Buying real estate in Switzerland as a foreigner?

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Buying property in Switzerland as a foreigner: a full guide

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buying property foreigner Switzerland

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

Switzerland is a top pick for foreigners who want to invest in real estate. It offers picturesque alpine scenery, a rich cultural heritage, and a welcoming population.

However, purchasing property in a foreign country can be a daunting prospect, especially with all the laws and regulations involved.

Don't worry! This guide is here to make it easy for foreign buyers to understand how the property market works in Switzerland. We'll explain everything you need to know in an uncomplicated and straightforward way.

Also, for a more in-depth analysis, you can check our property pack for Switzerland.

Can you purchase and own a property in Switzerland as a foreigner?

If you are American, we have a dedicated blog post regarding the property buying and owning process in Switzerland for US citizens.

Buying real estate in Switzerland as a foreigner involves navigating a set of specific rules and regulations that differ from those for Swiss citizens.

Understanding these can help you make informed decisions if you're considering purchasing property in Switzerland.

Firstly, the rights of foreigners to buy property in Switzerland are more restricted than for locals. While Swiss citizens can purchase real estate without any special permits, foreigners may need to obtain a permit depending on their residency status and the type of property they wish to buy.

For non-residents, the acquisition of real estate is primarily limited to certain types of properties, such as holiday homes or apartments in designated tourist areas.

These properties often come with restrictions, like limits on size and location. Foreigners who are not residents can't generally buy property just anywhere in Switzerland.

If you're a foreigner residing in Switzerland with a B Permit (residence permit), you are treated almost like a Swiss citizen in terms of property rights. This means you can buy property without needing a special permit, except for buying agricultural land, which requires approval.

Regarding the country of origin, EU or EFTA citizens residing in Switzerland have the same rights as Swiss citizens when it comes to property purchase.

However, citizens from countries outside the EU/EFTA might face more restrictions, especially if they are not residents in Switzerland.

As for visas and permits, if you're not already a resident, you would need to secure a residence permit to buy property without restrictions.

Owning property in Switzerland does not automatically grant you residency rights, so you'd need to qualify for residency through other means, such as employment or family reunification.

In terms of government authorization, foreigners may require approval from the Cantonal authorities where the property is located. This process can vary depending on the canton and the type of property you intend to buy.

There isn't a set minimum investment amount for buying property in Switzerland, but the cost can be high due to the strong real estate market and the country's overall high cost of living.

Can you become a resident in Switzerland by purchasing and owning a property?

In Switzerland, purchasing and owning property does not directly lead to residency.

Unlike some other countries, Switzerland does not have a specific investment or real estate purchase program that grants residency rights. This means you cannot automatically become a resident simply by investing in Swiss real estate.

However, there are other pathways to residency in Switzerland that may be available to you, depending on your situation. These include employment-based permits, family reunification, or retirement for EU/EFTA citizens. Each of these paths has its own set of requirements and processes.

For employment-based permits, you would typically need to have a job offer from a Swiss employer. The employer must prove that the position could not be filled by a local or EU/EFTA citizen.

Family reunification allows spouses and children of Swiss residents to live in Switzerland. Retirement residency is available for EU/EFTA citizens who can prove sufficient financial means to support themselves without working.

Once you obtain residency in Switzerland, you can then purchase property with fewer restrictions. As a resident, you would not need a special permit to buy real estate, except for agricultural land which still requires approval.

The length and type of residency permit you can obtain depend on your specific circumstances. Initially, you might receive a temporary residence permit (B Permit), which is usually valid for one year and can be renewed.

After living in Switzerland for a certain number of years, you might be eligible to apply for a C Permit, which is a permanent residence permit.

Regarding citizenship, holding a permanent residence (C Permit) is one of the prerequisites for applying for Swiss citizenship.

You would need to live in Switzerland for a certain number of years, demonstrate integration into Swiss society, and pass language proficiency tests among other requirements.

Thinking of buying real estate in Switzerland?

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buying property foreigner Switzerland

Market metrics

You can find fresh and updated data in our pack of documents related to the real estate market in Switzerland.

By examining the the the GDP per capita indicator, we can deduct that Swiss people have become 2.0% richer throughout the past 5 years.

As people's wealth increases, their interest in real estate also grows, and that can make prices increase down the road.

If we check the data reported on Numbeo, we see that residential real estate in Switzerland offer gross rental yields between 1.1% and 3.8%.

These minimal rental yields typically indicate that the rental income generated from local properties is relatively low compared to the property's market value or the amount invested in its purchase.

To know more, you can also read our dedicated article: is it a good time to buy a property in Switzerland?

The life as an expat

The life of an expat in Switzerland can be described as an exciting and rewarding experience. The country is renowned for its natural beauty, its culture, and its high quality of life. Expats in Switzerland have access to a wide range of activities and attractions, from skiing and hiking in the Alps to exploring the stunning lakeside towns. Switzerland also boasts a vibrant art and culture scene, with world-class museums, galleries, and cultural events. Expats can also take advantage of the country's excellent healthcare system, as well as its well-developed public transportation network. Furthermore, Switzerland is home to some of the world's most prestigious educational institutions, making it an ideal destination for those seeking to further their studies. With its strong economy, safety, and stability, Switzerland is a great place to live and work for expats.

What are the best places to buy real estate in Switzerland?

This table summarizes some of the best places to buy a property in Switzerland.

City / Region Population Average Price per sqm (CHF) Strengths
Zurich ≈ 400,000 10,000 - 20,000 Financial hub, cultural scene, high quality of life, picturesque setting
Geneva ≈ 200,000 12,000 - 18,000 International city, diplomatic hub, lakefront living, multicultural environment
Lucerne ≈ 80,000 8,000 - 14,000 Historic town, stunning lake and mountain views, tourism, cultural events
Zermatt ≈ 5,800 14,000 - 25,000 Alpine resort, skiing, hiking, car-free village, Matterhorn mountain
Lausanne ≈ 140,000 9,000 - 16,000 University town, lakeside location, Olympic headquarters, vibrant nightlife
Basel ≈ 170,000 8,000 - 15,000 Cultural city, art scene, Rhine river, proximity to Germany and France
Geneva ≈ 200,000 12,000 - 18,000 International city, diplomatic hub, lakefront living, multicultural environment

Do you need a lawyer when buying a property in Switzerland?

When purchasing a property in Switzerland, engaging a local lawyer can be essential to navigate the legal requirements and ensure a successful transaction.

One important document they can assist with is the Purchase Agreement (Kaufvertrag), a legally binding contract between the buyer and seller that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale.

The Swiss lawyer can also help with conducting a Property Title Search (Grundbuchauszug) to verify the property's ownership status and identify any potential legal issues or encumbrances.

Moreover, they can guide you through the process of obtaining necessary permits and approvals, such as approval from the local Land Registry or relevant authorities.

They will ensure that all applicable taxes and fees, such as the Property Transfer Tax and Notary Fees, are paid correctly and in compliance with Swiss laws and regulations.

What are the risks when buying a property in Switzerland?

We've got an article dedicated to the risks associated with purchasing property in Switzerland.

1. Foreign Ownership Restrictions:

Switzerland imposes restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate, particularly for non-residents. Non-Swiss citizens may be subject to Lex Koller, a federal law that limits the acquisition of residential properties. Prior authorization from the cantonal authorities may be required, and restrictions may vary between different Swiss regions and property types.

2. Second Home Initiative:

The Second Home Initiative, introduced in 2012, aims to restrict the construction of second homes in tourist areas. This initiative limits the number of new secondary residences that can be built, which can affect the availability and affordability of properties in popular vacation destinations.

3. Property Prices and Cost of Living:

Switzerland has a high cost of living and one of the highest property prices in Europe. Buyers should carefully consider their budget and affordability, as well as potential ongoing expenses such as property taxes, maintenance costs, and utility bills. Financial planning is crucial to ensure long-term sustainability.

4. Swiss Franc Exchange Rate Risks:

Switzerland's currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF), which can be subject to volatility in exchange rates. Foreign buyers should be aware of the potential risks associated with currency fluctuations, as they can impact the cost of purchasing a property, particularly if they are financing the purchase with a different currency.

5. Building Regulations and Zoning Laws:

Switzerland has strict building regulations and zoning laws to maintain environmental standards and preserve the country's natural beauty. Buyers should familiarize themselves with local building codes, restrictions, and planning regulations, as these can impact the property's development potential, renovations, and permitted use.

6. Alpine and Mountainous Environment:

Switzerland's unique geography includes alpine and mountainous regions. Properties located in these areas may present specific risks such as increased exposure to natural hazards like avalanches, landslides, or rockfalls. Buyers should assess the potential risks associated with the property's location and consider insurance coverage for these specific risks.

7. Community and Language Considerations:

Switzerland has a multilingual and multicultural society with four national languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Different regions have their predominant language, and buyers should consider the local community, language requirements, and cultural differences when choosing a property and integrating into the community.

real estate Switzerland

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

What are the required documents for a real estate transaction in Switzerland?

When buying a property in Switzerland, the following documents are needed:

1. Identification document (e.g., passport or identity card);

2. Proof of address (e.g., utility bill or bank statement);

3. Proof of income (e.g., tax return or pay stubs);

4. Contract of sale;

5. A copy of the title deed;

6. A copy of the property insurance policy;

7. A copy of the building permit;

8. A copy of the mortgage loan agreement;

9. An energy performance certificate;

10. A copy of the last tax assessment (if applicable).

We review each of these documents and tell you how to use them in our property pack for Switzerland.

What are the key steps to develop a successful negotiation plan with Swiss people?

When negotiating to purchase a property in Switzerland, it is crucial to understand and respect the Swiss culture, which values precision and efficiency.

It is recommended to be clear and transparent with the seller regarding the terms of the sale and be open to negotiation. Swiss individuals typically appreciate direct and honest communication, so it is important to express your offer in a straightforward manner.

During negotiations with a local, it is essential to demonstrate respect and patience. Showing consideration for their culture and customs holds significant importance for Swiss people.

Additionally, in Switzerland, punctuality is highly valued, so it is important to arrive on time for property viewings and meetings. Swiss people prioritize efficiency and respect for schedules, so being punctual demonstrates your professionalism and consideration for their time.

Swiss culture also places great importance on privacy and discretion. When engaging in property negotiations, it is essential to respect the privacy of both the seller and the property itself. Avoid discussing personal details or sensitive information unrelated to the transaction, as Swiss individuals appreciate maintaining a clear boundary between personal and professional matters.

For example, when meeting with a Swiss seller, it is advisable to focus on the property's features, location, and potential for investment rather than delving into personal matters or unrelated topics. Respecting their privacy and keeping the conversation focused on the property will help foster a positive and productive negotiation process.

Do banks offer loans to foreigners in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, foreigners can generally obtain property loans, but the requirements and conditions may vary depending on the bank and the specific circumstances.

Foreigners are generally required to have a valid Swiss residence permit (such as a work permit) and a substantial down payment of around 20-30% of the property's value to obtain a property loan.

UBS (United Bank of Switzerland), Credit Suisse, PostFinance, Credit Agricole Switzerland and Julius Baer are banks in Switzerland that have been known to consider mortgage applications from foreigners.

Moreover, mortgage rates in Switzerland for a 20-year term range from 0% to 4%, which are considered favorable, presenting borrowers with appealing financing opportunities.

What are the taxes related to a property transaction in Switzerland?

Here is a breakdown of taxes related to a property transaction in Switzerland.

Tax Description Calculation Who pays
Value Added Tax (VAT) A consumption tax on goods and services, including some real estate transactions 7.7% of the value of the property Buyer
Real Estate Transfer Tax Tax on the transfer of property ownership Varies from 0.2% to 3.3% of the property value, depending on the canton and municipality Buyer
Capital Gains Tax Tax on the capital gain from the sale of a property Varies between 0% and 60% of the net gain, depending on the profit and holding period Seller
Real Estate Tax Annual tax on the property's taxable value paid to the municipality 0.2% to 0.3% of the estimated value of the property Owner
Wealth Tax Annual tax on the net worth of individuals Ranges from 0.13% to 1.1% of the property value, depending on the canton and municipality Owner

What fees are involved in a property transaction in Switzerland?

Below is a simple breakdown of fees for a property transaction in Switzerland.

Fee Description Calculation Who pays
Registration Fee Fee for registering the property transfer Around 0.15% of the property value Buyer
Notary Fee Fee for notarizing and authenticating property transfer documents Generally around 0.1% of the property value Buyer
Real Estate Agent Commission Fee charged by real estate agents for their services 3% to 5% of the property purchase price or a fixed fee agreed upon with the agent Seller

Buying real estate in Switzerland can be risky

An increasing number of foreign investors are showing interest in Switzerland. However, 90% of them will make mistakes. Avoid the pitfalls with our comprehensive guide.

buying property foreigner Switzerland