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How somebody can skip the queue and beat you to your dream Norwegian home

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
How somebody can skip the queue and beat you to your dream Norwegian home
Despite agreeing on a price, a house can in a housing association can still be stolen from under you. Pictured are flats in Oslo. Photo by elCarito on Unsplash

When bidding on homes in a Norwegian housing association, it is possible that somebody else could jump to the front of the queue and poach a property from under your nose, even if you’ve already agreed a price. 

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Housing associations, common when buying a flat in an apartment block in Norway’s cities, can be confusing and complicated to understand. 

borettslag, as they are called in Norwegian, is a Norwegian housing association with a cooperative ownership structure. A borettslag typically consists of a series of apartment blocks but can also include terraced houses and detached homes.

In addition to being a legal entity in their own right, much like a business is, housing associations also have a few other factors which can seem confusing. For example, when you buy, you are instead purchasing a share in the association with an exclusive right to a property rather than buying the home outright. 

Even when you get your head around the broad strokes and get to grips with the basics, such as the felleskostnader (shared costs)there are still quite a few oddities that you should be aware of. 

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READ MORE: The key things you need to know about Norwegian housing associations

For example, it is entirely possible that you could win a bidding round on a home and agree on a final price with the seller but have the house be pipped from under your nose. 

Many associations will offer existing members a first-refusal right on the home. This means that if a price is agreed upon, they will then have the option of deciding to buy the property, with their membership in the association giving their bid preferential. 

Additionally, many in a housing association will be made aware of the home being made available for sale before it hits the open market, giving them an inside line. 

If two members of the same housing association are interested in a home, it will typically go to the person who has been a member longest. 

This can complicate buying a home from the more prominent housing associations. For example, Norway’s largest developer and housing association group, OBOS, manages around 260,000 properties across Norway and has more than 500,000 members. 

Should several members from the same association attempt to purchase the same priority purchase, the bidder with the longest membership will have priority. 

Are there any ways around this? 

One way around this would be purchasing a new build property, as there is a fixed price and no bidding round. This levels the playing field somewhat. However, there is a need for more new-build developments in cities- making the market for them competitive. 

Additionally, existing members of some associations and developers also grant first refusal on new build homes. 

Alternatively, you can join a large housing association without actually buying a home to try and build up some membership time before house hunting. 

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Membership with OBOS, for example, costs 300 kroner up front and then 200 kroner per year. This relatively small expense could help you secure the right of first refusal on over 90,000 OBOS homes, according to the housing association’s website.

However, the issue with this is that there will always be a member with more seniority than you, and the money is only a worthwhile investment if you decide to buy a home from the association.

Another way to out-queue-jump the queue jumpers is if you have a close family member with a membership that they can transfer to you. This gives you their seniority, which could be years or decades by the time it is shared. 

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