Don't lose money in Switzerland

We've created a guide to help you avoid pitfalls, save time, and make the best long-term investment possible.

Understand the Kaufvertrag / Contrat de Vente

Last updated on 

All sources have been thoroughly verified for credibility. Furthermore, a local real estate expert has reviewed and approved the final article.

real estate Switzerland

Everything you need to know is included in our Switzerland Property Pack

When it comes to buying real estate in Switzerland, making sure you fully grasp the property sales contract is essential.

Indeed, not fully understanding the document you will sign can lead to financial losses, including the forfeiture of deposits, payment of penalties, unexpected costs, legal expenses, and potential poor investment decisions.

We've heard countless stories of people making costly mistakes when signing their property agreement in Switzerland. We want to help you avoid the same experience.

We'll give here a very brief overview regarding the property sales contract in Switzerland ; if you want a full checklist, please check our property pack for Switzerland.

What is the Kaufvertrag / Contrat de Vente in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, the property purchase agreement is a crucial document in real estate transactions, locally known as "Kaufvertrag" (German), "contrat de vente" (French), or "contratto di vendita" (Italian), depending on the region.

This agreement outlines the terms and conditions of the property sale, including details like the price, property description, and any conditions precedent (such as obtaining a mortgage).

The property purchase agreement in Switzerland is legally binding once both parties sign it.

For the buyer and seller, this document serves as a formal commitment to the transaction. It's a guarantee for both parties, ensuring the seller commits to selling the property at the agreed terms, and the buyer commits to purchasing it.

For international buyers or non-residents, there are some additional considerations. Switzerland has restrictions on real estate purchases by non-residents, particularly in certain areas like tourist regions.

International buyers often need to obtain a permit or face certain limitations, which should be considered before entering into a purchase agreement.

The signing of the property purchase agreement typically comes after initial negotiations and once due diligence is completed. Before this stage, an initial reservation agreement might be signed, sometimes involving a deposit.

The amount of the deposit can vary, but it's often around 10% of the purchase price. This deposit is usually held in a notary's escrow account and is applied to the purchase price upon completion of the sale.

Swiss real estate transactions can differ from those in other countries in terms of the notary's role.

In Switzerland, a notary often plays a central role in the transaction, facilitating the agreement, ensuring that all legal requirements are met, and registering the property transfer.

This is different from some other countries where the role of a notary might be more limited or where legal representation might be separately sought by each party.

Get the full checklist for your due diligence in Switzerland

Don't repeat the same mistakes others have made before you. Make sure everything is in order before signing your sales contract.

due diligence Switzerland

What should be included in the property purchase agreement in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, the property purchase agreement, an essential document in real estate transactions, must adhere to certain legal requirements.

The primary legal framework governing these agreements is the Swiss Code of Obligations (Schweizerisches Obligationenrecht/Code des obligations suisse/Codice delle obbligazioni svizzero).

A standard property purchase agreement should contain several mandatory clauses:

Mandatory Clause Description

Identification of Parties

Full names and details of the buyer and seller.

Description of Property

Detailed description of the property, including its location, size, and any other relevant characteristics.

Purchase Price

Clearly stated purchase price and the terms of payment.

Transfer of Ownership

Conditions and date for the transfer of ownership.

Legal and Physical Status

Information on any mortgages, easements, or other encumbrances on the property.

Date of Possession

When the buyer will take possession of the property.

In addition to these mandatory clauses, several additional clauses can be included:

- Outcomes of any inspections or investigations into the property.

- Details on how ongoing costs (like taxes, utility bills) will be adjusted between the parties.

- Any warranties provided by the seller or disclaimers, particularly regarding the condition of the property.

Conditions or contingencies are also common in these agreements. These might include:

- The purchase might be contingent on the buyer obtaining a mortgage.

- The buyer's obligation to purchase may depend on them selling their current home.

- The buyer might want the option to back out or renegotiate if a property inspection reveals significant issues.

In Switzerland, the role of the notary is significant. The agreement often needs to be authenticated by a notary.

The notary ensures that the agreement complies with legal requirements, facilitates the transfer of ownership, and registers the transaction with the land registry.

Regarding the role of real estate agents, while they can facilitate the process, they don't typically have legal implications in the agreement itself. Their primary role is to bring the buyer and seller together, assist in negotiations, and help with the preparation of the property for sale.

However, it's the notary who plays the crucial role in the legal aspects of the transaction.

What's the signing process like?

In Switzerland, the signing process of a property purchase agreement is a structured and formal procedure, reflecting the importance of real estate transactions.

Both the buyer and seller are required to sign the property purchase agreement. This agreement is indeed bilateral, meaning it involves a mutual commitment from both parties.

It's possible for "the buyer" or "the seller" to be multiple people. For instance, a couple or a group of investors can jointly purchase a property, and similarly, a property can be sold by multiple owners.

For the signing, both parties need to provide certain documents and information. The seller typically provides proof of ownership, details of any mortgages or encumbrances on the property, and recent utility bills or tax statements.

The buyer, on the other hand, may need to present proof of financing or a mortgage approval, along with personal identification documents.

The signing process generally follows these steps:

Mandatory Clause Description

Preparation of the Agreement

After negotiations, a notary prepares the purchase agreement.

Review of the Agreement

Both parties review the agreement, often with legal counsel.

Signing Appointment

A meeting is arranged for signing, usually at the notary's office.

Signing the Agreement

The parties sign the agreement in the presence of the notary. This is typically done in person, although there may be provisions for remote signing under certain conditions.


The notary authenticates the signatures and the terms of the agreement.

The deadline for signing is usually agreed upon during negotiations and stipulated in the agreement.

The contract remains valid for the duration specified within it, which might depend on certain contingencies being met (such as obtaining financing or a satisfactory property inspection).

After the agreement is signed, the notary registers the transaction with the local land registry. This registration is crucial as it formalizes the change of ownership and makes the transaction public.

Amendments to the contract after it has been signed are not typical, as the agreement is legally binding once signed. Any changes would require agreement from both parties and potentially a new signing and notarization process.

The typical timeframe for completing all necessary paperwork and approvals can vary, depending on factors like the complexity of the transaction, the speed of financing, and the efficiency of local authorities.

Generally, this process can take several weeks to a few months.

Don't sign a document you don't understand

Buying a property in Switzerland? We have reviewed all the documents you need to know. Stay out of trouble - grab our comprehensive guide.

property purchase agreementSwitzerland

How is the payment handled when signing a property purchase contract in Switzerland?

Understanding the financial aspects of a property purchase agreement in Switzerland involves several key points.

Typically, when you sign the sales agreement in Switzerland, you're not immediately required to make a payment.

However, after the agreement is signed and leading up to the final sale, a down payment or deposit is usually expected.

The down payment for a property in Switzerland generally ranges around 20% of the purchase price. This percentage can vary based on the property type and the buyer's financial situation.

Apart from the down payment, there may be additional upfront fees, such as notary fees, which are crucial for the legal processing of the transaction. These fees vary but are usually a percentage of the property's purchase price.

Typically, the down payment is not paid directly to the seller. Instead, it is paid into an escrow account managed by the notary. This ensures that the funds are securely held until the transaction is finalized.

The exact due date for the payment is usually specified in the purchase agreement. It's often not immediately upon signing but scheduled for a later date, tied to specific milestones in the purchase process.

In Switzerland, property purchases are subject to cantonal property transfer taxes. The rate varies by canton. Additionally, the buyer may have to pay a notary fee and a land registration fee.

The down payment amount can sometimes be negotiated with the seller, especially if you have strong financial credentials or the property has been on the market for a long time.

If the sale falls through due to contingencies outlined in the agreement (like a failed inspection or financing issues), the down payment may be refundable. The specific terms should be clearly stated in the purchase agreement.

In most cases, the down payment needs to come from your funds. Swiss banks typically require proof that a portion of the funds comes from personal sources and not from additional borrowing.

While the real estate agent helps facilitate the sale, the financial transactions, especially the handling of the down payment, are usually overseen by the notary or a legal representative. They ensure that the financial aspects comply with Swiss law.

You can and should request a receipt or confirmation of payment when you make the down payment. This is a standard practice and serves as proof of your fulfillment of the contract terms.

For the seller, capital gains from the property sale are typically taxable.

For the buyer, in addition to the property transfer taxes, the purchase could have implications for wealth tax assessments, depending on the canton.

What are the potentials risks and pitfalls?

You might be interested in reading our article about the common risks and pitfalls surrounding a property transaction in Switzerland.

Understanding the risks and pitfalls associated with a property purchase agreement in Switzerland is crucial to navigate the process effectively.

In Switzerland, once a property purchase agreement is signed and notarized, it becomes legally binding.

Generally, neither the buyer nor the seller can simply withdraw without facing consequences.

However, the specific terms of the contract may allow withdrawal under certain conditions.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, Switzerland typically does not have a statutory cooling-off period for real estate transactions. Once the agreement is signed, the commitment is firm unless specific contingencies have been included in the contract.

If a party wishes to withdraw from the agreement, they must have a valid reason as defined in the contract.

For example, a buyer may back out if they're unable to secure financing, but only if the agreement includes a financing contingency.

If one party fails to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the agreement, the other party may seek legal recourse. This could include retaining the down payment, demanding compensation for damages, or taking legal action to enforce the agreement.

The penalties for failing to fulfill the contract terms can vary. The most common is the forfeiture of the down payment if the buyer backs out without a contractually valid reason.

For the seller, failing to proceed with the sale could result in being sued for damages.

If a party legitimately withdraws based on contingencies in the agreement, the down payment is typically returned. If the withdrawal is not justified, the down payment might be forfeited or subject to legal dispute.

The process in Switzerland is more rigid compared to some other countries. For instance, in the U.S., there's often a legally mandated cooling-off period, and the role of the notary is less central.

The Swiss system places a strong emphasis on the notarization process, making the agreement more immediately binding.

Buyers should be wary of committing to a purchase without securing financing or thoroughly inspecting the property. Sellers should ensure that the buyer is financially capable of completing the transaction.

Misrepresentation or failure to disclose property defects can lead to legal disputes.

Disputes, while not extremely common, can arise, especially around property defects discovered post-signing or failure to meet contract terms.

These are usually resolved through negotiation, arbitration, or legal proceedings.

If disputes arise, parties typically turn to mediation or legal action. The involvement of a notary in the initial stages helps in reducing the likelihood of disputes, as they ensure clarity and legal compliance of the agreement.

If defects are discovered after signing, the buyer may have legal recourse, especially if these defects were known to the seller and not disclosed.

This can lead to renegotiation of the sale terms or compensation for repairs.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Readers are advised to consult with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions. We do not assume any liability for actions taken based on the information provided.