It has been years since Jeremy and I have been in charge of finding our own place to live. We were handed this villa on a silver platter when we moved to the UAE five years ago, and despite some things that we don't like about our free house, it was a relief to not have to worry about finding it in the first place.
Not so with Finland. The apartment hunt is in full force right now, even though most listings show an available move-in date that is too early for us. But I keep looking because the more I look, the more I know exactly what we're looking for. And then when a suitable place gets listed, we can pounce on it right away.
The website we're using to peruse listings is oikotie.fi. Here are some of the things I've learned about Finnish apartments.
1. Even tiny apartments have saunas. We will probably be in a 80-90sqm apartment - that's 860-960 square feet. There are a lot of things I would do with a spare corner or closet-sized area in a smallish apartment, and put in a sauna is not high on the list. But these places almost all have them - probably 80%! And since we will probably only have two bedrooms, I keep joking with people who say they're going to come visit us that they'll have to sleep in the sauna. But the joke is, they literally will have to because it will be the only free space available.
2. Almost all the apartments have balconies. And these are not token, tiny balconies that allow enough room to step outside and turn around - no. They are often glassed-in, with quality flooring. I don't think they're counted in the area of the house, but some of them should because they offer a chance for additional living space.
3. High-speed internet is wired into the apartment and included in the rent. Almost always.
4. Water is dang expensive. Charges are estimated up front and then your payment is adjusted if you use more or less. We will be paying at least 100€ per month for water, according to the rates listed. I'm hoping I'm misunderstanding something but I actually asked an agent and she seemed to confirm that.
5. We could live in an old wooden house. Jeremy is not a fan of this possibility, but I confess I find it appealing. They are all over the center of the city, especially toward the port area, and they date from the turn of the century. The interiors have been updated, of course, but there are still cool things like brick walls and old fireplaces. Here's a pink one:
6. Most of the places have washing machine hookups, but many also have communal laundry facilities on site. And guess what? You sign up for the time you want to use them! I think that is the best! Because one of the worst things about gearing yourself up to do laundry and trekking it all down to the machines is then finding them all in use. UGH.
7. Turku's municipal websites are so helpful. If I find a place we'd hypothetically be interested in (if it were available during our move-in period), then I head over to Turku's map system and start looking at things like nearby schools, bus routes, bus stops, parks, etc., all of which I can set to show up as layers on the map.
8. There are almost no bathtubs. I think in all the dozens of listings I've looked at, I've only seen one bathtub. Those telephone-shower things are the norm.
9. Finally, the most confusing thing about apartment hunting online is that in Finnish real estate listings, a living room is counted as a room. So a "3-room" apartment only has two BEDrooms. Or, even more confusingly (and disappointingly), it could only have one bedroom, but have a dining room and a living room. I find this annoying because when I am wondering about how many rooms an apartment has, I am specifically wondering about bedrooms. Oh well.
I'm anxiously awaiting the next few weeks as apartments in our time frame start showing up! For now, it's lots of fun looking at listings with no thought of commitment, but the stakes are about to get higher.