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HOUSING

Swiss housing vacancy rate rises: new figures

Almost 46,000 homes in Switzerland are empty, a 14 percent increase over last year, as the national vacancy rate rose to more than one percent (1.08 percent), new government figures show.

Swiss housing vacancy rate rises: new figures
Photo: Theo Iff/Federal Housing Office

The number of vacant homes — for rent or for sale — as of June 1st jumped by 5,740 to 45,748 units, the federal statistics office said on Monday.

Housing remained difficult to find in Switzerland’s largest cities, including Zurich and Geneva, the office said.

The vacancy rate was highest in the canton of Jura (2.25 percent) while the lowest rate was in the canton of Basel-City (0.23 percent).

A total of 5,632 villas were unoccupied in the country, an increase of 12 percent from a year ago.

The Lake Geneva region continues to see a dearth of housing units for rent, according to tenants’ association Asloca.

In the canton of Geneva the number of vacant homes available is 0.36 percent, well below the national average of 1.5 percent, the association said.

“From 3,000 to 3,500 housing units are built each year in the Lake Geneva region, which is not enough to respond to the demand,” Olivier Feller, director of the Vaud chamber of real estate told the French-language 20 Minutes newspaper.

Ansgar Gmür, director of the Swiss homeowners association HEV, said the problem is not that there are too few vacant homes but that most people want to live in central locations.

Most of the vacant homes are in rural areas and anyone who is ready to move to the countryside “can easily find housing”, Gmür told the German-language 20 Minuten newspaper.

The newspaper quoted Michael Töngi, of the Swiss tenants’ association, saying the vacancy rate remains well below the 1.5 to two percent range needed for a healthy housing market.

Demand is particularly high for affordable housing, he said.

“Quite expensive apartments are now rather empty — that is a sign that people are no longer willing to pay any price.”

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PROPERTY

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.

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