Finding a family home when living in Zurich
To ensure you and your family really feel at home while living in Zurich, there is a lot to take into consideration when looking for your new house. Expatica spoke to expert Priska Hutterli, Zurich branch manager of Network Relocation, to get the best tips and latest info to help with the house hunt.Priska describes Zürich as a very family-friendly city with various options for expats looking for the right place for them. She says while there is no particular area specified for families, many internationals tend to settle near the two main schools on either side of the lake - Kusnacht and Zumikon on the right side (known as the “gold coast”), and Kilchberg and Thawil opposite (the “silver coast”).
“While it is difficult to find homes with gardens in Zürich city, there are nearly always children's play parks and public areas close by,” says Priska. She recommends the Dolder Forest, the Zoo area, Irchel, Landesmueseum by the River Limatt, and the Uetliberg.
“Ground floor apartments will have small patios, or some apartment houses have shared garden or barbecue areas. Houses with gardens are found outside of the city and generally cost more than apartments,” she says.
The average size of a home is between 120 - 150 m2. However, large homes with 5 or 6 bedrooms are very scarce. “Space always costs more, no matter where you live and Switzerland is certainly no exception,” says Priska.
“The further you live from the city the cheaper the land becomes, and if you are looking for more outdoor space this is an option - but be careful not to live too far away as you may feel isolated from the international community.”
Typical houses in Zürich city are of a 1920s design with a very modern renovated interior. Such buildings are mostly found in districts 1 (the old town), 2 (by the lakeside, near to the international schools), and 7 (Zürichberg).
Sometimes they are under historical monumental protection and therefore have very high rents. But new and very modern apartments are also expensive. Cheaper places can be found in either the industrial district areas of 4, 5 and 12, or 15 minutes away from the main city railway station in districts 3, 9 and 10, or nearer to Zürich airport. However all are easily accessible with public transport.
Priska says renting is the norm in Switzerland. “We would recommend that anyone considering buying in the country first of all talks to a tax expert, then the bank. With property prices moving by between 1 and 2 percent per year for many people, purchasing a property is not an effective way of creating more wealth, unlike in other countries.”
She says while buying is a relatively simple process, selling is a totally different challenge. “With most people looking to rent, there are very few buyers out in the market place. It could take a year or more to sell a property.
“Banks welcome investors and are very supportive in home buying, however, clients must be credit-worthy and have good records.”
There are special rules concerning changing property. For instance, on signing a rental contract, one year fixed rental is expected. Three months notice must be given and moving dates are March, June and September (December is not permitted). It is also possible to move before, but follow-up tenants must be found and a rental contract signed. The main message is that you have to leave it as you found it, says Priska.
Naturally if you have school-age children, you will want to take into account the best school to suit your family. Children must attend their local school, which is dependent on where they live. Swiss schools are the responsibility of the cantons and state schools refer to non-fee paying schools, which are funded by the canton.
“Local schools are generally of a high standard and worth considering for German-speaking families,” says Priska. There are two major international schools - the Zurich International School situated on the Silver Coast (Wädenswil, Kilcheberg, Horgen). On the Gold Coast there is the InterCommunity School, which follows the IB program and has approximately 700 children, all situated on the one campus (the final two years take place a short walk away). In Gockhausen there is the French school, Lycée Français de Zurich. There are also a number of smaller international schools and bi-Lingual options.
Many of the schools offer a bus service for the collection of younger children, but the older ones tend to either be driven or make their own way using the excellent public transport system.
A great way to find a home is through Network Relocation, by conducting a direct search via the internet, or through individual estate agency homepages.
Visit Network Relocation: www.network-relocation.com
Anna Tuson / Expatica