From Iceland — Sour Grapes and Stuff

Sour Grapes and Stuff

Published May 4, 2012

Sour Grapes and Stuff

Hello guys,

i was very glad to find your feature about rental market in Reykjavik (and capital area), since i was one of those in the search of the rental apartment. And because my search is over now, i decided to share some of my experience – maybe it will help some others in this tough market.
    It is not very long since i am a tenant myself, this is my second rental place – if i don’t count the one i was renting some ten years ago, just when i came to Reykjavik, when i was renting a room for 14.000 per month; an amazing price even for those times.
    You say in your article that rental places are gone withing about three days after they are advertised – in my experience, they are gone within few hours. Many people have the ‘first came, first got’ strategy (that is my best translation of ‘fyrstur kemur, fyrstur fá’). When i were calling around noon for ads in that days’ paper, it was usually already gone. But i had found that most of the people would advertise on as many places as possible: that means on both Leigulistinn and and anywhere, where is free for them. And it is very fast process, for the landlords. Those in the search may feel like they are choosing their future home, but after all, we tenants are the selectee, the selectors are the landlords. Very logically, they can choose whom to rent, when they have so many potential tenants. And that’s exactly what i had done, i did not go for the best place i had seen, but for the one which was offered to me. Maybe i am weird, but for me the search for a place means taking a look at as many flats as possible, even those not suitable. Not viewing anything felt like i was not searching hard enough.
    I were surprised what everything is on the market these days, people would rent anything, only to be able to pay their mortgages: i had seen cellars and places never build as living space turned into something what owners called ‘studio’, sometimes even with more than one room. And it is not very hard to find such place in size of some 30 sq m for 80 thousand per month! Yes, they can do that, because they will find someone who will be forced to take it, everyone has to live somewhere. And the landlords are happy, they can still pay for their huge houses and leasing for all their cars (cos every member of the family needs to have a car). And every such family needs to have a tenant so they could afford it all.
    The mind of a landlord is changing faster than the Icelandic weather, so watch out for the promises, and don’t stop searching until you have a lease in your hands. You can be told to be signing the lease in few days, and when you call as arranged, ‘your’ flat might be already rented. And so don’t be afraid to do the same. If you find something better during those few days, take it right away, even if you had promised to be renting to someone else. They might do that to you, and if they could, they surely would.
    Considered all this, i am quite lucky i found a place in about two months of search. I don’t believe i was my landlords first choice, but that doesn’t matter. My rent is sky high (higher than my salary, but don’t tell my landlord, please). At least i got proper state approved lease. During my search I’ve heard from many about new law according to which landlords pay 20% taxes from the amount of rent they get, and so very few are willing to give state approved lease. Or they are forced to rise the rent of those 20%. I did not have to take this place, but i got tired of searching. What is perfect about it is the location, and the landlord is from the same place as me. That must be a good sign.
    Even it can be hard sometimes, i will never own any real estate again (i owned the place together with my husband), it is very hard to get a rid of it. Renting gives me more freedom and is kind of way of life. And i like moving.

With wish of good luck to anyone in search for place to stay,


Dear Milka,

thank you for your letter, which managed to be informative, flattering and a nice read in and of itself all at the same time! Well done!

And thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot, they really do.  

And CONGRATLATIONS on finally finding a place you like. If there’s one thing we learned through researching that whole apartment feature, it’s that finding a suitable place to stay that doesn’t cost ONE MILLION KRÓNUR out of pocket can be really tough.

But it’s so weird that you enjoy moving. You really do? Maybe if you were one of those enlightened folks that have denounced all earthly possessions (well, you do seem to have denounced owning an apartment) it would be a different thing. If you’re such a person, your position makes a lot of sense, actually. You just have to throw your underwear and socks into your overnight bag and off you go. No problem! However, if you own a huge piano, then you surely must be lying about your enjoyment of moving. Because moving huge pianos around is no laughing matter. It’s really hard. Those fuckers are heavy. Even moving something as soft and cushy as a mattress can be a real headache. Especially if you’re moving to or from a place that has lots of stairs. Like, with the bedroom or piano room or whatever on the top floor. Of a four floor building. With really narrow stairways. Goddamn, that’s annoying.

Someone really should have thought of some sort of moving alternative or helper or technology something by now. It’s the 21st century goddamn it. We can make our phones order us 12” pepperoni pizzas and a 2-litre bottle of coke while massaging our butts, tracking our heart rate and reciting the complete works of Raymond Carver in the voice of Leonard Nimoy. THERE ARE 3D PRINTERS for crying out loud! THEY CAN PRINT REAL OBJECTS! IN 3D! Still, the process of moving a piano up a flight of stairs remains the same as it was around the time the piano was invented in 1948. How barbaric! How Neanderthal! Is this due to our society’s built in disdain for manual labour and the people that do it? Is this because the only manual labour we value is… wait we don’t really value manual labour or the people that work it at all. Nope. The only people we celebrate are nerds that like to eat 12” pizzas and drink 2 litre bottles of coke while listening to their cell phones reciting the complete works of Raymond Carver in the voice of Leonard Nimoy while their heart rates are being tracked and their 3D printer shits out parts for a model airplane or whatever. We will celebrate muscle and physical strain, but only if its done for purely cosmetic reasons. We’ll pay someone ONE MILLION KRÓNUR to yell at us while we lift multiple kilos of steel, if the lifting is done for purely cosmetic reasons. We will reward people that look like browned sausage balloons after heaving multiple kilos of steel while starving themselves or eating Powdered Foetus Brand Heavy Proteins, but only if they heaved that steel for no apparent reason save for looking like browned sausage balloons (mmm… sausage….). No one is giving out awards for BEST MOVER or BEST FISH-GUTTER or BEST WAREHOUSE BOX STACKER, but there are like seven different awards for people who pretend they’re someone else for a living (like that’s so difficult, pretending you’re someone else? Bah!).

ANYWAY. Surely we can all agree that something must be done for the plight of movers everywhere. Some of those nerds that are always inventing things when they’re not playing around with their iPads should invent something for the movers. Like an anti-gravity something. Surely, you engineers out there can do something about that, even though you never have to lift anything yourselves. Quit being so selfish, engineers!

OK here’s to the movers!  

I read your story Spending the Night with a Farmer  (14.5.2010).
I’m traveling to the West Fjords by myself in May 2012 and I would love to stay with the farm family Samuelsson / Samuelsdottir in Djupidalur.
I’m 60yrs old and truly enjoy sheep and farming.  This will be my 2nd trip to Iceland and I intent to visit Iceland at least once a year.  Yes,  I love Iceland.  I’ve already booked all my other lodging with Icelandic Farm Holidays + hostels, but this experience sounds perfect.
Do you have a way for me to contact them?  An address, website?  Phoning is difficult as I am in Colorado USA.  I guess I could phone once I arrive in Iceland but I’d prefer to make arrangements way ahead of time.
Hope you can help out and thank you,
Hi Claudette,

I can’t find an email address for them, but I believe you could phone this number +354-434-7853 (which is the number of the swimming pool in Djúpidalur) and if that’s not Guðrún and Leifur’s direct number, you could probably ask to be put in touch with them. In fact they are actually the only people living in Djúpidalur.

Best Of Luck!

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