Despite the rise of new destinations worldwide, Switzerland still remains one of the top countries worldwide for skiers – and ski property. With some of the world’s finest resorts, many at high-altitudes resilient to climate change, and exciting new property developments, it’s one of the best places to purchase a chalet or apartment on the slopes. However, as a country within EFTA but not the EU, the rules for foreigners looking to buy a ski property in Switzerland are a little different to usual. Here’s what you need to know.
Can foreign citizens buy property in Switzerland?
Foreign citizens are entitled to buy houses in Switzerland. If you live in the country and it will be your full-time residence, then you don’t need to apply for permission, as long as you’re an EFTA/EU citizen or hold a valid residence permit (normally a B permit).
If you buy land to build on, you must start the development within one year.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy a ski property in Switzerland as a second residence, whether you live in Switzerland already or abroad, you will need to obtain a permit. As a further formality, if you’re not a Swiss resident (so, usually, you live abroad), you can’t buy outside a tourist area.
What are the Lex Koller and Lex Weber?
These two laws that set out what foreign buyers can own as a residential property.
The Lex Koller, introduced in 1983, says that you can only buy a property with a plot of up to 1,000m2 and a habitable area of up to 200m2.
The Lex Weber, introduced after a referendum in 2012, stops the building of second homes in communes where >20% of properties are already second homes. This might sound restrictive, but it is good news for property buyers in many ways – it means a diminished risk of oversupply, with the impact on property prices this brings with it.
Are there local variations on the laws?
Anyone who knows Switzerland will know to expect regional variation! Cantons and individual communes all have the right to set in place their own rules for foreign citizens who want to buy a property in Switzerland.
In Vaud and Valais, you can’t resell your property earlier than five years after the purchase, unless in a case of poor health. On the other hand, in Berne and Obwalden, you can sell whenever, but you may pay higher capital gains tax within the first five years.
At the level of the commune, some, like Andermatt, have a dispensation for foreigners to buy. Very rarely, some cantons are essentially off-limit to non-resident purchases – these include Klosters, St. Moritz and Zermatt. The exceptions are some staffed developments that are classified as businesses.
What is the process to buy a ski property in Switzerland?
- Start viewing property. Enquire on properties on SnowOnly that you are interested in, and start your conversations with your estate agents. When you have a good number, it’s time to head out on a viewing trip. As a rough indicator, try to restrict yourself to seeing seven a day.
- Plan your finances. Concurrently, start to discuss with a specialist currency company how you will send your money over to Switzerland. If the exchange rates moves between offer and payment, and you’re planning to just send through your bank, you will find yourself paying a different price to the one you had imagined. Find out more about protecting your money in the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.
- Choose your notary. Like in France and Spain, a notary is a neutral representative of the local authorities and will draw up documents in the correct manner and act as a third-party witness to the purchase process.
- Apply for necessary permissions. Your estate agent will be able to advise you on a communal level, but most national and cantonal permissions need to be applied for before the purchase. You’ll normally need to do this at your chosen area’s Land Registry Inspectorate.
- Make an offer. When you make your offer, you’ll usually sign a reservation contract, which means you commit to the sale and the vendor will not accept someone else’s offer afterwards. Upon signing, you’ll pay a small reservation deposit.
- Sign the sale deed. Around thirty days later, you’ll sign the sale deed and the notary will have it written into the Land Register within a few weeks. Once this is done, you will have the keys to your very own ski property in Switzerland!
What are the purchase costs for buying a Swiss property?
The fees in Switzerland depend on your precise canton or even commune, but you’ll need to ask your agent about purchase tax, Land Registry fees and any cantonal fees.
The notary’s fees also vary from area to area, but, in most ski resorts, are around 2.5-3% of the property’s value. The 0.1% fee you may have heard about is more common in larger cities. Land Registry fees are usually below 0.5%, but this is only a rough guideline.