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Zurich - Accommodation & Property
Expatriates tend to consider other factors when choosing suitable accommodation. For example, families might prefer to review the public schools available for their children in particular neighborhoods, while younger single expatriates might prefer to consider neighborhoods with good public transportation links, or after work entertaining and dining options.
One unique point about Zurich is that when you pay taxes, you pay taxes to the Canton and to the community where you live, not to the Canton or community where you work. Different Cantons and communities therefore charge different tax rates, depending on the level of community services (e.g. education) provided. Taxes range from 12% to 25% of salary, depending on the Canton and community you live in. The rate of taxes is somewhat related to the demand for real estate in certain neighborhoods.
Apart from this peculiarity, several areas have been noted to be desirable by both the locals and the expatriate community. Among them, Zurich City Center (District/Kreis 1) for its accessibility and history, Enge/Wollishofen (District 2), Unterstrass/Oberstrass (District 6), Fluntern/Hottingen/Hirslanden/Witikon (District 7) and Seefeld (District 8). The right side of the lake (sometimes known as the Gold Coast) and the left side (between Kilchberg and Wadenswil are attractive options for families.
It is difficult to suggest the going rental rates in Zurich as each family / expatriate needs differ, but a good website you can use to compare property market rental rates is www.comparis.ch.
In recent years, Zurich has been experiencing a great shortage of larger apartments (more than 160 square meters or approximately 1,700 square feet) in the rental market. Expatriate families who are looking for larger apartments in the rental market may have to consider living in the suburbs instead of the city center. This is because the suburbs have a range of detached or semi-detached homes suitable for larger expatriate families. In Zurich, there is a demand for larger apartments or housing units close to international schools and other popular business / work centers. This has in turn pushed up the rental prices for larger apartments or homes for expatriates. Single expatriates or expatriates who are looking for smaller accommodation (1-3 bedroom apartments) will have better options in many choice neighborhoods.
Although many apartments in Zurich's city center were built sometime ago, most of them were fitted with central heating and proper insulation built into the properties. Some newer apartments even have floor heating and additional heaters near windows for the cold winters. Check with the agent to confirm the heating facilities included in the apartment – these will come in handy come winter.
Currently, EU residents and Work Permit C holders (non-EU residents) are eligible to purchase property in Switzerland, provided that the property bought is meant for personal use. There are heavy capital gains taxes to be paid on resale profits, so speculation into property in Zurich is not as popular as it could be. This is despite the fact that current interest rates on mortgages for property are fairly low. The majority of Swiss nationals simply do not choose to own property. Hence, the rental market (especially for larger apartments) is always in hot demand.
When moving out of the apartment at the end of a job posting, do note that you are expected to return the apartment in pristine condition – minor repairs and a thorough cleaning by professionals are usually expected.
Property advertisements and listings are found in most of the regional newspapers. The Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) has a good range. Two good websites are www.homegate.ch and www.immoscout.ch
Standard apartment leases typically have two built-in termination dates per year – April 1st and October 1st. Usually, most expatriates will try to observe the three months' notice for lease terminations as far as possible. If you need to move out at a different time from what is stipulated in the lease agreement, you can find a substitute who would be willing to continue the lease, or pay the difference in rent. A security deposit (equivalent to 1-3 months) will be requested by the property owner for new leases. The Canton of Zurich Homeowners Association website offers good advice for new leases regarding rental laws and other guidelines. The website, however, is in German only.
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