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PROPERTY

Property in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news and talking points

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

Property in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news and talking points
Many Swiss are attached to their neighbourhoods. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Where is it easiest and hardest to find apartments in Switzerland?

On June 1st, 2021, 71,365 dwellings were vacant in Switzerland, or 1.54 percent of the  country’s entire housing stock.

This is 7,467 units less than in June 2020, a decrease of 9.5 percent — the steepest decline in the vacancy rate in 12 years, according to new data from the Federal Statistical Office (OFS).

At cantonal level, the vacancy rate was lowest in Zug (0.34 percent). The cantons of Geneva (0.51 percent), Zurich (0.72 percent), Graubünden (0.87 percent), Obwalden (0.96 percent), Basel-Country (0.97 percent) and  Schwyz (0.99 percent) also recorded low vacancy rates.

In general, the vacancy rate was lower than the national average in 11 cantons.

Despite a slight decline, the canton of Solothurn once again has the highest vacancy rate nationally (3.15 percent). It is also the only canton to cross the 3-percent mark. Next come the cantons of Ticino (2.83), Appenzell Innerrhoden (2.59) and Jura (2.56).

And where is the housing most and least affordable?

The same OFS data indicates that the housing costs remain significantly higher in the cities, the agglomerations, as well as in tax-attractive and tourist regions.

Swiss mortgage rates fall below 1 percent

Housing is notoriously expensive in Switzerland, but mortgage rates are now low — the shorter the loan period, the lower the interest.

For instance, according to Comparis.ch, a consumer comparison site, a five-year rate fixed is 0.48 percent and a 10-year one, 0.70 percent.

These are indicative numbers, the actual interest rate will depend on the applicant’s financial situation and credit history, but it can be calculated here.

In Switzerland, big housing trumps smaller spaces  

In a recent study carried out by the Federal Polytechnic Institute of Lausanne (EPFL), around 40 of respondents moved to a larger dwelling even though their household size had decreased.

In 46 percent of these cases, respondents said they wouldn’t be willing to move because they were attached to their current dwelling, while 30 percent said they already found their current  home too small.

Other reasons included good location, cheap rent, privacy, as well as attachment to their current neighbourhood and community.

Did you know?

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.

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. 

You can find out more about this here:

Can cross-border workers buy property 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. 

Why you may be entitled to a rent reduction in Switzerland

How Covid-19 changed housing priorities in Switzerland

Rents on the rise in Swiss cities

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

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COST OF LIVING

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland's childcare costs are among the world's highest, although there are some ways to save. Originally from the United States but now raising children in Zug, writer Ashley Franzen takes you through some of the most important things you need to consider when finding childcare in Switzerland.

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a peculiar dichotomy when it comes to childcare. Although many parents both work full-time, Switzerland has traditionally been hands off when it comes to childcare support for families with children under five, leading to some of the highest childcare costs in the world. 

For older kids there is before and after-school care that is offered by the canton, but for younger kids who haven’t quite started kindergarten, it can pose problems for parents who are in need of reliable care, particularly those who don’t have grandparents to rely on. 

According to the Swiss Federal Council, “Grandparents as well as daycare centres and extra-school care facilities are the most frequently used forms of childcare, with each category accounting for a third of provision for children aged 0 to 12 years. 81 percent of families in large cities turned to extra-family care for their children compared with 66 percent of families in rural areas. Parents’ satisfaction with the care facilities is high, but there is still unmet demand.” 

What alternative childcare options do I have in Switzerland?

There are various childcare and nursery options for babies and toddlers up through young children aged five or six. Each canton offers childcare, though often there are lengthy waitlists for available spots.

READ ALSO: ‘A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

An alternative might be a private or bilingual daycare, but the costs for these are even higher than the locally-run childcares, and sometimes have longer waitlists.

Get on a list early as it’s important to get the ball rolling on paperwork, especially as a foreigner in Switzerland. 

An alternate option is to find the equivalent of a Tagesmütter, or a carer who opens up their home to taking care of up to four children at a time, when there is space available.

The costs remain about the same, but it can be easier to get placement for childcare with an in-their-own-home carer.

Some families opt to hire a nanny, but it may not be possible financially for all families. As for bringing an Au Pair to join the family, there are specific rules and regulations in Switzerland surrounding pay, number of hours they can work (about half of which you would need to be present for), and language rules– the main one being they cannot speak the same language as the family. Additionally, language classes are stipulated for the duration of their stay. 

Suffice it to say, that there are quite a few hurdles to overcome and in order to make sure your family is supported with reliable childcare to meet your needs.

Below are five things to consider as you plan out and organise childcare in Switzerland.

Children play with educational tools. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

1. Compare the options

Childcare in Switzerland is top notch, albeit expensive, so make sure you take the time to figure out where you want to enrol your child.

Some of the best programs are actually run as not-for-profit organisations, such as KiBiz in Zug.

READ ALSO: What alternative childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Most daycares offer a pedagogically strong curriculum and having them at a local daycare gives your child the opportunity to learn the local language. 

2. Decide on someone to name as your emergency contact

This can be a bit harder if you don’t have family or friends nearby, but double check with a colleague or someone that you trust in the case of an emergency or illness.

Finding a colleague that is willing to help by picking up the kids when they were sick when both parents find themselves out of town can be incredibly helpful. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

3. See if you qualify for subsidies

According to the OECD, Switzerland has the highest cost for childcare among wealthy countries. Cantons are in the process of trying to increase the amount of money they’re able to allocate for assisting families with the costs.

If your household income is under a certain amount (it varies by canton), then it might be possible to have some of the costs of your family’s childcare covered. 

4. Consider having a babysitter or two on hand that you can call

As a foreign parent in Switzerland, sometimes it makes sense to have someone extra to call on for help with childcare coverage– even if you don’t think you’ll need anyone.

Meetings get moved, appointments need to be rescheduled, and sometimes there’s the odd school workday, where kids do not attend classes.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

In situations like these, having someone to reach out to, who can help provide coverage (and perhaps even the occasionally date night) helps provide a safety net for parents that might not have any backup to call at the spur of the moment. 

5. Be open for and prepared to have a hurdle or two, be it language or logistics

Many of the institutions around the country, particularly for younger kids are really good at filling in the parents on what the kids have done during the day, what they’ve eaten, how they’ve acted. The seemingly hardest part is actually filing the paperwork and piecing together care, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

Wendy Noller is originally from Australia, and now lives in Luzern with her husband, and their two children, aged five and seven.

When they were getting signed up for Kita, she expresses that there were quite a few hurdles to consider.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

Initially they received a letter from Canton Luzern stating that there weren’t enough places for their daughter. “We had heard negative reviews from other expats, but learned that there really are a lot of myths around childcare– that it’s not good quality, or there aren’t enough places. My husband and I work 100 percent and [when registering the kids], found the local authority to be both very helpful and responsive.”

She adds that she would call or email every couple days after receiving the letter to express that they both worked full-time and were really interested in their daughter integrating.

In the end, just a couple days before school started, they were told there was a place available for her. 

While their situation had a happy ending, sometimes other backup plans need to be put in place. Organising childcare in Switzerland is doable and having a fellow foreigner who has gone through it before to help share their experience or how to go about it can make a difference in how easy or how difficult it feels. 

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