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Geneva has most expensive family flats to rent

Geneva apartments
An apartment in Geneva with a trompe-l'oeil facade (image from 2011) Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Family apartments in Geneva are the most expensive to rent, while those in St Gallen in the east of the country are the cheapest, according to a survey of the ten biggest Swiss cities.

The median monthly rent for a 4.5-room apartment (100-110 square metres) in St Gallen costs CHF2,004 ($1,971), according to a survey published on Thursday by the price comparison website ComparisExternal link.

In Geneva, which topped the list, the same size family apartment costs almost twice the price (CHF3,820). The western city is well ahead of Zurich in second (CHF3,073), and Lausanne in third (CHF2,850).

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For smaller 3.5-room apartments, the ranking does not change much. Geneva remains top and St. Gallen at the bottom of the ranking. But for smaller two-room flats, Zurich works out the most expensive, just ahead of Geneva.

According to Comparis, the large price variations are due to the scarcity of supply and the concentration of high-income tenants in urban centres. In Geneva and Zurich, insufficient numbers of flats have been built in recent years to meet high demand. Tenants in both cities, where wages are also higher, are generally prepared to pay more for accommodation.

Across the country, extremely low interest rates have enabled investors to build more accommodation where possible, even if it means accepting lower returns, a Comparis financial expert told the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA.

In St Gallen, the apartment vacancy rate is currently 2.32%, well above the Swiss average of 1.62%. Among the ten largest cities, only Biel (2.43%) is higher. In smaller locations like Huttwil, a town of 5,000 inhabitants between Bern and Lucerne, however, almost 15% of the new housing is vacant.

Comparis says the current vacancy rates are explained by owners’ “wait-and-see” approach, as many prefer to leave their properties empty while waiting for demand to pick up.

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