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Old 04.05.2012, 00:37
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Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

Hi friends,
I apologize if this has been answered in a previous post; my search in this forum hasn't yielded in anything that answers my questions.

My boyfriend and I are moving to Switzerland from the US this summer, and I've been scouring the usual websites for an apartment. We will be moving to either Fribourg or Bern, me for a post-doc and him for university.

We were very close to securing an apartment in Fribourg that I desperately wanted, but at the end of the email turn-arounds with the rental company, I was to find a co-signer for the lease who was in the area. Other emails I've sent in response to ads have either not been responded to or with no interest of renting to me. We're only beginning to learn French and we don't know German, so calling by phone is out.

I am wondering if it is typical for renters to not be interested in beginning a lease from abroad, to want a co-signer in the area, and/or just the general difficulty of this process for ex-pats, particularly non-Europeans. I have my contract with my salary, and offer my good credit/rental history as assurance, but this doesn't seem to help. Should I give up now and wait until I move, just living in hostels in the meantime? I'd prefer to move into an apartment waiting for us but it might not happen that way

Thank you in advance for your advice!
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Old 04.05.2012, 00:46
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

Have you asked the university? They probably have someone who helps with accommodation issues and can give you some pointers. GL
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Old 04.05.2012, 08:52
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

Think of Switzerland like trying to get a great apartment in LA or New York - if you aren't the first one on the doorstep (in person) you don't have a chance. There are tons of applications for any decent place that comes open, so the fact you have one that is willing to rent to you from afar means you got lucky. Definitely check with the University to see if someone can help at least to be able to call for you to be able to guarantee you are coming to do what you say you are - doubt they will co-sign but sometimes just having a Swiss company call on your behalf works. For us, my work had to send a letter guaranteeing us and that they would cover the costs for the first year if we bailed, and someone from the office went to the showing and talked to them on our behalf. Doubt you could get the same thing but that's what it took for us to have an apartment waiting for us when we got off the plane. Most people move into a short term spot and find a place when they get here.

Good luck!
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Old 04.05.2012, 09:15
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

I am from Nashville, TN and my wife and I have an apartment for rent about 25 minutes from Fribourg and 40 minutes from Bern. You can see it at http://www.swats.org/apt
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Old 07.05.2012, 01:11
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

Thank you for your replies! We have looked into student housing in Bern, but I am not a student and we're on a wait list so that might not pan out. wswats, thank you for posting that link! It's a beautiful place but just too expensive for us (looking for between 800-1500 CHF).

It's so funny because in the states renters jump at the chance for you to throw money at them for an apartment but I suppose it makes sense to be more cautious. Looks like we may just need to sub-let or B&B it until we find a place. It'll work out okay! Thanks for your advice, friends.
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Old 07.05.2012, 02:28
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

Have you tried a flatshare? You'll have a higher chance to get in and probably wont deal with any rental agencies. Students.ch and Wgzimmer.ch, both are good resources with the former listing many houses in Bern that are available to rent by yourselfs (no sharing).

You have to understand that here the vacancy rates for these cities are less than 1% at times (if not always) so it's a sellers market. There will always been more people looking than whats available.

It's tough at first (I know, I'm looking for a new apartment in Bern at this moment!) but you'll get through eventually!

Just for future note, you may run into an issue with your Visa's if you don't have fixed housing before you come. I had planned to do the B&B/Hostel route too until I was told that I had to have a fixed place before I could enter the country. (Canadian here)
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Old 07.05.2012, 10:04
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

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We have looked into student housing in Bern, but I am not a student and we're on a wait list so that might not pan out.
If you are not a student, you are usually prohibited from student housing. Be aware they take these things seriously, so I recommend removing yourself from the list before they find out.
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Old 09.05.2012, 03:12
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

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If you are not a student, you are usually prohibited from student housing. Be aware they take these things seriously, so I recommend removing yourself from the list before they find out.
Thank you for the warning! I actually did email to specifically ask to make sure because I realized that me not being a student could present a problem for student housing. Interestingly they actually said they could be willing to work with us on the wait list if something came up, but I'm not holding my breath
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Old 09.05.2012, 03:15
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

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Have you tried a flatshare? You'll have a higher chance to get in and probably wont deal with any rental agencies. Students.ch and Wgzimmer.ch, both are good resources with the former listing many houses in Bern that are available to rent by yourselfs (no sharing).
...
Just for future note, you may run into an issue with your Visa's if you don't have fixed housing before you come. I had planned to do the B&B/Hostel route too until I was told that I had to have a fixed place before I could enter the country. (Canadian here)
Good to know! I had visited students.ch but not wgzimmer.ch, so the more websites the better I have so many email alerts now, hehe! I did notice that on the US visa application regarding a probable address, but I just put Fribourg. I thought maybe it'd be an issue but I hoped not! What did you do to resolve it? What a catch-22! Ugh!
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Old 09.05.2012, 12:17
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

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Good to know! I had visited students.ch but not wgzimmer.ch, so the more websites the better I have so many email alerts now, hehe! I did notice that on the US visa application regarding a probable address, but I just put Fribourg. I thought maybe it'd be an issue but I hoped not! What did you do to resolve it? What a catch-22! Ugh!
I explained in that form, that I'd stay in temporary housing at a hostel/equivalent, as that was what their embassy staff had told me. It was only a few months later that I got an email that said you needed a real address before you came. So I started searching on wgzimmer and lucked out with a place after 2 weeks.
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Old 11.05.2012, 22:05
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

hey, i suggest you dont waste more time on finding a place online as it is very tough, book a hotel or a service apartment and then start looking, you will have to be there physically present. Pm me when you get here and i will help you on how to make your application stronger and get you more chances. I learnt it over experience of seeing over 80 apartments and applying to almost 50 . dont want to scre you , just showing you reality.
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Old 11.05.2012, 22:27
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

My wife and I had the same experience a year ago. We would see a great place on homegate or immostreet etc, email the owner and either get no response, or get a no. We ended up having a woman from our school here in Switzerland call each place and set up appointments. Unless you get really lucky, you are most likely going to have to come here first and then go one appointments in person. I moved here with my wife, my daughter and 2 cats last year and we stayed in a hotel for a week while we went on appointments. We got very lucky and found our current place. Another thing to keep in mind is that just because a place is vacant, doesn't mean that you can just say "I'll take it" Then rental company took 2 days to make a decision of whether or not they thought my family would be a good fit for this flat. The Swiss take a lot of pride in their property and will rarely ever rent to someone who they have not met in person.
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Old 11.05.2012, 22:42
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

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It's so funny because in the states renters jump at the chance for you to throw money at them for an apartment but I suppose it makes sense to be more cautious.
I suppose the answer to that is that there is enough of a supply of people already resident here, to throw money at the landlords, so they don't have to take the risk of letting to someone they have not met.

So, to answer your early question: yes, it is common for people to not get somewhere to live before arriving here. BUt don't get too disheartened. It doesn't always take a long time to find an apartment - I found mine within four days of arriving here, and had been offered two others before accepting this one.
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Old 11.05.2012, 23:03
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

And try to eliminate the phrase "because in the States" from your mindset, because most things are different here, and it can get frustrating at times.

Might be useful to try and hook up with expats in Bern, google search for them, here is just one:

http://www.expatica.com/ch/lifestyle...ern_12728.html
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Old 14.05.2012, 22:46
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

Thank you so much everyone! We are expecting to arrive early August (pending arrival of our visas), so hopefully that will give us a lot of time to find a flat before our September start dates. I will definitely PM those of you who offered your help to strengthen my application. I will also try to abandon any US-based schemas for knowing anything

I sincerely appreciate your advice!! Can't wait for the move!!
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Old 15.05.2012, 01:00
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

When we moved to Bern, we rented temporary accomodation through UMS.ch their commission was quite high (can't remember exactly how much we paid, but I remember thinking "ouch!!") but the service we got was great, and it took a lot of the stress out of the move knowing that we had a few months to find a permanent place once we got here.
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Old 10.06.2012, 23:49
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

Just wanted to update you all to let you know that we were able to secure student housing through the university, even though only my partner is a student. We were surprised given this fact and that we anticipated being on a long wait list! So I suppose air bnb will suffice for the weeks in-between our arrival and move in date Thank you all sooo much for your help!
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Old 15.06.2012, 08:47
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Re: Trouble starting a lease from abroad?

As another person introduced, the site http://www.swats.org/apt is really good and reliable.
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