House Hunting in … Norway

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House Hunting in … Norway


Category: Property / Real Estate

This house is in Drammen, a port city about 24 miles from Oslo. The current owners collaborated with an architect on the design; work was completed in 2010. The starkness of mostly white walls and polished concrete floors is offset by warm-toned accent walls and inset ceiling lights. “It’s pretty minimalist, but it’s not cold,” said Selma Knudsen, one of the owners.       

Faced in white stucco and spanning 2,346 square feet, the house stands at the end of a gravel driveway. It was built with insulated concrete blocks, and has underfloor heating throughout. To the right of the airy entrance hall, the living room has a 16-foot ceiling, while the open dining area, just beyond, is under a soffit for a cozier feel. Natural light floods through windows carved in vertical and horizontal rectangles, made by the German company Schüco, and glass doors that slide open to the back lawn.       

The custom-designed kitchen is open to the dining area. Appliances include a Liebherr refrigerator, two Neff ovens and a Neff induction stovetop with two metal extractor fans. The sink was made by Blanco; cabinets are of brown fiberboard; the island, topped with a charcoal-colored laminate board, has a retractable metal extension for extra counter seating. A sitting room completes the first-floor common space; wallpapered in rich brown tones, it has two angled walls that give it a trapezoid shape.       

A corridor to the left of the entrance hall connects to the master suite and two other bedrooms, each with gray-stained oak floorboards from the Swedish company Kährs. The master has a walk-in closet and bath fixtures and tiling by the high-end Italian companies Gessi and Viva Ceramica. Also off the corridor are another bath and a half.       

The second floor is reached from the entrance hall, via a flight of floating concrete slabs built into a wall covered in textured maroon paper. This floor has a home office, a fourth bedroom for guests, and a storage room.       

The house is in Konnerud, an upscale residential area with woods nearby. “You can literally put your skis on in front of my door and go cross-country skiing without seeing any cars, more or less,” Ms. Knudsen said.       

Drammen’s downtown is five to seven minutes’ drive. An industrial center on an inlet called Drammensfjord, about half an hour from Oslo, it has about 65,000 residents. Urban renewal projects over the last 15 years have transformed it from the kind of place “you quickly drove through,” Ms. Knudsen said. With restaurants, cafes, stores and theaters, as well as walkways along the water, Drammen has become a popular bedroom community of Oslo, which is easily accessible by public transportation.       


The housing market is thriving in Norway, which has low unemployment and abundant natural resources. “It’s definitely a sellers’ market,” said Leif Laugen, the chief executive of the Norwegian real estate company Krogsveen, noting that demand for housing outstrips supply in most areas. Residential prices have risen 27 percent since 2009, Mr. Laugen said.       

Drammen in particular has fared well. “The house prices were low compared to Oslo and some of the other suburbs,” he said. “But in the latest two years, the prices have increased most in Drammen.” However Drammen remains cheaper than Oslo and closer suburbs. “If you sell a two-bedroom apartment in Oslo,” Ms. Knudsen said, “you can buy a huge house in Drammen with that money.”       

The robust market has some theorizing that perhaps Norway is in the midst of a housing bubble, as the United States was before the financial crisis. Mr. Laugen said it was understandable that outsiders would be “smelling some bubbles there,” as Norway’s housing prices are high and have been consistently rising.       

But unlike other countries, Norway has only 3 percent unemployment, a large middle class and regular wage increases — 4 to 5 percent yearly, according to Mr. Laugen. It also has oil and gas reserves.       

Even so, Mr. Laugen points to two factors that make him nervous: the number of people buying homes beyond their means, and the number of Norwegian banks lending to them.       


The foreign presence in the Norwegian market is on the rise, partly because the thriving oil and gas industry is drawing engineers and other professionals, and these new arrivals are buying houses. No one country dominates the field, said Odd André Engh, a broker with Eie Eiendomsmegling which has this listing. “It could be Sweden, it could be the U.S., the Middle East, from all over,” said Mr. Engh, adding that the mix also varies by city. For example in the Oslo area, where Mr. Engh is based, foreign buyers tend to be from Sweden, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands.       


Buying is considered a straightforward process, typically carried out by the agent. In Norway, agents have five years of school and training; in addition, the government regulates all agencies.       

Foreign buyers must obtain the equivalent of a Social Security number, which takes only a few weeks. “It’s no problem to get financial support from a Norwegian bank,” said Mr. Engh, provided foreign buyers’ finances and employment status meet the bank’s criteria.

Source: The New York Times

Published: May 29, 2024