Due to immigration and the trend towards smaller apartments, Switzerland is growing by around 55,000 households every year. Currently, just over one in every 100 apartments in Switzerland is empty, with the vacancy rate standing at 1.3 percent.
But while a housing crisis hasn’t kicked in quite yet, with fewer affordable homes available and rents continuing to soar, the future looks bleak for Switzerland’s housing market.
And being a foreign citizen means rent prices are even more expensive, as The Local explained recently.
So, you might be wondering how you can still ensure you find an affordable home in a decent location. The answer is simple yet sobering: compromise.
Lack of vacant apartments
In just a few years, Switzerland could be short of 50,000 apartments and according to forecasts by various real estate monitoring companies, the vacancy rate could fall below 0.5 percent as early as 2026. So, it may be easy to understand why people living in Switzerland who were successful in their apartment hunt would decide to stay in their home long-term.
Still, there are a few things you can do to stay on top of new apartments being listed. In Switzerland, online portals are one of the best ways – especially for foreigners – to find an apartment. Some websites are well-known and are a great help to non-German-speaking house hunters as well. These websites include:
These websites are great ways to find an apartment and understand the local property market. Some of them will also let you make a profile with your set preferences and choose to be updated about new listings so that you don’t miss a great opportunity.
Social networks like Facebook are also suitable for finding houses. But one has to practice caution there – scams are common so be on your guard. And never transfer money without seeing a flat. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Another – perhaps underrated – way of scoring a good place is to keep in touch with friends and even co-workers. Be open about your plight, you never know which one of your acquaintances might be vacating their premises, or who has a landlord in the family.
Lack of suitable options
In Switzerland, the renter’s profile plays an important role. Renting is not always based on a first-come, first-serve basis. The agencies always filter the applicants based on salary, permit, and family status.
If you have an L work permit, getting the apartment may be slightly more complicated. Your company’s internal forums could be the first place to search for a house. Most companies have employee forums where the advertisements for apartments are published. Once you find something, contact your colleagues, and request a referral.
Family status is also one of the main criteria considered for rent applications. There are locations and homes where families are the preferred applicants.
Pets, particularly large dogs, can also make finding a suitable apartment exceptionally difficult. Since 2003, animals are no longer considered objects under Swiss law. Despite this improved legal status, keeping dogs and other animals in rented apartments can prove tricky and tenants have no general right to keep animals in their apartment – though visitors may bring them along.
While this sounds grim and the vast majority of landlords in Switzerland are indeed not keen to have dogs living in their homes, you can still find pooch-friendly apartments if you know where to look.
On Facebook you can join pet-friendly groups, such as Real estate with a dog in Switzerlandto find housing for you and your dog, and most real estate sites will let you filter for pet-friendly apartments. Likewise, you can also search for apartments that allow pets via animal listings. The website will also let you post your own search where you can write up exactly what you’re looking for in an apartment. Side note: Apartments on the outskirts of larger cities and especially in the countryside tend to be pet-friendlier.
Nowadays, one needs a fair dose of luck to find a home that fits your budget, location, and space criteria perfectly. However, that’s not always the case with everyone.
So, consider locations that may not be in the city but are a good enough distance to travel from home to office. The general rule of thumb is the further you move from the city; the cheaper and spacious rentals get. Luckily, Switzerland is both well-connected and rather small so moving away from the city doesn’t equate to commuting for hours on end.
Those looking for apartments in Zurich, Switzerland’s worst hit city when it comes to housing shortage, may want to consider commuter villages such as Wetzikon, Buchs, Opfikon, Volketswil, or Pfäffikon. All are less than an hour from the city centre, have easy access to the outdoors and many vacant (and spacious) apartments to choose from.
And Geneva is also hit badly by a housing shortage. This article picks out 5 commuter towns within reach of the city that may make good alternatives for those looking to rent an apartment.
The same can be said for Geneva and Basel where smaller towns located on the outskirts make for great alternatives.
Liestal has proven a popular alternative to Basel, not only is it a mere 10-minute train ride from the city with great connections to boot but building permits have actually been increasing in recent years, meaning vacant apartments are on the rise.
If you’re looking for quieter, more scenic places to move to, however, you may want to consider places like Porrentruy and Luthern, both are under an hour from Basel.
Those unable to afford Geneva’s housing costs but eager to live in the vicinity won’t want for much in nearby Yverdon-les-Bains. As its name suggests, the town is the most important spa resort in western Switzerland and just a 52-minute train ride from Geneva.
Boasting equally picturesque views is Nyon, a small town located on Lake Geneva just 15 minutes from Geneva. Nyon is surrounded by vineyards and has excellent transport links to the city making it a favourite with commuters.
Renting in Switzerland is becoming more and more expensive, this according to UBS. The bank estimates that costs are likely to rise by up to 8 percent by the end of 2023 and up to 20 percent by 2025. In addition to higher spending on electricity and energy, inflation is also driving up interest rates and thus the mortgage reference interest rate.
If you’re not keen on compromising on location, however, you may want to look at flat sharing options in your city. There are many advantages to flat sharing, ranging from shared household duties and responsibilities to making new friends and most importantly, saving money while living in a prime location.
You can find flat share opportunities on website such as JustLanded, my room and ROOM.
If you’re a student, there are several affordable student-only options or platforms which focus on shared accommodation. Try Wow (Zurich), Students, UZH Alumni and Look ator check at your university’s student organisation.
Another potential option is exchange apartmentwhich lets you chat with landlors before swapping your home for theirs – although you’ll need to have one in the first place.
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