How to find an accommodation in Switzerland?

How to find 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. You must be well prepared.

Figure out what you need

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 square metres is not always provided 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 (or 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 your future costs (rent, management fees, security deposit, etc), in order to avoid being caught off guard. Accomodation can be expensive.

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 agency fees
Total CHF 8,100 (excluding management fees)

Prepare your application

You will quickly realise that you are not the only one looking for place to live. 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 provide

  • Copy of your 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", this document lists any claims (over the last five years) and proceedings pending against you. This key document shows the landlord that you are solvent.

How do I obtain an extract from the debt collection register? There is no central register for all 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.

Note: 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 stipulated in your contract, you 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, you have to pay a security deposit. It equals 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".

The agency will request proof of your deposit 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. You must open a bank account before finding 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 equivalent to civil liability and home insurance in France) is also mandatory when you rent in Switzerland. All insurance providers offer this type of policy. If you are still residing abroad during your property search, you may be able to purchase this policy remotely (depending on the company).

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

Stay tuned for more about Switzerland

Chat