How to find an accommodation in Switzerland?

How to find an accommodation in Switzerland?
Stack all the odds in your favour

Have you been transferred by your company? Have you decided to move to Switzerland? Once you have your employment contract, finding a place to live is next on your list. The obstacle course begins here.

The Swiss housing market is stretched. Moreover, in 2017, the number of vacant properties amounted to only 1.45%1. It is vital to be well prepared.

Decide on your requirements

When you are looking for an apartment or a house you need to think about the location, rent, number of rooms, etc. It is all the more difficult to plan ahead in an unfamiliar city.

Surface area

In Switzerland, the surface area in m2 is not always given in property listings. The number of rooms is and it is not unusual to see properties comprised of half-rooms.

Family kitchen and renting in Switzerland
Useful tips: In the canton of Geneva, the kitchen counts as a room (even half a room if it is an open kitchen). So if you see an ad for a three-room apartment in Geneva, it is in fact a one- not a two-bedroom apartment.

Budget

As soon as you start looking, you should anticipate the upcoming costs (rent, management fees, security deposit, etc), in order to avoid being caught off guard when the time comes. The amount required can be significant.

Example of an apartment with a monthly rent of CHF 2,000 + CHF 100 monthly utilities.

Rent First month in advance (CHF 2,100)
Rental deposit Two or three months’ rent, excluding utilities (CHF 6,000)
Potential administration or relocation company fees
Total CHF 8,100 (excluding management fees)

Prepare your application

You will quickly notice that you are not the only one looking for accommodation. Group visits are not uncommon and you may have to wait in the stairwell of the building until it is your turn. Accommodation is scarce, so a word of advice: prepare your application in advance and hand it in as soon as you can after the visit.

Qualifying as a tenant

3x

The most basic criteria for qualifying as a tenant is your salary. The vast majority of landlords require that your income (net salary) be at least three times the amount of rent excluding utilities. Be careful if you are taxed at source, your net salary corresponds to the amount before tax.

Documents to hand in

  • Copy of passport or national identity card, or residence permit
  • Last three payslips (or a statement indicating your salary from your new employer if you have not received a payslip yet)
  • Application form if you are using the services of a rental agency (downloadable from their website)
  • Extract from the debt collection register that is no more than three months old

What is the extract from the debt collection register? Sometimes referred to as a ‘certificate of non-prosecution and non-bankruptcy’, it is a document that lists all the claims (over the last five years) and proceedings pending against you. A vital document, it shows the landlord that you are solvent.

How do I obtain an extract from the debt collection register? There is no central register for the whole of Switzerland. This extract is available at the debt collection office of your canton of residence. You can order it online or directly on site, it will cost you CHF 17 (or CHF 37 to get it in one day).

Canton of Geneva Canton of Vaud Canton of Zurich Canton of Basel

View ads

You already know how many rooms you want, the neighbourhood you want to live in and your application is ready. Where should you start looking? It is up to you to choose whether to search through letting agencies, the private market, social networking sites or relocation companies based on how much time you have and your budget.

letting agencies

Letting agencies

In Switzerland, real estate agencies are often called ‘Régie’. Check their websites regularly to find properties that might interest you. Some sites also offer alerts based on your search criteria. This is a good way to make sure you do not miss an ad.

NB: In most cases, utilities are not included in the rental amount.

private market

Private market

Various dedicated websites and social networking platforms feature ads from individuals who are looking for a person to take over their lease. You will be shown around by the current tenant who will then forward your application to the relevant agency.

Please note that in Switzerland, if you wish to move out before the due date provided for in the contract, you will have to recommend a suitable new solvent tenant.

relocation companies

Relocation companies

This is the ideal solution for those who want to step up their search and save time.

Relocation companies take care of the search for your future home (according to your criteria) and organise visits.

One of the advantages of these companies is that they have vast networks.

The cost of this service varies from agency to agency.

Finalise your application in time for the key handover

The visit went well, you like the apartment and your application has been accepted by the landlord. Congratulations! You still have a few more things to sort out before you can set up an appointment for the inventory of fixtures and key handover.

Rental deposit = rental guarantee in Switzerland

In Switzerland, as in many countries, a security deposit is required. It comprises three months' rent excluding bills and makes it possible to cover any work following damage caused to the property or to compensate for non-payment of rent at the end of the lease.
However, unlike in other countries like France, this amount does not have to be paid directly to the Régie and can be blocked in a bank account. This is called a ‘rental deposit’.

Proof will be requested by the management before the keys are handed over and the inventory of fixtures is drawn up. You will not be able to use this money during the entire rental period. The deposit will only be released when you move out with permission of the agency. It is vital to open a bank account before you have found accommodation.

What can you do if you do not want to open a blocked account?

You also have the option of using a bond service that will finance your rental deposit in exchange for an annual fee.

Find out more about rental deposits

Insurance

Household contents insurance (which is the equivalent to civil liability and home insurance in France) is also mandatory when you rent in Switzerland. All providers offer this type of insurance. If you are still residing abroad during your property search, you may be able to purchase this policy remotely (depending on the companies).

Rent

Rent payments are generally made at the beginning of the month for the coming month. You can choose between several payment methods:

  • Direct debit (LSV)
  • Transfer order (BVR)

Find out more about payment methods

1 Federal Statistical Office (2018). Vacant housing units See https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/fr/home/statistiques/construction-logement/logements/logements-vacants.html

This article contains links to third-party websites. They are provided solely as information and their purpose is not to promote subscription to the products offered by Crédit Agricole, which has no commercial links with the owners of these sites. This information should not be considered as advice – financial, fiscal, or otherwise.

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