One of Switzerland’s many attractions for the foreign buyers is its reputation for having a stable economy and a secure environment as well as offering a top class quality of life. Buying property in Switzerland as a foreign national is subject to certain restrictions, known as ‘Lex Koller’. This differentiates between property bought for residential or commercial purposes and properties bought as a holiday home. The holiday home zones are based near the ski resorts and the lakes. A stable economy supports strong pricing in all areas, although the most famous resorts and the cities of Geneva and Zurich attract the highest property prices.
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
Language: German, French, Italian and Romansh
Member of Schengen area: Yes
One of Switzerland’s many attractions for the foreign buyers is its reputation for having a stable economy and a secure environment as well as offering a top class quality of life. Clean mountain air, sophisticated cities, a cosmopolitan culture with the emphasis on luxury and excellent amenities, plus the perfect location in Europe with Germany, Italy and France bordering this land-locked country all contribute to the evergreen popularity of this country.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but it is a member of EFTA and currently of the Schengen zone, although a Swiss immigration referendum in 2016 may force changes in this.
Buying property in Switzerland as a foreign national is subject to certain restrictions, known as ‘Lex Koller’. This differentiates between property bought for residential or commercial purposes and properties bought as a holiday home. Buying property outside designated ‘Holiday Zones’ can therefore be challenging. The holiday zones are centred round specific ski resorts and areas such as Montreaux and Lugano. Exemptions are made for those buyers whose children will be educated in Switzerland, or if the purchase is made though a Swiss-based trust or company. It is advisable to work closely with a Swiss lawyer when making a purchase here.
Following the decision of the Swiss National Bank to float the Swiss Franc against the Euro, and the Swiss Franc having maintained stability, overseas buyers are returning to this market after a period of coolness towards it. The Swiss vote in favour of retaining the lump sum style of taxation and positive inheritance tax laws has further encouraged foreign buyers, particularly as other areas of the Eurozone feel less stable. Switzerland’s neutrality is another plus factor for many.
Switzerland is split into 26 cantons, split between the German, French and Italian communities. The Swiss are quiet and reserved people and may be difficult to engage with initially. There are many ‘social’ laws that foreigners may find very different: for example, people living in some apartments can only use their washing machines at certain times, and cannot flush their toilets after a certain hour of the night. Residents also can’t wash their cars on Sundays. If foreigners can respect the need for orderliness and schedules then they will be accepted. Learning the language of the region is another plus, because although many Swiss speak English, it is expected that you will try to communicate in their language first.
Location and price
Prices in Switzerland have been rising, but for many buyers, and it attracts those in the HNWI bracket, this is not a problem. Prices for holiday homes in Verbeir for example can start at 5 million CHF and rise to 20 million CHF. Gstaad is similar. The Lex Weber law means that no new properties can be built in the resorts, but some developers are finding ways to reinvent older buildings as luxury apartments. The Grace St. Moritz is an example of this. Vaud Valais and Lausanne are areas with lower holiday home prices.
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