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How Covid-19 changed housing priorities in Switzerland

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed where, and how, people in Switzerland want to live, a new study revealed.

This rural setting in Switzerland is a dream come true for many people looking to get away from cities. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
This rural setting in Switzerland is a dream come true for many people looking to get away from cities. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

For many in Switzerland, the pandemic has been a turning point of sorts — the working from home obligation and quarantines in tight quarters made them realise the importance of space, both in and outdoors.

In a new “Dream Home” survey carried out jointly by Swiss real estate and insurance companies Moneypark, AlaCasa and Helvetia, more than half of the respondents said they want to move from a city to a rural area, preferably into a single-family home with a garden.

“During a pandemic, you are at home a lot — that’s why private outdoor space is becoming more important”,  the study’s authors said.

This is what study participants want most in a home during the pandemic:

  • Most (over 60 percent) prioritise quiet surroundings and proximity to nature
  • More than half (53 percent) want enough space for a home office

Interestingly, as a lot of work is now done at home, “physical proximity of the house to one’s office has lost its importance”, the study found.

READ MORE: Residential property prices continue to climb in Switzerland

The mobility trend from urban to rural areas gained strength earlier in the pandemic.

At the end of November 2020, when Switzerland was in the midst of the second wave, demand for single-person homes in the countryside or small towns “increased significantly”, according to public broadcaster RTS, which did a report on the subject.

“The figures are impressive. There is a ‘Covid effect’ at play here”, Joëlle Salomon-Cavin, an expert in city-country relations, told RTS.

She said that crises are conducive to the development of a negative perception of urban areas, “because proximity can spread this disease”, while the countryside is associated with fresh, clean air.

A study conducted jointly by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and University of Lausanne found that some aspirations emerge during the pandemic; the desire for a less urban and more ecological lifestyle is one of them.

Finding an affordable home in Switzerland is another matter.

While many experts feared that real estate market in Switzerland would collapse during the health crisis, the opposite has happened: purchase prices for houses and apartments have risen.

Figures released by ImmoScout24 Swiss Real Estate Index in January show that at the end of 2020, single-family home prices were 5.6 percent above their level at the start of the year.

READ MORE: Why are Geneva’s rents the highest in Switzerland?

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For members


Property in Switzerland roundup: How will the Chinese real estate shock affect the Swiss market?

Stay up-to-date on the latest Swiss property news with The Local's weekly roundup.

Property in Switzerland roundup: How will the Chinese real estate shock affect the Swiss market?
Getting a subsidy for environmental improvement in Switzerland is complexx. Photo by Vivint Solar from Pexels

Will the Chinese real estate shock affect Switzerland?

Swiss media reported that China’s second largest real estate developer, Evergrande, is on the brink of bankruptcy. The situation is so dire that global markets are impacted.

In Switzerland, the Swiss Market Index (SMI) dropped 1.42 percent due to this event. 

Can this epic failure impact Switzerland’s property market as well?

Martin Neff, chief economist at Raiffeisen Switzerland, doesn’t expect this crisis to reach the Swiss housing market, though “a little nervousness  cannot be ruled out”, he said.

The Swiss property market, like here in Zurich, is not expected to be impacted by Chinese real estate crisis. Apartments in Zurich, Switzerland. Photo by Vincent Dörig on Unsplash

Can you obtain a subsidy for making your house environmentally friendly?

The new law on CO2, drafted last week by the Federal Council. includes financial aid to replace old oil or gas heaters.

But for the moment, the administrative procedures for homeowners who wish to obtain a financial help to make their house more sustainable are complex, discouraging many individuals to complete their procedures, according to RTS public broadcaster.

Two parallel steps are necessary: ​​one to obtain a possible subsidy, and the other to obtain a building permit. Add to it the bureaucracy at municipal, cantonal and federal levels — all of which are involved in the process.

“In the end, we end up with 23 forms for a request for authorisation to install solar panels, and that is unacceptable”, said Stéphane Genoud, professor of energy management at the HES-SO Valais.

“They all have roughly the same tendency not to accelerate this energy transition”, he added.

How many “rooms” can you expect in a Swiss apartment?

People looking for rental housing in Switzerland are often confused by the number of rooms advertised for a given flat.

This is how it works: All “living” rooms such as living rooms and bedrooms are considered to be actual rooms. But kitchens, bathrooms, showers, toilets, corridors, or verandas / balconies are not. And neither are separate laundry rooms or storage spaces.

So if you see an advert for a three-room apartment, this typically means a living room and two bedrooms.

Did you know?

Most Swiss lenders don’t accept mortgage requests from non-residents.

There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Some lenders will grant mortgages to non-residents if the mortgaged property is located in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Can foreigners buy property in Switzerland?

And a number of Swiss banks will also provide mortgages for properties in border regions of neighbouring countries, if you earn your income in Switzerland.

Useful links

Looking for a house or an apartment in Switzerland or just want a little more information about the property market, then check out the following links. 

Buying property versus renting in Switzerland: What is actually cheaper

Rent: Swiss cantons ranked from cheapest to most expensive

Top ten tips for finding an apartment in Switzerland

The property roundup is a weekly feature and we’d welcome any feedback or suggestions for areas it should cover. Please email us at [email protected]