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Selling Property

Switzerland - Selling Property

It has been a seller's market in Switzerland for some time and this is likely to continue. Unless you have issues with your property or location that will make it difficult to sell, you have the option of selling your house privately. An in-demand property will be one in a popular area and competitively priced, regardless of size and features. The more popular the location, the quicker you can expect a sale. City centre properties, particularly Zurich and Geneva, should have no difficulty in selling and normally attract a lot of interest. However, sellers who have set an overly high price or whose properties have potential problems have had to wait much longer for a buyer.

Demand is greater for apartments, above all in urban areas. The Swiss are less interested in buying single-family homes and the falling demand has meant that fewer are being built. On the other hand, expats often search for more spacious, self-contained homes and you will be able to market your house to the large expat population in Switzerland.

If you bought a vacation property under the quota system for non-residents, certain cantons will have placed restrictions on how long you must wait to sell it on. These cantons are popular tourist destinations such as Valais and Ticino, and you would have been made aware of the condition at time of purchase. These restrictions can be waived in genuine cases of financial hardship or medical difficulties, but if permission is granted to sell you will only be able to recover the original property purchase price and reasonable expenses, and not any profit from a rise in property values (i.e. Capital Gains). All other homeowners should be free to sell a property at any time.

If your property is likely to be popular, you can advertise locally and also have the option to list it on an online marketplace, of which the best-known is homegate.ch (which also has the advantage of having an English-language version of the site). You need to register with homegate.ch and similar sites, and can expect to pay a fee. The basic fee for homegate.ch property ads is currently CHF 125, plus CHF 2.50 per day which permits an ad and up to 13 images. Additional fees apply of CHF 0.80 a day for attached documentation and the same for a video. The photos on homegate.ch are notoriously poor and it would be easy to stand out from the crowd and attract greater interest by taking some care over obtaining and uploading a range of quality photographs or a video. You can opt to hold an open day for viewings.

If you choose to use an estate agent (realtor) they will charge you in the region of 3% of the sale price as commission (some charge more, so check beforehand) and should proactively find potential buyers for you, which may be helpful if your property is proving difficult to sell. Some will also conduct viewings. A number of expats have had negative experiences of selling via estate agents, but on the positive side an agent can ensure that the seller obtains the best possible sale price and will also bridge any cultural and language gap in dealing with potential Swiss buyers.

A notary will always be required in a house sale. Although in several cantons the notary costs are the buyer's responsibility, in some you would split the costs equally between buyer and seller, and should confirm the situation in your canton when putting your home on the market. The notary should in all cases also represent your interests as the seller.

It can be tricky in Switzerland to find a property to move into at the same time as moving out of your current property. You may need to obtain a bridging loan from your bank which will enable you to buy a new property before your current one is sold.

When you sell a property, you will be subject to Capital Gains tax if you have made a profit from the Swiss property market. This does not apply if you are reinvesting in a Swiss property of equal or higher value, only if you are leaving the country or down-sizing to a property that costs less than your current property's sale price. You have approximately a year in which to reinvest before you become subject to this tax. Rates of capital gains taxation vary significantly from one canton to another, and also according to how long you have owned the property. For this reason it is not possible to predict the tax percentage on a property profit, but the system is intended to discourage those looking to make a quick profit (e.g. selling within 2 years of purchase) and is less punitive on those who have genuinely made a life for themselves in Switzerland, particularly where the property has been owned for over 10 years. Value-adding renovations and improvements to a property can be offset against the capital gains.

You are unlikely to find a Swiss resident willing to partake in a property exchange, but this could be an ideal way of solving a housing dilemma with another expat. The large influx of foreign workers into Switzerland and the frequent relocation of expats from one city to another creates the potential to pair up with someone needing to move to your location. Expat sites are a good place to advertise and discover if there is likely to be any interest. Some expats have also looked into this kind of arrangement when temporarily leaving Switzerland. You are advised to use legal services to ensure that the conditions of the exchange are clear and that everything is done in a way that is fair to both parties. You will also find it worthwhile to learn as much as you can about your exchange partner and his/her property before committing to the arrangement.

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