Despite the uncertainty that abounds in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the main constants of the Swiss economy has been property prices.
As we reported earlier this year, while many experts feared that the property market in Switzerland would collapse during the health crisis, the opposite has happened: rents, as well as house and apartment purchase prices, have risen.
So since buying is becoming a more attractive option for whoever can afford it, can foreigners in Switzerland buy a property?
And what are the rules?
This is what you need to know.
Can foreigners buy a house in Switzerland?
The short answer to the question is ‘yes’, but a lot will depend on your legal status regarding residency, the type of property you wish to purchase, and the country and canton in which you reside.
Generally speaking, foreigners legally residing in Switzerland will be able to buy a property, either as an investment or to live.
Foreigners living abroad must adhere to certain rules, popularly known as Lex Koller rules, when purchasing property in Switzerland.
Can foreigners living in Switzerland buy a property?
First things first, check your residency status.
If you live in Switzerland as an EU / EFTA citizen or have a C permit, you can buy a property; in fact, you have the same rights as Swiss citizens when it comes to buying property.
You do not need a permit or any additional permits that a Swiss citizen would not need to buy a property.
What about “third country nationals” living in Switzerland?
Okay, you may not be an EU / EFTA citizen, but you live in Switzerland from a non-EU country, making you a ‘third country citizen’.
If you have legal residence here (i.e. a B permit), you can buy a property in Switzerland, as long as you plan to live in the property (i.e. an owner-occupied flat / condo, build on land you own, or move to a family home).
According to information from the Swiss governmentTo satisfy the residency requirement, it will generally be a B Permit for foreign citizens.
You must also continue to live in the residence for as long as you live in Switzerland. If you are building on land you own, you must do so within one year of purchasing the land.
Where will third country nationals need a permit?
If the above does not apply, that is, if you will not live in the property and want to use it as an investment or if you do not have sufficient residence, you will probably need a permit to buy a property in Switzerland.
According to the Swiss government, third-country nationals who wish to own a holiday apartment, a housing unit in a building or hotel or a second residence will need to obtain a permit to do so.
This is where the ‘Lex Coller’ comes in. The Lex Coller is the set of rules for people who buy flats, houses or apartments in Switzerland not to meet the above criteria.
Okay so how do I get one of these permissions?
This is regulated by the canton, so contact your canton land registry office or inspectorate for more information.
Contact details can be found In the following link – You will only have to enter the number of your municipality and it will be redirected.
The Lex Coller itself is complex and difficult to explain, with numerous exceptions and conditions. While some information is available In the following link, the best idea is to talk to a lawyer or real estate consultant about the matter.
What about commercial real estate?
All right, then Mr. Big Bucks, that’s another pot of fish.
In general, foreigners are not restricted from acquiring commercial real estate as long as it is not residential, although the legal situation is a bit unstable.
The Legal Affairs Committee of the Swiss National Council recently banned the purchase of commercial real estate in Switzerland by foreigners in some cases.
I bought a flat in Switzerland, now do I get a residence permit?
No. This is emphatically ruled out by the Swiss government.
“Owning a property in Switzerland does not confer any right to a residence permit”, says the official guide.
Is the law likely to change?
The status quo has been maintained for some time in Switzerland despite efforts to change it, so there seems to be no change in the short term.
In early 2017, the Swiss government proposed changes that would have made it difficult for foreigners to buy properties and blocks of land in Switzerland.
The proposals also envisaged stricter restrictions on buying commercial property and investing in real estate companies as a way to close loopholes in the current legislative framework.
Supporters of the changes had argued that foreign investors were raising property prices and rents in Switzerland.
But opponents said the restrictions would hurt the country’s economic growth. They also argued that population growth and the desire for more square footage were driving prices up, not foreign investors.
After a consultation process, the Swiss government has said that there is no need for further action at this time. However, it will examine the possible limits to foreign investment in Swiss companies in specific circumstances.
Note: As with all of our guides, please note that this is information only and does not constitute legal advice. For more specific advice for your set of personal circumstances, contact a real estate attorney or consultant.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism