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Property Purchase Procedure

Switzerland - Property Purchase Procedure

On finding a house that you would like to buy in Switzerland, your next step will be to check that you will be able to obtain a mortgage that, when combined with your savings, will be sufficient to cover the purchase price of the house. (You can ask the mortgage provider to value more than one property for you if you are still deciding between properties.) Be sure to factor in any necessary renovation costs and the co-ownership charge, if a shared building.

If you are satisfied that the property is affordable, you will need to put in an offer. If you are using an estate agent, they will handle this part of the process. If a private sale, you can contact the owner directly by phone or, if they require an offer in writing, by email. If your offer is accepted you may be asked to make a deposit to the seller via the notary, which will then be deducted from the purchase price. Ensure you have an agreement in writing that specifies that this will be fully refunded should the seller subsequently decide not to sell to you.

If buying off-plan, the process is similar except that the purchase price will be fixed and you will need to put down a deposit to secure your reservation and to sign a preliminary contract. There is likely to be an arrangement to pay this deposit and the remainder of the purchase price in stages, corresponding to the stages of completion of the property. Some new-build properties will involve annual payment of interest on the land (Baurechtzins), which is similar to buying a property leasehold rather than freehold. To remove this obligation you would need to buy out the lease but legal advice will need to be sought. Buyers are therefore advised to fully inform themselves of the consequences of purchasing a property that involves this arrangement. On completion of the purchase of a new-build you will receive a home warranty giving your protection against construction flaws for the next 5 years, extended to 10 for hidden defects.

You will now need to negotiate a date for moving. In Switzerland it is more common than in some other countries to have a period in which you own two properties, i.e. your new home and the former home you are selling. If you wish to avoid this, you will need to discuss with the seller whether they are willing to delay their own move. At this point you will also need to consider whether you would like to buy any fixtures, should the seller be willing to part with these on moving out. If there is any necessary work to be done as a condition of sale, and the seller has agreed to these conditions, you should also ensure that this is specified in writing.

Both your interests and those of the seller will be represented by a public notary. Once the mortgage formalities have been completed with your mortgage provider and you are issued with proof that you have the funds to buy the property, you will visit the notary's office (Notariatsamt) with the seller to agree on the contracts. If all is satisfactory to both parties and the notary has no concerns, contacts can be signed. The notary will charge up to 5% of the purchase price, depending on the canton. Even where lower, the notary cost is unlikely to be less than 4.5%, however in some cantons it is normal for the notary costs to be split equally between the buyer and seller. Note that you can appoint the notary yourself and are not obliged to accept the notary recommended to you. If you so wish, you can additionally appoint your own legal advisor.

Your notary will take care of the property transfer tax and paperwork. The tax rate will vary (and is not applicable in the cantons of Zurich and Schwyz) but will be covered by the notary fee. The notary also ensures the Land Registry deeds are changed, at which point you become the new legal owner of the property.

Buyers need to bear in mind that estate agents and sellers do not have a legal obligation in Switzerland to alert you to problems with a property or location, and are likely to gloss over these. You will therefore need to be alert to potential issues before purchasing a property. You will receive a copy of the architect's valuation which will give you some detail. Structural surveys are uncommon in Switzerland but you are within your rights to have one carried out if you have any concerns.

Useful Resources

Directory of notaries covering 14 cantons of Switzerland (including Zurich, Geneva and Basel Stadt)

Les notaires romands
Directory of notaries in French-speaking Switzerland

Read more about this country

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