The right time to move
As you may have found out already, there are certain things you need to know when moving to Switzerland. One of them is how to go about finding accommodation. There are generally three big moving days a year: 31 March, 30 June and 30 September. This means that there are far more flats available in April, July and October than at other times of the year. It is not easy to find a suitable apartment in Switzerland as there are hardly any empty flats; Switzerland is a rental society with only around every tenth resident owning property. In other words, it can be quite a struggle to get an apartment, so use every advantage you have to jump to the top of the line.
What is a reasonable price for an apartment?
It will hardly come as news to you that Switzerland is more expensive in every way than its neighbouring countries, although it very much depends on the area you choose to live in. The most expensive rentals are in Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne and Lucerne. It is worth noting, however, that flats in Zurich tend to be on the large side. An average two bedroom apartment in Zurich will set you back around 2400 CHF (approx. 2200 Euro) a month, but will be roughly 77 square meters large. In Geneva, you might pay 2000 CHF (approx. 1800 Euro) for a two bedroom, but your living space will be about 60 square metres.
The Federal Office for Statistics states significantly lower rental costs, but these do not reflect reality at all. Just as in most countries, cities have higher costs of living and the cheapest places to rent accommodation are in the smaller towns and countryside. It is possible to find 65 to 75 square metre two bedroom flats in places like La Chaux-de-Fonds, Schaffhausen, Biel, St. Gallen and Fribourg for between 1000 and 1500 CHF. Of course, these are just average rates to give you an idea of what to expect. If you have a job in ‘Zurich’s inner city, cheaper living in Fribourg will not be an option for you, but if you are not limited to an urban centre, you should take a look at the possibilities of living a little further out in the country.
The little details
Every apartment in Switzerland has a built-in kitchen. Some people might love the fact that there is no need to buy kitchen cabinets and the like; others may have wanted to bring their own kitchen with them (especially if they have just bought a whole new expensive kitchen!). Bathrooms are generally also furnished with the basics, i.e. a mirror cabinet, towel and toilet paper holder at the bare minimum. You will not have to spend any money on buying a washing machine and tumbler either. It is common in Switzerland to share laundry facilities; these are usually located in the basement. There are certain times and days when you can wash; these washing days and times are usually predetermined, but you can talk to your neighbours to see if you can switch your times with them. As most people are preoccupied with the myriad details that need to be sorted out when moving, it is a huge advantage that certain equipment is pre-installed.
General tips for house-hunting
Much as anywhere in the world, most landlords advertise online these days. However, it is still worth looking for accommodation in the newspaper; many older people in particular still feel more comfortable advertising in classical print media.
Landlords usually require the prospective renter to furnish a credit check. In Switzerland, this is a „Betreibungsauszug“ that you can only get if you are already registered here. However, landlords generally accept a foreign credit check.
Another albeit more expensive way to find an apartment is to go through an estate agent. This is particularly useful if you need to find a place in a hurry. You will certainly find a beautiful home quickly; however, like anywhere else in the world, going through an agent will set you back a pretty penny.
However you go about it, you will find your dream apartment in Switzerland sooner or later. We wish you the best of luck in your search!