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Expat Exchange - How to Buy a Home in Switzerland
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Muensterplatz in Basel, Switzerland


How to Buy a Home in Switzerland

By Betsy Burlingame

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Summary: The one tip that you hear expats living in Switzerland repeatedly sharing with newcomers is not to buy a home when you first move to Switzerland. Rent for a few months or longer so that you have time to find the right neighborhood. Give yourself time to ensure that Switzerland is right for you for the long term. If you've already taken time to do those things and are ready to take the plunge and become a property owner, here are tips about buying a home in Switzerland.

Switzerland is known for its high standard of living, stunning landscapes, and robust economy. For expats considering a move to this beautiful country, buying a home can be an attractive option. However, the process can be complex, with various regulations and procedures to navigate. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the key aspects of buying a home in Switzerland, from finding properties to understanding the legal requirements and potential pitfalls.

How Do I Find Houses for Sale in Switzerland?

There are several ways to find houses for sale in Switzerland. Online property portals such as Homegate, ImmoScout24, and Comparis are popular and provide a wide range of listings. Local newspapers and real estate agencies also advertise properties. It's advisable to engage a local real estate agent who understands the market and can guide you through the process. They can also help negotiate prices and terms with sellers.

Are There Restrictions on Foreigners Owning Property in Switzerland?

Yes, there are restrictions on foreigners buying property in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Law on Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad, also known as Lex Koller, limits the purchase of property by non-residents. However, there are exceptions. For instance, EU/EFTA nationals residing in Switzerland or holding a Swiss residence permit can buy property without restrictions. Non-residents can also buy a primary residence if they plan to live in it permanently. It's advisable to consult with a legal expert to understand these regulations fully.

Does Switzerland Have an MLS Type System?

Switzerland does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system like in the United States. Instead, properties are listed on various online portals, newspapers, and through real estate agencies. Therefore, it's important to check multiple sources to get a comprehensive view of the market.

Do Brokers Have Licenses and How Do I Know if They are Licensed?

Real estate brokers in Switzerland are not required to have a license. However, many belong to professional associations such as the Swiss Real Estate Association (SVIT) or the Swiss Union of Real Estate Professionals (USPI). These organizations have codes of conduct and provide training and certification. It's advisable to work with a broker who is a member of a professional association to ensure they adhere to professional standards.

What Documents are Required When Buying a Home?

When buying a home in Switzerland, you'll need several documents. These include a valid passport or ID, a residence permit if you're a foreigner living in Switzerland, and proof of funds. You'll also need a sales agreement, which outlines the terms of the sale, and a notarized deed of sale. If you're taking out a mortgage, the bank will require additional documents such as proof of income and a credit report.

Do I Need a Lawyer When Buying a Home in Switzerland?

While it's not mandatory to have a lawyer when buying a home in Switzerland, it's highly recommended. A lawyer can help you understand the legal aspects of the purchase, review contracts, and ensure that all procedures are followed correctly. The cost of a lawyer can vary, but it's typically around 1% of the purchase price.

Do People Typically Buy a Property with All Cash or Take Out a Mortgage?

Both options are common in Switzerland. However, most people take out a mortgage due to the high property prices. Swiss banks typically require a minimum down payment of 20% of the purchase price. The mortgage interest rates in Switzerland are relatively low, making it an attractive option for many buyers.

Are There Inspections That Take Place, and If So What is That Process Like?

Yes, property inspections are common in Switzerland. They are usually conducted by a professional surveyor who checks the condition of the property and identifies any potential issues. The buyer typically pays for the inspection. It's an important step as it can help avoid costly repairs in the future.

What are Some of the Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying Property in Switzerland?

One of the main pitfalls to avoid is not fully understanding the Swiss property market and regulations. It's also important to be aware of the total cost of buying a home, including notary fees, land registry fees, and property taxes. Overpaying for a property is another common pitfall, so it's crucial to do thorough research and negotiate the price. Finally, ensure you have a comprehensive property inspection to avoid unexpected repair costs.

Expats Talk about Real Estate in Switzerland

"Keep in mind: - There is no free choice of school for your children, unless you are willing and able to pay for (expensive) private schools. Your children will usually go to school in the quarter you live. If you have specific school preferences for your kids, take this into consideration in the neighborhood choice. - Not only property prices vary highly between city and countryside, and between the various cantons. Also taxes and costs for (mandatory!) health insurance may vary a lot. Example: the canton of Zug may sound very attractive at first sight, because of the extremely low taxes. You'll quickly find out that this is (more than) compensated by prices for housing. Check out tax and health insurance rates at www.comparis.ch," said one expat living in Olten.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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Muensterplatz in Basel, Switzerland

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