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Old 26.09.2020, 19:04
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Personal Reflections - Finding an Apartment

Hi,

Much has been written about the difficulties of finding accommodation, especially in major cities such as Zurich and Geneva. Somewhere I read a statistic that in the major Swiss cities less than 1% of accommodationis available at any one time.

The following is a personal account with my own reflections of finding accommodation. Others may have differing experiences and perceptions. Your views are welcome.

The account is written with the aim of helping others in a similar boat. It is also my small contribution back to EF and its many contributors. It has been a fantastic resource and has helped me immensely in my preparation and initial move to Zürich - thank you!

In summary:
I expressed an interest in 3 apartments and was offered 3 apartments.

A total of 5 apartments were viewed. All of this took place within 4 weeks of arrival. I also negotiated the lease to start from December (rather than October or November as offered by the agent).

What did I do?



Before I arrived:
  1. Familiarisation: reading EF and other resources helped me immeasurably with tips, dos and don'ts..
  2. Advice: I've arrived knowing no-one and my new employers did not help search for accommodation. However at my request I received advice from the local HR hiring manager.
  3. Temporary Housing: due to Covid and my work situation a preliminary visit was not possible. Via the internet I made arrangements to rent a furnished business apartment.
  4. Psychology: To my UK eyes the temporary apartment was/still is very expensive. However it is well located, provides a comfortable, stable base, and the 3 month lease has allowed me to search for longer term accommodation without feeling pressured.
  5. Scans: key documents such as employment contracts and ID, knowing that getting these scanned would be more difficult when I arrived.
  6. Credit Reports: obtained copies of my UK credit reports. These were not needed at all.
When I arrived:
  1. Connections: I arrived knowing no-one. Two of my colleagues heard that I was looking and offered me their apartments as they were moving. The apartments were not what I wanted and I politely declined. Also followed someone's advice and looked at the company's online noticeboard.
  2. Familiarisation: my initial time and focus was on identifying and visiting the areas where I might consider living.
  3. Constraints: I identified key constraints, which for me were:
    (a) cost range - what could I afford
    (b) location and commuting - especially should there be a return to the office at some point
    (c) surroundings - where would I feel comfortable (or not) over the long term?
    (d) swimming pools - crazy yes but I have a passion for swimming and wanted to be close to a Hallenbad with good opening hours.
  4. Focus: a colleague suggested that I focus my search. This happened automatically as my swimming criteria eliminated at least 3/4 of Zurich and its surrounding areas...
  5. More Advice: I asked colleagues where they lived and why they liked/did not like living there. One of them mentioned a location which I decided to focus on.
  6. Location: My decision was to live along the Gold Coast if I could. Deciding to live a little way out from the city centre also helped (I think) in terms of reducing competition.
  7. Synopsis: I wrote a short description about myself, and used google to translate it into German.
  8. Online: used homegate, flatfox, etc and searched reasonably (but not obsessively) frequently.
  9. Local language: My impression is that it's not about how well you speak, it's about how much effort you make (or are perceived to make). My online viewing requests were always in German, often including an English translation, directed to a named person where possible and had woven in my personal synopsis. I responded to emails and phone calls in German wherever possible, though I was often floored by the initial onslaught of Schwitzer-Dootsch. I declined offers to switch to English, fumbling on in German as best I could. When at a loss for words, I excused myself with "tut mir leid, mein deutsch fehlt", said what needed to be said in English, and reverted back to German.
  10. Tone and Politeness: so far I have found the Swiss incredibly polite. Whether verbal or written, I tried to reflect their tone and friendly greetings.

Viewings:
  1. Timing: constrained by work, only evening and weekend viewings were feasible for me. In several instances agents could not or were unwilling to do either and I had to let opportunities pass.
  2. Job Interview: an apartment search is very similar to a job interview. Basically that means make a good impression and trying to set up a rapport.
  3. Be Punctual: this is Switzerland...
  4. Dress presentably: I turned up smart-casual (collared shirt and trousers). Looking tatty does not help and I think I would have been completely over-dressed in a suit.
  5. Be polite and friendly to everyone. Not just that agent or the owner. As I was leaving one viewing I was accosted by one of the neighbours, who started questioning me about one of the other prospective tenants. I responded in a polite and friendly manner, establishing a rapport. It later turned out that she was the daughter-in-law of the owner....
  6. Local language: Trying is everything. See earlier comment.


After the viewing:
  1. Thank You: Write back and say so.
  2. ....In the local language.... (is there a theme?)
  3. Motivate: If you are interested then in your email say why you are interested, and address any considerations expressed by the landlord. E.g. the landlord wanting confirmation that the tenant would look after xyz.
  4. Documentation: include copies of the necessary documentation, or forward as soon as available. These tended to be:
    1. Betreibungsauzug (available online in Zurich for CHF18 and takes a couple of days)
    2. Passport/ID
    3. Employment contract or other evidence that you can afford to pay the rent.
  5. References: these do seem to be followed through, and I automatically provided these as necessary. Being employed, directly or indirectly, by a well known Swiss company helps. My references included both the little known company that I work for and the well known Swiss company where I am on contract.
  6. Time: I was caught off guard by the time taken for a response. I had given up hope of a positive response in 2 out of 3 of my successful applications. Maybe they were surveying the field, maybe they were following up everyone's references, maybe they were mulling over candidates, maybe there were further questions, maybe I was not their first choice,I don't know. Whatever the reason, be prepared for some time to elapse before you get a response.
  7. Luck: This always helps. I also believe that you make your own luck.

Hope this helps. Happy hunting ! :-)
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  #2  
Old 26.09.2020, 19:16
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Re: Personal Reflections - Finding an Apartment

1 % would be 1 apartment every 100 apartments. In my block there are 20 apartments so that's 1 apartment every 5 blocks. Not too bad, but <1% could also mean none.


Money talks. I suspect your gold-coast apartment is a little more expensive than average but I could be wrong. The further up the coast the easier it gets.
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Old 27.09.2020, 11:36
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Re: Personal Reflections - Finding an Apartment

once you look for 4k+ there is less competition. lol
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Old 27.09.2020, 11:57
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Re: Personal Reflections - Finding an Apartment

Sharing personal reflections would make more sense if OP's target price range was disclosed. As @Opst said - the higher the price the less interest there is and more chances to get the apartment.
From my personal experience - getting 2.5 apartment in Zurich that does not look 60's style, not on ground floor, in close vicinity to public transport and in price range below 2k is very difficult.
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Old 27.09.2020, 13:36
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Re: Personal Reflections - Finding an Apartment

Over 4k - no
Under 2k - yes
Not ground floor - yes
Close to transport - yes
2.5+ rooms - yes
Zurich - yes
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  #6  
Old 27.09.2020, 21:32
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Re: Personal Reflections - Finding an Apartment

Quote:
View Post
Over 4k - no
Under 2k - yes
Not ground floor - yes
Close to transport - yes
2.5+ rooms - yes
Zurich - yes
Maybe you're more lucky than everyone else. Or maybe your strategy to try to speak German has paid off - not that I'm against it - it's just something close to impossible for people who come to Switzerland without any German skills.
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