It’s a similar story here as it is for most of the clean, dynamic and well-organized cities in Europe - competition for housing is very tough! The quality of apartments is usually very high but rentals are quite hard to find. Most people who settle in Helsinki purchase their property, so there aren’t that many people letting out apartments. One piece of advice which you should probably heed is this: if you are offered a contract for an apartment, take it.
Don’t shop around like you might in other cities, as the odds of receiving multiple offers is extremely slim. Not all students even manage to find a rented apartment, so act fast.
While Helsinki is a little behind the times in that many housing adverts go through the newspaper, there are a majority of listing online. Again, most of these are about selling (not renting) but an increasing number of rental properties are cropping up. However, be prepared for the price: places in the centre can be higher than those in Manhattan, and up to 40% higher than other parts of Finland.
The best option is usually to find a student flat with a vacancy - for example, a flat where one student has graduated or gone on exchange, leaving a fully-furnished space behind them. The Housing Anywhere Helsinki page is always getting new apartments in and around Helsinki city, so check that out regularly. The best part of using this or a similar service is that you can book a room months in advance. Your money is guaranteed (it does not go to the lessor until you have arrived and confirmed the condition of the property) so you will not lose your money.
Furnished flats in Finland are usually maintained to a very high standard. There will be a minimum of double glazing (often as much as quintuple glazing) with very effective heating during winter and good furnishings.
Unfurnished properties, however, can be very unfurnished. No light fittings, no carpets… They are often shells, more or less, and it is imperative you visit an unfurnished property to check it out before signing any contracts. Unfortunately the majority of Finnish rental apartments are unfurnished, so you’ll have to work hard (and be extremely lucky) to get a furnished place.
Both UniHome and HOAS can help you find student-specific accommodation in or around Helsinki. These apartments are usually cheaper than renting a place on your own, and they can be organised a good while before you actually get to Finland. The downside is that they’re often quite small; given that some students never find accommodation here, even a small apartment is a good one.
It’s important to read the rental contract front-to-back and make sure you know what you’re getting for your money. For example, you need to know exactly what furnishings are included: don’t rely on pictures, but get it in writing.
You can also expect to pay 2 months’ rent as a security deposit, in addition to the first month’s rent, all in advance. Of course, if you maintain the apartment well, the deposit should be repaid to you quickly and easily once you’ve left. Your notice period will usually be one month, and the lessor’s shall be 3 months, so there will be no surprise evictions.
Water is usually included in tenancy agreements, and most apartments are connected to the Helsinki’s Combined District Heating & Cooling system which means that it shouldn’t cost any extra for heating. Most landlord will insist that you take out contents insurance, but this is very affordable in Finland.
Water is usually included in tenancy agreements, and sometimes in maintenance agreements. Check your agreement to see whether water bills are included, or whether they are payable separately each month.
Make sure to check all of these details before signing.
Social media is a great way to connect with others who are participating in exchange at the same time as you, and also a way to find flatmates! We run a Facebook group with nearly 2,500 members, dedicated to finding accommodation in Helsinki for both students and interns. Check out the Housing Anywhere Helsinki Facebook group and see who you can find!
Room prices in Helsinki are, as you may have realized, not cheap. The further you move from the city centre, the more affordable rooms become. Thankfully, with Helsinki’s public transport system, it’s easy to navigate to/from the centre even if you live quite far out in the sticks.
An average would be €450-700 per month, though it’s easy to spend a lot more than that. This will get you an unfurnished apartment. In general a one-bed apartment will cost around €700 and a 2-bed will cost €1000, or €500 each. If you find a furnished place, it will be considerably more expensive.
On top of your rent you’ll need to pay utilities and internet, which will drive the cost even higher. If the flat is unfurnished, you’ll probably need at least basic living furniture, like a mattress, a table and some chairs. This is another reason why it’s important to find an apartment early - you’ll want time to plan your furnishings and earn enough money to buy them!