Swiss property: Geneva rents rise while Zurich prices dip

Rents in the notoriously expensive Lake Geneva region inched up by 1 percent in May while Zurich saw a slight decline of 0.9 percent, according to new figures.

Swiss property: Geneva rents rise while Zurich prices dip
Low interest rates have made Swiss apartment blocks an attractive investment option. Photo: The Local

The data from the Swiss Real Estate Offer Index shows prices were almost unchanged nationally last month, with an overall rise of just 0.1 percent.

Rents in May were also only very slightly up – 0.2 percent – on a year earlier.

Read also: Here's how much it costs to rent in Switzerland's biggest cities

But there is a clear east–west divide in the country, according to the index.

Across the Swiss plateau region, prices were down 0.3 percent. The same fall was recorded in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino while rents in central Switzerland fell 0.6 percent.

In eastern Switzerland, the decline was 0.1 percent.

In a statement, the director of property portal ImmoScout24, Martin Waeber, said low interest rates had made apartment buildings an attractive investment option in recent years. As a result, the prices of these properties had risen sharply.

Read also: Eight things you need to know before renting in Switzerland

Concerned Swiss authorities have now tightened up financing conditions for these properties in a bid to rein in spiralling prices, but the new rules are unlikely to have a short-term effect on rents, the ImmoScout24 director added.

This is because rental prices are based more on supply and demand issues.

“Rents are higher in urban centres, where there is a shortage of room, than they are in regional areas where there is a trend towards more available apartments,” Waeber noted.

But he predicted that new financing rules for property investors could act as a dampener on rents in the medium term.

Geneva has highest rents in Switzerland

A recent study showed that Geneva rents are the highest in Switzerland. 

The study by the comparison website Comparis revealed the average price for a 4.5-room, or family-sized apartment,  in Geneva is 3,820 Swiss francs (€3,356) against an average 3,073 francs in Zurich. In the eastern Swiss city of St Gallen, that figure is just 2,004 francs a month.

For 3.5-room apartments, the Geneva average is 2,680 francs and in Zurich it is 2,489 francs.

Read also: Why you may be eligible for a rent reduction in Switzerland


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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.