If you’re thinking of buying property in Switzerland, you might have a few questions that need answering. In this article, we’re giving you the lowdown on Swiss permits, house prices, property taxes, pitfalls and more.
The Swiss housing market is infamous for being particularly confusing. There are rules and regulations everywhere, and these can catch foreigners out.
However, you can rest assured that we’ve covered all bases, keeping your Swiss property-buying woes at bay.
Can I buy Swiss property as a foreigner?
Buying property as a foreigner in Switzerland is much tougher than in most other European countries. Your purchasing permissions differ depending on your background.
Firstly, you’ll need some form of residence permit to buy property in Switzerland. You can find out more about Swiss residence permits with our article on moving to Switzerland.
Foreigners from EU or EFTA nations with a Swiss permit living in Switzerland, and Swiss C Permit holders have the same rights as Swiss citizens for purchasing property.
This means you can buy residential properties to live in full-time, as well as holiday homes, investment properties and commercial premises.
Buying property in Switzerland becomes more challenging if your background doesn’t fit into any of these categories. For example, if you are a non-resident foreigner or a foreign resident without a work permit, you may need a license to purchase real estate.
Buying Swiss property with a B permit
The Swiss B Permit is also known as a temporary residence permit. This means you can live in Switzerland for one year, but it can be renewed.
If you hold a Swiss B Permit, you can only buy property to live in as your primary residence. However, you may be able to purchase a holiday home if you receive authorisation from a Swiss authority.
Switzerland house prices
Since April 2019, house prices in Switzerland had been steadily climbing until the start of this year. According to CEIC, prices were rising by around 1.5% to 2% throughout 2020 but shot up to roughly 4.5% coming into 2021.
In the spring of 2021, house prices in Switzerland grew as much as 7% YoY. Since then, they have reduced slightly to a 6% average increase for Q3.
The amount you pay for a house in Switzerland is hugely dependent on where you live and the kind of property you plan to live in. Have a look at the map below to see how house prices vary across the country.
In general, Switzerland is an expensive place to live. According to Numbeo, average apartment prices in Switzerland are more than twice as expensive than in the UK.
For instance, the average price per square metre for an apartment in a city centre is £4,229 (CHF 5,210) in the UK. The same property in Switzerland will cost you £9,193 (CHF 11,324).
Swiss property taxes
If you’re buying property in Switzerland, you’ll have to pay property transfer tax. The amount you pay differs depending on the area the property is in and can range from 0.2% to 3.3% of the purchase price.
Once you become a homeowner, you’ll have to face some extra taxes.
- Imputed rental value: this is income tax that resembles a portion of the estimated rental price of the property if it were listed on the open market. The imputed rental value is usually 60% to 70% of the total rental value.
- Property tax: around 50% of cantons in Switzerland charge a property tax. The fee tends to be around 0.2% to 0.3% of the estimated value of the property.
- Wealth tax: in Switzerland, it is imperative that you declare any property assets in your tax return. This includes an apartment, a house or a plot of land. You will then pay tax on the value of the asset.
Buying property in Geneva
Geneva is one of Switzerland’s most popular cities. And with great popularity, comes great costs.
The map above shows Geneva as the priciest city to buy property in the country: an apartment in the city centre will set you back an average of CHF 13,844 per square metre.
Of course, some areas in Geneva are more expensive than others. A property in the Petit-Saconnex area in northern Geneva will be considerably less dear than in the lavish parts of Eaux-Vives – just east of the city centre.
The process of buying property can be a little on the slow side. From start to finish, you’re usually looking at three months or more. You’ll start by finding your perfect place to live in Geneva and organising your budget. Then, make an offer, secure a mortgage, agree on the sale and sign the sale contract.
You’ll need to factor in roughly 5% of the purchase price of the house for fees and taxes. These include the property transfer tax mentioned earlier as well as registration fees and notary fees.
Buying property in Switzerland pitfalls
Purchasing property abroad is always going to present some challenges. And Switzerland is no exception. The country has a plethora of laws and rules that can potentially create some pitfalls. Here are some to keep an eye out for.
This is something we’ve touched on already, and it’s crucial to consider. The rules and regulations of buying property as a foreigner can change drastically between areas of the country. Purchasing real estate in the Swiss Alps is a clear example of how this can change.
In many resorts of Valais, a Swiss property owner can sell their real estate to foreigners regardless of how long they’ve owned the property. In Saas-Fee, a Swiss owner may only sell to a foreigner once they’ve owned the property for five years or more. Lastly, in Zermatt, property cannot be sold to foreigners.
Ensure you are fully aware of the rules and regulations of where you want to buy before making any offers.
Getting a Swiss mortgage as a foreigner
Securing finance for the purchase of property in Switzerland can also catch you out. If you’re applying for a mortgage from the USA, Gibraltar or the Channel Islands, you could be turned down. Swiss mortgage providers tend to not deal with citizens from these nations.
Similarly, Australian citizens will face considerably more challenges getting a mortgage than nationals from within Europe.
If you require a mortgage for your property purchase, speak to your cantonal authority to check your permissions.
Send money to buy property in Switzerland
Buying property in Switzerland as a foreigner means you’ll need some Swiss Francs. Exchanging foreign currencies can be a daunting prospect, but we can help.
At Privalgo, foreign exchange is what we do. If you’re unsure about the process, our Currency Specialists can guide you through every step of the way and offer financial solutions to reduce the risk of market movement affecting your money.
We also offer industry-leading exchange rates, meaning you’ll get as many Swiss Francs as possible for your money.
Interested? Book a free chat with a Privalgo Currency Specialist today.Book a chat with a Currency Specialist