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How rent prices vary in different cities in Switzerland

Rent prices in Switzerland might be forecast to decrease in 2020 but there are stark regional differences in how much tenants hand over to their landlords.

How rent prices vary in different cities in Switzerland
FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In 2019 Switzerland had over 75,000 unoccupied properties, the highest number in 20 years. Yet the rents have climbed in many parts of the country.

The 75,323 vacant properties correspond to 1.66 percent of Switzerland’s entire housing market.

Although prices vary significantly by region, on the Swiss scale the rents have increased by 12.1 percentage points, according to the index compiled by Homegate and the Cantonal Bank of Zurich.

However, some prices have remained almost unchanged since January 2016, when the initiative for more affordable housing was submitted to the Federal Chancellary. The initiative, to be voted on in a referendum on February 9th, calls for more money to be made available for social housing, including low interest loans for housing cooperatives. 

But rent stability does not extend to big cities. In Zurich, rents have become 6.6 percentage points more expensive in the past four years. Basel follows with an increase of 2.6 points, and Bern’s rents have soared by 1.6 points.

So how much does it cost to rent an apartment in various parts of Switzerland?

Comparis.ch, an internet service which compares prices of various consumer goods and services in Switzerland, shows current rents in different locations throughout the country, taking into account the size of an apartment.

For instance, 4.5-room flats of about 100 square metres (usually a living room, kitchen, one or two bathrooms and three bedrooms) are most expensive in Geneva, where an average monthly rent is 3,820 francs, followed by Zurich at 3,073 francs, and Lausanne at 2,850 francs.

The lowest rents for a 4.5 apartment among Swiss cities are in St. Gallen — 2,004 francs.

Two-bedroom flats of 75 to 85 square metres are also most expensive in Geneva (2,680 francs), with Zurich in the second place, (2,489 francs), followed by Lausanne (2,194 francs), Again, St. Gallen is the cheapest, at 1,750 francs.

A much smaller, one-bedroom apartment (45 to 55 square metres) costs 1,734 francs in Zurich, 1,690 francs in Geneva, and 1,500 francs in Lausanne. The least costly housing of this size is in Biel/Bienne (1,125 francs).

Other cities favoured by internationals, such as Basel and Bern, fall in the middle, with rents ranging between 2,660 francs for the large apartments and 1,400 francs for smaller ones.

The price differences among cities and regions are due to various factors.

According to Comparis’s Frédéric Pappat, the high apartment rents in Zurich and Geneva are partly due to the housing shortage in those two cities.

“Building more densely would create more affordable housing, but it is too little done in these two cities”, he said.

“On the other hand, the fact that people looking for accommodation are willing to pay the price also plays a role. Both Zurich and Geneva have a large number of well-paid jobs”, Pappat added.

Lower rents in other cities can be explained by their higher vacancy rates.

“Investors are building where conditions still allow. In return, they accept more modest return prospects, “Pappat noted.

READ ALSO: How rent prices in Switzerland could fall next year

And in 2020?

A study published last Autumn by Wüest Partner predicted a 0.9% drop in rent prices in 2020. The property specialists were not the only ones.

“We assume that rents will continue to decline regionally in the coming year,” said Claudio Saputelli, real estate expert at UBS.

But even if rent prices do fall the stark regional differences around Switzerland will remain.

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HOUSING

In which Swiss canton can you find a rental bargain?

The cost of renting an apartment in Switzerland varies largely from canton to canton. Here's where you might find a bargain.

In which Swiss canton can you find a rental bargain?
Sign on this Swiss building says "for rent." Photo: FRED DUFOUR / AFP

Rented accommodations are most expensive in the Swiss canton of Zug, according to a study by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

Average monthly rents for a three-to-four room property in the tiny canton, which is home to dozens of multinational companies, is 1,883 francs.

Due to its low tax rate, Zug is a major target for millionaires – with the most per capita in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Which Swiss canton has the most millionaires?

Average monthly rents for a three to four room property in the two cantons ranged between 1,486 and 1,508 francs in 2019.

In the second place is the canton of Zurich (1,663 francs per month), followed by Schwyz (1,612 francs) and Nidwalden (1,553 francs).

Geneva and Vaud are next on the list, with average monthly rents of 1,508 francs and 1,486 francs, respectively.

Where can I find a cheap rental deal?

In contrast, the same size apartment in Jura costs 967 francs — the lowest rate in Switzerland — and 1,000 in Neuchâtel.

The Swiss average for a three to four-room dwelling is 1,362 francs, the OFS reported.

READ MORE: Reader question: How do I challenge my rent in Switzerland? 

This chart shows how your canton rates in terms of rents.

For most tenants in Switzerland — 62 percent — the monthly rent ranged between 1,000 and 1,999 francs, while a quarter of households paid a monthly rent of less than 1,000 francs.

Switzerland had 2.3 million tenants in 2019, while 1.4 million people owned their homes.

An earlier study showed that residential property prices continue to climb in Switzerland despite the pandemic, having increased by 2.5 percent in 2020.

Both owned and rented housing is most expensive in the Lake Geneva region, which encompasses cantons of Geneva and Vaud.

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