December 1, 2023

House Hunting in Finland: On the Baltic Sea in Greater Helsinki

5 min read
House Hunting in Finland: On the Baltic Sea in Greater Helsinki

This three-bedroom home sits on a wooded rise overlooking the Baltic Sea in Kirkkonummi, a municipality in greater Helsinki, in southern Finland. Located alongside a bay in an area called Langvik, the six-acre property has 650 feet of beach frontage and a dock.

A hotel restaurant sits across the bay, and the homeowners like to “take their stand-up paddle-board over the sea to the hotel and get their takeaway food,” said Manna Satuli, an agent with Snellman Sotheby’s International Realty, which has the listing.

Built in 1978, the 3,830-square-foot home recently underwent a complete renovation, incorporating high-end contemporary finishes throughout. It has geothermal heating and cooling, and two saunas, one steam and one wood-burning.

A front courtyard within an L formed by the house and an attached two-car garage has a large wooden terrace, decorative rock gardens and a fire pit. The glass front door opens into a ceramic-tiled foyer with a powder room. Directly ahead is the combined kitchen and dining area, with a wall of windows facing the water.

The sleek charcoal-gray kitchen cabinets and island are from Binova, the Italian luxury brand. The built-in appliances, including an induction cooktop, dishwasher and oven, are from Gaggenau, the German manufacturer known for its innovative designs.

The living room, facing the water, is off the kitchen. It opens to an adjoining, sunken TV room. A glass door in the TV room opens onto another terrace.

Off the living room is a lounge with a fireplace. Alternatively, this could serve as an office or another bedroom, Ms. Satuli said. It also has a door to a terrace.

A door at the other end of the kitchen leads to an office or studio space, a small guest bedroom and a full bath.

The primary suite is on the lower level. It has a fireplace lounge with a glass-walled walk-in closet and a bath with double vessel sinks and a walk-in shower. The lounge also opens to a private covered terrace.

Down the hall is a large exercise room with a mirrored wall, a third bedroom and bath, and the two glass-doored saunas, which are separated by an open, ceramic-tiled showering area.

The center of Kirkkonummi (pop. 40,000), with shops, restaurants, a library and medical services, is a few minutes away. The capital city of Helsinki and the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, are about a half-hour drive.

For five years in a row, Finland has been ranked the happiest country in the world by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Finland is rapidly becoming much more urbanized, as young people increasingly gravitate toward the cities, especially Helsinki, the country’s most densely populated area. More than 70 percent of the Finnish population of roughly 5.5 million people now live in urban areas, according to a recent property market report from KTI, a Finnish real estate research company.

“As people graduate from universities in other cities, they tend to go to Helsinki,” said Jani Nieminen, the chief executive of Kojamo, Finland’s largest private residential real estate company and a major investor in the residential rental market. “Helsinki is the heart of Finland, and most of the new jobs are created there.”

He expects an additional half million people will be living in Helsinki and other cities by 2040.

Residential construction in urban areas has been relatively robust in recent years, with some 39,000 dwellings started in 2020, and 38,000 in 2019, according to KTI.

But demand still far exceeds supply, particularly for ownership properties. The 85,000-plus residential property transactions recorded countrywide in 2021 set a record, exceeding the previous year’s record by more than 10,000 transactions, according to data from the Federation of Finnish Real Estate Agencies.

At the same time, average selling times for detached houses in greater Helsinki fell by almost a month.

“The pace of selling a house today is close to what it was in 2014, which was the fastest market since the financial crash of 2008,” said Annukka Mickelsson, the chief executive of the federation. “People are understanding that you need to have financing ready and be fast in your decisions.”

Ms. Satuli, who specializes in high-end properties well into the millions, said she is unable to get enough listings to meet the demand.

“I’ve sold everything that I could get,” she said.

The average price per square meter for existing apartments in Helsinki was 5,890 euros ($604 a square foot) last year, and 6,340 euros ($650 a square foot) for new apartments, Ms. Mickelsson said. Many are organized as housing companies, similar to housing cooperatives, in which buyers purchase shares.

Rentals outnumber owner-occupied dwellings in Helsinki, where half of the households are made up of one person. Rents in central Helsinki average about 22.5 euros per square meter ($2.31 per square foot), though they are higher in new construction, said Mr. Nieminen, whose company has a portfolio of roughly 37,000 apartments in Finland’s seven major growth centers.

“We get a lot of people who could buy but are choosing not to,” he said. “They prefer the effortlessness of rental apartments.”

Foreign buyers represent a small share of the market in this ethnically homogeneous country. As of 2019, only 7.5 percent of residents did not speak Finnish or Swedish as their first language, according to KTI.

Ms. Satuli said her foreign buyers are typically from other European countries, especially Austria and France, as well as the United States.

Over the past few years, the country’s property market has become more popular with large international investors who are looking for new opportunities and “willing to pay more aggressive prices,” Mr. Nieminen said.

Foreign buyers from outside the European Union must apply to the Ministry of Defence for permission to buy real estate in Finland. (Permission is not required to buy housing shares.) They must provide information about the buyer and the seller, and the intended use of the property. The application fee is 150 euros ($166).

Lawyers are not usually hired to handle routine transactions, although Ms. Satuli said she often advises foreign clients to use a lawyer because “we have to make sure everything goes by the book.”

Agent commissions vary widely. Digital agents, who don’t physically show properties, may charge as little as one percent, while traditional agents may charge sellers as much as 4.5 percent, Ms. Mickelsson said.

Finnish and Swedish; euro (1 euro = $1.10)

The transfer tax is 2 percent for housing shares and 4 percent for property.

Property taxes on this home are 1,082 euros ($1,194) annually.

Manna Satuli, Snellman Sotheby’s International Realty, 011-358-50-550-2638; Snellman Sotheby’s International Realty | Real Estate Broker | Helsinki

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