Can I Buy Real Estate in Switzerland as a Foreigner?

If you want to buy a house in Switzerland as an expat, it depends on your residence status whether you need a permit for the purchase or not. Find out which legal regulations apply and which conditions you have to fulfill for the purchase of real estate in this article.

Buying a House in Switzerland: An Overview

Since 1983, home buying in Switzerland has been regulated by the so-called “Lex Koller,” a law that applies throughout the country. It specifies the conditions under which foreigners are allowed to purchase a property in Switzerland. The law is designed to ensure that immigrants and foreign investors do not pose too much competition in the Swiss real estate market.

The Lex Koller divides foreigners into different groups that have more or less rights or must meet requirements to buy a house. The law specifies which foreigners require a permit and in which cases the purchase of real estate is refused.

Obtaining a permit before buying a house is necessary for the following groups of foreigners:

  • Foreigners residing abroad
  • Foreigners residing in Switzerland who do not have a settlement permit (C permit) and are not EU or EFTA citizens.

The Lex Koller does not apply to the following groups, i.e. a permit for the acquisition of real estate does not have to be obtained:

  • Swiss/Double nationals residing in Switzerland or abroad.
  • EU/EFTA nationals with a B or C permit
  • Third-country nationals with a C permit
  • Third-country nationals with a B permit, provided the property is intended for own use

Buying a House in Switzerland as an Expat: Status Matters

The following table shows what type of real estate foreigners with a certain residence status are allowed to purchase in Switzerland:

 Single Family House / Apartment As Main ResidenceSingle Family House / Apartment As Second Home Single Family House / Apartment as a Vacation Home Apartment HouseCommercial Property
EU/ EFTA with B or C PassportAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permit
Third Country Nationals With C PermitAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permitAcquisition without permit
Third-Country Nationals With B PermitAcquisition without permitPermit necessaryAcquisition without permitPermit necessaryAcquisition without permit
Third-Country Nationals Without C-/B PermitPermit necessaryPermit necessaryAcquisition without permitPermit necessaryAcquisition without permit

Permit Needed to Buy a House as a Foreigner

Residence Abroad

If you are resident abroad and wish to purchase land or real estate in Switzerland, you generally need a permit to do so. Exceptions arise only in the following cases:

  • The person abroad inherits a property in Switzerland
  • Cross-border commuters who are EU or EFTA citizens and want to buy a second home at their place of work in Switzerland.
  • Applies only to a few cantons: property is purchased as a vacation home; strict conditions apply, e.g. the property must be located in a tourist area and the quota of vacation properties in the respective canton must not yet be exhausted
  • Land and real estate to be acquired solely for commercial purposes

Residence in Switzerland, No C Permit and No EU/EFTA Nationals

In this case, the same rules apply as for foreigners residing abroad. Those who have neither a C nor a B identity card require a permit in accordance with Lex Koller to purchase a house in Switzerland. Third-country nationals who have a short-term residence permit (L permit) also need a permit if they want to buy a property.

No Permit Required to Buy a House as a Foreigner

EU/EFTA Nationals With a B or C Permit

EU and EFTA nationals with a B or C permit are on an equal footing with Swiss nationals when purchasing real estate: They do not require a permit. Only EU and EFTA nationals with an L permit need to obtain a permit.

Residence in Switzerland, C or B Permit Available and No EU/EFTA Nationals

Third-country nationals who have a C permit are treated like Swiss nationals when buying a house. Therefore, they do not need a permit if they want to buy a property in Switzerland.

Those with a B permit may also buy a property in Switzerland without a permit in exceptional cases. However, it must be proven that both the official and the tax residence will be moved to the municipality where the property is purchased and that it will be used for personal purposes.

Acquiring Real Estate: This Is How It Works

Acquiring a Property as Your Main Residence

If you want to purchase a plot of land or property in Switzerland as an expat, you must prove to the authorities that you have your center of life in Switzerland. The easiest way to do this is if you already have a B permit. This allows you to purchase a property for your own use without a permit.

If you still reside abroad or do not yet have a B permit, you can also prove to the authorities in another way that you intend to move your residence to Switzerland. For example, you can present an employment contract from your employer in Switzerland or insurance certificates from your Swiss health insurance company.

At the land registry office in your Swiss municipality of residence, you can find out exactly what you need to purchase a property and whether you meet the requirements.

Acquiring a Property as a Second or Vacation Home

The acquisition of a second or vacation home is more difficult if you only have a B permit. For second and vacation homes, there are different quotas in the individual cantons each year, which specify how many domiciles in total may be acquired by foreigners as second or vacation homes per year.

It is not possible to make general statements about what is required for the acquisition, because the cantons sometimes proceed very differently here. Therefore, find out at your desired domicile whether there are free quotas there at all, and if so, whether you need a permit for the acquisition.

People who are resident abroad can only purchase a vacation property in Switzerland if they have a permit. In some cantons (e.g. Zug), acquisition by foreigners who are not resident in Switzerland is not possible at all.

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