In Switzerland, non-Swiss nationals may only buy property under certain conditions. “Kollers law” regulates which permits are required for foreigners to purchase real estate in Switzerland. There are differences between residential and commercial real estate. In addition, there are some exceptions and possibilities for non-Swiss citizens resident abroad to acquire real estate or building land in Switzerland.
Engel & Völkers Commercial has developed a guide together with the renowned Swiss business law firm Bär & Karrer. It offers you a first insight into the subject of real estate ownership in Switzerland, but of course it cannot replace legal and tax advice. If you wish to purchase Swiss real estate, you should therefore seek the support of a specialist law firm.
As a non-Swiss citizen, no permit is required if the property is used for specific purposes. This includes, among other things, premises of a commercial or manufacturing company, commercially managed businesses, craft enterprises, restaurants and medical practices.
Purchase is only problematic if the property is also used for residential purposes in addition to the commercial purpose. It is best to contact the relevant authority (land registry office or land registry inspectorate) to clarify whether you meet all the requirements or whether you need a permit. If you purchase a property that requires a permit, the competent cantonal authority must give its consent.
According to Kollers law, EU/EFTA citizens with actual and legal residence in Switzerland and a B residence permit as well as citizens of other foreign countries with a valid C settlement permit are entitled to reside in Switzerland.
These two groups of persons are thus treated equally to Swiss citizens with regard to the acquisition of real estate and can acquire all types of real estate without a permit. This also includes, for example, apartment buildings or second homes.
Even a third-country national (non-EU/EFTA citizen) without a C settlement permit and residing in Switzerland can acquire a flat or house at the place of his or her actual residence without a permit. However, he must live in the property himself and may not rent it out either in full or in part. Once he has validly acquired the flat or house, he does not have to sell it again if he later leaves Switzerland or moves within Switzerland.
If a real estate company is listed on the Swiss stock exchange, the purchase of the shares of this company is not subject to Kollers law. If this is not the case and its purpose is the acquisition or holding of residential property or other non-commercial real estate, non-Swiss citizens cannot acquire shares.
The proportion of the company's land subject to authorisation is a decisive factor in this respect. Since there is no specific limit, it is necessary to obtain a permit for residential property quotas of 10 to 20 percent or more.
Some cantons, such as Berne, St. Gallen and Lucerne, allow the purchase of holiday homes without a permit. However, the land area must be less than 1,000 square metres and the net living space less than 200 square metres.
In addition, the purchase of holiday homes by non-Swiss residents is subject to a quota system. Only 1,500 holiday homes may be sold annually to non-Swiss nationals not resident in Switzerland, although the number varies greatly per canton.
In the Kollers law guide you can find out more about buying property in Switzerland. Or are you interested in an investment, in buying or selling an apartment building or do you have questions about the Swiss real estate market? Here you can meet your real estate experts in your region. (25.11.20)