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Old 16.09.2022, 18:28
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Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

I am planning for retirement soon. One of the things that will change is where to live. My wife would love to live somewhere with a lake view. From Google map, I find Zurichsee is a possibility because it is not too far from Zurich airport (with public transport). Because I know absolutely nothing about the Zurichsee, could the good people here recommend/give me some tips on which villages for apartment hunting. Is there much difference on the East/West side of the lake for weather and daily activity such as groceries shopping? Tax burden is a consideration but not the No.1 priority. We have no worries about children's schooling and our wish is to find a friendly neighbourhood. Thank you very much in advance.

*I have searched the old post and have not found much discussion on this topic.
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Old 16.09.2022, 18:41
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

Full disclosure: I am not a Zurich expert.


Why discount other areas with good access to the airport? Unless you are traveling weekly, places like Zug and Luzern could be an option. From a 'views' perspective Weggis in Luzern is hard to beat and prices are good. Zug is also an option, with various options ranging from the affordable to the...well you know!
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Old 16.09.2022, 19:31
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

Thank you very much Nick. As we like to fly out from Zurich airport, I guess Zug is an option if "affordable" is an adjective that could apply. Could you give me some pointers to check out around Zugersee?
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Old 16.09.2022, 19:47
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

As you likely know, the villages along the Zürichsee gold coast are some of the most desired in all of Switzerland. If your budget is in the luxury range, you'll likely be able to find something - but if not, your search might be longer. Just set your expectations realistically.

I lived in Männedorf when we first moved here, which although lakeside and on the 'right' (sunny) side many say is not proper gold coast. Way back then that was an advantage, as rent were high but not stratospheric, while still having a lovely lake view and infrastructure similar to what the 'proper' gold coast villages had. I loved my time there, still head back often. You might consider looking there as well as the closer in villages. Also Stäfa, for similar reasons. There was enough for this homebody to do in the village, and when I felt the need for more Zürich was 20 minutes away by train.

I now live in Ausserschwyz, have an even more breathtaking view of the lake because I am up higher, not directly on the lake. But by a roll of the dice I now have some rather... constricting... neighborhood expectations. That can happen anywhere, so not necessarily village-specific. Taxes are among the lowest in all Switzerland. There are luxury flats with eye-popping prices here, but also flats with surprisingly affordable prices - the few times they come on the market.

My corner of Ausserschwyz is really a bedroom suburb these days. It was a farming village when we moved here, which I loved and the reason I chose this village, but time and concrete box proliferation march on. Easy access to nature and Einsiedeln, but a longer commute (on the left side) to Zürich. I could not live here without a car, but that is largely dependent on where you need to go and what you need to do.

If I didn't have my herd o' mutts, my choice for retirement would be Rapperswil. I love that town. The harbor, castle, and Altstadt are lovely, plus there is the historic vibe of the town. There is plenty to do. Great infrastructure. Higher taxes, if that matters to you in retirement. A charming jewel of a town.

I've not lived in the silver coast villages, but I spend a lot of time in Wädenswil and Horgen. Both lovely villages, more restaurants and shopping, but also more crowded than I like (I'm a bit of a hermit.) Wädi andHorgen taxes are higher, Thalwil lower. The silver coast is getting expensive, though.

Yes, the silver coast/left side, and Ausserschwyz are less sunny, but depending on the orientation of your house you might, or might not, notice. The gold coast name supposedly comes not from the exhorbitant wealth of many of it's residents but from the amount of sun the villages get. Who knows if that is true... but it was definitely sunnier. Fine in winter, but honestly if you have a house with large glass windows facing the lake (to take advantage of the view) it can get a tad too warm in the summer for my liking. I prefer the slightly cool temps of the dark side'. We seem to get more rain on this side of the lake, but I don't know if that is only my impression as I dive deeper into my gardening hobby on this side.

---

Honestly, though, all the villages along the lake, on either side or on the end, are nice, you really can't go wrong in any. (Unless you are a 20something and into night life.) And all are commutable to Zürich, some just more convienent than others. Were it me, I'd take a few weekends touring the areas, spend some evenings at local restaurants, see which village vibe appeals most.

The deciding factor will likely be where you can actually find a flat/house that checks all your boxes. Housing is tight, as it is most places in Switzerland, so perhaps that would be the deciding factor.

Good luck!

Last edited by meloncollie; 17.09.2022 at 10:27.
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Old 17.09.2022, 11:24
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

Thank you so much for your tips and the detailed picture of Zurichsee living. Your information is tremendously helpful for me. We will get into the car and start to look around.
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Old 17.09.2022, 12:18
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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I am planning for retirement soon.
Particularly if you're hoping for this to be your last big move, I recommend thinking about the hills. The older one gets, the more important flat roads become, for cycling, for walking to the nearest public transport, for getting to the shops, the library, the park and the doctor. I realise you're not yet old, but for your future selves, it'd be a pity to have a lovely place with a super view, but with most everyday things out of physical reach.
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Old 17.09.2022, 13:14
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

We have moved 4 times in the last 33 years in the Zurich area.

First 2 moves were rented apartments. Each time we have moved it has been further away from the town of Zurich.

To find places to buy took 2 years not very intensive searching to find the second 2 properties - both houses.

The whole greater Zurich region and beyond has an extreme shortage of property - and an even greater shortage of good property.

So, take your time and learn the area. I used to print out what looked like suitable properties and then, with the aid of sat nav spend a day driving round seeing why they hadn’t been bought…
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Old 17.09.2022, 13:22
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

You have made an excellent point about accessibility, thank you very much. I understand nowadays people use keyboard to find property, are there any advantages still to walk in a local estate agent seeking their help? I am new to the Swiss rental market, appreciate any tips for renting a property.
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Old 17.09.2022, 13:27
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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We have moved 4 times in the last 33 years in the Zurich area.

First 2 moves were rented apartments. Each time we have moved it has been further away from the town of Zurich.

To find places to buy took 2 years not very intensive searching to find the second 2 properties - both houses.

The whole greater Zurich region and beyond has an extreme shortage of property - and an even greater shortage of good property.

So, take your time and learn the area. I used to print out what looked like suitable properties and then, with the aid of sat nav spend a day driving round seeing why they hadn’t been bought…
Thanks for sharing your experience. After some thought we also come to the conclusion we will rent a place first to know the area better.
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Old 17.09.2022, 14:18
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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You have made an excellent point about accessibility, thank you very much. I understand nowadays people use keyboard to find property, are there any advantages still to walk in a local estate agent seeking their help? I am new to the Swiss rental market, appreciate any tips for renting a property.
The reason people use a keyboard to find properties is that the services offered by estate agents are generally not what one might expect coming from countries with a more dynamic property market.

Here the type of agent who will help you find a rental property, working in the renter's interest, is a relocation agent. There are not that many relo companies, and these tend to mostly serve corporate relocations. But there is no reason why you could not use one if you are willing to pay out of pocket yourself.

Way back when we moved here, a corporate move in the pre online home search site days, in a very different economic climate, IIRC the relo company charged a flat fee plus a percentage of the rent for X months. But again, that was a very different time and economy.

Perhaps Mrs D could advise on more recent relo agent pricing norms.

'Regular' estate agents are (in)famously not very customer (that is, renter) oriented. These agents work for the landlord alone - never forget that! Due to the seemingly perpetual high demand/low supply conditions in the Swiss market, agents don't need to do much beyond listing the flat in order to rent it quickly. For a decent flat within a reasonable price range it is not uncommon to have many dozens of applications for each flat. Competition for decent places is cutthroat, which is why many agents have no need to 'help' renters.

(Same applies to purchasing a property, by the way. Switzerland - where a buyer with 2 million burning a hole in his pocket will still have trouble finding an agent willing to give him the time of day.)

So yes, you can stop by a local agency, but don't count on that giving you much advantage or even insight. Your best bet is to tour the area. Stop for lunch, dinner, walk around, visit at night as well.

In the end, key is to understand that because the Swiss property market - rental or purchase - is so very tight, you might not have the kind of choice you are used to having. Have all your documents in hand, especially financials if you don't have a history and assets yet in Switzerland, be prepared to move quickly when you find something nice - and be realistic in your expectations.

But on the bright side - all the villages along either side of the lake, plus Rapperswil/Obersee, are quite nice.

I look at the whole region as one in terms of infrastructure. If village A has X but not Y, you'll likely find that villages B or C have what you need, just 10-15 minutes down the road.

The main difference will be tax rates, but because rates are progressive that might, or might not, be a factor for you.

One thing to consider when moving to a farther out village - how is your German?

All the best.
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Old 17.09.2022, 23:22
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

Do you want to rent? The demand for rental properties is really high at the moment. It’s not unusual to have 50 people want to view 1 flat. And lake views are very popular.
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Old 19.09.2022, 11:50
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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The reason people use a keyboard to find properties is that the services offered by estate agents are generally not what one might expect coming from countries with a more dynamic property market.

Here the type of agent who will help you find a rental property, working in the renter's interest, is a relocation agent. There are not that many relo companies, and these tend to mostly serve corporate relocations. But there is no reason why you could not use one if you are willing to pay out of pocket yourself.

Way back when we moved here, a corporate move in the pre online home search site days, in a very different economic climate, IIRC the relo company charged a flat fee plus a percentage of the rent for X months. But again, that was a very different time and economy.

Perhaps Mrs D could advise on more recent relo agent pricing norms.

'Regular' estate agents are (in)famously not very customer (that is, renter) oriented. These agents work for the landlord alone - never forget that! Due to the seemingly perpetual high demand/low supply conditions in the Swiss market, agents don't need to do much beyond listing the flat in order to rent it quickly. For a decent flat within a reasonable price range it is not uncommon to have many dozens of applications for each flat. Competition for decent places is cutthroat, which is why many agents have no need to 'help' renters.

(Same applies to purchasing a property, by the way. Switzerland - where a buyer with 2 million burning a hole in his pocket will still have trouble finding an agent willing to give him the time of day.)

So yes, you can stop by a local agency, but don't count on that giving you much advantage or even insight. Your best bet is to tour the area. Stop for lunch, dinner, walk around, visit at night as well.

In the end, key is to understand that because the Swiss property market - rental or purchase - is so very tight, you might not have the kind of choice you are used to having. Have all your documents in hand, especially financials if you don't have a history and assets yet in Switzerland, be prepared to move quickly when you find something nice - and be realistic in your expectations.

But on the bright side - all the villages along either side of the lake, plus Rapperswil/Obersee, are quite nice.

I look at the whole region as one in terms of infrastructure. If village A has X but not Y, you'll likely find that villages B or C have what you need, just 10-15 minutes down the road.

The main difference will be tax rates, but because rates are progressive that might, or might not, be a factor for you.

One thing to consider when moving to a farther out village - how is your German?

All the best.
Thanks for the tips again, Meloncollie. I believe your sharing will be useful to others in a similar situation as mine.
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Old 19.09.2022, 12:08
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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Do you want to rent? The demand for rental properties is really high at the moment. It’s not unusual to have 50 people want to view 1 flat. And lake views are very popular.
Well, yes: If you want to live in ZH city or Zollikon and are looking at the lower end of the market. We moved to the Schwyz end of lake Zurich last year. I looked at five properties, liked three and applied... and in the end had the choice between all three of them. So it really depends.

For me is the honest answer: I love living where I live (Freienbach). But I do so because the tax is low and the commute to work acceptable. I dont think I will retire in Switzerland but if I do: the rural areas a little further away from Zurich offer a much better life with still excellent public transport and healthcare. I personally would choose Vierwaldstättersee over lake Zurich any time.
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Old 20.09.2022, 12:25
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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Well, yes: If you want to live in ZH city or Zollikon and are looking at the lower end of the market. We moved to the Schwyz end of lake Zurich last year. I looked at five properties, liked three and applied... and in the end had the choice between all three of them. So it really depends.

For me is the honest answer: I love living where I live (Freienbach). But I do so because the tax is low and the commute to work acceptable. I dont think I will retire in Switzerland but if I do: the rural areas a little further away from Zurich offer a much better life with still excellent public transport and healthcare. I personally would choose Vierwaldstättersee over lake Zurich any time.
Thank you very much for pointing me to Schwyz as an option, we will extend our search
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Old 20.09.2022, 12:58
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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Thank you very much for pointing me to Schwyz as an option, we will extend our search
Melloncollie did that already... the point is: Schwyz has lower taxes, high costs but better availability than Zurich. However, that's not what most pensioners really need - you want typically bang for your buck with income tax rate being far less relevant than it was before (the tax rate in Switzerland varies massively from town to town). I dont plan on retiring in Switzerland but if I would... pick something a little away from the jobs of Zurich and the masses of commuters. I guess I personally would pick something around Sisikon, Flüelen or the like... real estate costs are half or less of lake Zurich and the area is if anything more pretty.
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Old 20.09.2022, 12:59
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

William, from the way you post here on this thread, you sound like a really polite, considerate person. Thank you!
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Old 20.09.2022, 13:25
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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the point is: Schwyz has lower taxes, high costs but better availability than Zurich. However, that's not what most pensioners really need - you want typically bang for your buck with income tax rate being far less relevant than it was before (the tax rate in Switzerland varies massively from town to town). I dont plan on retiring in Switzerland but if I would... pick something a little away from the jobs of Zurich and the masses of commuters. I guess I personally would pick something around Sisikon, Flüelen or the like... real estate costs are half or less of lake Zurich and the area is if anything more pretty.
This is a key point. When we talk generally about tax rates, there is a tendency to gloss over the differences between individual Gemeinden within a canton, as well as the differing rates of progression.

An example: in SZ, the Höfe villages are super low taxes. These villages are what people think of when they talk of the tax paradise - but not all Gemeinden within Schwyz are tax friendly. The March villages are lower than many in ZH, but a fair bit higher than Höfe. The rest of canton SZ has low-ish taxes compared to the higher tax cantons, but these gemeinden certainly cannot be considered 'Steuerparadis SZ'.

And the tax rates: Ausserschwyz (Höfe and to a lesser extent March) is not the place to save taxes a lower or perhaps middle income. For gazillionaires, Höfe and some of the ZG gemeinden battle it out for the lowest title, switching places depending on how many millions per year you earn. For the mere mortal comfortably off, it really depends on individual circumstances as to whether you would benefit by a 'Steuerparadis' canton/Gemeinde, or not.

In addition to rent, there will be differences in insurance premiums, usage taxes, etc.

---

OH will retire (or semi retire) soon. We, too, are unlikely to stay here too long after retiring, for the simple reason that we are US citizens. The difference between the two tax systems means staying in Switzerland is financial suicide in retirement. ( Heck, we really did not benefit from living in the Steuerparadis all these years, thanks to the blue booklet.)

But even if we were not US citizens, there would still be little advantage to staying in our Ausserschwyz village based on the way retirement/investment income would be taxed. Some time ago we did a thought exercise, and found that (again, minus the US citizenship albatros) the differences among some of the more pleasant 'middling' tax central cantons - GL, UR, LU - would have been minimal, and some of the higher tax places such as SG wouldn't hurt all that much either. So the goal would have been to find a nice place that checked our boxes first, before tax considerations.

---

Bottom line: Consult a tax planning professional!
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Old 22.09.2022, 16:41
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Re: Tips for finding an apartment around Zurichsee

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William, from the way you post here on this thread, you sound like a really polite, considerate person. Thank you!
doropfiz, thank you very much for your kind comment. I consider being appreciative and respectful is the least one could do when someone offers advice for free.
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