I’ve been following the expat forums a bit and every so often a story comes up of people feeling exploited or used when it comes to housing. There are apparently no shortage of people lamenting the difficulties of finding cheap apartments in Copenhagen. On lamenting the difficulties, we can agree but when it comes to explaining the underlying reasons people usually ascribe it the wrong reasons.
Let me start by stating a few facts. Yes, Copenhagen can be an extremely difficult city to find affordable housing in. Yes, living expenses can be very high in Copenhagen.
You’ll likely find these circumstances in other major cities too, but let’s be honest unique as it is, Copenhagen is neither London, Paris or Berlin so most people don’t expect it to be as difficult or more difficult than these world class metropolises’
Now the reasons I most often see used are “racism towards foreigners” or “Danes just like to cheat expats because they are easy targets”. Both of these explanations I believe to be wrong, so here is my attempt at debunking the myth of expats being used.
Do you think that you are disadvantaged trying to find a home as a non-native? Well, it’s just as hard for Danes but we somewhat expect it because we know what we’re getting into after living here our entire lives. Danes moving to Copenhagen from the rural areas without a network in the city experience the exact same challenges as expats and international students do. If you don’t have a network or a strategy at hand then you don’t get access to the cheaper housing options, that’s the real cause not racism or scams. Small apartments are the most sought-after housing option at the moment and there just aren’t enough out there, so you need a plan.
Now it is actually possible to get an apartment in Copenhagen and rather quick too, if you don’t have a tight budget. Heck, you could a 4-room apartment tomorrow in the heart of Copenhagen, it’s just that the vast majority planned to spend less and thus aren’t prepared for the rent levels. The best advice I can give to someone coming to Copenhagen for the first time, expect to spend more on housing that you initially planned.
After all this rambling, let me go through some of the strategies that Danes use to secure cheap housing. Some of these tips are longer term while some could make a more immediate effect
Building a network
As with everything having a network gets you farther, I can’t count the amount of times I’ve learned of people getting an apartment through fellow students and work colleagues. You don’t a large group of friends many Danes are willing to help co-workers and fellow students if possible.
Social media and expat forums
Using social media essentially extends your network. There are quite a few number of postings of shared rooms or apartments in the expat forums. Also, there a lot of groups on Facebook dedicated to listing and search for apartments.
Search outside the city
Copenhagen has excellent public transportation, and especially the trains. When first arriving, I can recommend looking for housing outside the city area in the suburbs. Rent decreases quickly and with the trains you should be only 15 minutes away from the city Centre. Meanwhile you can work on your network and other options as a long-term plan. Try look in the following areas: Gentofte, Glostrup, Brønshøj, Vanløse, Rødovre, Hvidovre og friheden.
As a rule of thumb, the future away from the Centre the better your options are. Look for apartments near the train station 10 -20 minutes away from the Central station.
Public housing is a popular and cheap option obviously this also means long waiting lists but sign up early and eventually you’ll get an offer. This is what many people do to get cheap housing in the long run, including myself.
Search for public housing here, https://www.danmarkbolig.dk/en
The smaller apartments are few and far between, 3 or 4 room apartments are more abundant so a common practice among Danish students are to move into together and share a larger apartment.
The best place to look for potential rooms mates are your schools if you’re a student or if you’re an expat then the expat forums are a great place to look.
Buying your own place
Buying your own place is what many Danes end up doing if they can afford it. In the long run its cheaper than the rental market but only if you plan to stay in Denmark for many years.