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Buying Swiss Ski Property
This buying guide has been designed to give you a general overview to purchasing and owning your own property in the Swiss Alps.
It is meant to provide you with an insight into the steps you will take as well as answer some of the questions you may have. It is not meant to be the definitive guide to purchasing Swiss Property, but to assist you with some of the knowledge you will need.
The information provided on this page details some of the extensive knowledge we have accumulated during the purchase of our Swiss property as well as working with Notaries for clients purchasing Swiss chalets and ski apartments.
We hope it assists you with your decision to purchase one of the many ski chalets or ski apartments for sale we are marketing on behalf of the partners we work with.
Conditions of Property Purchases in Switzerland
The sale of property to those living outside of Switzerland is subject to various laws at national, regional and sometimes local level outlined in the following sections.
The federal law for the acquisition of property for sale in Switzerland by non residents which came into effect in 1985 is commonly known as the Lex Furgler-Koller-Friedrich law. This law defines the annual quota’s of permits available for sales to foreigners in each of the tourist resorts and regions.
One Canton that is an exception to this law is Canton Uri and the resort of Andermatt. Here the Lex Koller law has been waived, allowing buyeys to purchase property outside of the rules dictated for the rest of Switzerland.
In 2012 the Swiss population decided by Referendum to cease all second home construction in the mountain tourist resorts where the number of second homes exceeded 20%. This Federal law applies to the whole of Switzerland with few exceptions including Andermatt where new construction continues in the resort and is available for Swiss and non Swiss to purchase.
Switzerland currently restricts the sale of second homes to foreigners by imposing an annual quota of 1500 permits available to buy property. This figure is subsequently subdivided amongst the Cantons and further subdivided among the Communes that make up the Country.
Under the Law, it is only possible for foreigners to buy in certain Cantons and in certain tourist resorts. In some areas buyers are also restricted on what type of property and size they can purchase. Canton Uri and the resort of Andermatt as outlined above is an exception with buyers allowed to purchase property here until 2030 without restriction of the Lex Koller.
Looking at each Canton:
Includes the resorts of Haute Nendaz, Verbier, Veysonnaz and Crans Montana
With the very rare exception, only resale properties are now available to purchase in the Canton.
Swiss owned property for more than 5 years can be sold to Foreigners provided it complies with the regulations documented further in this Advice Section.
For re-sale property that are owned by a Foreigner already, the Permit simply transfers with the property. On completion of the Deed of Sale, the Notary submits the documents to the Canton and transfer of ownership usually takes from 4 - 12 weeks dependant on the resort purchasing in.
All purchases of property in Canton Valais require the owner to keep the property for 5 years unless they can prove extreme circumstances such as divorce, bankruptcy, death of a family member or ill health.
Including the resorts of Leysin, Villars, Les Diablerets and Chateau d’Oex.
With the very rare exception, only resale properties are now available to purchase in the Canton.
As with Canton Valais, you cannot re-sell your property until you have owned it for 5 years.
Federal Government relaxation in rules of purchase within the redevelopment of the dual season resort of Andermatt. New build properties available to purchase, free of the Lex Koller. No restrictions on type of ownership (individual names or company) and no obligation to own the property for a pre determined number of years before reselling.
Swiss Residents holding Permits
If you live in Switzerland or have the relevant B, C or L Permit it is possible to buy properties in locations that foreigners cannot and we have a wide range of properties available to choose from, many of which are not listed on the website.
Obtaining Residency to purchase a property
The most common Resident Permit that allows you to buy a property in Switzerland is the Residents B Permit. These are quite easy to obtain, allow you to reside in Switzerland for more than 6 months of the year (up to 6 months for a non resident) and therefore take advantage of the high standard of living, the healthy lifestyle, low crime rates and taxation advantages if you plan to live there for tax purposes.
Thanks to the closer ties between Switzerland and the EU, there is also a permit for working and residing in Switzerland that allows you to purchase property. For this you are required to meet one of the following criteria:
- Have a contract of employment with a Swiss company
- Set up your own company
- Self Employed
For the latter two criteria you are required usually to show you are creating an income of above 50’000 CHF per year or providing employment for Swiss nationals
Obtaining one of these permits also has the added advantage of removing restrictions on:
- the size of property you can buy (above 200m2 net habitable and plots greater than 1000m2),
- the number of properties you can own,
- where you can buy
- How quickly you can sell
- allowing you to buy as soon as your Permit is processed.
As Switzerland integrates itself further into the EU, it is now becoming easier for EU passport holders to live and work in Switzerland. For those over 50 who don’t need to work and have the financial means, this is an easy process and B Permit applications are processed within a couple of months.
It is also possible for younger people to obtain residency, with a range of different options to explore without necessarily any negative tax issues, though these applications tend to take longer.
For more detailed information on working and living in Switzerland both EU and Non EU citizens, please visit the Swiss Emigration website or pick up a copy of the paperback Living and Working in Switzerland by David Hampshire.
Property Size Restrictions
The Federal Government of Switzerland currently restrict the size of apartments and chalets that foreigners can buy up to 240 - 250m2 net habitable living space (garages, cellars, technical, laundry rooms, etc are in addition) and plots of land up to 1000m2 (some leeway is given for plots that are have a steep slope).
These rules also apply when looking to purchase a Swiss owned property of more than 5 years.
Purchase costs vary from Canton to Canton and between 0.3 - 5% of the total purchase price. This includes all taxes, notary and land registration fees. In Canton Valais this is approximately 2.5% and Canton Vaud 5%. Canton Uri has the cheapest purchase costs of 0.3%.
No notary fees are paid when you sell.
Mortgages & Fees
Mortgages of up to 70% of the purchase price are possible on both resale and new build properties. Some restrictions apply for certain Nationalities such as those from the USA making it more difficult to secure finance. While not impossible please contact us for more information.
A Swiss Mortgage (both variable and fixed options available) is effectively an overdraft secured against the property with the borrower paying interest on the capital. Capital repayments on loans can be taken for up to 25 years.
In Switzerland there is also a Mortgage Registration Fee you have to pay and this varies by Canton.
In Canton Valais (4 Valleys, Crans Montana etc) this is a flat fee of 0.8%, while in Canton Vaud it’s 0.5%
Swiss interest rates have always been the lowest in Europe and currently sit at 1.5% (March 2023) based on the recent turbulence in the markets.
Legal Restrictions on Purchase
There are a number of additional legal restrictions that have to be considered when looking to buy property for sale in Switzerland.
- Only one property per family (husband and wife) may be purchased in Switzerland by non Swiss residents. Children over 20 who can prove their own financial independence may also purchase one property in their own name (Exception Canton Uri/Andermatt).
- An owner or his family may occupy their property for up to six months per year without requiring a residency permit.
- Your property cannot be rented on a full annual basis the maximum being 11 months and 1 week, as you, your family or friends are supposed to use the property for at least 3 weeks of the year.
- It is not possible for a Foreigner to purchase a property in the name of a Company (Exception Canton Uri/Andermatt).
To purchase larger properties in excess of 240 - 250m2 it is possible for two siblings or parent/child (over 20 with own income stream) to purchase together. Under these circumstances the Notary will apply for 2 Authorisations.
Annual Running Costs
Varying from Canton to Canton, these include:
The Property Taxes:
- National Defence
- Tourist (2.10 CHF per adult/night)
Local Tax Advisors are on hand to assist you with your liability. During this process owners have the choice of completing a Tax Declaration of their worldwide assets (majority of ownwers take this option) or being assessed just on the basis of their income on their property in Switzerland.
The Service Charges:
- Buildings / contents insurance,
- TV / Broadband
- Private utility usage (water, electricity, heating),
- Communal charges (heating, service, administration, renovation fund, gardening, snow clearing).
Communal charges in apartment buildings are calculated based upon the size of the apartment (PPE) as a proportion of the total cost. The local administrator (appointed yearly at the annual meeting) for the building will handle all of your communal payments, arrange snow clearing, grass cutting and maintenance as part of their service. These costs will be collected from the owners quarterly, 6 monthly or yearly.
Taxation of rental income obtained from a Swiss property owned by a non Swiss Resident, is not payable in Switzerland, unless you are a resident. You may however be liable to pay tax in your country of residence and should check this before making any purchase.
As a rule of thumb for annual running costs and taxes budget between 1 - 1.2% of the purchase cost
Payment Terms and Construction Guarantees
For those new build off plan constructions still available (Canton Uri) you will be required to pay at key stages.Please ask for more information.
When buying a new build off plan construction, there are federal construction guarantees which protect you. These take the form of 5 years for construction defects and 10 years for any hidden defects.
For those buying a resale property, as is the case in France there are no guarantees the property is sold as seen.
Tax on Profit from Sale of your property (Capital Gains)
Property in Switzerland is subject to an appreciation tax where the taxable profit is the difference between sale price (after deduction of sales commission) and total purchase price (includes fees and any renovations and improvements made).
Capital Gains Tax is banded and decreases each year of ownership (30% year one down to 1% if owned for 25 years).
Rental of your property
Should you wish to rent your property there are a wide selection of local and larger international agencies with offices in the resort that will manage your property for you. Renting when you are not using it yourself can provide sufficient income to cover the annual running costs of the property.
This is a relatively straightforward process. As each property is Freehold, unless the purchaser is a Swiss Resident, the property passes directly to his or her heir in accordance with English or other European Country Laws.
It is advised to have a will specific to your Swiss property registered with one of the local Swiss Notaries such as the Notary that handled your purchase and who is familiar with your circumstances.
Owing to the dual taxation treaty, while In Canton Valais there is 0% inheritance tax, you will be expected to pay the relevant UK or Country of residence amount.
In Canton Vaud the tax varies from 1.8% to 5% for property valued up to 500’000 and over 1'000'000 CHF respectively.
For property registered in multiple names, tax is paid on the share of the deceased only.
Please note these details have been prepared as a guide only. Each Canton applies different rules and regulations pertaining to the purchase and sale of both re-sale and new build off plan constructions and it is not possible to cover every single circumstance in these notes.
We recommend you take further advice with the Notary handling your purchase, Accountant, Tax Specialist or Rental Agency on anything you wish clarified before signing any contract of sale as we cannot be held legally responsible.
For more information on our properties for sale in the 4 Valleys (Les Collons, Veysonnaz, Haute Nendaz, La Tzoumaz & Verbier), Crans Montana, Anzere, Leukerbad, Ovronnaz, Champery, Morgins, Champey Lac, Chateau d’Oex, Leysin, Les Diablerets, Gryon, Villars, Barboleuse, Val d’Anniviers (Vercorin, St Luc, Grimentz, Zinal & Chandolin), Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren please visit our properties for sale.
Swiss Franc (CHF)
UK residents are not required to obtain a visa if travelling on business or pleasure, with direct scheduled and low cost flights from all regional and city airports to Geneva. Non residents can reside in Switzerland for up to 6 months. Anyone planning to reside in Switzerland over 6 months or on a permanent basis must apply and obtain a Residency Permit.