell stations. OBOS members receive a 27 øre discount on petrol and diesel at both Statoil and 1-2-3-Automat stations. 

Where can I get the lowest priced petrol?

Petrol stations in Norway are extremely competitive. There is no one company that is known to sell gasoline or diesel cheaper than the others

Like many other goods, fuel prices around Norway will rise and fall with demand. Typically, fuel stations located in mountainous towns or areas that heavily rely on tourism will have more expensive fuel. If you’re on holiday in such a town or area, and can wait to fuel up when you get to a more trafficked motorway, it will likely save you money. 

Petrol stations that don’t have employees on location tend to be slower at increasing their prices to match the competition. So if you know you’ll be passing by an ubemannet or “unstaffed” petrol station on your trip, it may be cost-effective to wait and fill up there. 

Consider how much time you want to invest

Joining the hunt for cheaper fuel may not be for everyone. It is time consuming, and admittedly hard to achieve due to the ever-changing prices. If you are not dependent on your vehicle for your daily commute and don’t often drive long distances, fueling up at your local gas station may be the best choice. 

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