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Owning a home is becoming increasingly difficult in Switzerland

Homes in Switzerland.
Buying a property in Switzerland has become much more difficult, not only for young people but for the entire middle class. Keystone/Keystone/Gaeten Bally

Buying an apartment or house in Switzerland has become ever more difficult, especially for young people. According to a recent survey, the average first-time homeowner in Switzerland buys a property 17 years later than the average French citizen and 14 years later than people in Germany.

Stéphanie Marquis grew up living in a house. She would like her young family to enjoy the same experience. But the 35-year-old sales assistant has had to re-think her plans.

“My number one dream would be to build my own house, based on my own choices. But I’ve had to lower my standards. I wanted to buy or renovate. I looked at houses ranging between CHF300,000-400,000 ($330,000-440,000), but they were unliveable and needed work on them,” she says.

+ Residential property prices continue to rise in Switzerland

A few months ago, she and her family moved into a rented house in Cornol, in canton Jura in northwest Switzerland.

Lending rules change

“My parents built a house in the 1990s, when interest rates were 7% or even 8%, and when only a single salary and no personal savings were necessary. Now young people can’t even manage to do the same [buy a home] with two salaries,” she laments.

+ Swiss house prices soar over past 20 years

According to a Credit Suisse study, only one in five households aged 35 owns property, compared with 55% of people aged 70.

In 2000, the average age of a Swiss homeowner was 54; by 2018 it had risen to 58. Buying a property in Switzerland has become much more difficult, not only for young people but for the entire middle class.

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“Whatever your age, it’s getting more and more complicated. Prices have more than doubled in 25 years. But salaries have risen by 30-40% in 25-30 years. The rules for granting credit are also increasingly restrictive,” explains Raphaël Gabella, head of the Centre d’information et de formation immobilière (CIFI) [Centre for real estate information and training] in French-speaking Switzerland.

More funds necessary

For example, if Stéphanie Marquis and her husband wanted to buy a property worth CHF1 million, they would have to fund it with 20% of their own funds, including 10% in cash. To obtain a mortgage from a bank, they would need a joint income of roughly CHF180,000, which is higher than the median salary in Switzerland.

+ Wealthy Switzerland is a country of tenants

Christian Wenger, a financial advisor, says buying property is difficult nowadays but not impossible, especially if you look outside urban areas.

“There is no miracle solution. But with a savings plan that you start early and perhaps a little outside help, there are always opportunities to buy a property,” says Wenger, director of the Fribourg-based company Wecco.

Adapted from French by Simon Bradley/gw

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