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HOUSING

How much can it cost you to change apartments in Swiss cities?

Thinking of moving to another apartment in one of Switzerland’s major cities? Be prepared to pay out.

How much can it cost you to change apartments in Swiss cities?
A sign reads 'to rent' (Illustration photo) Photo: FRED DUFOUR / AFP

Change apartments in Switzerland’s largest cities and you will pay 35 percent more in rent than what you’re currently paying, a new report has found. 

The report, prepared by Switzerland’s Raiffeisen Bank, found that when taking only increased rents into account, you’ll be liable for a monthly rent which is more than a third higher. 

The 35 percent increase is only on the basis of rent and doesn’t include other costs for making the switch, i.e. moving fees, time off work, etc. The five largest cities in Switzerland are Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Lausanne and Bern. 

HAVE YOUR SAY: How to find a flat in Switzerland

The reason for the increase in costs is the amount average rents have risen in major cities compared to the duration of the average tenancy. 

The report notes that tenancy laws also play a role. 

Martin Neff, Chief Economist at Raffheisen Bank, points out that the gap is even larger for people who have lived in their apartment longer.  

“The longer you have lived in your apartment, the greater the difference,” he said. “This is a consequence of tenancy law, which has led to a large gap between existing and available rents in many parts of Switzerland.”

Going up the country

The study finds that a result of increasing costs in urban areas, more and more people are heading to suburban or regional areas to live. 

Despite growing populations in Swiss cities, the study finds that Swiss-born residents move away from cities more than they move to them – with Switzerland’s immigrant population keeping demand in the cities high. 

More and more Swiss citizens are moving to the country. Image: Fabrice Coffrini

One in four Swiss residents is foreign, with the percentage much higher in urban areas. In Zurich, for instance, one in two city residents is foreign. 

As the report notes, immigrants often pay more when they move to the cities as they don’t understand local culture and real estate laws. 

“City dwellers are increasingly moving to peripheral, well-developed and rural communities. If you only consider the domestic resident population, more people move out of the city than into the city. 

“The cities only grow through the influx of immigrants with little knowledge of the local real estate market.

“No wonder many choose to move out of the city.”

On February 9th, Switzerland held a referendum on whether or not to support a project to promote affordable housing, but the initiative was defeated. 

READ: Why Switzerland voted no to affordable housing

The study also found that new developments were booming in country areas due to increased demand from city slickers making a sea change. 

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Reader question: How can I find a good lawyer in Switzerland?

Although you hope to never need one, sometimes you might have to seek legal advice in Switzerland. This is how to find it.

Reader question: How can I find a good lawyer in Switzerland?

When you move to a new country, including Switzerland, you have to look for a whole new network of professionals.

You may or may not have immediate need for the proverbial butcher, baker, and the candlestick maker, but sooner or later you will have to find other professionals, with the most essential one being a doctor.

READ MORE: What you should know about finding a doctor in Switzerland

Chances are you will also need, at one time or another, a legal counsel. That should in principle not be a problem as Switzerland has an abundance of lawyers — 7,317 currently practicing in the country, according to European data.

The question of how to find one that best suits your needs depends on many factors — for instance, what kind of legal advice you are seeking (estate planning, inheritance, divorce, etc), whether you speak the language of your region or need an English-speaking attorney,  and whether you can pay (the often exorbitant) fees, or need free counselling instead.

Speaking of fees, the hourly rates vary widely from one lawyer or legal practice to another, with some charging as little as 100 francs or as much as 1,000.

Much depends on the lawyer’s location — with the ones practicing in large cities like Zurich and Geneva being more expensive than their counterparts in small towns or rural regions  — the area of specialisation and general reputation — the more prominent the attorney is with a roster of famous or well-heeled clients, the higher fees they will typically charge.

An important thing to know is that, depending on the advice you are seeking, you may not need a lawyer at all, but rather a public notary; in Switzerland, these professionals perform many tasks that only attorneys can do in other countries, such as drawing contracts and establishing other legal documents.

Here are some tips on how to find a lawyer or a notary that best fits your needs:

Word of mouth

As with any other services, personal recommendations from people you know and trust are best.

This will spare you the effort of “investigating” the person, such as researching their credentials and feedback from previous clients — the due diligence process that everyone should undertake before hiring any professional.

Professional associations

If you don’t know anyone who can recommend an attorney, do your own research.

Professional organisations such as the Swiss Bar Association (SBA) and the Swiss Federation of Notaries are good resources, as they both allow you to look for professionals in or near your place of residence.

English-speaking attorneys

Many Swiss lawyers and notaries, especially those practicing in large urban centres where many foreign residents live, speak English.

But if you want to make sure yours does, the UK government put together a list of English speaking attorneys in Switzerland, which should help you with your search.

‘Free’ legal advice

In principle, all legal assistance comes at a cost, except for exceptional cases, which are defined by each canton.

SBA has a canton-by-canton list, where the designation “GRATIS JUDICATURE” stands for “free legal advice”.

However, there is also such a thing in Switzerland as “legal protection insurance” (Rechtsschutzversicherungen in German, protection juridique in French, and protezione giuridica in Italian).

It covers attorney and other associated fees if you undertake court action against someone, are sued, or simply need legal advice.

There are two different types of legal protection insurance — one specifically for traffic accidents and the other for all other matters. Sometimes they are combined.

Typically, this insurance covers costs of legal representation associated with contract disputes, employment, loans and debts, healthcare, housing, retail purchases, and travel.

The annual cost of this insurance, which you can purchase from practically every carrier in Switzerland, is minimal, especially if you consider how much you’d have to spend if you hired an attorney yourself.

Another benefit of these policies is that a lawyer will be assigned to you by the insurance company so you won’t have the headache of looking for one on your own.

This article provides more information about this insurance:

EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

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