Renting in Switzerland
Renting is the norm in Switzerland. Over 60% of Swiss residents live in rented accommodation, especially in major cities such as Zurich, Geneva and Basel, meaning that rental properties are both expensive and hard to find. Demand far exceeds what is available, so much so that landlords often ensure a tenant’s salary is 3 times the required rent, and ask for a deposit of up to 3 months rent.
As a result, there is fierce competition for affordable rental properties across Switzerland. The process is even harder for expats who don’t know the Swiss rental system. To secure a rental contract you are required to provide almost as much information as when applying for a job, which seems a very daunting and confusing process (for more information on Swiss rental contracts, have a look here).
Many expats turn to agencies for help in their search for accommodation. However, high agency fees of around 2 months worth of rent are forcing more and more to face the search alone.
What to expect
Accommodation is normally rented unfurnished in Switzerland. Take note that when we say unfurnished, we really mean completely and utterly unfurnished. Not only are you expected to supply your own light fittings, but you might have to buy and install everything from the washing machine to – literally - the kitchen sink. This is very important to take into consideration if you are both on a limited budget and/or not planning on staying for an extended period of time.
Landlords have recognized that they need to cater to the different needs of expats, meaning that you can now also rent serviced apartments in Zurich and other major Swiss cities. These properties are usually fully furnished and available for long/short term rent.
Note that descriptions of rental properties usually do not include the bathroom/toilet - and in some cases the kitchen - in the number of rooms listed. For a more accurate picture of the apartment size, always look at the square meter measurement which will include the size of the entire property.
In general, accommodation in Switzerland is of a very high standard. Often apartments have easy access to a communal garden or outdoor space and, because the norm is to rent long term, areas and apartment blocks have a sense of community that is commonly lacking in big cities. So don’t be deterred by the difficult search process, it will be worth it.