Is it wise to buy a property that lacks approvals from the building authorities?

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Many properties for sale lack public approvals, such as the use of rooms for permanent residence or unapproved rental units. Is it wise to buy such a property?

If rooms or additions in a house are not approved, this should be specified in the sales material. Unfortunately, this information is not always clear and might be formulated in intricate ways. If you come across such formulations or phrases you don’t fully understand, it should raise a red flag. Are there unapproved rooms here? This often pertains to basement living rooms and similar spaces, which may lack approval due to small windows or not meeting safety requirements for escape routes and fire safety.

In the new regulations of the Sales Act and the prescribed condition reports that came into effect on January 1, 2022, these issues are addressed more explicitly, and illegalities are required to be disclosed, both by the real estate agent and the appraiser. However, the presentation and ease of detection vary widely, so it’s crucial to be vigilant and perhaps ask the real estate agent additional questions.

Unapproved rental units

Then there are rental units that are not approved but are still being rented out. Is it really that bad? The previous owner has been doing this for years without consequences. Yes, it can be problematic even if municipal building authorities are not enthusiastic about inspections. You could face fines of up to NOK 200,000. As the buyer, you assume all risks related to any illegalities in the property, including unapproved changes such as extensions, non-approved additions, and basement rooms for rent.

Whether the seller has informed about these illegalities or not doesn’t matter much. If you receive fines from the municipality, you will have to deal with the seller and possibly the property insurance company afterward.

It can also be dangerous to rent out rooms that are not approved for permanent residence. According to lawyer Morten Fæste, renting out parts of your own home requires approval from the municipality for the intended use. It’s not just illegal but can be directly hazardous. Rooms for permanent residence must meet stricter requirements for escape routes and fire safety than other rooms in the house.

The best scenario is to rectify the deficiency before sale

Ideally, the seller should address the issue before putting the property up for sale. However, this can take time and money, and sellers may choose to sell the property with illegalities instead. In theory, this should affect the price, but that is not always the case.

As a buyer’s advisor, I, like Consumer Authorities, would advise against buying a property with unapproved conditions. If you do, make sure you understand what the issues are, what it would cost to rectify and seek approval, and whether such approval could be obtained at all. And most importantly, ensure that the additional work and costs are reflected in the price you pay for the property.

Be especially cautious if you intend to use the unapproved rooms for rental purposes.

Why is it allowed to sell properties with unapproved rooms and additions?

Many in the real estate market, including myself, wonder why it’s legal to sell homes with unapproved rooms and additions. Could a rule not be implemented that all properties for sale must be 100% approved, period?

The reason is that building authorities do not have the capacity to inspect all homes, whether lived in or listed for sale.

In single-family homes that are not brand new, you will almost always find that changes have been made since the house was built. This is likely noted in the Condition Report from the Appraiser. Some changes can be significant and undesirable to assume the risk for. Other conditions may have less significance and can be lived with.

You should consult with me about this before placing a bid to avoid taking on unnecessary risks related to illegal conditions in the property.

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How does home buyer’s insurance work in Norway?

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Most people who buy a home in Norway, are offered home buyer’s insurance, through the Real Estate company. And it is usually a good idea to buy this insurance.

But what does it cover?

From the name, it may appear as if you as a home buyer are insured for all kind of problems that may arise after the home purchase. For example, if something about the home is not as you assumed it would be. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

A lawyer’s insurance

The insurance is simply a lawyer’s insurance that gives you legal help if you discover something you think is wrong after the purchase But, if this is something you should have seen at the viewing or read about in the sales material, it is not covered by the insurance.

In other words, it must be a hidden error or deficiency or lack of essential information from the seller. This is due to the buyer’s duty to investigate, which you can read more about here.

If you submit a complaint to the buyer’s insurance company, they will first investigate whether the complaining issue is something the seller has disclosed by or if it is something you should have discovered before you bid. If the latter is the case, or probably neither a hidden error, they will tell you that there is no basis for taking the matter further with the seller. If they believe you have a case, they will take the case further against the seller. Or usually the seller’s insurance company. Most sellers have taken out home sales insurance.

And now we are at the centre of the matter:

When the seller has home seller insurance and gets legal help if there is a complaint afterwards, it will be difficult for you to be without buyer’s insurance. Then you must pursue the case, alone as a consumer, against a professional party. You must write all complaints yourself and follow up the case. It will be both time-consuming and exceedingly difficult.

That is why I advise all my clients to take out home buyer’s insurance. It is a one-off payment that is not very high – from approx. NOK 7,000 to NOK 10,000 which ensures you if problems should arise.

Many disputes in connection with the sale and purchase of property are resolved through these insurance schemes and lawyers associated with the insurance companies that offer this. It also happens that they hire other property lawyers to help them with the cases.

The process of complaining through the home buyer’s incurance company

If you make use of the home buyer’s insurance, you must contact the insurance company itself and register the complaint. You will then contact a specific lawyer at the proper time – if the case is taken further.  This is long an expensive process.

The estate agents you bought the property from will have an overview of which company you should adress the complaint.  First check in your purchase contract that you have taken out buyer’s insurance. It will state which company it was subscribed to, and you can contact them, or fill in a claim report online.

Having to use a lawyer in property matters, whether via the home buyer’s insurance or otherwise, is never pleasant. The best thing is to check the property so carefully before buying that you avoid problems afterwards. As you know, the best thing about insurance is avoiding the use of them.

Checking the sales material and help you to avoid complaints after the purchase is one of my main tasks as home buying consultant.


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Which neighbourhoods in Norway are safe?

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As in all other countries home buying in Norway is mainly about:

Location- location – location.

Location is a very import requirement for most home hunting people. People have some ideas about which areas are nice to live in or they have some connections to certain areas and the qualities you will find there.

But sometimes the wishes do not match with the money…
The purchase prices differ considerably according to the location and attractiveness, and some areas are regarded better than others. Because of type of houses located there, and available services, communication possibilities, number of schools and access to nature for example. But also, demographic conditions come into play.

Now I am getting closer to the main point of this article.

How safe is it to live in the different parts of the bigger cities in Norway?  Which part of the city is the safest neighbourhoods?

Many foreigners, especially people from USA and other bigger countries, are very concerned about this issue. It is of course a very important question, but most Norwegian are not so concerned about the security issue itself. They wish of course for a good living environment, but since most neighbourhoods are perfectly safe the safety issue is not so important.

We have of course some smaller social problems, for example in the outskirts of Oslo, where safety can be an issue, but they are very few.

In most places in Norway, you will be perfectly safe in your home and the neighbourhood.

Despite of this, many Norwegians have somewhat stereotypical perceptions of which areas are nice to live in and they are gladly sharing these opinions to you if you start talking about buying a home.
Please do not take it for granted that all this information is correct. Do your own research, and if possible, visit the different areas to look for yourself.

If you need some advice about where you can afford to buy a property and objective information of different neighbourhoods, please ask me.

I will give you the information to you for free. And I promise to be completely honest!

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The home buying market in Norway right now

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The economy in Norway, as in a lot of other countries, are in a strange situation right now. We experience all time soaring prices in food and energy prices. At the same time, we must cool down the economy by raising the mortgage interests. So far this has not affected the prices of homes very much. August had rising prices in most part of the countries, in average they increased with 1,9%. The number of homes for sale the market has increased in august and will continue to increase. This is good news for the buyers, because lack of homes for sale usually means that the bids increase to very high levels. As you probably know we are practising open bidding rounds according to the auction principle in Norway.

It is expected that the home prices will decrease this fall when people feel the effect of interest rate effects. And the banks’ lending policy will change according to higher interest rates. They are obliged to stress test that the customer can manage a 5% increase of interest. That means that people will get less money for their home buying and the bidding rounds will become much cooler.

Norwegian Home buyers are financing their home buying in all essentials by bank mortgages. Read more about home buying financing in Norway here.

Big drop in the sale of cottages.

Norwegian people are crazy about cottages or “hytta” as we called it. Many people even have two cottages, me included. If you do not own one yourself, you may have access to one through your family. During the pandemic, the cottage sales were extremely high, both in volume and price. Now the sale has dropped by 45% – in volume. But not yet in price. But at some point, close to now, I think we will see a drop in prices too. So, if you are planning to buy a cottage in Norway this fall will be a good opportunity. And please ask me for help. The buying process is the same as for homes and there I am an expert. And as a cottage lover and user I have a good pulse on the holiday home market.

Sorry about all the economic talk in this blog. But in Norway the housing market is so depended on the economy in general. It will serve you well to follow to keep yourself updated on the market.

If you download my booklet about home buying in Norway you will get my tips about home buying and market updates direct in your inbox.

And I will do what I can do keep you in the loop here on the blog!

Best wishes



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