Property purchase and rental in Geneva



There are restrictions on foreigners buying property in Switzerland. As a foreigner, you are only allowed to buy property in an area where it’s legal for foreigners to do so. You are usually not allowed to buy property in big cities like Geneva and Zürich. Many foreigners are also not usually allowed to buy property for investment purposes.

Property owners must pay taxes to the three different levels of government: local, canton, and federal. However, foreigners who buy public utility buildings are exempted from paying the first two taxes, at a decreasing rate, for a 20-year period. The tax rate is usually between 0.02% and 0.3% of the assessed value of the property.


If you are with a company, they usually make all the rental arrangements for you and some companies even have long-term housing already established for their expatriate employees. If your company is not doing that, it is best to search for accommodation with the assistance of specialised real estate agents. Reputable agents will help to ensure proper paperwork and lease negotiations.

As a gauge, a one-bedroom apartment in the metropolitan usually costs €1700 per month and a three-bedroom unit is roughly €3650. There are also cheaper rentals in the outskirts where the price of a one-bedroom flat starts from €1450 monthly, and a three-bedroom unit from €3000.

Expats will notice that most of the properties are designed based on the locals’ love for outdoors. Aside from the detached homes that have a front lawn or a garden, apartments also have a balcony or communal recreation areas such as a playground. These types of accommodation are prevalent in areas near Lake Geneva where residents enjoy easy access to the water where they can enjoy a relaxing boat ride. 

Once an expat finds a potential apartment/house, next thing that they need to do is to hand the landlord a Kaution (deposit) which is usually an equivalent of one to three month’s rent. The deposit is returned to the lessee once they decide to move out, but there are instances that the owner is allowed to keep it to cover the cost of repairs for any damages in the unit. Also, bear in mind that utilities are seldom included in the rental price and in Geneva, the average monthly expense for water, gas, and heating is €160. 

General contract info

The typical lease agreement in Geneva is a minimum of 12 months. Expats should be a given a contract which usually includes vital info such as the deposit amount, start and end date of the tenancy, term notice which is three to six months, inventory of properties for furnished units and house rules. Those who are moving in with a pet should inform their landlord ahead of time because they often include the number of pets in the rental contract. Expats should also prepare some relevant documents such as: 

  • Passport
  • Visa or Residence Permit
  • Letter of reference from employer or any document proving local employment



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