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Old 18.03.2020, 11:43
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Guidelines for buying an apartment

Hi everyone,

First of all, I hope you and your families are all well and holding strong in these weird times we are going through.

So, I am interested in buying an apartment around Zurich( Canton Zurich, Aargau or Schwyz). I went through older posts just to get an idea and it was very helpful. In order though to have updated info about the whole procedure, could anyone please briefly let me know about the must-have checklist everyone should have before signing the deal. I hope my English is clear enough (not native). I am talking about Legal, Bank, Fees, Location rules and laws, anything I should ask the Real Estator, hidden info about the apartment maybe which should be confirmed. Anything which won't be a bad surprise in the future. Lastly, in what order should things be taken care of?

Thank you very much in advance.
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Old 18.03.2020, 17:37
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

If a new build it will carry a 5 / 10 year guarantee. If not inspect properly and also ask, in writing, for the seller to list any known problems. If he does not declare something which then comes to light, you can go after the seller for the repairs.

If you can, visit the block at least 6 times at different times of day without the agent. See what the traffic is like, is there a school nearby and get a feel for the area. You can't do this with just one or two visits. Also go to the local bar and have a chat with the owner / locals. You can get a lot of info this way. It also neverdoes and harm, if you can, to have a chat with one of your neighbours.

Do read and understand the rules of the condominium. Often overlooked, it is very important and will tell you what you can and can't do, and the rules of the building, including use of the laundry etc. Check also the hours you can use the laundry. Someone I know bought a flat and could only use the laundry on a Monday and Thursday, between 10 and noon, times in which she was at work! In our apartment building we don't have fixed hours and we are all pretty laissez faire. But not all blocks are like ours!

Also check the accounts and what is in the renewal fund. Also ask the administration if there are any big repairs coming up that may mean owners have to pay extra into the fund to pay for them.

In effect you are buying the air inside your apartment and the interior (non supporting) walls, and the exclusive use of same. This is your responsibility. The main walls, outside etc is the responsibility of the condominium, of which you will own a certain "millesime". Say 10 flats, that's 1,000 millesime and assuming all the same size you will then own, and be responsible for the upkeep and costs of the common parts, of 100 millesime.

Also establish which parking bay is yours, and if in addition there is an outside parking spot. Note also the rules for the parking spot.

The bank will usually lend up to 80%, but that's 80% of their valuation, which is usually lower and based on a price needed to obtain a quick sale. You can borrow the difference, but usually at a higher interest rate.

As the buyer, you have the right to choose the Notary. Never use the one "suggested" by the seller unless you know the firm and trust them. The Notary does have to be neutral and must protect both sides, but nonetheless.....

Final piece of advice, the seller or the agent will often ask you to pay a deposit to them. Never, ever, do this. Tell them you will pay it to your Notary once the contract of sale has been received. The Notary will then confirm to them the deposit has been paid.

Good luck with it all and let us know how you get on.
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Old 18.03.2020, 18:12
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

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If a new build it will carry a 5 / 10 year guarantee. If not inspect properly and also ask, in writing, for the seller to list any known problems. If he does not declare something which then comes to light, you can go after the seller for the repairs.

If you can, visit the block at least 6 times at different times of day without the agent. See what the traffic is like, is there a school nearby and get a feel for the area. You can't do this with just one or two visits. Also go to the local bar and have a chat with the owner / locals. You can get a lot of info this way. It also neverdoes and harm, if you can, to have a chat with one of your neighbours.

Do read and understand the rules of the condominium. Often overlooked, it is very important and will tell you what you can and can't do, and the rules of the building, including use of the laundry etc. Check also the hours you can use the laundry. Someone I know bought a flat and could only use the laundry on a Monday and Thursday, between 10 and noon, times in which she was at work! In our apartment building we don't have fixed hours and we are all pretty laissez faire. But not all blocks are like ours!

Also check the accounts and what is in the renewal fund. Also ask the administration if there are any big repairs coming up that may mean owners have to pay extra into the fund to pay for them.

In effect you are buying the air inside your apartment and the interior (non supporting) walls, and the exclusive use of same. This is your responsibility. The main walls, outside etc is the responsibility of the condominium, of which you will own a certain "millesime". Say 10 flats, that's 1,000 millesime and assuming all the same size you will then own, and be responsible for the upkeep and costs of the common parts, of 100 millesime.

Also establish which parking bay is yours, and if in addition there is an outside parking spot. Note also the rules for the parking spot.

The bank will usually lend up to 80%, but that's 80% of their valuation, which is usually lower and based on a price needed to obtain a quick sale. You can borrow the difference, but usually at a higher interest rate.

As the buyer, you have the right to choose the Notary. Never use the one "suggested" by the seller unless you know the firm and trust them. The Notary does have to be neutral and must protect both sides, but nonetheless.....

Final piece of advice, the seller or the agent will often ask you to pay a deposit to them. Never, ever, do this. Tell them you will pay it to your Notary once the contract of sale has been received. The Notary will then confirm to them the deposit has been paid.

Good luck with it all and let us know how you get on.

What a great and helpful answer! So much appreciated.
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Old 19.03.2020, 00:04
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

Can anyone shed some light on the importance of Kanton where the apartment is located and how that impacts income/wealth on the long term, considering the higher prices of apartments in low tax areas? Is it really worthy to pay a huge premium today for a lower tax rate?
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Old 19.03.2020, 06:29
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

Yes, but it depends on a few things. Firstly there will be a difference in purchase price but given interest rates are so low, monthly costs are not much more. Schools and facilities will be better but arguably there are no bad ones in Switzerland. I would start by listing your needs and wishes and then match that to villages and your budget. For example, if you love to ski it's better to be on the silver coast rather than the gold coast in Zurich, it will save you 20 min travel time on the weekends.

Disclaimer, I do consult and do prepurchase inspections so using some advisory services with a major purchase is not a bad idea.
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Old 19.03.2020, 08:56
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

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As the buyer, you have the right to choose the Notary. Never use the one "suggested" by the seller unless you know the firm and trust them. The Notary does have to be neutral and must protect both sides, but nonetheless.....
The notary process and options vary by Canton. In the case of Canton Zurich, the location of the property determines which and registry (Grundbuch) office is responsible. You will need use that office, and a notary who works there.
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Old 19.03.2020, 09:22
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

In Aargau, which is the only canton where we have purchased and sold property, as buyers we used the seller's choice of notary which was no problem whatsoever.

As sellers we also suggested to the buyer which notary we preferred.

The fees charged by the notary and the land registry office are regulated so it is not as though you can shop around. The standard fees will vary only if there are extraordinary costs, and if one party to the sale is responsible for these, these particular costs will not be split.

As for where to buy, obviously one should have a budget and know one's financing limit. However I personally don't think deciding where to live should be based on tax rates alone. Low tax rate = higher property cost. There are so many other factors to consider where to live and what type of property to buy.

Good luck with your search.
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Old 19.03.2020, 15:34
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

Thank you all guys. Your answers are all so helpful.

Last thing, what about the implied rent income when someone owns an apartment? How much does that affect your payable taxes compared to not having an apartment for example? e.g for a yearly salary of 100k
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Old 20.03.2020, 12:10
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

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Thank you all guys. Your answers are all so helpful.

Last thing, what about the implied rent income when someone owns an apartment? How much does that affect your payable taxes compared to not having an apartment for example? e.g for a yearly salary of 100k
I should know the answer, but I don't! It's all left to my wife and our tax specialist to sort out. However, the impact is not that great, and bear in mind the interest you pay is tax deductible.

Something I forgot to mention, make an inventory of what you agree the seller will leave behind. On one apartment we bought we didn't, and found she had taken out all the light fixtures, even the outside ones, and everything else that wasn't nailed down, which she had no use for but took anyway!
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Old 20.03.2020, 14:04
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

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Thank you all guys. Your answers are all so helpful.

Last thing, what about the implied rent income when someone owns an apartment? How much does that affect your payable taxes compared to not having an apartment for example? e.g for a yearly salary of 100k
If the apartment is not new the rate of Eigenmietwert will already be established. If not the local council will decide this on a new build. Once established it doesn‘t seem to change (ZH).

This is amounted approx CHF20,000 - 30,000 on a 1 million property and is added to your income as declared on your tax return.

My tip for buying property (I bought 4 times in the UK and twice in CH) is - „can I sell it again?“. Such items like south facing on the south side of the road (so sun is at the back), public transport, schools, shops, general desirability of the area etc all add up. But in the end you have to be sure is it resealable?
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Old 20.03.2020, 14:18
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Re: Guidelines for buying an apartment

Putting on my Captain Obvious hat...

Who knows what effect the pandemic and resulting global recession or doG forbid depression will have on Swiss real estate.

You haven't mentioned your timeline, but if you are thinking of buying within the next few months... eyes wide.

It's waaaay too soon to forecast, or even guess, but from a hurried superficial conversation with a friend in the biz (who I must add does not have a crystal ball) the times, they are might be a-changin'.



It's good to do your research ahead of time, though.
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