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Old 07.12.2011, 18:33
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

Without wanting to join the debate on whether or not to buy now in Switzerland, if you decide to go ahead, try talking to PostFinance. I have a contact in Geneva who has been very helpful, and their rates are good. Unlike CS/UBS etc, the actual rates are posted on their website, at the bottom of this page:
https://www.postfinance.ch/en/priv/prod/interest.html

PM me if you want the contact details.
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Old 07.12.2011, 18:52
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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All I want to add to this extremely well-debated topic is: in my own experience, it is very possible and indeed likely to spend 2% of the original purchase price on maintenance and upgrades per year, especially when you are going to live in the property.


Even if you differentiate correctly accounting-wise between:
  • 1% maintenance p.a. as an operating expense,
  • 1% upgrades p.a. as a capital expense
you will find that your house's value will not grow with the 1% you spend on upgrades per year. You are doing it to keep your house on standard - and the standard (the competition) is always rising. This process is called hedonic adjustment.

So when you do the rent vs total cost of ownership comparison, be sure to add this 2% annual cost (on book value) on top of your mortgage payment, to make the comparison meaningful. The "clear winner" picture of buying has a way of changing drastically.
Just as a very simple example:

Buying 600 000 CHF house.
Mortgage bond term 30 years, 2% interest p.a. fixed.
Deposit = 30% of 600 000 CHF = 180 000 CHF (should you be so lucky).
Bond value = 420 000 CHF.
Bond repayment = 1563 CHF per month (interest and principal)

Leading a lot of folks to envisage ~ 1000 CHF / month savings compared to renting a 2500 CHF / month apartment.

Add 2% annual costs for maintenance and forced capital upgrades:
2% x 600 000 CHF = 12 000 CHF / annum = 1000 CHF / month.

Now the cost of ownership = 1563 CHF + 1000 CHF = 2563 CHF / month and *poof* goes the saving.

And this excludes all other expenses for which owners are liable.
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Old 07.12.2011, 19:00
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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Worst case scenario:
If someone could explain to me what would happen to a "Property owning", non-EU, "B Permit" holder, that is forced to leave Switzerland.... I would greatly appreciate it.
I'm trying to untangle this one myself at the moment. C permit, non-EU. This is what I have learned so far - but as always, please verify for yourself. I'm not confident that I've asked all the right questions of all the right officials.

My husband and I, both non-EU, own our home here. We each own 50% of the house. (The notary would not allow us to establish a US-style joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. Schade.)

If I de-register I lose my right to own my (non-holiday) property here. So I cannot keep my half of the house, I will have to transfer it to my husband - which means paying some hefty fees. (I suppose I could sell my half as well, but who'd buy half a house? )

If one had to sell the house one would be hit with the capital gains on property tax and length of ownership penalties - meaning you could lose all or part of your profit depending on how long you owned the property (varies by canton). This would apply even if you were kicked out, forcing you to sell.

(Don't even get me started on the horrors of US capital gains on foreign property for Americans... )

This is also an issue for inheritance as my heirs are also non-EU, have no right to live in Switzerland, and thus no right to own property here. So the executor would have to sell the property before division among the heirs.

Now - as with everything in Switzerland, YMMV. My impression from discussions with the powers that be is that my canton/Gemeinde take a pretty strict view. Other areas might be far more lax and allow you to keep your property.

Property defined as a holiday home with Auslander permits is another thing althgether - that you may keep once you leave.

---

As I understand it - and I could be wrong - this only applies to non-EU.

---

Owning property made sense 8 years ago - for both both personal and financial reasons. (Our annual mortgage is now less than what we paid for one month's rent.) But buying now, when house prices have doubled, would be an entirely different calculation.

To add to that: In this political and economic climate the possibility that we non-EU folks might get kicked out is suddenly looking not so far-fetched. * IMO, owning property becomes a dicey proposition if one has no fundamental right to stay in Switzerland.


* Paranoid, moi?
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Old 07.12.2011, 19:10
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

We've had a new mortgage for a new build 2nd house.

The first house was mortgaged 15yrs. ago with a small Swiss national bank, which was later taken over by a larger Swiss bank (but not multi-national). All became a bit faceless and impersonal, with not the best rates, as of now.

When we were looking for the best deals (and service) for our new house we found that the Kantonal Bank (FCB/KBF) ticked the most boxes, and was especially keen to help families; and offered a good 10yr. fixed rate.

You should check out the Vaud Cantonal Bank.
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Old 07.12.2011, 19:11
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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Just as a very simple example:

Buying 600 000 CHF house.
Mortgage bond term 30 years, 2% interest p.a. fixed.
Deposit = 30% of 600 000 CHF = 180 000 CHF (should you be so lucky).
Bond value = 420 000 CHF.
Bond repayment = 1563 CHF per month (interest and principal)

Leading a lot of folks to envisage ~ 1000 CHF / month savings compared to renting a 2500 CHF / month apartment.

Add 2% annual costs for maintenance and forced capital upgrades:
2% x 600 000 CHF = 12 000 CHF / annum = 1000 CHF / month.

Now the cost of ownership = 1563 CHF + 1000 CHF = 2563 CHF / month and *poof* goes the saving.

And this excludes all other expenses for which owners are liable.
We bought a house here, and are very happy with the decision...it really bought us peace of mind. Concerning your post, our experience is that maintianence costs are closer to 1%. Property appreciation here (30 minutes outside of ZH) are historically around 2%. So, that slight change in the calculation tips the scales the other way. Trick is to buy a quality property in a good location at a good price. Not as easy as it sounds. Took us about 2 years of looking.
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Old 07.12.2011, 19:24
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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We bought a house here, and are very happy with the decision...it really bought us peace of mind. Concerning your post, our experience is that maintianence costs are closer to 1%. Property appreciation here (30 minutes outside of ZH) are historically around 2%. So, that slight change in the calculation tips the scales the other way. Trick is to buy a quality property in a good location at a good price. Not as easy as it sounds. Took us about 2 years of looking.
Karl,

Respect your opinion, but my AHA moment came when I recently sold my own house and back-calculated how much I "invested" on upgrades and improvments in the home over the years which I could not recoup in the selling price. Just my personal experience. I agree, pure maintenace expenses are closer to 1% p.a., but adding an air-conditioner, improving the garden and the kitchen, etc. are theoretically investments but effectively write-offs in a tough housing market.
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Old 07.12.2011, 19:26
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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If you are asking for help or advice, groaning others might not get you very far.
Dear mods. Please copy the above and make a sticky.

Dear newbies. Getting free advice is a priviledge, not a right.
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Old 07.12.2011, 19:29
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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Karl,

Respect your opinion, but my AHA moment came when I recently sold my own house and back-calculated how much I "invested" on upgrades and improvments in the home over the years which I could not recoup in the selling price. Just my personal experience. I agree, pure maintenace expenses are closer to 1% p.a., but adding an air-conditioner, improving the garden and the kitchen, etc. are theoretically investments but effectively write-offs in a tough housing market.
We are lucky in that the previous owners completely renovated the interior (attic and cellar) and floors. AC here is really not necessary, I will leave my garden in it's lovely original dirt configuration, and the kitchen will only get new appliances as required. The one thing that will come is the boiler which will cost 20K, but that will last the next 25 years. With clay tile roof, I really can't figure out where else to sink money into this place...and I really don't want to.
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Old 07.12.2011, 19:43
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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I really can't figure out where else to sink money into this place...and I really don't want to.
Don't worry, your wife will figure it out.
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  #30  
Old 07.12.2011, 20:21
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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Just as a very simple example:

Buying 600 000 CHF house.
Mortgage bond term 30 years, 2% interest p.a. fixed.
Deposit = 30% of 600 000 CHF = 180 000 CHF (should you be so lucky).
Bond value = 420 000 CHF.
Bond repayment = 1563 CHF per month (interest and principal)

Leading a lot of folks to envisage ~ 1000 CHF / month savings compared to renting a 2500 CHF / month apartment.

Add 2% annual costs for maintenance and forced capital upgrades:
2% x 600 000 CHF = 12 000 CHF / annum = 1000 CHF / month.

Now the cost of ownership = 1563 CHF + 1000 CHF = 2563 CHF / month and *poof* goes the saving.

And this excludes all other expenses for which owners are liable.
What are "forced capital upgrades"?

Our mortgage was the same price as our rent. So we didn't save there. But we gained 40m2 living space, 2 floor living instead of one, plus a basement office, plus a laundry room, plus storage, plus a garage, plus 2 parking spaces, plus a garden and we have spent 0% per year on fixes or upgrades.

Well, not 0% but maybe 2000-3000CHF in 4 years which is not nearly 2% per year.

Our garden was also reseeded two years before we bought it and the garden otherwise is in a good state. I'm not a gardener so I just maintain what was left.

Of course you have to consider all these things when you are buying. How much can you invest in the house that you can actually recoup? Will it add real value? Is this repair, upgrade, change tax deductible? Is it required or a nice to have? etc etc... I don't think this is only in Switzerland that you need to think about these things.

Sure, we could update the upstairs bathroom and the kitchen. But it's not a requirement by any stretch.
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Old 07.12.2011, 20:38
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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Just as a very simple example:

Buying 600 000 CHF house.
Mortgage bond term 30 years, 2% interest p.a. fixed.
Deposit = 30% of 600 000 CHF = 180 000 CHF (should you be so lucky).
Bond value = 420 000 CHF.
Bond repayment = 1563 CHF per month (interest and principal)

Leading a lot of folks to envisage ~ 1000 CHF / month savings compared to renting a 2500 CHF / month apartment.

Add 2% annual costs for maintenance and forced capital upgrades:
2% x 600 000 CHF = 12 000 CHF / annum = 1000 CHF / month.

Now the cost of ownership = 1563 CHF + 1000 CHF = 2563 CHF / month and *poof* goes the saving.

And this excludes all other expenses for which owners are liable.
And what about at the end of that 30 year period?
Option A) keep renting
Option B) live low cost, or sell and use it as additional retirement
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Old 07.12.2011, 20:52
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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And what about at the end of that 30 year period?
Option A) keep renting
Option B) live low cost, or sell and use it as additional retirement
The deposit mentioned, suitably invested, may have caught up by then, putting the renter ahead in value.
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Old 07.12.2011, 20:54
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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The deposit mentioned, suitably invested, may have caught up by then, putting the renter ahead in value.
Maybe. But most people use their retirement fund as a deposit and that doesn't have a great interest rate.
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Old 07.12.2011, 20:56
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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The deposit mentioned, suitably invested, may have caught up by then, putting the renter ahead in value.
Why not consider real estate a suitable investment in the first place:
- relatively stable (in Switzerland)
- plus you get leverage (the debt)... something which most people would never want when investing on the stock market
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Old 07.12.2011, 21:11
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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Why not consider real estate a suitable investment in the first place:
- relatively stable (in Switzerland)
- plus you get leverage (the debt)... something which most people would never want when investing on the stock market
Let's go back to the example above

Quote:
Just as a very simple example:

Buying 600 000 CHF house.
Mortgage bond term 30 years, 2% interest p.a. fixed.
Deposit = 30% of 600 000 CHF = 180 000 CHF (should you be so lucky).
Bond value = 420 000 CHF.
Bond repayment = 1563 CHF per month (interest and principal)

Leading a lot of folks to envisage ~ 1000 CHF / month savings compared to renting a 2500 CHF / month apartment.

Add 2% annual costs for maintenance and forced capital upgrades:
2% x 600 000 CHF = 12 000 CHF / annum = 1000 CHF / month.

Now the cost of ownership = 1563 CHF + 1000 CHF = 2563 CHF / month and *poof* goes the saving.

And this excludes all other expenses for which owners are liable.
Okay, I don't know how accurate or typical those figures are.

But let's assume they'r OK.

So I'm buying a house for a down payment of 180K plus a monthly payment for 30 years of 2563.

= 180,000 + 30 * 12 * 2563 = 1,102,680 CHF.

So you're forking out over 1.1 million for a house that's worth 0.6 million, and for the pleasure you additionally own all the janitorial costs and all the other stuff that's included in the price of renting. When there's renovation needing to be done you're spending your sunday afternoons in overalls doing fiddly stuff rather than playing in the park with the kids. You're the one who's turning down the cool jobs because you can't relocate etc etc. I'd rather take that money and buy a tiny part of the bank that's financing your house, because they're making more on the deal than you are.

If you can get say 6% on your money, then those 180,000 will be 1,033,828 after 30 years. So I'm up by almost the amount you've payed without even factoring in the 63CHF per month I'm saving through renting rather than buying. To make good for that your house must have reached over 1.2 million in value by then. Are you prepared to wager all your life's savings on that happening? I'm not. I prefer not to have all my eggs in the same basket.
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Old 07.12.2011, 21:18
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

in 30 years time the house isn't worth 0.6m and you forgot to take rent payments off, still gotta pay to live somewhere

how much was a house 30 years ago?
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Old 07.12.2011, 21:21
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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in 30 years time the house isn't worth 0.6m and you forgot to take rent payments off, still gotta pay to live somewhere

how much was a house 30 years ago?
The 101 of all investments is "past performance future performace gaurantees not".
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Old 07.12.2011, 21:27
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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What are "forced capital upgrades"?

Investments or capital expenses that you think is an investment adding value to your property, but is in fact an operating expense in order to keep your property on "standard" - a standard that is always rising and allows it to compete against other properties for the attention of property buyers. Much like computers that cost the same price but have better specs every year.

For example:

1% upgrades p.a. as a capital expense

you will find that your house's value will not grow with the 1% you spend on upgrades per year. You are doing it to keep your house on standard - and the standard (the competition) is always rising. This process is called hedonic adjustment.
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Old 07.12.2011, 21:33
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

To be quite honest, perhaps the biggest benefits of finally buying a house is that we no longer talk about it, or agonize about the what ifs or when. It is now a non-topic (whew).

We bought a really nice house just shy of 700K, and put 50% down. Our mortgage is a whopping 700 CHF a month, meaning no matter what life throws at us, they aren't taking this away from us. And we are more or less locked into a low payment, even if interest rates were to double.

OK, tough part was coming up with the 50 percent, but we have worked here for over 20 years with reasonably well paying jobs.

Another aspect: you can't eat money, or live in it. It's all just zeros in a database somewhere. This house is real wealth, and we enjoy it every day, and will continue to do so well into our retirement.
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Old 07.12.2011, 21:45
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Re: buying a house: where to start?

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Let's go back to the example above



Okay, I don't know how accurate or typical those figures are.

But let's assume they'r OK.

So I'm buying a house for a down payment of 180K plus a monthly payment for 30 years of 2563.

= 180,000 + 30 * 12 * 2563 = 1,102,680 CHF.

So you're forking out over 1.1 million for a house that's worth 0.6 million, and for the pleasure you additionally own all the janitorial costs and all the other stuff that's included in the price of renting. When there's renovation needing to be done you're spending your sunday afternoons in overalls doing fiddly stuff rather than playing in the park with the kids. You're the one who's turning down the cool jobs because you can't relocate etc etc. I'd rather take that money and buy a tiny part of the bank that's financing your house, because they're making more on the deal than you are.

If you can get say 6% on your money, then those 180,000 will be 1,033,828 after 30 years. So I'm up by almost the amount you've payed without even factoring in the 63CHF per month I'm saving through renting rather than buying. To make good for that your house must have reached over 1.2 million in value by then. Are you prepared to wager all your life's savings on that happening? I'm not. I prefer not to have all my eggs in the same basket.
Where do you reliably get 6% consistently? Honest disclosure, my stock portfolio is heavily focused on high dividend companies, but always eager to get some free advice
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