10 Steps to Settling in Switzerland: Renting an Apartment (#2)

First, drink some lime blossom tea and breath deeply… I am sorry to inform you that this step of settling in Switzerland will not be easy.

For one, you may experience sticker shock when you compare rents to your Heimatland, so try to think about how much you are going to earn first, or else you will be closing doors on yourself.

Secondly, keep in mind that speed and flexibility are often the keys to success! So, try to beat the crowds by viewing an apartment before everyone else and by submitting an application right away!

Once you are ready to look, consider several sources for apartments. If you are still abroad, use the web extensively to uncover leads. The venerable English Forum might be a good place to start as you will find others who once were in the same situation...

Websites and newspaper classifieds will be the least expensive option, but not necessarily in terms of time. However, some recent iPhone apps listed below can actually help you locate vacant apartments nearby when you walk down a street. Either way, if you are in a hurry, use a real estate agent instead.

Meditate on WHERE you want to live (the city center is much more expensive, and the surroundings of Zürich are actually really close to the center due to the excellent public transportation system).

iPhone Apps for Apartment Renting in Switzerland

Next, when researching apartments, get ready for the weird way the Swiss count the rooms in a house… Bedrooms and the living room each count as one room, the bathroom/toilet (often called Nasszelle) do not count at all, and if the kitchen and living room are open-floor stlyle, then the kitchen won’t count either… (Understanding Einstein's Theory of Relativity is actually a lot easier!)

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For instance:
2 ½ room = 1 bedroom, 1 living room with an open kitchen
3 ½ room = 2 bedrooms, 1 living room with an open kitchen
4 room = 3 bedrooms, 1 living room (kitchen is a separate room)

My advice: There is such a big housing demand that it becomes a real tenant audition. You may be rejected because some other applicants may fit the owners’ requirements better: Don’t be desperate, and show your future landlord what a great person you are!

Since this is Switzerland, and the Swiss like comprehensive applications, make sure to submit a cover letter with a professional resume and even a picture of your family! I am not kidding, but there is a correlation between the weight of your rental application and the success rate!

Lastly, you will encounter a strange document requirement which is very specific to Switzerland: "Auszug aus dem Betreibungsregister". You can find links to the various agencies supplying this document here.

Resources:
- Homegate Apartment Search
- Expat Blog Rental Apartments
- English Forum Apartment Listing
- English Forum Guide on Renting
- Serviced Apartments in Zürich
- Free Moving Kit Labels
- Reikalein's humorous but helpful guide on apartment hunting in Zurich

Sylvia

A travel obsessed, positive thinking day dreamer from Spain who tries to gather as many experiences and memories as possible in Switzerland.
5 replies
  1. Dan
    Dan says:

    Dimi, your wrong at one point. “Nasszellen” (bathrooms and toilet rooms) are not counted as half-rooms. If you find a 4.5 room flat, it’s basically a four room flat where the living room is lot larger than the rest, or there is a separate non closed niche e.g. in a corridor, where you can put your dining table.
    “Nasszellen” aren’t counted at all, but mentioned separately (Du/WC, Bad/WC).

    Reply
  2. Kim
    Kim says:

    Thank you for these great tips!

    Perhaps this is a stupid question but is a Swiss residence permit necessary in order to secure rental on an apartment?

    My partner and I are both from New Zealand and we’ve applied for the permit within the first week of entry to Switzerland. My partner has work and I have yet to find something. I’m just wondering whether we’re eligible to apply for an apartment yet…

    Reply
    • Dimitri
      Dimitri says:

      Welcome to Switzerland, Kim! I have just confirmed this with Livit, one of the rental services: You are eligible to apply for an apartment now, but you should include the following as part of your application:
      – Include a cover letter and describe the situation, such as the fact that you are waiting for the visa etc.
      – Fill in your husband’s salary on the application. This will be double-checked with his employer – regardless of whether he includes a copy of his work contract.
      – Finally, Swiss agencies want to see a so-called “Betreibungsregisterauszug” (financial health record). You can supply a NZ version of this or ask your Gemeinde for one. They should actually be able to print a (clean) record for you!

      Good luck with the apartment search, and report back on your progress :-)

      Reply

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