Foreigners haven’t always been able to buy property in Switzerland but, thankfully, this has now changed due to a recent change in the law. However, only homes in certain cantons, or areas, are eligible for the scheme, so ensure that you do your research first.
Once you have clarified that you are able to purchase in your chosen area, then there shouldn’t be anything stopping you. There is a host of advantages to living in this lush European nation – and the fact that it probably has one of the most stable economies in the world shouldn’t be overlooked during these tough financial times.
A low crime rate, good transport, tax incentives and a healthy living environment are just some of the factors attracting people to Switzerland. Fantastic scenery, brilliant skiing and good summer outdoor pursuits are pretty much the icing on the cake.
If, however, you are after a city pad, then Geneva takes some beating. This city is constantly voted as one of the best places to live in the world and, since this large financial centre is surrounded by beautiful lakes, it’s easy to see why.
The majority of people who buy a home in Switzerland do so because of the outdoor pursuits – be these winter or summer, mountain or lake.
Villars is a prime example. This family-friendly resort is situated just 90 minutes from Geneva airport, so it is easily accessible thanks to the host of regular flights that are available throughout the year. During the winter months, the area offers no less than 120 kilometres of piste, making it the perfect ski destination. In the summer months however, this mountain resort transforms into the ideal hiking area. Other popular activities include golf, tennis, horse riding and mountain biking.
Meanwhile, in the French speaking part of Switzerland, Les Collons and Veysonnaz boast direct access to the massive Verbier ski region. This winter wonderland offers no less than 410 kilometres of skiing, and is located just two hours from Geneva airport. This resort is also famed for its nightlife, so there is plenty to do after dark. During the summer months there are no less than six golf courses to choose from, as well as all of the usual mountain activities.
As previously mentioned, the Swiss restrict the sale of property to foreigners and only allow sales to go through in certain cantons. Even then, only 1,500 permits are granted on an annual basis and there are also restrictions in regards to the amount of land that can be purchased.
As a basic rule of thumb, you are more likely to have a permit granted in the French speaking part of the country. However, whichever beware of idiosyncrasies between canton and canton, as the actual rules can vary from area to area.
Wherever you buy, you will need a notaire, as Switzerland operates a notary system similar to many other European countries. He will be responsible for drawing up the contract, as well as ensuring that all of the other necessary documents are in place. You will also pay your deposit to the notary, and he will also be responsible for applying for the sale permit. Providing you meet the basic criteria, it is highly unlikely that you will be refused.
However, be aware that as the notaire represents both the buyer and the seller he, under no circumstances, replaces the need for independent legal advice.
Again, legal restrictions vary from canton to canton – the most common being the amount of time that must have elapsed before a foreigner is able to sell their property on. This generally alternates between five and ten years, and is designed to stop investors flipping property and making a quick profit at the expense of the Swiss economy. In some cantons you may be able to sell on immediately – but it is essential that you clarify this before committing to any purchase.
Once you have purchased a home in Switzerland, be aware that you will only be able to occupy it for up to six months out of any 12. If you wish to spend more time in the country then you will need to apply for residency.
Restrictions also apply in regards to the amount of property that you can own. Only one home is allowed per non-Swiss family – again to ensure that you are buying it for personal use and not as part of an investment portfolio.
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