Foreign citizens (not domiciled in Switzerland) can acquire real estate in the country under certain conditions. These conditions are mostly set out in the Federal Law on the Acquisition of Property by Foreign Persons (LFAIE), also known as the “Lex Koller” (in force since 1 October, 1984). The number of purchases of secondary residences (holiday homes) by foreigners is limited to 1,500 for the whole of Switzerland, and distributed among the cantons that are home to tourist communes.
Conditions for purchase of a secondary residence
Switzerland distinguishes between several “categories” of foreign citizens, depending on their nationality and their residence permit. If you do not hold a Swiss settlement permit or a valid residence permit (L, B or C), you will be considered a foreign person within the meaning of the law, and will be subject to the LFAIE, meaning that you will have to apply for an authorization to acquire your second home property under the following conditions:
- Purchase authorization issued by the appropriate authorities.
- Only within a tourist commune (see list). The “Lex Weber” (see chapter A) from 1 January 2016 imposes a communal quota system for a maximum of 20% of secondary residences.
- For private use only. It may only be rented out periodically and not permanently (maximum 6 months per year).
- One holiday property per family: husband and wife and/or minor children (up to 18 years old). After the age of 18, a child of a second home owner can acquire a real estate property in their own name as long as they can demonstrate their financial independence.
- living space of 200 m2 (or 250 m2 in some cases).
- land area of 1,000 m2 (or 1,500 m2 in some cases) in the case of the purchase of a chalet or a single-family house.
- It is forbidden to resell your house for 5 years, except in case of force majeure (illness, death, etc.) but without a profit. The period commences from the date of transfer of ownership. In some cases, after these 5 years, if the apartment is not occupied for a long period, the house must be sold within 2 years.
|Origin / Permit||No Swiss residence permit||Residence permit L||Residence permit B||Residence permit C|
|EU/EFTA nationals save Croatia||Subject to LFAIE||Same treatment as Swiss citizens||Same treatment as Swiss citizens||Same treatment as Swiss citizens|
|Other nationals and Croatia||Subject to LFAIE||Subject to LFAIE||Subject to LFAIE||Same treatment as Swiss citizens|
Purchase of a commercial building
A person domiciled abroad can acquire a commercial property in Switzerland without restriction. This may used for a business or be rented. There are no restrictions with regard to the location or number of properties acquired. In addition, the purchaser may acquire the property in their own name or through a Swiss or foreign legal structure.
The Lex Weber
The Lex Weber is an initiative accepted by the Swiss people on 11 March 2012, establishing a limit of 20% second homes for each commune.
In Swiss communes where the rate of second homes is above 20%, since 11 March 2012 it is no longer possible to set up a new home intended to be used as a second home. This restriction affects equally potential Swiss buyers, foreigners holding residence permits B or C, as well as foreigners seeking to acquire a holiday home (LFAIE).
Notary fees and acquisition costs vary according to the cantons. Below is a list of the main cantons that have tourist communes:
- Canton of Vaud: approx. 3.3% of the sale price – http://www.notaires.ch/associations/vaud/combien.html
- Canton of Fribourg: approx. 3.3% of the sale price – http://www.notaires.ch/associations/fribourg/combienfr.html
- Canton of Valais: 3% of the sale price
List of communes authorized to sell properties to foreigners
Swiss communes where the rate of second homes is above 20% are limited to 1,500 authorisations. Here is a list by canton of communes that allow the purchase of a second home.