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Switzerland is known for chocolate, watches, mountains, yodelling and an extraordinary number of wealthy inhabitants. The latter have influenced the values of real estate in the country, as have pension funds buying up property while interest rates are at historically low levels. The country also has a fairly relaxed immigration policy for those who have enough to get a Swiss private visa, making it one of the easier countries to move to in Europe, although outside the Eurozone. For example, if you have €100k in savings, the Swiss authorities will consider on a case-by-case basis if and how long you can stay there; if you have several millions you will get a permanent residency quickly.

Most people rent in Switzerland

Due to what a Swiss real estate agent referred to as “one of the most irrational” property markets he has ever seen, over 60% of people rent their homes in Switzerland. Ownership is higher outside the main urban areas, but as the cities have expanded, creating a housing shortage, rising house prices and the tight property market mean that desirable residences are both expensive and hard to find.

Switzerland has strict property purchase regulations

Add on to this, Switzerland has strict regulations regarding property purchases by foreigners. These stipulate that you can buy a property if:

  • you are an EU or EFTA national with a Swiss residence permit who resides in Switzerland; or
  • you hold a Swiss C Permit.

The Swiss C permit is the equivalent of permanent residency, allowing a non-Swiss citizen to work and live in Switzerland without any restrictions. The permit C holder does not need an authorisation to change employment or develop an independent activity. This is clearly what is on offer to the super rich.

If you qualify for either of the above, you have the same rights as a Swiss citizen to buy a holiday home, an investment property or business premises.

If you don’t qualify, (and this includes those working for diplomatic missions, UN agencies and CERN) you will most likely have to apply for a licence to buy a property in Switzerland. The rules vary between the different Swiss cantons, but you are more likely to get a licence if you have already been living there for five years and plan to buy a primary residence.

Local knowledge of the property market is invaluable if you have your heart set on buying a home in Switzerland and don’t expect a fast buying process; it can take up to three months. Also, allow around five percent of the sales price for fees and charges.

This is not the easiest country for overseas buyers, but it does offer one of the best lifestyles, so if you have the will to do it, you’ll find the way.

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