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Old 16.02.2009, 16:52
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Swiss (city) housing outlook - Any ideas?

Hello Everyone,

I had been knee-deep in a Basel house hunt last year and decided a few months ago to stop looking to purchase. I am going to outline my thinking and I would very much appreciate hearing some other perspectives.

My husband and I are based in Basel. We were planning to purchase a home with a 3-5 year time line to sale in mind. We had found a few interesting homes that with a stable real estate market would be worth considerably more than purchase price with mostly cosmetic upgrades.

It is primary our time line for selling that concerns me. I fully expect housing prices in Switzerland (meaning Swiss cities - specifically Basel) to drop within the next few years.
- Interest rates are very low right now. Given some inflation those rates could move up very quickly. From what I have seen, housing prices in Switzerland are inversely correlated with interest rates. (There was a Swiss house price crash in the 90's when the interest rate went up to, I believe, 7% or so.)
- Layoffs: Basel has certainly been hit with job losses at the Pharma companies. CIBA has been purchased by BASF - I have trouble envisioning that to mean an increase in CIBA jobs here. On the more speculative side, if Novartis was to purchase Roche it would rain down job losses. I mention this one because they were blocked for 5 years from trying to buy up more than the 25% they already own and the 5 year ban would be up in (I believe) 2-3 years.
- I will also mention the Swiss banking industry and banking secrecy being under attack, though this is I'm sure food for a whole other conversation/debate. I am a bit nervous about Swiss real estate in the long-term because I don't believe that the attack on banking secrecy will stop with the US going after UBS.

* I have HEARD that banks are talking about increasing the minimum required down payment to 30% from 20%. Has anyone else come across this information? If this is true, it sounds to me like the banks are expecting much harder economic times and more foreclosures to come. The jump in down payment required would also limit the number of buyers for our <1million chf 'starter home'.

Thanks for reading. I would really appreciate any comments or ideas.
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