Finding accommodation in Geneva can be among an expat's greatest challenges. There's usually a shortage of available rentals, and both prices and competition are high.
A good alternative to the oversubscribed inner-city suburbs of Geneva is peripheral areas such as Cologny, Chênes-Bougeries, Meyrin, Grand-Saconnex and Lancy, which are easily reached by public transport.
Types of accommodation in Geneva
Apartments are the most common type of accommodation in Geneva. They're usually well maintained, but tend to be small and tenants have to adhere to strict rules around noise.
Expats moving to Geneva with a family may want to consider larger properties further away from the city centre, even across the border in neighbouring France.
Regardless of the type of housing expats choose, the cost of accommodation in Geneva is high and it's worth bearing this in mind when negotiating a contract to work in the city.
Finding accommodation in Geneva
Most city residents rent their homes, so there's a lot of competition for rental properties in Geneva. Luckily, many employers provide accommodation close to the workplace as part of their expat employees' packages.
For those who don't have this luxury, an estate agent will be essential, but it's also possible to search local newspapers, real estate brochures and online property portals. Those looking for accommodation on a budget can find subletting options and house-shares online.
If they can, expats should start looking for rental properties a few months before they move to Geneva. The application process can be time-consuming and prospective tenants have to provide a lot of personal, professional and financial information to the landlord or letting agency as part of it. Expats may want to get references from previous landlords to support their applications.
Renting accommodation in Geneva
The rental market in Geneva is highly competitive, so once expats have found a property that meets their needs, they will have to act quickly to secure the rental contract.
Making an application
Prospective tenants usually need to provide proof of employment, ID and bank statements to secure a lease. In some cases, expats may also need a Swiss guarantor to act on their behalf – this will usually be the employer.
Accommodation in Geneva isn't secured on a first-come, first-served basis. Landlord and rental agencies carefully review applications before choosing a tenant they think is the best fit.
It's standard for landlords to expect an extract from the debt collection register in Switzerland from prospective tenants, and this can be requested online.
Leases and deposits
Lease agreements in Switzerland usually last 12 months and only allow for early termination at certain times of the year, although tenants have to give three months' notice if they want to do so.
Once a tenancy application is approved and signed by both parties, the next step is to carry out an inspection of the property and do an inventory.
Renters are generally required to put down a security deposit that is equivalent to three months' rent. The first month's rent is also required to be paid upfront. Tenants are usually required to give at least one month's notice if they wish to terminate a lease early.
Some apartment blocks will implement rules which may seem odd to expats. For example, residents will be asked to only use washing machines at certain hours or told they may not wash their car on Sunday. While the rules may seem somewhat silly, expats will need to adhere to these because they are strictly enforced by the building management.
Properties in Geneva are usually unfurnished, and the rent price can include extra service charges such as garbage disposal. Electricity and water bills may or may not be included in the rent price; expats should be sure to enquire which utilities are for an expat's own account when investigating a place to rent.
►For info on expat-friendly neighbourhoods, see Areas and Suburbs in Geneva
►See Accommodation in Switzerland for more on Swiss real estate
"Housing in Geneva is generally very good, but also expensive and difficult to find. There is a housing shortage in Geneva, but it seems most people figure something out."
For more about American expat Melissa's experiences in Geneva, read our interview with her.
Are you an expat living in Geneva?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Geneva. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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