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Old 16.11.2020, 22:27
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First-time home buyers in Switzerland

Hi All,

We are just moving to Geneva and we are thinking of buying a place to live instead of renting.

We have 4 options to consider
Option 1: Old building, combine 2 unit together if each unit is smaller than we want and is available for sale and is next to each other
Option 2: Old building, find the unit is in very bad condition and we do the renovation
Option 3: New project
Option 4: House with land

My question:
1. Where I can find out the procedure of combine 2 properties?
2. Where I can find all the ongoing new project in Geneva?

We will have about 2 months to look for the property to buy.

My plan is I'm going to take the bus and tram go from my husband's office, get out each stop and look for there are any nice location building has notice or sign that show any property for sale. (Any better idea than this? It is quite risky for me with this COVID fast spreading in Geneva)

Thanks in advance for any useful advice
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Old 16.11.2020, 23:06
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

These options - are they hypothetical based on what you've experienced in other countries or actual things you have already spotted somewhere?
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Old 16.11.2020, 23:18
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

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Hi All,

We are just moving to Geneva and we are thinking of buying a place to live instead of renting.

We have 4 options to consider
Option 1: Old building, combine 2 unit together if each unit is smaller than we want and is available for sale and is next to each other - Ok idea , but might run against current property boom in terms of final cost. Finding two apartments adjacent to each other, selling at the same in the old building is unrealistic, to put it mildly.
Option 2: Old building, find the unit is in very bad condition and we do the renovation - Good idea , but finding large enough apartment with decent bones and views for decent price is very difficult now. Swiss like to send price to the Moon (in experimental balloon fashion) and then sit and watch for years if the balloons returns back with good news.
Option 3: New project - Fast and problem free option, but prepare to overpay for sq. m. compared to older buildings/houses. In many cases buying a house with land in 1960s condition and then dropping 450K to renovate ot is cheaper than getting same size apartment in the knew apartment building.
Option 4: House with land - Would be my preference for final price per sq.m. after the renovation as well as for appreciation and resale potential.

My question:
1. Where I can find out the procedure of combine 2 properties?
2. Where I can find all the ongoing new project in Geneva?

We will have about 2 months to look for the property to buy.

My plan is I'm going to take the bus and tram go from my husband's office, get out each stop and look for there are any nice location building has notice or sign that show any property for sale. (Any better idea than this? It is quite risky for me with this COVID fast spreading in Geneva) - Available properties (with rare exceptions) are all listed online.

Thanks in advance for any useful advice
My thoughts from personal exp. in Basel and Aargau.
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Old 16.11.2020, 23:24
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

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Hi All,

We are just moving to Geneva and we are thinking of buying a place to live instead of renting.

We have 4 options to consider
Option 1: Old building, combine 2 unit together if each unit is smaller than we want and is available for sale and is next to each other
Option 2: Old building, find the unit is in very bad condition and we do the renovation
Option 3: New project
Option 4: House with land

My question:
1. Where I can find out the procedure of combine 2 properties?
2. Where I can find all the ongoing new project in Geneva?

We will have about 2 months to look for the property to buy.

My plan is I'm going to take the bus and tram go from my husband's office, get out each stop and look for there are any nice location building has notice or sign that show any property for sale. (Any better idea than this? It is quite risky for me with this COVID fast spreading in Geneva)

Thanks in advance for any useful advice
Cant answer your questions, but for a start here is a list of real estate agents in Geneva.
https://www.geneve-annuaire.ch/agenc...l?limitstart=0

When you say 2 month, does that include moving in, too? Or just finding something to buy?
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Old 16.11.2020, 23:42
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

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Hi All,

We are just moving to Geneva and we are thinking of buying a place to live instead of renting.

....

We will have about 2 months to look for the property to buy.
This time scale - is that from arrival in Switzerland until you hope to buy your new place? That doesn't sound realistic, to me, because the the vast majority of the population lives in rented accommodation and the property market is much smaller than one might know it from elsewhere.
https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/propert...e%20rate%20was
Nine out of ten Swiss rent in major cities - 28 March 2018
Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne are the Swiss cities with the highest proportion of people living in rented accommodation. Nine out of ten homes there are rentals, according to the latest figures published by the Federal Statistical Office on Wednesday.
Yes, your idea of travelling up and down along the tram routes, and do include the the suburban trains, exploring, is a good one. Hop on, hop off, and walk around into the streets a block or two away from the transport routes. Learn about which facilities the city (and surrounding areas) offers, and you might find that investigating them could shift your personal list of criteria. I think it is likely to go much more slowly than you have in mind.

It can be a really good idea to rent for a while, as it doesn't seem wise to try to buy until you know the city fairly well.
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Old 17.11.2020, 00:17
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

Finding property to buy in Geneva is hard going. I used to live in London where they said there's a shortage of property, only walk out of any tube or train station and there are agents with windows full of properties to buy. In Geneva it's hard to find the agents, let alone the property especially if you exclude studios/1-2 bed apartments. I used to spend ages cycling around the canton looking for places but they don't use signs outside as much as other countries, many properties change hands before someone has time to go and stick a sign outside.



Like doropfiz says don't rush this, you might find a charming village one day but with experience learn it's under the flight path or the wind blows a smell... or all three if it's Cartigny which is lovely but under the western approach to GVA and above the Firmenich factory etc.
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Old 17.11.2020, 07:41
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

I agree with renting initially for a while until you get a better feel for where in Geneva or outside the city you may want to live. 2 months is a very short timescale to view, negotiate and sign the sales contract. It's not impossible, but would probably rely on said property being empty already and I suspect that's a very rare case in Geneva.

Otherwise you're looking at a currently rented out property to buy and there would be moving out dates for the renters to comply with before you could even begin to move into it. Bear in mind that Swiss cantons have official moving out dates that most rental contracts will be built around. I don't know what Geneva's are, but here in Fribourg it's end of March and end of September. It is possible to find properties that don't have set rental termination dates in the contract, but again they're more rare. Unless you can find a property where the current owners have already given their tenants notice to move out, then you could be stuck with having to give notice yourself to the tenants.
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Old 17.11.2020, 09:22
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

I want to second that finding property in Switzerland is not like in other countries. The demand far far outways the supply. This combined with the extremely low mortgage rates and very very high swiss salaries makes it so that when attractive properties are available, there is normally a large crowd of buyers and it only takes one of them being willing to offer more than you and you are back to square one.

By all means, follow your strategy of seeking out something available, but I strongly suggest looking for a rental property as a back-up.

Just to give you a sense of how it is in Zürich. When we were looking, my wife and would wait and wait and look for available ideal properties. We check various sources frequently. Occasionally, something is advertised that we liked and wass in our price range. We would request the documentation and show up for to take a look. Normally, we saw something we like once every two months or so. When we came to the open house (normally one of a several different visitting windows), there were normally over 50 other people there. It was pretty discouraging. And... this meant that we were looking at only about 6 properties a year. And... this was back when mortgage rates were something like 3% --> now they are less than 1% and they are 'talking about' 0%. At less than 1% more people are going to be willing to offer more money.

And, to make matters worse... normally there is some kind of bidding process, not a fixed price which means that it just takes one person who is in a financially stronger position or is willing to take more risk that us and we've got no chance.
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Old 17.11.2020, 10:52
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

I'd like to add two factors to the bidding on RE in Switzerland.
1. Xenophobia.
2. Talent pageant style buyer selection.

1. You might think that because you are white European xenophobia does not affect you. Well, welcome to central Europe, they will change your mind quickly. Especially if you are buying an apartment and all members of that condo association are Swiss.

2. Swiss dislike competitive bidding for the properties they sell. In every other country this would be preferred method of sale which guarantees the highest sale price to the owner of the property. But not in Switzerland. You will have one chance to make your bid. Other buyers will write lachrymose letters to the owner, trying to improve their chances. It is a circus not a business transaction.

My advice would be to make strong offer over asking price if you really think this is unique property that you would keep for a very long time. Thus insuring that whatever you overpaying now will be swallowed by inflation and future appreciation. When I say over asking I don't mean a few thousands, I mean real money. Offering one monthly salary over asking is not going to move the needle in your favor.
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Old 17.11.2020, 11:06
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

The other factor to figure in is CGT. Unlike other countries you can't just flip a property here without incurring serious CGT. The market is specifically designed to encourage long term home ownership - thus your CGT bill tapers off over time.
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Old 17.11.2020, 12:32
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

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I'd like to add two factors to the bidding on RE in Switzerland.
1. Xenophobia.
2. Talent pageant style buyer selection.

1. You might think that because you are white European xenophobia does not affect you. Well, welcome to central Europe, they will change your mind quickly. Especially if you are buying an apartment and all members of that condo association are Swiss.

2. Swiss dislike competitive bidding for the properties they sell. In every other country this would be preferred method of sale which guarantees the highest sale price to the owner of the property. But not in Switzerland. You will have one chance to make your bid. Other buyers will write lachrymose letters to the owner, trying to improve their chances. It is a circus not a business transaction.

My advice would be to make strong offer over asking price if you really think this is unique property that you would keep for a very long time. Thus insuring that whatever you overpaying now will be swallowed by inflation and future appreciation. When I say over asking I don't mean a few thousands, I mean real money. Offering one monthly salary over asking is not going to move the needle in your favor.

Over-bidding? First time heard that....
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Old 17.11.2020, 13:11
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

As others have tried to say, I think you need a reality check on the Swiss housing market and in Geneva in particular. I'm afraid you won't even find a cave to rent in genève in 2 months.

As others have said, there is very little purchased homes, and most rent. A severe housing shortage in Genève, despite covid, to boot. Buying a place is a long term project, mainly due to lack of availability. But also consider, unless you are a multi millionaire and don't need a mortgage, that no bank will likely approve a newcomer loan in 2 months. Also, your permit type may or may not allow purchase; your profile says non-EU, so likely not possible.

Unless you are experienced in Swiss construction and have very derp pockets, any renovation project will likely take close to a year or more to get the necessary approvals and be executed, if you are lucky.

Have a look a new builds, if you have the money, bank approval and right permit, but they are few and get snapped up very fast in Genève.

And there is no buildable land available for sale in Genève.
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Old 17.11.2020, 13:13
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

A site like homegate.ch allows you to see properties for sale/rent on a (resizable) map, so you could do your preliminary searching from home and then venture out only for physical inspection of candidates.

I second the idea that you might consider renting first and taking time to scope out the local situation.

Also, be sure you understand the tax implications of buying a property in Switzerland, including imputed rental value.

Best of luck in your search!

-Dr. M.
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Old 17.11.2020, 14:30
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

And you have the minimum 20% down payment ready as well as the full documentation proving your financial security?
The cheapest actually viable place in Geneva I can see is close to CHF 1 million, the type of moves you are thinking of doing under option 1 or 2 don't work in that part of Switzerland, maybe even all of Switzerland. Certainly not for someone coming from the outside without a pre-existing information and "first dibs" network.
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Old 17.11.2020, 14:55
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

Also the whole pageant style application point:

there is a reason for this, people feel responsible for their neighbours and everyone getting along more or less, because the wrong mix can be a nightmare and set off a complaint party.

Imagine the building owner sells the upper flat to a family with five loud kids and a barking dog. The result will be a building of unhappy people.
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Old 17.11.2020, 15:04
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

Hi Elaine,

From your post it is not clear if you live in Switzerland or if you are moving to Geneva or moving from other country to Switzerland , based on your join date looks like you have been here for few years already.

An advice in addition to what everyone said, if you buy really old property which cannot be habituated without renovation, then you cannot claim for renovation benefits when filing for tax returns. Rationale here is that these properties cost less as they need renovation and you are increasing value of the property by renovating it.


Also Please note: The rules may differ from canton to canton. Please contact your tax office in case of doubt.
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Old 17.11.2020, 19:05
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

A lot of great feedback above.

You can use the below sites to set alerts for new rental or sales listings:

immoscout24.ch
comparis.ch
achetervendre.ch
realadvisor.ch
homegate.ch (as already posted by the doctor

TBH randomly walking around your husbands work area will probably not net you a lot of opportunities but having a preprinted letter in french that you can put into the mailbox may score you a lucky chance!

As mentioned, you'll need 20% capital as well as 5% of the purchase price for notary fees... and then you can start a discussion with the banks.

You might want to try going into France for more renovation opportunities... but there are also tax considerations there too.
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Old 17.11.2020, 19:18
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

If you are non-EU (and that will soon include the UK) it is not so easy to purchase real estate in Switzerland. We had to wait until we had C permits before we were allowed to buy. The rules may have changed, but you need to check on this.
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Old 17.11.2020, 19:22
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

in Basel Stadt and Land, C permit is not a requirement, B is also OK. I would not be surprised if requirements are different in different cantons.
Some banks like postfinance may not finance the property, but some other banks like Migros/UBS/CreditSuisse/BKB do.

Last edited by basel; 17.11.2020 at 19:40.
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Old 17.11.2020, 20:01
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Re: First-time home buyers in Switzerland

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If you are non-EU (and that will soon include the UK) it is not so easy to purchase real estate in Switzerland. We had to wait until we had C permits before we were allowed to buy. The rules may have changed, but you need to check on this.
"Buying a main residence

Foreigners from third states (not EU or EFTA) resident in Switzerland who do not hold a C permit may buy a single-family house or owner-occupied flat in their actual place of residence without having to obtain authorisation. (The same goes for buying land to build on, but construction must begin within one year). In both cases, the buyer must live in the dwelling and cannot rent it out, even in part."
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