What You Need to Know About Relocate to Switzerland
If the thought of doing an online search for a home seems daunting, you may want to hire a real estate agent, or better yet a relocation expert who can assist you with everything you need. Finding a suitable home is very competitive in Switzerland and rent is generally expensive. Note that the rent, along with your utility bills, significantly varies from canton to canton. Most Swiss locals opt to rent unfurnished apartments and only 30% of Swiss nationals are homeowners.
A clear understanding of the housing market in Switzerland will do wonders for your search. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be without its challenges. As a foreigner, your biggest obstacle would be the need to have a Swiss bank account in order to sign a Swiss lease, but at the same time, need a Swiss lease to open a Swiss bank account.
One must realize that most people in Switzerland live in apartments and prefer renting over home ownership. The number of vacant housing is extremely limited and overly expensive. Working directly with a property’s landlord has become a novelty, since 99% of the rental market is run by real estate agents. These agents rarely advertise their property, since people prefer direct inquiries at their offices to get dibs on a property when it becomes available.
Do not fret however, as luck favors the bold and the prepared. Online listings for real estate agents are out there. As long as you’re willing to put in the effort, you should be able to find a suitable home on this side of paradise in no time.
Agencies such as Homegate or Immoscout24 offer easily searchable databases for places to rent or buy. If you have the means, relocation agencies offer the Switzerland-bound expat with a less stressful house hunting experience, including finding appropriate insurance coverage and registering with the local authorities.
If, however, you have more time than money, you will be needing a hefty amount of elbow grease because you have your work cut out for you. Make connections- get in touch with your HR or work colleagues for possible leads. Maybe you know people or have relatives who have moved to Switzerland. Ask around. Diligence will pay off and your success in finding a suitable home depends solely on your efforts and some luck.
Here’s an example of rent costs per month:
One-Bedroom Average Rent
- Geneva – CHF 2,000 (2,067 USD)
- Zurich – CHF 1,800 (1,860 USD)
- Uri – CHF 1,400 (1,447 USD)
- Glarus – CHF 1,300 (1,343 USD)
Three-Bedroom Average rent
- Geneva – CHF 3,720 (3,831 USD)
- Zurich – CHF 3,320 (3,419 USD)
- Uri – CHF 2,600 (2,678 USD)
- Glarus – CHF 1,500 (1,545 USD)
You may also want to look into Airbnb. The Swiss often rent out their entire apartments while they are on holiday or are abroad for work.
Types of Apartments
Properties in Switzerland are listed according to the number of “living spaces”. An advertised “two-room” apartment in reality will have one bedroom and one living room. A “three-room” apartment will have two bedrooms and a living room. A ½ (or “a half”) room refers to any type of extra room; an office or a patio, for example. A property listed as having 2.5 rooms will have one bedroom, one living room, a bathroom and a kitchen, and an extra space that can be used for anything.
Furnished or Unfurnished
Apartments that are considered unfurnished do not include furniture such as beds, couches or anything else. However, they may sometimes come ready with a stove, a fridge, a dishwasher, or maybe even a washer and dryer combination, if you’re lucky.
Furnished apartments come in a variety of choices, from literally having everything you will need to just a bed, couch, fridge, stove, and a TV.
A great number of expats make the mistake of staying in a hotel as they search for a more permanent accommodation. This would be a costly mistake in a country like Switzerland, where available housing is limited. We cannot stress enough the importance of house hunting before coming over to save on money and headaches.
Short-term rentals usually come fully-furnished. If you are looking to rent short-term in the bigger cities such as Geneve or Lausanne, furnished apartments are a stress-free alternative to shipping or driving your belongings. Take note that furnished and unfurnished apartments have a considerable price gap, but if your company is paying to bring your furniture over, then by all means, do it.
Long-term rentals will come unfurnished. An unfurnished flat could mean no carpets or even basic electrical appliances, so it is best to confirm with your agent first.
Required Documents for Renting in Switzerland (requirements may vary from canton to canton)
- Personal information e.g. your age, marital status, number of children, etc.;
- Employee contract;
- Letter of reference from your employer;
- Pay slip or document stating your salary;
- Your residency or visa status;
- Copy of your passport;
- Document stating that you are not being pursued for debt or any form of legal prosecution
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