Von Dancoise Miller


10. August 2022 um 13:30

Home Hunting Horrors: Relocating to Zurich and What We Wish We Knew

Here comes the third edition of the expat column. Dancoise takes you with her on her search for a new place to live.

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When I first arrived in Switzerland over a decade ago, I had the red carpet rolled out for me. I moved straight into my ex-family´s private property and enjoyed making a few small changes to make myself feel more at home. My first move was to the outskirts of Kanton Zurich – on the border of Kanton Schwyz – so I never heard of the Zurich house hunting horrors that send expats spiraling into relocation despair. Most of my contacts were just fine moving from one private family property to another. About two years though, when we decided to test out a more expat-friendly lifestyle, we learned all about the housing market rat race, which buttons to push to get our way and what may be some of the biggest challenges expats face as they attempt to secure housing in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Cost of Swiss Quality Living

Are you rich? If you answered “yes”, then enjoy the hunt. The views will be insane, the finishes will be pure perfection and your apartment shopping trip will be a fun trip to remember. If you answered “no” however, then searching for an apartment might be a challenge for you. Prices are high, competition is cutthroat and not being a native is a sentence to searching six months to one year for a suitable home. Beginning your search with a healthy budget would be a great starting place, but exactly how much can you expect to pay for an apartment in Zurich? As I scoured the internet to set you off in the right direction I found that Stadt Zuerich itself provided a study of 40’000 households between 2016 - 2020, which found that the average renter could expect to pay 1’776.25 CHF for a 3.5 room apartment – we call this a two-bedroom apartment in California where I’m from. After a global pandemic and increasing demand over the period of two years; however, average prices are looking more like 2’200 CHF per month. Any budget in this average range and even slightly above can expect high competition. If you can raise your budget to about 3’000 CHF per month, you will start to notice a ‘thinning out of the crowd', for smaller apartments, but that’s only the first thing to consider. 

Swiss vs Expats vs Families Competition

So you’re ready to apply with your Swiss salary, your references and your big smile, but news flash expats, you will likely find yourself at the back of the line. True to the culture, Swiss landlords are all about minimizing risk and the best candidates for that are Swiss natives who understand expectations and are likely to be long-term reliable tenants. In fact, if you are a Swiss family with school age children, a good budget and a clean financial record, your chances of finding the apartment of your dreams quickly, are pretty great. What puts you at a severe disadvantage, on the other hand? Being a young expat couple, no significant references, plans to stay in the country only temporarily and an average income.

The topic of home rental and/or purchasing is far too vast to cover everything in this article so let’s skip to a few helpful tools to get you started and listed below are some helpful links including a frequently updated available apartments list from Tsüri below – subscribe to our daily and never miss your info.

5 Tips for Easier Zurich Relocation

Tip 1
Use your network to search for apartments. The most competitive time to apply for an apartment is before it ever reaches the market. If you are a responsible candidate who is eager to get in, landlords will often save themselves the trouble of hiring an agency, paying for inserts and potentially missing out on months of rent.

Tip 2

Give yourself plenty of time and then a little bit more than that to search. When I relocated in 2019 back to Zurich, it took me about 6 months to find an apartment that I really liked. I was lucky to have a special history being a “known person” and in a strong financial position, so the process was easy on the competition side; however, many of the apartments that I was interested in were already rented by the time I inquired.

Tip 3
Plan to include a cover letter. This is not usually a requirement; however, the Swiss like to be thorough and remember they like to reduce risk. If you can include a cover letter stating your long term plans to live in your new apartment, photos that show how wonderful you and your family are, information about why your moving, on top of your great references then landlords will give you a second look.

Tip 4
Follow up! This tip really applies for getting anything you want and it’s especially a great tip for your apartment hunt. Make sure to call about two days after submitting your application asking if you can provide any additional information or answer any questions they may have.

Tip 5
Get help. If you have a Swiss colleagues you may ask for their help and advice. Show them your applications and ask them to read over your cover letter. You might be missing something that for them is obvious. Also Swiss might know of vacancies coming available soon. Actually any contacts can help!

Living Out Loud

Once you get into that beautiful place that you’ve waited so patiently for, you’ll want to make that house a home and that means it’s time to decorate. Here’s a little clip from my pandemic podcast series where I show you how I “live out loud” and how I use decorations to love life from the first moments I wake up in the morning.

P.S. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for my favorite travel tips and glimpses of the human side of travel. Coming next to the channel videos on Malta, Turkey, Italy and Mendoza, Argentina beginning in September.

Resources & Links
Tsüri’s Classifieds

This is a large expat community to expand your network and post a “Wanted” sign.

Silver Coast Parents (Facebook Group)
Here expats often posts available properties before listing publicly.