With the sun shining brilliantly and most schools closed this week for the annual autumn holidays, thousands of Norwegians have flocked to their cabins known as “hytter.” In another sign of economic optimism, they’re also buying and selling such vacation properties like mad, with brokers reporting the strongest sales and highest prices ever.
Christian Haatuft, a real estate broker in the popular mountain town of Geilo, has never sold as many hytter as he did last month, and he predicts prices will keep going up. He told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he’s even handling showings in the middle of the week instead of just on weekends, with prospective buyers taking off from work to get into the market as soon as possible.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Haatuft told DN. “This September is the best month I’ve had in the 16 years I’ve sold hytter in Geilo.”
He’s not alone. Sales are brisk all over Norway, with many brokers and economists concluding that high prices in the housing market have made many Norwegians feel relatively wealthy. They’re keen to invest in more property, especially hytter, and first-time hytte-buyers are tapping their home equity to do so. Others are selling their existing hytter at high prices and re-investing in bigger and grander places. It’s no longer unusual for hytter to have several bedrooms and bathrooms and sell for NOK 10 million (USD 1.25 million) or more.
Conflicts arising, too
The high level of interest in hytter is also fueling development of new hyttebyer, subdivisions of holiday properties that are sprouting up especially in the counties of Buskerud, Østfold, Oppland and Hedmark. Newspaper Dagsavisen recently reported that a total of 448 hytte projects are under development this autumn.
Those same four counties also have the highest numbers of vacation properties already. The proliferation of projects, most of which involve road-building and infrastructure such as water and sewage lines, has sparked protests that some areas are being over-developed.
“Yes, we’re experiencing some conflicts regarding developments in mountain areas,” Anne Gunn Kittelsrud, planning chief for Ringsaker in Hedmark County, told Dagsavisen. Concerns range from increased traffic, deforestation, higher noise levels and complaints from those who already have hytter and object to losing their views or their peace and quiet. New hytte communities often include high-density condominium projects, more vehicles and even paved bicycle paths.
Kittelsrud said it’s usually a “conscious decision” by both local authorities and landowners to build higher density projects and confine designated hytte areas. Mountain areas, she said, “are a limited resource” that must be preserved.
Complaints abound that too many hytter are being built, not least in areas like Sjusjøen in Ringsaker, which some argue is turning into a highly populated and even congested area, especially during holiday periods. Sjusjøen already ranks as Norway’s largest hytte community, with nearly 1,800 holiday properties and more planned.
Demand, however, keeps fueling more projects and prices, with landowners cashing in. Places like Norefjell, Kvitfjell, Ringebu, Geilo, Hemsedal keep expanding. State statistics bureau SSB reported there were roughly 2,477,000 housing units in Norway at the beginning of this year, and 450,000 holiday homes.
It’s not unusual that buyers are now willing to pay several million kroner for the latter. Stig Svartor of DNB Eiendom in Lillehammer told DN he wished he had more hytter available in the NOK 3 million to NOK 5 million segment (USD 375,000-625,000). He has no doubt he’d sell them all.