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Property Options and Types

Switzerland - Property Options and Types


The beautiful Swiss chalet that many of us associate with Switzerland is not the typical Swiss accommodation, and frequently comes with a very high price tag. Apartment-living is much more the norm in Switzerland than in countries such as the UK or Australia, and home-ownership is not an expectation for many Swiss people. In fact, the Swiss have a higher percentage of residents living in rented accommodation than any other country in Europe, with only around 38% of the population owning their homes, although this figure has increased from 30% since the early 1990s and the trend is set to continue. In cities such as Basel the percentage of home-ownership is as low as 16%, with Zurich and Geneva also having low percentages for owner-occupiers, while rural cantons enjoy a much greater rate of home-ownership.

You have a choice of options when it comes to buying a main home in Switzerland. If buying in the more central parts of a city, you will be more likely to find pre-built apartments, some in historic buildings which have undergone renovation at some point, but some built more recently. However, in outer districts you will find a range of attractive new developments with the option to buy off-plan. When viewing advertisements in German, look for 'Neubau' or 'Neubauprojekt' for new-builds, and 'renoviert' for renovated. In French-speaking areas, look for 'à vendre sur plan' for properties available to buy off-plan. Renovation of old or derelict buildings is expensive and older homes may also have planning restrictions.

If buying an apartment (Wohnung), which may also be described as a condominium (Eigentumswohnungen), you have a choice of an attic apartment (Attikawohnung), garden apartment (Gartenwohnung), or a floor in-between in a low-rise apartment building. You will not often find residential accommodation higher than a few stories. Note that the Swiss count floors starting with the ground floor (Erdgeschoss) with the next floor up being the first floor (erster Stock). The word for maisonette is the same in German and French as in English. A property with a view has an 'Übersicht' and you will frequently have at least one 'Balkon'. An 'Einliegerwohnung' is a secondary suite, what we might call a 'granny flat' in the UK/Australia or a mother-in-law apartment in the US. Sometimes an apartment will occupy its own floor. A detached apartment building is described as a 'freistehendes Gebäude'.

Owning a house is less usual than apartment ownership and there are fewer of them available to buy, especially in urban areas. Taking Zurich as an example, on one popular property search site there are 175 apartments listed for sale, compared with 44 houses. In Geneva, there are 232 apartments and sole-occupancy 60 houses advertised on the same site. Houses are categorised as single family homes (Einfamilienhaus) and multi-family homes (Mehrfamilienhaus) which offer more extensive living space sub-divided into apartments, often by floor. These tend to be bought by property investors who lease out the apartments. Single occupancy homes are often detached villas, but in cities and towns can also be found as semi-detached, or as terraced/row houses. Architecture varies from charming, typically-European houses with shutters to ultra-modern, architect designed buildings. Townhouses are sturdy stone-built bulidings with painted exteriors (and often have shutters in a contrasting shade), but don't expect to find a wooden chalet in this environment.

Swiss towns have a higher proportion of detached villas that the large cities, as does the smaller city of Lausanne. If living in a rural area you have more chance of buying a typical Swiss chalet. Land for sale is rare, although some expats report having been successful in buying plots and building their own homes.

Timeshares are available for purchasing holiday/vacation homes in the alpine tourist resorts of Switzerland. The normal arrangement is to buy available weeks either from a resale or by signing up to a new development. They can be expensive and difficult to sell, but you can often use your allocated week in other resorts around the world.


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