Services for expats

You are an expat wanting to buy or sell property in Switzerland, particularly in the greater Zurich area?

Perhaps you already noticed that some procedures and customs in the Swiss real estate business differ from what you are used to in your home country – let alone the challenges posed by the language in the German-speaking part of the country.

As a local real estate agent with a good command of English and a wide experience in attending an international clientele, I know the questions and challenges expats frequently face and the potential pitfalls when buying or selling a home in Switzerland. I am happy to offer my support and safely guide you through the process. This includes, in particular:

  • Help with translation, negotiations and sales contract
  • Accompany you to viewings and to the notary’s office
  • Provide a professional second opinion and a valuation of the property
  • Act as your official trustee and authorised representative so you can avoid the expensive fees of a lawyer

FAQ expats

What regulations apply to property buyers from abroad in Switzerland?

The Swiss Federal Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad, also known as “Lex Koller” (after Federal Councillor Arnold Koller), restricts the purchase of property by foreigners in Switzerland. Depending on your citizenship (EU/EFTA or non-EU/EFTA), residence status, etc., you may have to obtain a special permit to buy real estate in Switzerland.

To whom do restrictions by Lex Koller on buying property in Switzerland apply?

Lex Koller restrictions apply to anybody who does not have a Swiss passport and is resident in a country other than Switzerland. It also applies to some non-EU/EFTA citizens living in Switzerland, depending on the type of their permit. Please refer to the next questions for details.

To whom do Lex Koller restrictions NOT apply?

Lex Koller does not apply to Swiss citizens (including those with dual citizenship) resident in Switzerland or abroad. It does not apply to EU/EFTA citizens resident in Switzerland with a short-term stay permit, a residence permit (“B permit”) or a settled foreign national permit (“C permit”). It also does not apply to citizens of other countries with a “C permit” who are resident in Switzerland.

In some cases, citizens with a “B permit” from non-EU/EFTA countries are also allowed to purchase property in Switzerland. They have to prove in detail that the purchased property serves as their actual residence and their tax domicile must be transferred to the municipality where the property is located.

I do not have a Swiss passport, I am resident in another country and I would like to buy a property in Zurich/Switzerland. Is that possible?

For foreigners resident in another country than Switzerland, the purchase of single-family houses, apartment buildings, flats/apartments for self-use, plots for development etc. in Switzerland requires a permit. This also applies to corporate bodies based abroad, and corporate bodies in Switzerland if they have a superior authority based in another country. If a buyer who in principle is not subject to Lex Koller wishes to purchase property on behalf of someone living abroad, he/she will still be regarded a a foreign person in the sense of that law.

I am neither Swiss nor a citizen of an EU or EFTA country and I have no resident permit in Switzerland. I would like to buy a house in Switzerland. Is that possible?

The same restrictions apply to these people as to foreigners with residence abroad. This means that foreigners without a residence permit C or B cannot purchase property or real estate in Switzerland without a permit.
The permit can be applied for in writing at the district council’s office. You should allow for at least three months before the permit is issued. Without the permit, no sales contract can be concluded.

What do I need to hand in to prove that my main place of residence is in Switzerland?

Hand in the following documents to the land registry:

  • Confirmation of residence by the municipality
  • Marriage certificate, family register or similar document proving you live with your spouse and if there are any underage children in the household
  • Birth certificate, family register or similar document
  • Confirmation of residence of the spouse and any underage children registered at the same address as the buyer, or
  • Declaration by the buyer that he/she is unmarried and/or has no underage children
  • Confirmation of deregistration at the last residential address abroad dated prior to registration in Switzerland; this may be evident from your ID
  • If the documents listed above are not in English, German, French or Italian, provide officially verified translations of these documents
  • Proof of tax residence showing the buyer is fully liable to taxation in Switzerland; invoices, tax declarations or similar are not sufficient
  • Other documents such as work contract, school registration, vehicle documents etc., if available

If some of these documents are missing or are subject to rightful doubts, the land registry usually refers home buyers to the cantonal permit authorities.

I want to buy a house in Switzerland. Is it worth hiring a construction expert to examine the building, as it is common e.g. in the UK?

If you don’t plan to completely renovate or rebuild, hiring an expert for a building examination is not worth the cost. Construction quality in Switzerland is generally very good due to high legal standards. Any defects must be declared and the seller is liable for concealed defects.

I want to sell my house in Zurich/Switzerland, but I have already moved abroad. How do I proceed and what do I have to consider?

If you are not coming back to Switzerland to issue a power of attorney and have it certified here, you need to have a power of attorney drawn up by a notary in your country and send it to Switzerland by apostille. The same applies to the declaration of consent of your spouse if you are married. You also must have settled all tax debts in Switzerland and provide a corresponding confirmation of the Swiss Federal Tax Administration.

I can take care of everything else for you when appointed. My additional services include forwarding mail, organising maintenance work or disposal of furniture, etc.

I would like to buy a house through another property agent. Since I don't speak German, I need an authorised representative. The agent recommended a lawyer, but that is expensive. Can you help?

Yes, I can. As your neutral, professional real estate expert in Zurich, I am qualified to be your authorised representative at the notary’s office and I will go through the sales contract with you in advance. I will be pleased to discuss the conditions and fees in a personal meeting with you.

I would like to buy a property in Switzerland. What are the bank documents I need to provide?

To purchase a property, you must provide an irrevocable promise of payment by a Swiss financial institution, i.e., a bank or an insurance company. Cash payments or payments from a foreign bank account are not accepted. This means that your assets must be transferred to a Swiss account before you can buy. Allow for the appropriate amount of time this transfer may take to ensure you will meet the deadlines.

For any questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to meeting you.

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