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Old 03.08.2018, 16:30
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Building vs renovation in Switzerland

I need some impartial advice concerning renovating an old house vs pushing it down and building a new one.

I have seen some threads where people have advised not to go down the "building a new house" route as it is a logistical and financial nightmare. For the cost of renovating our house, I thought that it would be cheaper to build, but have seen comments warning of unscrupulous tradesmen, confusing fine print in contracts and not to mention adherence to the Swiss norms and standards.

I’d really like to hear from anyone who has experience with building or renovating a house in the Lac Leman area, including company/business referrals (and those companies to stay away from).

THANKS!
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Old 03.08.2018, 17:00
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

Well if you are talking major renovations, you are more or less likely to be dealing the with same [unscrupulous] contractors as you would for a new build. There are the same issues as you will be entering into a contract(s) and need to read things carefully, same if you organise a general contractor to oversee renovations or new build.

I think if you already own the land and are not dealing with a new development, a lot of the warnings in other threads may not be as relevant as you're not part of a larger undertaking but can negotiate what exactly you want from the beginning. Just my two cents.

Its hard to track a company or give a referral, as after each undertaking they often file for bankruptcy and then re-surface as another entity.
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Old 06.08.2018, 11:18
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

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Well if you are talking major renovations, you are more or less likely to be dealing the with same [unscrupulous] contractors as you would for a new build. There are the same issues as you will be entering into a contract(s) and need to read things carefully, same if you organise a general contractor to oversee renovations or new build.

I think if you already own the land and are not dealing with a new development, a lot of the warnings in other threads may not be as relevant as you're not part of a larger undertaking but can negotiate what exactly you want from the beginning. Just my two cents.

Its hard to track a company or give a referral, as after each undertaking they often file for bankruptcy and then re-surface as another entity.
Thank you very much for your reply. We have a large piece of land with an old house. The other option would be to sell it to developers and move, but we really like where we live and like our neighbours. I have looked at the pre-fab house companies like Villevert and Weberhaus. Does anyone have experience with either of these companies?
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Old 06.08.2018, 11:29
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

In an honest, impartial way:

Usually renovating is as expensive as tearing down and building new. With the added nightmare of finding potential troubles (fire regulations, new standards, illegal stuff done by previous owners that you will have to fix).

The advantage of renovating is that you can usually do it slowly, in steps, which is great if you need some financial breathing space.

Also, you could theoretically live in the house while construction is going on, avoiding the extra cost of a second home.

The disadvantage of renovating is the unexpected turns of working with what's built, you have less options in terms of design than a blank canvas, and you might end up in a financial bottom-less swamp.

Building new has the (dis)advantage of having to follow the new norms, which might mean you must build smaller (as rules tend to force built areas/terrain ratio to decrease). I've had the case that because the house was built before 1974, I could actually renovate a (ilegaly-built) house standing in a no-construction zone; if we would tear it down, no house could be built in its place.

If you have a sentimental attachment to the house, sure renovate. If you specially like the look of it, sure renovate. If doing it in steps is better for your finances, sure renovate.

Otherwise, I'd go with new built.
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Old 06.08.2018, 14:00
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

Approach a developer, who will get planning permission for 2 houses on your present plot. There are a number of off-plan house companies in CH who will do this. Sell half the land directly the owners of the second house and live in the first...
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Old 06.08.2018, 14:14
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

Thanks everyone!

The house was built in 1890's (yes, the 1890's, that's not a typo) and was most recently renovated in the 1960's - to give you an idea of the state of it. We have lived in it since we bought it from the grandchildren of the original owners. I describe the house as "ugly but functional". It needs so much work (everything from the roof, to plumbing and electricity, not to mention the limited layout) that I doubt it could be renovated to an open-plan design, which is my wish. It was built for a different lifestyle and to accommodate different weather patterns.

Has anyone worked with architects or builders in the Lake Geneva region?
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Old 06.08.2018, 14:49
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

I have, happy to give you some pros/cons on different options


I do agree very much with @Helm, you need to be certain what your options are should you consider a new construction - the regulations of your commune can dramatically dictate what you can/cannot do despite you having a house standing where it is currently
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Old 06.08.2018, 14:51
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

We built a couple of years ago, it was part of a planned development and it all went pretty smoothly really, notwithstanding the occasional hiccups. This was in Fribourg, mind, so YMMV.
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Old 06.08.2018, 14:52
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

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The house was built in 1890's (yes, the 1890's, that's not a typo) and was most recently renovated in the 1960's - to give you an idea of the state of it. We have lived in it since we bought it from the grandchildren of the original owners. I describe the house as "ugly but functional". It needs so much work (everything from the roof, to plumbing and electricity, not to mention the limited layout) that I doubt it could be renovated to an open-plan design, which is my wish. It was built for a different lifestyle and to accommodate different weather patterns.
So, you decided to go the hard way, and, instead of buying more expensive stuff that fits your needs, went for cheaper one and now trying to change it to your dreams house? Is it really worth it?
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Old 06.08.2018, 15:20
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

We have completely rebuilt a house from 1964, keeping the basement and part of 1st floor (beton is really good!). Extended on two sides and added one more floor, so the original space doubled, and now we have a combination of old-style small rooms around the entrance, storage and technical rooms, and modern open-space living, dining, kitchen, bath and bedrooms.
New external insulation, floor heating everywhere, new plumbing, electricity, windows, roof, stairs. Everything new. Only a bit of old beton in the basement. It is a new house.
Spent about CHF 1M.
*All* architects that we invited to make an offer, were laughing about the plans to renovate, and insisted to build from scratch... For about 1.2M, with a resulting space 20% less than original.
Allright, it wasn't an easy exercise, but that's a different story. Kt. Zurich. And even if the OP was in Kt. Zurich too, I wouldn't recommend any of my architects anyway
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Old 06.08.2018, 15:40
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

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We have completely rebuilt a house from 1964, keeping the basement and part of 1st floor (beton is really good!). Extended on two sides and added one more floor, so the original space doubled, and now we have a combination of old-style small rooms around the entrance, storage and technical rooms, and modern open-space living, dining, kitchen, bath and bedrooms.
New external insulation, floor heating everywhere, new plumbing, electricity, windows, roof, stairs. Everything new. Only a bit of old beton in the basement. It is a new house.
Spent about CHF 1M.
We moved into a house a little newer than yours (1970) and the previous owner had basically done what you did (adding a second floor, making an open-plan living area and so on).
As you said, it feels like a new house (although the work done on ours was completed a few years ago).
We got a breakdown of the costs spent (a lot) which the previous owner did not recuperate when he sold the house to us.

The point here is that you one should undergo this sort of renovation because you want to live in the final result, the location is great and so on and not to make an easy profit.
You can do that in the U.K. where renovation costs are lower but not here.
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Old 07.08.2018, 13:58
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

I recommend to check as well the topic from taxes perspective - you can deduct a lot of money if you renovate, it seems to be the preferred option for high-income people that want to bring down their taxable income = lower taxes.
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Old 07.08.2018, 14:47
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

We bought it mainly because of the garden and plot size. It was (and still is) a good investment as the price of land in our area has skyrocketed.
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Old 07.08.2018, 15:10
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

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So, you decided to go the hard way, and, instead of buying more expensive stuff that fits your needs, went for cheaper one and now trying to change it to your dreams house? Is it really worth it?
No, LifeStrain, we didn't go the hard way. Be bought a house that we could afford in an area that we like and want to remain in. We want to renovate and are trying to figure out the best and most cost-effective way to do it.

BTW, why are you commenting on this thread? You obviously have nothing to contribute.
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Old 07.08.2018, 15:35
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

For pre-fab I can recommend the company from Croatia as I've seen some of their houses recently in Germany.

http://www.domprojekt.hr/prefabricat...---ar2?lang=en

Their most expensive models are in the EUR 100K range (will be slightly more expensive for delivery to Switzerland but still much less than CHF 300-400 for similar stuff here. It's all certified to EU (German) building codes so probably also Swiss-compliant for all important things.

If your plot is big enough to divide in two then probably the best would be to first get the partition approved by the commune, build on the free part of the lot and then offer the land with the old house for sale - that should cover all your construction costs and the new owners can decide what they want to do (renovate or build new). You can be even more 'business-like' and build the second house yourselves for resale with a nice profit.
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Old 07.08.2018, 15:43
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

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For pre-fab I can recommend the company from Croatia as I've seen some of their houses recently in Germany.

http://www.domprojekt.hr/prefabricat...---ar2?lang=en

Their most expensive models are in the EUR 100K range (will be slightly more expensive for delivery to Switzerland but still much less than CHF 300-400 for similar stuff here. It's all certified to EU (German) building codes so probably also Swiss-compliant for all important things.

If your plot is big enough to divide in two then probably the best would be to first get the partition approved by the commune, build on the free part of the lot and then offer the land with the old house for sale - that should cover all your construction costs and the new owners can decide what they want to do (renovate or build new). You can be even more 'business-like' and build the second house yourselves for resale with a nice profit.
Thank you! I'll look into this company.
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Old 20.05.2020, 22:01
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

Does anyone have a positive experience in renovation of the house in Geneva or Vaud area? Willing to share experience please.

I am also looking for a decent architect.

Thank you.
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Old 21.05.2020, 10:55
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

i have been working as a bricklayer here for 12 years, on both new build, and renovation, for a large /ish company, i can categorically state i.m.o.,that renovations always spiral out of control, not due to dishonesty, but more to the point that swiss managers, bau leaders, have a suck it and see approach to everything on renovation, simply because no one knows what is down there, or behind,
new build, you get a fixed price, and a peace of mind that new build swiss quality is unprecedented,
i bought a new build circa from 1980, everything still works fine, the plumbing, electrics,
i have worked on a few renovations(large houses/multi family houses)where the reno cost has far surpassed new build cost, but the building was a denkmal/protected building
if you have a large plot there are options to subdivide, sell one plot to raise money for a new build,
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Old 21.05.2020, 19:13
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

We are living in a house that is about 120 years old. It was owned by my in-laws. We moved here 28 years ago. It has 4 apartments. Over the years we have worked on it mostly by ourselves. We have replaced the windows, floors walls bathrooms, doors etc. It has a been pleasure as it something we can look at with pleasure and accomplishment.

Fortunately my son is a carpenter. https://www.swisscarpenter.com/?gcli...BoCV6wQAvD_BwE

He basically started working on the house with the father-in-law and me as an assistant.

It is an old house but it has character. There are houses surrounding us that are identical. Some have paid others to renovate. I find that the new apartments and houses are boring and lack character. It is too bad that old houses are being torn down.

My son worked for others for a long time but finally started his own GmbH because of the difficulties of working for them. There were companies who would cut corners unsafely, opposed to what my son had learned. It is also hard to find people who want to work and have the skills.

So yes, be careful. Do your homework. Like all business now lots of false promises and low experience.

I am not promoting my son. Just telling you the storey.
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Old 22.05.2020, 11:20
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Re: Building vs renovation in Switzerland

I hope you do not mind but I thought I should ad a little more. When I first moved here I tried to haggle with almost everything(I am Canadian) My wife explained to me that people do not haggle here. A little more now though.

I have been working as a coach for 23 years in Switzerland.(please, not trying to promote) I would offer my rate to Swiss and the answer would be yes or no. When I have made offers to expats they would try to haggle. It is nice with the Swiss.

So my son has had to deal with expats who to try to haggle , to get the price down. or they ask a great many questions to get information to see if they can do it themselves or use it against other contractors. There have been those who do not pay their invoices to the full amount. There are those who are very difficult. My son is a nice guy and many people take advantage of that. He has made extensive offers, which takes a lot of time and the potential customer is only using it as a bargaining tool.

So maybe try to understand why some of these tradesmen can be difficult.
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