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Property in Switzerland: Where are house prices rising the fastest?

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

The Lake Geneva region is beautiful but also very expensive to live in.
Apartment prices in areas like this one, overlooking Lake Geneva, are among the costliest in Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Where house prices are rising the most in Switzerland

When it comes to property prices, no area in Switzerland can be called “cheap”. But some regions are costlier than others.

And this trend is not about to change, according to Raiffeisen bank: buying a home is becoming more expensive, with prices for both single-family houses and apartments rising further — by 4.4 percent on average — in the third quarter of 2021.

Costs are going up across the country, but the increase in tourist regions is particularly steep, said Raiffeisen’s chief economist Martin Neff.

In those communities, prices rose by 18.3 percent and apartments by 12.9 compared to the previous year.

Viewed by region, prices for single-family houses climbed the most in Ticino (11.7 percent) and in the Bern area (11.1). In the apartment category, the Lake Geneva region leads the ranking with an increase of 12.3 percent.

Cross-border conundrum: France no longer wants to build housing for Genevans

Many people who work in Geneva commute there from Annemasse, a French community located 10 kilometres from the border. Some Genevans live in France as well, while traveling daily to work on the Swiss side.

Much of the housing boom in Annemasse is attributed to needs of cross-border commuters, but municipal authorities now want to not only slow down the construction, but also to build cheaper housing for lower income, local residents. 

This strategy will inevitably impact Geneva, which will be forced to house the employees on its own territory.

For his part, Geneva State Councillor Antonio Hodgers said he understands Annemasse’s decision,  as “no one wants to be another’s suburb, which is catastrophic from the point of view of mobility and climate.”

He noted that “Geneva must make an effort” in terms of construction.

“We are committed to building 2,500 homes per year”, he added.

Which Swiss regions have the highest number of vacant apartments?

Flats, especially reasonably priced ones, are often difficult to find in Switzerland, but in some areas of the country it is easier than in others.

“These are primarily municipalities and regions where a lot of apartments are still being built, although the demand is stagnating”, according to Fredy Hasenmaile, real estate expert at Credit Suisse bank.

However, the location of these rentals is not necessarily prime  — many are in communities that are far away from the major city centres and are therefore rarely an option for commuters.

Among them are the two half-cantons of Appenzell, as well as peripheral communities in Uri and at the southern foot of Jura.

However, most rentals can be found in the La Chaux-de-Fonds region of Neuchâtel and in Ticino’s Mendrisio region. In both areas, the vacancy rate is over 4 percent, compared to 1.54 percent nationally.

High vacancies are good news for tenants, as they benefit from falling rents, Hasenmaile said.

Did you know?

If you are a homeowner in Switzerland, there are certain taxes you will have to pay. This is a roundup of these fees from the website of Swiss authorities:

You have to pay income tax on the equivalent rental value of your property. On the other hand, mortgage interest rates are fully deductible and maintenance expenses are partially deductible.

Several cantons levy a tax on property (also known as land or real estate tax) 

Property transfer tax is normally levied when you buy property.

If you own an apartment, a house or land, you must declare it in your tax return, and you are liable to pay wealth tax on it.

If you sell your house or apartment, you must pay property gains tax.

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. 

Eight things you need to know before renting in Switzerland

How can I buy a second home in Switzerland?

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s rules for Airbnb rentals?

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]

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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