House Hunting in Sweden: A Sauna-Topped Water Tower Near Stockholm

This four bedroom house is a converted water tower on Vaxon, an island in the Stockholm Archipelago, about 35 minutes east of Stockholm, the Swedish capital. The brick tower was built in 1923 at one of the highest points in the region for the drinking water supply and was still used as a reserve in 1989, said Jan Tivenius, a representative of Residence-Christie’s International Real Estate Listing.

The current owners bought it in 2000 and converted it into a seven-story house with an electric sauna on the lantern-like top. The property, which sits on about a third of a hectare in a hilly park with pine trees, has significant potential income, Tivenius said: Telecommunications companies are currently renting antennas on the roof of the tower and a small apartment about two cars, one garage in one separate wooden hut with A-frame can also be rented.

A dirt driveway leads up the hill to the tower’s main entrance, which leads into the combined kitchen, living, and dining area with 16-foot ceilings and herringbone oak floors. The round brick walls are lined with large arched windows. A second entrance at the rear gives access to a wooden deck.

The base of the tower has two concentric walls – an inner circle with an outer corridor around it – a configuration that was likely intended to provide additional support for the water tank above, Tivenius said. The corridor offers space for a pantry, a bathroom and an office corner as well as the wooden stairs to the floors above.

The second floor has three bedrooms, a bathroom and a storage room. Porthole windows provide light.

The primary suite and another bathroom are on the third floor where the tile floor has a cutout of glass that you can see below.

The fourth floor is an open area that the owners have used variously as a music room, TV room and guest room. The fifth and sixth floors used to be the water tank; A floor now separates the two. The fifth floor is for storage and the sixth floor has a bathroom and a computer room for telecommunication equipment.

The property is adjacent to a preschool on the east side of Vaxon, which stretches about two miles from end to end and has an active port and plenty of shops and restaurants. The island is part of the municipality of Vaxholm, a Baltic Sea archipelago with 70 islands and around 5,000 inhabitants. A number of bridges connect the islands to central Stockholm. The bus from Vaxon takes about an hour. Ferries also take tourists to Vaxholms Kastell, a massive island fortress first built in the 16th century to defend Stockholm.

After a slump in 2017 and 2018, Swedish property prices are rising again. According to a report from Nordea, a major Nordic bank, prices rose 7.5 percent last year compared to 2019 and saw a record number of transactions. The government agency The Swedish Statistics Office recorded an overall price increase of 6 percent for single and two-family houses and a price increase of 10 percent for holiday homes.

That growth was driven almost entirely by demand for homes as opposed to condominiums and other apartments, said Susanne Spector, economist and chief analyst at Nordea. As in many other markets around the globe, the pandemic has shifted buyers’ priorities to properties with gardens and space for remote working, she said.

Housing supply is limited as “the normal rotation of older people moving from their homes to the city center has been disrupted as people have to stay at home,” she said.

Unlike most other European countries, Sweden has relied heavily on voluntary measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus rather than imposing strict lockdown measures. As of April 2, the country had reported 813,191 Covid-19 cases and 13,498 deaths. The death rate in 2020 was significantly lower than in most European countries, but higher than in its Nordic neighbors.

Nonetheless, consumer confidence has continued to rise and price growth has continued to fuel. Many households feel well positioned to buy, said Ms. Spector: “Household wealth increased in 2020 – it was an overall very good year for households. Most people have kept their jobs, interest rates are low, and the stock market is booming. “

The competition for houses is so fierce that in the first month of 2021 the bidding wars drove selling prices an average of 8 percent above demand, according to Erik Holmberg, market analyst at Hemnet, a Swedish listing site. In February, the average time in the market for homes hit an all-time low of 18 days, he said.

Camilla Eggenberger, an agent overseeing Swedish sales for Fantastic Frank, said she has never seen such a large gap between demand for houses and apartments in her 33 years in the market. Everyone wants a piece of land, she said.

“The Swedish people are known to be very concerned about the way they live,” she said. “We spend a large part of our income on our homes. Now more than ever people are cocooning, and I think they are spending even more money on their homes. “

In the greater Stockholm area with around 2.4 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area, the market for houses is extremely lively. “It’s really crazy,” said Mr Tivenius. “Prices have risen by 15 to 20 percent in one year.”

In the suburbs immediately around the city, houses averaged 10 to 15 million Swedish kronor (US $ 1.14 to 1.72 million), depending on the region. Anything cheaper would require significant renovation. Other exclusive properties cost anywhere from 15 to 20 million crowns ($ 1.72 to 2.29 million), with oceanfront properties typically closer to 35 million ($ 4 million), he said.

Apartments in central Stockholm cost an average of 100,000 kroner per square meter, or $ 1,060 per square foot, he said.

Foreign buyers make up a small fraction of homeowners in Sweden. In 2020 Statistics Sweden reported that 37,979 holiday homes were foreign owned – about 6 percent of the total. About a third of these owners were held by Norwegians, closely followed by Germans and Danes with 27 percent each. Another 2.2 percent belong to Swedes who live abroad.

In Stockholm, less than 1 percent of holiday homes are foreign owned.

Ms. Eggenberger said her non-resident buyers are often diplomats or Swedish citizens who are returning to the country “with a lot of money to spend” after many years of work elsewhere.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Sweden. There is usually no need to hire a lawyer – the seller’s representative will usually handle everything in the transaction, Mr Tivenius said.

In the greater Stockholm area, the broker’s commission can vary, with homes typically averaging 1.5 to 2 percent, he said.

Swedish; Swedish crown; 1 crown = $ 0.11

Buyers pay a stamp duty of 1.5 percent of the purchase price. It only applies to houses, not to apartments, said Ms. Eggenberger.

Annual property taxes on this home are approximately 8,500 crowns ($ 970 USD).

Jan Tivenius, International Real Estate from Residence-Christie, 011-46-70-617-96-06; christiesrealestate.com

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