UBS warns of higher Swiss real estate risks

Property prices in Switzerland moved closer to reaching a bubble situation and remain “risky”, according to a quarterly report from UBS released on Thursday.

UBS warns of higher Swiss real estate risks
Demand by investors for new condos remains high, UBS says. Photo: Credit Suisse

The bank’s real estate “bubble index” rose to 1.20 for the third quarter of 2013, up from 1.15 in the second quarter and from 1.01 a year earlier, the report said.

“Residential real estate prices and mortgage debt continued to grow much more strongly than economic output and household incomes,” UBS said.

“The risks have thus risen further,” the bank warns.

The index tracks six variables related to the Swiss real estate market.

These include the relationship between purchase and rental prices, house prices and household income, house prices and inflation and mortgage debt and income.

It also looks at the relationship between construction and the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the proportion of credit applications by UBS clients for residential property for investment purposes (not for owner occupancy).

The index has steadily climbed from a level of 0.19 in the second quarter of 2010.

Switzerland last experience a property bubble in 1989, followed by a slump that bottomed out in 2001

The UBS classifies an index level of between zero and one as signifying a real estate “boom”, while a level between one and two shows “risk” and two and above a bubble.

A level between minus one and zero is considered “balanced”, while below mins one is considered a “slump”.

The Swiss National Bank has indicated its concern with high real estate prices in Switzerland for more than year.

UBS said the rise in the bubble index for the third quarter of 2013 was driven by prices for residential property jumping 4.2 percent year-on-year.

At the same time, asking prices for rents increased 3.3 percent so “the price gap between opwner-occupied and rented properties opened wider”.

The bank calculates that the number of annual rents required to buy a home is now 28.3 on average.

Despite the gap, demand demand for Swiss condominiums as investment properties remained high, UBS said.

For the complete report, check here.  

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Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Switzerland is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under CHF 100k.

Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe and Switzerland is no exception. As the average salary is high in Switzerland, finding homes for under CHF 1 million in some parts of the country becomes almost impossible.

Even when you do find cheap properties, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. For example, Switzerland’s famous one-franc home scheme had to be scrapped after nobody signed up. The cheap homes were, actually, too expensive when considering the costs for renovation or even how remote they were.

READ ALSO: Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

Some of the properties in the scheme weren’t connected to the electricity grid, sewer system or even roads.

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Switzerland – that are still liveable or could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

Not an easy search

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Switzerland (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at CHF 500,000 (while our colleagues in Germany had theirs set at €100k, but, hey, this is Switzerland).

As of August 2022, we found 203 houses and 80 apartments following these criteria on sale.

Most of these definitely need some fixing up, but you can still snatch a home for under CHF 500,000 with lovely views of lakes and mountains or big terraces and gardens.

Going through the addresses with some of the properties, some things stand out:

Head for the border – most of the most affordable places are in Italian-speaking Switzerland. However, you can also find some of them in the French regions. In both cases, they are located very near the border with France or Italy.

Forget about cities – All the properties we found are quite far from the major cities of Zürich, Bern, and Geneva, which makes sense as the cost of living tends to rise in those regions. If you’re looking for a cheap home, you’re highly unlikely to find one in city centres.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

Consider property type – It is also worth mentioning that there seemed to be a distinction between the homes in the west and those in the south. In the French region, there are more apartments and newer properties, with some outstanding options.

While in the Italian south, most of the properties are houses – and you need to inspect well because some will need a lot of work.

Research services – You should definitely check carefully the property’s location – some are not connected to basic services or even roads.

Renovation costs – Almost all of the properties we found were ‘renovation projects’. Some can turn out to be very good investments, but it takes time and work to renovate. Before buying, get an estimate of the likely works so you can see whether the property really will save you money in the long term, and be honest about your level of DIY/building skills and how much work you are willing or able to do.

Extra costs – Besides renovating costs, you must be mindful of property taxes and other living costs and how much they are in the region where you are buying property. Prices can vary quite widely depending on the canton, so research well.

You can check all our Property in Switzerland stories here.