Tag Archives: Apartment

Tricky Swiss Realty Ads

As an expat in Switzerland, navigating the realty here can be intimidating in the beginning. It is easy to feel confused when searching through listings in German.

After living here for several years and searching for both rentals and houses for sale, I have noticed a couple points about the listing titles. Here are a few rough translations to explain.

This means that the apartment is really pretty small, but supposedly “nice”. Often you can find nice little luxury apartments or well kept spaces, but in general “Klein aber fein” means overpriced for how small it is.

I would definitely use this term to describe our $3000 a month one bedroom. It was beautiful and well-equipped and the view and luxury are worth it to some, but in our case I was ready to move on.

This generally means the house is in poor or terrible condition, but you can renovate it if you have the stomach for Swiss labor costs.

They are not always awful and sometimes you can find a great deal on a nice forever house, but most of the time they are so outdated or in bad repair that you wonder how people live in them.

Once I saw a house with a bathroom (bathtub and toilet) in the kitchen – a throwback to the olden days when the kitchen was the only room in the house with water pipes. But I don’t need a toilet in my food prep space, thank you.

Kay didn’t want to look at anything with Ausbaupotential because we were not planning on getting involved with any renovation projects at the moment. Or maybe ever. I don’t see Kay ever being that keen on self renovation or an old house.

This basically means that the place is overpriced and probably not affordable for you. Unless you happen to earn over a million a year or have several millions saved up in your account for the deposit, just look away.

Don’t spend too much time ogling luxury villas like I do.

Unlike “Toplage” listings, it’s usually a good thing when a listing is right on top of a public transportation stop. You will pay more money to be next to a train station. Prices go down if you are only next to a tram, even less for buses and if the listing requires a car to get to and from work, it had better be darn well cheap!

Those are just a few of the common listing terms I saw when I was searching to buy our home. If you are looking up rentals you need to watch out for three important things:

  1. möblierte” apartments are furnished. Watch out if you are not looking for a furnished flat. There are plenty of them around.
  2. WG” which stands for “Wohngemeinschaft” and means a shared flat. If you found a great price (1200CHF) on a four bedroom in downtown Zürich, it probably means that is the price for one of the rooms, not the whole flat.
  3. Befristet” apartments. Chances are that flat is a great price because it is either being subleased for a limited period or it is due for a renovation. Either way, the leases on temporary apartments are usually 1-11 months. That can be good if you are looking for a temporary solution, but don’t fall in love and move into a flat that you’ll have to move out of in a couple months.

Do you notice any common listing terms on the realty around you?

House Buying Restrictions for Foreigners

Since starting and committing to the buying process in Switzerland, I’ve noticed some of the restrictions that foreigners must cope with here. Buying a home as an expat is not quite as easy as coming up with the deposit.

Don’t think you can just come to Switzerland and buy a home. Most owners need a residence permit or citizenship to buy a home here, otherwise applicants are limited to select holiday areas for purchasing homes with a limit on the number allowed.

Rules like this help protect the land and property values from skyrocketing for local residents. Luckily the residence permit was not an issue for us since we are local.

I’m still not sure if this is just for non-domiciled foreigners, but I have heard it applies to foreign residents as well. Depending of the canton your home can be between 200 m2 and 250 m2. (2152-2690 sq ft).

This was not really an issue for us because our home is only 105 m2, but it surprised me because I’ve definitely looked at larger fixer-upper homes on the market.

Generally you are only allowed to buy one house, especially if you are buying a holiday home. The only case where you can buy two houses if if you are transitioning to a new home. In these cases, the first home must be sold before you enter the second home in the land registry. Eeek. Talk about stressful! Thankfully selling is not usually a problem in this market.

I believe that we are allowed to buy a second home if we would live in it, but that we cannot buy a second home for rental purposes. (Might be wrong about that!) You are allowed to buy if you need to change residences due to your job, but you are not allowed to change residences for the purpose of acquiring more properties. If one is buying a holiday home, a second home is simply not allowed.

When we received our sales contract for our flat we had it reviewed by professionals who noted the oddity of the “no rental” line at the end of the document. We inquired and learned that this is actually a federal regulation.

As long as I am not Swiss and I own part of the house, we are not allowed to rent the house out in part while I am living in it. So, if Kay would want to go to school abroad for example, I would not be allowed to rent out a room to someone to help pay the mortgage. But if I would leave Switzerland, we could rent it out… and if I become Swiss it will be a non-issue. Complicated!

Ok, this one isn’t limited to foreigners as it also applies to Swiss, but I thought it was worth mentioning because it throws off a lot of expats here.

In the first years that you own your home, there is a 100% capital gains tax which effectively stops people from flipping houses and effectively helping the market skyrocket. Swiss law has to be very strict about the rules of buying and selling so that people do not abuse the small realty market. The longer you live in your house (closer to 20 years) the less capital gains taxes you will have to pay on your profits.

In general, it is not a good idea to buy a house here hoping for a big investment payoff. It won’t happen. If you buy, you will “earn money” by saving on rent and taxes, but if you hold on to your property for 20 years through market fluctuations, you will generally see a smaller return on your investments than if you invested in other ways.

This means it is still worth it to buy homes for personal savings or for rental money here, but the idea of buying a house and selling it a few years later for some cash just doesn’t work. The only way “flipping” a house can work here is if you live in the house yourself and fix it up. When you sell the house to buy a new one, then there are special rules allowing you to keep your capital gains so that you can apply the principal to a new home for yourself.

Factual information in this post has been provided through the Federal Department of Justice and Police, Swissinfo and Buy a Holiday House in Switzerland.

If I’ve gotten something wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments. Everyone has a different answer for these types of questions in Switzerland and it’s sometimes hard to tell what is the truth.

All the dressers in Switzerland

The market interest in Switzerland is low for dressers, so most stores here do not provide many options to choose from. Without a closet, most people have to buy wardrobes anyway and they often have everything you need – drawers, shelves, clothes rails – built in. With all that variety in one spot, most people find an additional dresser redundant.

With our drawer-filled wardrobes looking too expensive to order, we are on the market for some affordable dressers to go with Option 1 wardrobe.

Sadly, the biggest variety can be found at IKEA because they are international and already making dressers for other markets so it doesn’t take much effort to offer them in Switzerland. I didn’t necessarily want to go the IKEA route (yet), so we made trips to Pfister, Möbel Pfister, Micasa, and Interio to see what else was out there.

Not only was Pfister out of our price range (2-3k for a designer dresser? No way.) but we didn’t love anything there. Micasa was a boon, we didn’t even bother visiting Fly again because their quality is terrible, so this left me with Interio, which is a slightly nicer, more expensive version of IKEA.

Here are a the few options I found.

1. SCHRÄG Kommode from Interio for 699CHF ($762)

2. SCHRÄG Kommode from Interio for 799CHF ($871)

I thought these ones were slightly interesting but a little expensive for how short or narrow they are. The lower drawers in the taller one are quite slim and would only work well for things like undies and socks. I think on their own, each dresser is not enough and I wish the shorter one was at least wider or something for more storage.

3. HIGHLIGHT Kommode from Interio for 899CHF ($980)I really liked the Highlight series at Interio, but Kay and I both agreed that while this dresser is nice, the drawers are slightly too thin.

The wardrobe guys in Dogern warned us not to get too thin drawers or you are limited how much you can put in them. A few on top would be nice for under garments, but we need some big drawers for sweaters and pants. The drawers have a nice soft close though!

4.  Interio Kommode (discontinued)

These ones below were also at the store just a couple weeks ago, but are not available online at the moment, so I’m not sure on the price or if they are still available for purchase. They would also be around 900-1000 a piece.

I didn’t pay too much attention to the price because while the drawers are nice and deep, they have a closing mechanism that makes them slam shut with a loud snap. I definitely don’t want noisy dressers in the room if someone is trying to quietly pick out clothes while the other is sleeping!

5. HIGHLIGHT Kommode (discontinued) from Interio for 999CHF ($1089)

We just saw this dresser a week or two ago. I knew it was being discontinued, but as I write this, it looks like it’s already offline. I thought it was an interesting concept with a dresser and built-in cupboard. It is meant for use in living rooms as well, but I thought one could use the shelves for sheets and pants and things and the drawers for undergarments.

When it was closed, the shape was really cool. It looked a bit like a stacked dresser and the height was really nice for the cabinet part. There was also one more thinner dresser in this series (only in the very lower right of this photo) but it is also discontinued now I believe.

That was about it from Interio. They had a few other offers, but nothing else really fit our style or needs. I wasn’t totally in love with any of the dressers above either and couldn’t justify the price for what you get. The whole point of skipping the expensive drawers in the wardrobe is mainly to save money… so we have to save on what we spend on dressers as well!

After exhausting all our other options, we turned to IKEA, which has many dressers and price points. Without glossy white options for most dressers, we are leaning heavily towards the black brown colors because we already have several pieces of furniture from IKEA with this color and it matches our bathroom cabinets perfectly, which are visible from the bedroom.

1. Malm Six-drawer dresser from IKEA for 199CHF ($216)

It seems like every time a dresser is wide enough for the space in our bedroom, the designers cut it down in height a bit. This one might be OK, but I don’t like when dressers or sideboards are lower than my hips. It just makes them a bit awkward and it makes me feel like a giant.

2. Malm Six-drawer dresser from IKEA for 199CHF ($216)

This one is a nice height, but all of the Malm furniture is pretty darn basic. It’s just so simple. I like that there are two drawers at the top to divide for undergarments, but it’s not the most exciting design.

3. Hemnes Eight-drawer dresser from IKEA for 249CHF ($271)

Again, I’m not sure if this one is too short for my taste, but I like how it has more drawers than the taller options and unlike the Malm, the drawers are split on the top level. This would be easy to split between the two of us without making me nervous that I don’t have enough sweater and pant space.4. Hemnes Six-drawer dresser from IKEA for 199CHF ($216)

The other option from Hemnes is the six drawer version. It is pretty tall, which I like. The top drawers are a little thin and it’s maybe a little weird that the second drawer is bigger than all the lower drawers. If I designed it, I would have put the largest drawer on the bottom or made all the lower drawers equal heights.

Kay actually dislikes the knobs on the Hemnes dressers. They are too old-fashioned for him, but if we buy one we could always upgrade the knobs to something more chic like simple brushed metal knobs. Kay is just not a fan of anything not simple and modern! (No beveled molding, not a fan of lots of materials, textures, patterns, etc.)

5. Malm Six-drawer dresser from IKEA for 149CHF ($162)

I admit that ever since one of my first trips to IKEA, I have wanted this dresser because it has a flip up mirror and jewelry box type thing going on. Love the idea of having easier access to my jewelry!

If we buy this, we would put it in the small space between the windows in the bedroom, but I’m concerned that Kay will just pile stuff on top of it since that is his side of the bed. But you cannot pile things on this dresser or the flip top becomes inaccessible!

Well… decisions! To be honest I’m actually worried that if we get a shorter dresser with lots of counter space, Kay will also pile clothes on that. He can be really bad about leaving things out and it drives me nuts.

I don’t want to have IKEA furniture forever, but you really can’t beat their prices here. We don’t have any of the cheaper brands here like Target, Kmart, Walmart (hate Walmart!) or Kohls, so with house things we are usually stuck with IKEA or paying $$$. If we move in another few years outside of Switzerland, I don’t want to invest thousands in furniture that we’d just have to sell, so I think it makes sense to stick with IKEA for now.

We just have to decide between a low and wide dresser with more storage or a more aesthetically pleasing taller dresser with a little less storage. In either case we will probably get the last option as an additional dresser because I really want that mirror option, so maybe another tall dresser would be fine. It would help me avoid the Kay-clothing-piling situation.

Where do you buy your dressers from? Is most of your house also furnished in IKEA and the like or have you been able to splurge for some nicer pieces?

Swiss Wardrobe Quotation (Eeek!)

Whelp, after I sketched up those wardrobe ideas, we received the offers from Dogern. They are so professional they also give you some simple renderings, which easily impresses me.

If you’ve forgotten, here is our bedroom floor plan. Our floor is darker of course. Two windows on the top wall, the bathroom door on the upper right wall and the door to the rest of the flat on the bottom wall.

We plan to make just one wardrobe now and possibly (depending on cost) supplement with a dresser or two on the other walls.

Frameless Doors:

These Noteborn doors are so nice. The frameless adds a very elegant touch and makes the whole wardrobe blend seamlessly into the wall. They are our favourites, but we weren’t looking forward to finding out the price.

Matrix Doors:

The Matrix doors are a little more clunky and have a frame running around each individual door, so if we choose white doors to match the walls, the doors will be broken up by the lines of the frames in each section.

Option 1:

The idea of option one is to save money on those expensive, expensive drawers and just go for hanging space and using drawers where we can’t fit any more space. The reason why I haven’t made it completely hanging space is that Kay’s clothes (shirts and pants) are all fairly longer than mine, so on his side (on the right) it’s not quite long enough for three rows of shirts and pants to fit. On my side (the left) I think I can squeeze one more row in for maximum capacity!

Option 2:

On this version we stick drawers in each section. It cuts down on the hanging space but in general should be as much or more space than we had with our old wardrobes in Zürich. And we have lots of drawer space for pullovers and pants and things.

Again I made Kay’s section (this time on the left) have more space for larger/longer clothes and on my side (this time in the middle) I put extra drawers in.


  • Option 1 with Matrix doors: 7225CHF ($7871)
  • Option 1 with Frameless doors: 9458CHF ($10,304)
  • Option 2 with Matrix doors: 10049CHF ($10,948)
  • Option 2 with Frameless doors: 12420 ($13,523)

Yes, yes those are some crazy prices. But I’m afraid we’ve looked at almost every custom wardrobe place along the border in Germany and in Switzerland and this is way cheaper than a lot of other offers out there. It would have cost 20,000 or so to do two wardrobes, which is why we are either doing one or supplementing with dressers.

It costs an extra 2300CHF ($2500) or so to get the frameless doors, so as much as we love them… no. I just can’t. Not for a non-forever home at this point in our lives. It would add to the value of the house, but we really don’t have the money right now and I don’t want to live most of the time here with nothing just so we can get something nice for a year or two before we leave. That’s not smart!

As for the price difference between having tons of drawers or going for the supplemental dresser route, we are debating whether it’s worth it to save 2824CHF ($3076) and use some of that money to buy a dresser or two and have more storage. We would just need to find some dressers we like, which isn’t so easy in Switzerland!

Were you ever surprised how expensive it is to do something custom in your house?

End of Summer House Tour

I made sure to finish up the bulk of the painting before our house warming party back at the beginning of September. It was also the last warm weekend we had before the temperatures dropped to winter-like numbers, so here is a little update where things were in the house after 3 months living there.

The guest bathroom was drilled into and patched up, and to be honest not much else has been happening in there since. The workers actually put the cabinet back together crooked too (it’s a little hard to see) so we have to address that, which I’m not too excited about since this was an “off the books” exercise for them when they broke into the walls to fix the pipes. Allreal is not very helpful about fixing things that are their fault that they may happen to damage or destroy after inspections are signed off on.

At some point I would really like to buy a shelf unit for towels, but I haven’t found one tall enough that fits in the small spaces available for storing things in the bathroom. It is very echoey in there still.

We still have temporary lights up in the bedroom and office… and they are still up as I write this.

We bought a random green curtain from IKEA for the kitchen that was on sale for like 30 cents. They only had one and we realized it does nothing for privacy, but I just sort of left it up there for now.

A friend also gave us some temporary rolling curtains in the living room. They are too short, but they work for now for a little privacy.

We still just have the old couch and it looks a little out of place in the huge living room. The living room echoes a fair amount too.

Our booze shelf by the kitchen is working fine though!

And the bedroom… which really still looks like a crazy mess with the standing racks and Kay’s coat hanger that he is using as a clothes hanger. It’s really driving me nuts, but he loves using it right now.

Even with the shutters open, it doesn’t look much better in here.

From the window towards the door you can see all our boxes we still have.

And the view from the bathroom door, where it all just looks overcrowded.

In the bathroom we’ve still got the same old orange shower curtain up there. I don’t really think the fabric I bought in the States is thick enough for a shower curtain, so it’ll be awhile before I figure out how to make something long enough to replace the orange one.

And we still haven’t put the toilet paper holder up in here either, so the TP just kind of hangs out on the shelf there. But in general, the shelf and sink usually have nothing on them. (Not sure what that shaving can is doing there!) 🙂

The other metal container is where we hide a few extra rolls of TP in here, since all the storage in the master bath is dedicated to travel toiletries, medicine and my extensive hair and makeup collection.

The curtain situation in the bathroom is also temporary, but it works for now. Not quite long enough, but nobody can see me shower, so it’s fine.

The office is probably the most finished room at this point, but it looks kind of messy in general because it’s an office. Here is my desk.

And then you have Kay’s, which spills out onto the floor next to him usually. I think we need some wall art to distract from the clutter!

Whelp, that’s that for now. We haven’t painted that much. We haven’t put art up. We haven’t bought that much furniture for inside, unless you count a bunch of shelving and we still need lights in most rooms.

How long did it take you to add your personal touches to your home?