The majority of Swiss residents rent, but owning a home is gaining in popularity. This preference for renting is partially due to the high amount of foreign nationals. It is also due to the high price of buying a home and limited availability. If you can afford it and find it, homes are usually beautiful and luxurious with homes retaining their value. There is extremely high competition for any moderately priced homes.
There were restrictions on the sale of property to foreigners that have been significantly loosened. EU citizens who have declared residency in Switzerland can purchase property without restrictions. EU citizens who are non-residents must obtain a permit B, whilst all other non-residents need a permit C. There is an annual quota of permits to be given to those non-resident foreigners seeking to acquire property in Switzerland. The Federal Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad (Lex Koller) regulates sales. These permits are in certain Cantons and are often restricted to those considered to be tourist resorts. Some Cantons also restrict the size of property that can be purchased. Re-sale of property may also be restricted.
You should first determine what exactly you are looking for.
Real estate agents (Makler, agences immobilières) are extremely helpful in finding a home and understanding the real estate climate. There are many agents within Zurich, so shop around and find an agent that meets your needs. If you are employed with a company, they may have an agent they work with they can refer. Also check with friends and acquaintances for recommendations.
A registration fee of about CHF 50 is usually charged for an agent's services and usually covers 3 months of service. Once you have bought a house, a commission will be charged. The commission is dictated within a contract.
Online listings can give you a great feel for the market and allow you to determine if a place fits your specifications before you spend time going to look at it.
If you prefer print, as even some sellers do, property sections can be found in most daily newspapers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis as well as online and through specialist property publications. Look for the Kleinanzeigen/Petites annonces (classifieds section) and Wohnangebote/A vendre (flats to buy).
Announcements are usually in Neue Zurcher Zeitung in German.
Many places have billboards offering advertisements for a variety of goods and services. It is rare to find property listings, but there may be useful postings. Laundrettes, cafes, grocery stores, community centers, and bars all might have private ads.
Expat and social forums and classified's are another resource for house seekers. You can get a realistic expectations of what it's like to live in Zurich as well as make helpful contacts. Check out Easy Expat's classifieds as well as the forum to connect with expats there.
Once you have found a home you want to purchase, you should have the property professionally evaluated. Negotiating is uncommon, and it is best to know everything about the property before entering into a contract.
The contract to buy the property must be drawn up by the notary. In the canton of Zurich, notaries must hold a law degree. They work for the public cantonal services and are not private practitioners. Notaries are neutral and have a duty to inform any of the parties of unusual provisions in the contract. To find a notary, use the site http://www.notariate.zh.ch/ (German). Notary's fees are 0.1 percent of the value/purchase price of the property.
You will also need to pay a deposit, usually 10 percent of the purchase price. If you need a permit to buy the property, the sale is conditional on receiving a permit. It usually takes about eight weeks to gain permission to buy, but may take much longer in some cases.
The notary files the deed with the land register of the respective Canton, and ownership in the real property is transferred only when the deed is registered. The buyer will receive an updated excerpt of the land register showing the transfer of ownership.
Up to 80 percent of the purchase price of a real property may be mortgaged. This means a down payment of 20 percent is common. The average mortgage cost associated with buying a 120 m2 apartment in Zurich is 5,534 euros per month. The average home costs most Swiss eight times their average annual income.
Mortgages of up to 100 percent may be possible if there are additional securities such as cash value life insurance policies or pension funds. Shop for the best rates at different banks.
Buying a home as in investment can be difficult as property is limited and requires foreigners to get a permit. If you are able to get through this process, homes in Switzerland have held their value better than comparable in the UK or USA.
Buying at auction is very exciting and can offer you a significant savings. Note that most properties are sold cheaply, but may need extensive renovation. This option is not recommended for first time buyers, and even experienced buyers should bring a friend or advisor as a second opinion.