Finding accommodation in Zurich is one of the greatest initial challenges that expats will face. The standard of housing in Zurich, in line with the rest of Switzerland, is excellent. It is also very expensive.
Due to the fact that the majority of Zurich residents, including the local Swiss people, rent rather than buy property, rental housing is in short supply. Prices, in turn, are notoriously high. Those looking for larger homes, particularly those suitable for families, often have to consider living further afield in the suburbs.
Considering the high rental rates in the city as well as the challenges of finding a suitable home in an unfamiliar place, expats should try to negotiate a provision for accommodation into their employment contract. In senior positions, employers are often willing to make such a concession or at least assist in the search for a home.
Types of property in Zurich
The majority of Zurich residents live in apartments. Naturally, the price and character of the apartments vary according to the age of the building and the area in which it is located.
Freestanding houses are few and far between in Zurich and those looking for a family-friendly property should extend their accommodation search to the outlying suburbs of the city.
Across the board, property in Zurich is expensive and expats will need to set aside a large portion of their monthly budget to cover rent.
Finding a property in Zurich
Central Zurich consists of 12 districts (kreis), each of which contains between one and four neighbourhoods. Expats should familiarise themselves with all of these and look for housing in the specific area that best suits their priorities.
The majority of expats in Zurich receive some form of assistance from their employer when it comes to securing a property. For those who are not lucky enough to have this sort of help, the best starting point is online. There are various property portals and online property sections of local newspapers where available properties are listed. Searching online also gives expats the chance to get an idea of what is available before they relocate to Zurich.
If this fails, the next option is to use an estate agent. These professionals have an intimate knowledge of Zurich's property market and are best placed to find new arrivals a home that meets all of their requirements. They can also alert renters to properties that haven't yet been publicly advertised.
Because of the competitive accommodation market in Zurich, once expats have found a suitable property, they will need to act quickly to secure the rental contract.
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 Zurich 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.
Renting property in Zurich
Leases in Zurich are usually for a minimum period of 12 months. 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 usually 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.
Properties in Zurich 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.
Tenants are usually required to give at least one month's notice if they wish to terminate a lease early.
►Decide on the perfect neighbourhood with Areas and Suburbs in Zurich
Are you an expat living in Zurich?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Zurich. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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