Posted on 02 June 2021
When you’re buying Swiss property as a foreigner, it can be difficult to navigate the rules and regulations. Property hunters often find themselves asking the question, can a foreigner buy a house in Switzerland?
The short answer to that is yes. The longer answer is, it’s a little bit complicated!
A foreigner can absolutely buy a house in Switzerland. Whether you’re purchasing from in the EU, or outside, a house in Switzerland is a very achievable goal provided you’re looking in the right areas. Firstly, you will need to keep in mind that buying a chalet in the Swiss Alps, a tourist zone with looser regulations, is far easier than in Swiss cities. That’s great for anyone who wants a second home in the Swiss Alps!
Where you can buy a property in Switzerland will depend heavily on whether you have a Swiss B permit; issued to skilled workers from outside the EU, students, and retirees. A Swiss B permit enables you to buy a house as a primary residence, no matter where you want to live.
For buyers without the Swiss B permit, you’ll need to look at the individual canton regulations. So, can a foreigner buy a house in Switzerland?
Lex Koller and Lex Weber
The Lex Koller and Lex Weber are the two most important regulations impacting whether you, as a non-resident, can buy property. If you’re looking at buying a chalet or apartment in the Swiss Alps, and you’re wondering can a foreigner buy a house in Switzerland? These are the two laws it’s most important to be aware of.
The Lex Koller has been in effect since the 1960s and is designed to regulate and restrict the purchase of Swiss real estate by non-residents. According to Lex Koller, non-residents cannot buy property as an investment or land for development. Commercial property, such as hotels, is not subject to restrictions. Non-resident buyers can buy properties in some tourist areas, as long as they obey the individual laws set by the canton.
In short, according to Lex Koller non-resident buyers can purchase commercial property as an individual, and chalets or apartments in some Alpine resorts.
The further implementation of Lex Weber during the 2010s means that some resorts that would previously have been open to foreign property purchase now have further restrictions. The Lex Weber restricts the sale of second homes in areas where over 20% of the commune is already given over to second homes. This means resorts like Zermatt have become essentially impossible to buy a home in.
So, Where Can a Foreigner Buy a House in Switzerland?
Many of the Alpine cantons have regulations that allow some restricted foreign purchase. This foreign purchase allowance does depend on the number of second homes already owned in the resort, according to the 20% stipulation of Lex Weber. So, what are the additional rules and regulations governing where a foreigner can buy a house in Switzerland?
The established regulations for buying property as a non-resident in Canton Bern is as follows: only 50% of any development can be sold to foreigners. Within that, there are several added restrictions at a resort level.
If you’re thinking about buying property in Grindelwald, be aware that foreigners can only purchase a property worth over 750,000 CHF. This means that the vast majority of Grindelwald’s property market is not available to foreigners. Elsewhere in Bern, Wengen only allows foreigners to buy apartments. Chalets in Wengen are exclusively available to residents. Interlaken only allows a property to be sold to non-residents via a special dispensation.
Unlike Bern, Canton Graubunden has no additional rules and regulations at a cantonal level. While this does little for resorts like St Moritz and Klosters, where the Lex Weber alone leaves the market completely closed to foreign purchase, Flims-Waldhous benefits enormously.
When it comes to looking for a property as a non-resident, Flims is one of the easiest resorts in Switzerland to consider. So, if you’re asking the question ‘can a foreigner buy a house in Switzerland’? The answer is yes, and Canton Graubünden offers one of the best opportunities to do so.
Home to some of Switzerland’s most famous ski resorts, Canton Valais is where you’ll find the glitz and glamour of Verbier and Zermatt. Anyone looking to buy a property in this canton had better be prepared to hang onto it for a while! Regulations in the Canton Valais state that foreign buyers cannot put their property on the market within the first five years of owning it.
Although, as we’ve already mentioned, you cannot buy a property in Zermatt without at the very least a resident’s permit. Ideally, you will have a history of paying tax in the resort that proves you are a local. Elsewhere in the canton, five-year regulation is the only additional rule you need to keep in mind if you’re looking to buy a property in this area.
The only exception to this regulation is sale for reasons of ill-health or financial circumstances, and if you’re selling due to these you cannot make a profit. This means that all those eyeing up the beautiful chalets for sale in Verbier can rest assured that the answer to ‘can a foreigner buy a property in Switzerland’ is yes.
As with Canton Valais, Canton Vaud has only one restriction. Buyers here cannot sell the property within five years of purchase. That means that buying here is also a long term investment, although compared to the neighbouring Canton Valais, the resorts in this canton are quieter and sleepier. The same opt-out in the case of illness or financial difficulty is in place in Canton Vaud.
If you have questions about the process of buying a Swiss ski property beyond ‘can a foreigner buy a house in Switzerland’, please check out our complete buyer’s guide!
To look at property for sale in Switzerland, whether you’re hoping to buy a chalet in Verbier, Flims or Crans-Montana, please check out our selection of Swiss ski property for sale. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line either by telephone or by email.