Main Residences

Understand what you can and can't own with regards to real estate in Switzerland...

No permission is required for the acquisition of real estate for private residential purposes by an individual person abroad, provided that such property serves the purchaser as their main residence at the place of their rightful and actual residence, and provided that the purchaser actually lives there (renting out is not allowed).

Consequently, such person must have an adequate permit to stay. If building land is acquired, construction work on the accommodation (their main residence) must start within one year. Furthermore, the surface area of the purchased lot may not be larger than required by its purpose. The competent cantonal authorities will decide on the admissibility of lots larger than 3,000 square meters.

In the event that the buyer changes their place of residency, they may dispose of his dwelling as they see fit:

  • sell it
  • continue to use it as a secondary or holiday residence
  • rent it to third parties

Even if a person buys a new home at the new place of residency, they are not forced to sell the old main residence.

As outlined above, nationals of EU and EFTA member states domiciled in Switzerland as well as holders of a valid settlement permit (C permit) are not qualified as "persons abroad" in the sense of the Lex Koller. Therefore, the above is only relevant for nationals of other foreign countries residing in Switzerland based on a residence permit (B permit).

Secondary residence

Nationals of EU/EFTA member states working as cross-border commuters in Switzerland (while remaining domiciled in the respective neighbouring foreign country), may acquire a secondary residence in the area of their place of work without authorisation. For as long as the purchaser continues working in the area as a cross-border commuter, they must occupy the residency themselves.

The acquisition of a secondary residence by a foreigner domiciled abroad who is not a cross-border commuter is, however, not possible without authorisation. Still, there are a few Cantons that have introduced special provisions according to which a foreigner domiciled abroad who is not a cross-border commuter may be authorised to acquire a secondary residence in a place with which he has exceptionally close ties worthy of protection. The Canton of Zürich has introduced such provisions.

Information supplied by Dr. Michael A Meer, LL.M., Attorney at Law Gruninger Hunziker AG, Zürich / Bern. Tel: +41 (0) 58 356 5050, e-mail / web: Copyright © 2009 GHR Rechtsanwälte AG All Rights Reserved