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PROPERTY

Can cross-border workers buy property in Switzerland?

Whether it be a place to rest your head at the end of a long day or an investment, buying property in Switzerland may be attractive to cross-border workers. Is it permitted?

Can cross-border workers buy property in Switzerland?
Image: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Coming primarily from France, Germany and Italy, cross-border workers are considered to be an essential part of the Swiss economy – and are crucial in certain sectors, for instance healthcare.

In 2019, an estimated 325,000 people crossed the border into Switzerland every day to work – 177,000 from France, 76,000 from Italy and 60,000 from Germany. Figures from 2020 are considered unreliable, due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

But are they allowed to buy property in Switzerland – and what are the rules? 

Who are Switzerland’s cross-border workers?

Generally speaking, people who cross the border for work do so on a G Permit, which allows them to work in Switzerland each day, gives them the right to cross the border even during the coronavirus shutdown and provides them with other special rights. 

For instance, where cross-border workers have health insurance tied to their workplace in Switzerland, they are entitled to get vaccinated here. 

Reader question: Can cross-border workers get vaccinated in Switzerland?

Cross-border workers are also in some cases entitled to specific beneficial tax arrangements. 

READ MORE: Tax rules cross-border workers in Switzerland need to know

Why would a cross-border worker buy a house in Switzerland? 

It might seem an odd idea, particularly considering the importance of residency in home ownership in Switzerland and the need to live abroad when possessing a G Permit. 

As we discussed in our explainer on foreigners buying a house in Switzerland, generally the most important factor in whether you are allowed to buy a house in Switzerland is whether you reside there. 

READ MORE: Can foreigners buy property in Switzerland?

Similarly, a person on a G Permit must stay a cross-border worker in order to keep that permit – i.e. they are not allowed to move to Switzerland and retain the G Permit. 

So why would a cross-border worker want to buy property in Switzerland – one of the world’s most expensive countries? 

This could be as an investment, with the value of Swiss property incredibly stable – even during the recent pandemic. It could also be to sleep during the week (i.e. to avoid the cross-border commute each day) or as a holiday home. 

Can cross-border workers buy property in Switzerland? 

The short answer is yes, but there are a lot of stipulations to keep in mind. 

Cross-border workers on a G Permit are allowed to buy a house near their place of work without any additional permit or authorisation. 

However, the purchase is connected to the buyer’s work – meaning that it may not be rented out, even partially (i.e. one room or for a short period of time). 

Also, the property needs to be under 1,000 square metres, otherwise additional authorisation from cantonal authorities will be needed. 

Investment properties are not authorised under a G Permit – and if you buy a holiday home, best make sure it’s close to your workplace. 

What about finance? 

Getting cash to buy the place is another matter. 

Switzerland’s Moneyland website warns that most Swiss banks will not accept mortgages from cross-border workers, although some will do so if the property is in Switzerland. 

Some Swiss banks also lend money to cross-border workers who buy a place in their country of residence, provided that you earn your income in Switzerland. 

More information on purchasing property as a foreigner is available at this official government link. 

Note: As with all of our guides, please keep in mind that this is intended as information only and does not constitute legal advice. For more specific advice to your set of personal circumstances, please contact a lawyer or property advisor.

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For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here

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