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Housing in Finland – Finnish Culture and Vocabulary

In this article, you can find some more background information on what you can expect from housing in Finland. This is by no means an exhaustive list of every little detail, but perhaps you’ll find it interesting anyway!

1. Talotyyppi – Type of Housing

When looking at the whole of Finland, detached houses (omakotitalo) are the most common type of housing for families. Buying or renovating your own house is a dream for many Finns.

However, Tilastokeskus has statistics that show that, between the years 2005 and 2017, the amount of people living in apartment buildings (kerrostalo) has increased by almost 2 %. Single people often live in apartment buildings. Compared to the past, families with children are also more often living in apartment buildings. This is especially common in the capital city area.

The typical apartment building height in Finland is 3 or 4 floors. Apartment buildings with more than eight floors are rare. Most apartment buildings have balconies, which can either be insulated and closed off with glass windows (lasitettu parveke) or be plain without glass.

 

Finnish English
rivitalo row house
omakotitalo detached house (single family house)
pienkerrostalo low apartment building (2-3 floors)
kerrostalo apartment building
paritalo semi-detached house
luhtitalo multi-family residential

2. Asumismuoto – Type of Accomodation

In addition to the above building types, one can also divide housing in Finland based on who lives there or what kind of services are provided to the residents.

Student apartments (opiskelija-asunto) are usually provided by a organizations such as TOAS. Student housing is cheap, but it’s only available to full-time students and there’s a waiting list. Generally, you will get offered an apartment that fits the specifics you entered when applying for student housing. When the offer arrives, you can either accept or deny the offer. If you deny, you get bumped to the end of the waiting list and have to wait for the next offer. Generally, students live either in an yksiö or in a soluasunto (see section 4).

The elderly have several options: a senioritalo is an apartment building that’s only inhabited by people who are at least 55 years old. These buildings have some common rooms where tenants can hang out. If daily help is needed (eg. cleaning help, a cafeteria or help with medication), one can also live in a palvelutalo. These consist of separate apartments where the tenant can live independently but with access to the help they need. These service apartments are not just for the elderly: they’re for anyone who needs some type of daily help. If you are unable to live on your own, the next option is a hoitokoti, where you have a separate room but are constantly helped by nurses.

Finnish English
opiskelija-asuntola student residence
opiskelija-asunto student apartment
senioritalo senior housing
senioriasunto senior apartment
pavelutalo service flat
palveluasunto service apartment
hoitokoti nursing home

3. Owning versus Renting

The most recent data (from 2018) on Tilastokeskus shows that 56 % of families own their home (omistusasunto). Rented apartments (vuokra-asunto) cover about 32 % of families’ living arrangements. Houses can be rented from both individual landlords and from firms such as VTS, Sato and Lumo. Finland also has a third system: asumisoikeusasunto. In addition, some employers offer company housing for their employees.

Owning your own home is generally seen as the superior type of housing. You can find houses which are for sale on websites such as etuovi.com. Rented houses can be found through vuokraovi.com. You will need to get acquainted with the terms used in property adverts in order to use these websites effectively.

Finnish English
omistusasunto owner-occupied house
vuokra-asunto rented home
asumisoikeusasunto right of occupancy housing

4. Huoneiden lukumäärä – Number of Rooms

When living in an apartment building, the most common flat sizes are yksiö, kaksio and kolmio. These words refer to the number of rooms in the apartment. However, please note that certain areas of your home aren’t counted in that number: the entrance way, clothing room, bathroom and kitchen are normally not included in this number. Usually only the living room and bedrooms are counted, while the other rooms are listed separately.

Finnish English
yksiö one room apartment
kaksio two room apartment
kolmio three room apartment
soluasunto studio flat

An yksiö has one room, which in Finland generally means that you have a living room that also functions as a bedroom. In addition, these apartments of course have a bathroom. There can be a separate kitchen, or there might just be a corner in the main room with typical kitchen furnishings (a kitchenette ie. keittokomero). A possible description of an yksiö apartment in a property advert could be: 1h + k + kph + p. This means the apartment has one room, plus a kitchen, bathroom and balcony.

A kaksio could be described as 2h + kk + s + las.p. This means the apartment has two rooms (likely one bedroom and one living room), a kitchenette, a sauna and a glazed balcony (a balcony with windows).

Students generally also have the option of living in a soluasunto. These are apartments where each tenant has their own room for sleeping and studying. The kitchen and bathroom are shared with other tenants.

5. Huonetyypit – Types of Rooms

Typical rooms in any apartment are of course the bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen. In Finland, it’s common for the toilet (vessa) to not have a room on its own. Rather, it’s placed inside the bathroom (kylpyhuone). Finnish bathrooms traditionally don’t have baths: you will mainly find showers.

A large portion of Finnish homes, including apartment buildings, have a sauna of their own. The sauna is generally connected to the bathroom or to a separate pesuhuone (washing room) with showers. Balconies (parveke) are also very common. These balconies can be have glass windows (lasitettu parveke) or be plain without glass.

Kitchens come in many different sizes. The main types are keittiö (regular kitchen in a separate room), tupakeittiö (kitchen and living room in one) and keittokomero (a kitchen too small to fit a dining table).

A walk-in closet (vaatehuone) might sound fancy but often it really isn’t in Finland. These spaces are meant for the storage of clothes and textiles, and generally only span 1-5 square meters. Larger apartments can also have a utility room (kodinhoitohuone), which generally contains the washer and drier.

Finnish English
makuuhuone (makkari) bedroom
olohuone (olkkari) living room
kylpyhuone (kylppäri) bathroom
vessa toilet
keittiö kitchen
tupakeittiö kitchen-living room
avokeittiö open kitchen
keittokomero kitchenette
keittonurkkaus kitchen corner area
keittiösyvennys small kitchen area
vaatehuone walk-in closet
sauna sauna
pesuhuone washing room
parveke balcony
kodinhoitohuone utility room

6. Taloyhtiö – Housing Company

When living in an apartment building, the word taloyhtiö is pretty important. Every owner of an apartment in a certain building belongs to the housing company. Together, they own the whole building, and make decisions that concern the whole building. They organize regular meetings, where the owners agree about things like renovations and make other executive decisions that will be carried out in the whole building.

The taloyhtiö can also stretch across several buildings that have been built at the same time and are maintained by the same housing manager. If you’re looking to move into an apartment building, it can be useful to use the word taloyhtiö when asking about the services available (eg. Onko taloyhtiössä pyykkitupa?). Sometimes the shared laundry room is situated in only one of the buildings, but can be accessed by all the tenants of the taloyhtiö buildings.

7. Yhteiset Tilat – Common Areas

Apartment buildings generally have several areas which are available for use to every occupant of the building. It’s common for apartment buildings to have a common laundry room (pesutupa) and drying room (kuivaushuone). You generally reserve the use of these areas for a couple of hours by signing up for them. In some places their usage is free, while in other places it’s a monthly payment. It’s also possible that you have to feed coins into a machine in order to activate the washing machine.

Saunas are also often communal areas in apartment buildings. There are generally two systems in place for reserving these. First, in some places you can sign up for a weekly reservation, which means you have, for example, private access to the sauna every Saturday from 6 to 7 PM (vakiosaunavuoro). In addition, the heating in the sauna can be turned on remotely during certain evenings every week. If you choose to do so, you can use the sauna during those times (lenkkisauna).

Generally, each apartment has their own “storage cage” (varastohäkki), which can be situated either in the basement or in the attic. These storage areas consist of small, lockable compartments with chicken gauze or wooden planks as walls to separate them from each other. People can store, for example, some extra furniture there or their skis during the summer months.

Older apartment buildings can also have a “cooling cellar” (kylmäkellari), which is similar to the storage cages but is kept cool. People can store eg. jam they made themselves, alcohol or potatoes in these cool areas. In some buildings, there can also be other storage areas: an area to store outdoor equipment or a separate storage area for bikes, or for prams and pushchairs). These are generally located either on the ground floor or in the basement.

Especially in older buildings, the basement can also include an air-raid shelter (väestönsuoja), which sometimes has a different function (eg. storage) until an emergency requires their use.

Finnish English
pesutupa laundry room
kuivaushuone drying room
varasto storage area
häkkivarasto storage cage
ullakko attic
kylmäkellari cooling cellar
pyörävarasto bicycle storage area
ulkoiluvälinevarasto outdoor equipment storage area
urheiluvälinevarasto sport equipment storage area
lastenvaunuvarasto pram and pushchair storage area
väestönsuoja air-raid shelter

8. Asumisen Kulut – Housing Expenses

This section is not meant to give you an idea of the costs of different types of housing in Finland. The goal is to give you an idea of what things you’re going to be paying for when living in Finland.

1. Renting a House

If you’re living in a rented apartment (vuokra-asunto), you will pay rent (vuokra) at the beginning of each month. The rent can include the water fee (vesimaksu). It’s generally a specific sum each month (eg. 35 euros per person per month) which gets evened out later based on the water meter.

Generally, you need to sign your own electricity contract (sähkösopimus) with an electricity company. There are generally two parts to this bill: sähköenergia and sähkön siirto. First, you pay for the electricity itself (sähköenergia). You get to pick how your energy is produced (eg. through wind energy, water energy etc). Second, you also pay for the transfer of said electricity (sähkönsiirto) to your home. The latter is taken care of by a local electricity firm. Your internet bill (sähkölasku) will arrive only a couple of times a year, usually every three months.

If you live in a student apartment, the internet is almost always included in the rent. In other apartment buildings, your internet connection (internetyhteys) can sometimes be included in the rent. In those cases the internet is usually cheap but fairly slow. In many places, you will find a sticker on the outer door that contains the name of the internet company. If you want faster internet, you can sign a separate contract for your own internet connection.

When signing a rental agreement (vuokrasopimus), it’s often required of you to visit an insurance company and get home insurance (kotivakuutus). It’s a good idea to look up what insurance company your Finnish bank has teamed up with, as it will generally lower your fees. Generally, the landlord specifically requires laaja kotivakuutus (extensive home insurance) which is slightly more expensive but covers more when a problem occurs.

Another thing you’ll have to pay when you move into a rented apartment is a security deposit (vuokravakuus). Depending on the apartment, this can be two or three months’ rent in advance. When moving out, you generally get this money back. However, if you have caused damage in the house that goes beyond “normal wear and tear”, the landlord can keep (part of) the money to repair said damage.

Another cost you might have to pay is a fee for a place to park your car (autopaikkamaksu). Sometimes, these parking spaces have a roof over them (autokatos) or are in a garage (autotalli). These parking spaces are often in short supply, so you might be put on a waiting list until someone moves away. Until then, you’ll have to find a place to park along the street. When you do get a parking spot, the parking next to apartment buildings often come with a heating box. If you pay the parking space heating fee (lämmityspaikkamaksu), you can connect your engine to the little box (sähkötolppa, sähköpistoke), and it will automatically warm your car in the mornings.

Finnish English
vuokra rent
vesimaksu water fee
sähkölasku electricity bill
nettiyhteys internet connection
kotivakuutus home insurance
vuokravakuus security deposit
autopaikkamaksu parking space fee
lämmityspaikkamaksu parking space heating fee

2. Owning a House

When you own an apartment, you of course also have the water, electricity, internet and insurance bills to pay, but rent is generally replaced other costs.

First, you’re likely to have a mortgage (asuntolaina), which you’ll pay back in monthly instalments (lainanlyhennys). In apartment buildings, you can also expect a maintenance charge (yhtiövastike or hoitovastike). This is a monthly fee that is used to take care of the building (eg. cleaning, moving the grass, plowing the snow, payback of loans).

Finnish English
pankkilaina bank loan
asuntolaina mortgage
lainanlyhennys  repayment of loan
yhtiövastike maintenance charge

That’s all about housing in Finland. I hope you found this article useful!

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Marcin

That’s interesting. I didn’t know that detached houses are the most common type of housing in Finland. I guess they are more common far away from city centres? I live in Hervanta, which is quite far away from Tampere’s centre, but it’s really like a separate city and there are few detached houses and a lot of apartment buildings here. The one I live in has 16 floors but it’s one of the newest buildings in Hervanta. Most of them are not so tall but many have 8 floors. Probably Hervanta is not really representative for Finland or even for Tampere. It’s a relatively new district.

Federico

I actually live in one omakotitalo in Hervanta myself! The fact that omakotitalo are the most common housing type is surprising to me too admittedly, but I think that outside largish built up areas people still live in single houses (there are a lot of those in Nekala or Harmala for instance, which are even closer to Tampere city centre) — this might change with the fact more and more people live in towns.

Inge (admin)

Yes, Hervanta is quite exceptional. I’m assuming the same is true for some sections of Helsinki as well. A newer area, Vuores, is a mix of apartment buildings and row houses. Lots of apartment buildings are also being built in Kaleva.

For now, those are not the norm yet. Areas like Pispala for example have lots of detached houses. None of those are new though. It will be interesting to follow this progress through Tilastokeskus, when they release more recent information.

Federico

When we bought our house one of the reasons was that we were buying the land too — we noticed that in a lot of cases omakotitalo are sold with just a few years of the land lease agreement, which is always very little money — but when the lease is renewed it goes up a lot (the land lease for a omakotitalo in Vuores is almost like a second mortgage!). I sometimes wonder whether the cost of leasing land will push people to flats, because it seems to make buying a omakotitalo not really affordable.