Moving house: how to find the perfect place to live in Switzerland


Choosing the right place to live is no easy task. When searching, you’ll need to consider factors like the availability and cost of housing, infrastructure, transport costs, taxes and a whole lot more. We have some tips for making an informed and cost-effective choice in just a few clicks.

By Bernhard Bircher-Suits and Agustina Balmer

Over 800,000 people move home in Switzerland every year. This means that roughly one in ten people in the country will look for a new place to live at some point in any given year. This is backed up by figures from the Federal Statistical Office. For those keen to move, choosing the right place to live is right up there with the most important decisions in life. The most common reason for moving is a desire for more space and changing family structure.

Moving has long-term financial consequences 

In all the excitement of finding their dream home, many people overlook important financial aspects such as taxes, transport costs, health insurance premiums and childcare expenses. Along with other key criteria like housing costs, location, infrastructure, availability and knowing people in the local area, there may be other location-dependent cost factors at play. Michel Benedetti, media spokesman at real estate valuation company IAZI AG in Zurich, says, ‘It’s important to be clear about how much the estimated service charges could change and what is not included. A rented apartment, for instance, might use heating oil.’ 

Factor in the cost of heating

If you ignore these financial factors, you could end up paying higher fixed costs for years following a hasty move. The current energy crisis is making other factors more of a pressing concern, too. ‘Finding out whether an apartment is well insulated, built to a Minergie standard or equipped with a heat pump is also becoming increasingly important,’ says Benedetti. ‘The cost of poorly insulated homes or those heated with gas or oil is set to increase in the near future.’ 

Looking for somewhere with low taxes

Taxes on income and wealth are among the biggest expenses for Swiss households. According to a study by bank Credit Suisse (CS), they amount to around 12% of average gross income. The study also reveals that for private individuals, central Switzerland is the most attractive region for tax purposes, especially the cantons of Zug, Schwyz, Nidwalden and Uri. Western Switzerland has much higher tax rates.

Moving to a community with low taxes can save you a lot of money

Because of the tax differences, moving house can have drastic tax implications. For example, a married couple from Zug with an income of CHF 100,000 would have to pay around CHF 10,200 more in taxes in the canton of Neuchâtel. In Zurich, they would only have to pay CHF 4,200 more than in the tax haven of Zug.

Residential appeal: the five top factors 

According to the CS study, the five most important factors for residential appeal are the tax level, housing costs, transport costs, health insurance, childcare costs and family benefits. These cost factors will vary depending on the region and the type of household. Single and married people pay different rates of tax, for instance. Family benefits, health insurance premiums and non-family childcare costs may also vary depending on the makeup of the household. 

Household makeup is a major factor

Obwalden, Nidwalden and Lucerne are the most financially attractive cantons for single people and married couples without children. Outlying districts are more appealing to retired couples, as they no longer have to commute to work. For families, the canton of Valais is the frontrunner in terms of family benefits, low childcare costs and taxes.

Find your new base with the iLocator online tool

The many factors at play can make it difficult to come to a reasoned decision about a future place to live. To make things easier, Homegate has developed a new online calculator called iLocator in conjunction with the data analysis company Novalytica AG. iLocator helps you narrow things down quickly. The tool compares the main fixed costs that apply in the Swiss municipalities of interest and provides users with easy-to-understand diagrams and numerical comparisons.

Just enter your income, location of interest and health insurance provider

To compare two different locations, potential movers can anonymously enter some personal information in iLocator, along with their previous and prospective place of residence. You’ll also need to enter a few financial details, such as taxable income, marital status and whether you want to rent or buy a property.
Entering information about your probable health insurance provider will also help to make the comparison more accurate.

Cost comparisons and real estate listings are just a click away on iLocator

The innovative iLocator online tool uses the information you’ve entered to compare the fixed costs of a rented or purchased property in two locations within seconds. Thomas Spycher, a partner at Novalytica AG, says, ‘iLocator enables the customised comparison of all fixed costs that apply in the place of residence, including housing costs, health insurance premiums and taxes. It also provides an indication of whether housing within the desired area is likely to be affordable on your budget.’ When choosing where to live, you should also take other factors into account, such as travel times and proximity to family and friends. Spycher adds, ‘We’re planning to keep adapting the tool to the needs of the users.’ iLocator indicates whether moving elsewhere is worthwhile and tells you whether there are any suitable properties available in your desired location.

How to compare residential locations

  • Budget: Your rent shouldn’t be more than a third of your net income. When looking for an apartment, you should also consider other costs, such as commuting expenses and locally applicable taxes. 
  • Taxes: Before you move, use Homegate’s tax calculator to find out how much tax you would pay in specific areas. It’s worth bearing in mind that in the cantonal tax rankings, Zug emerges with the lowest tax rates, followed by Nidwalden and Uri. 
  • Health insurance premiums: Check out for the official health insurance premiums published by the federal government every year, broken down by municipality. This lets you access future premium costs in your new place of residence in just a few clicks.
  • Affordable rent: You don’t necessarily have to move to the country to secure a lower-priced rental or property to purchase, as there are inexpensive places to live within commuting distance of major Swiss cities. A Swiss comparison portal, for example, chose Schaffhausen as the cheapest city near Zurich. Oberembrach, Rorbas and Hüttikon are all inexpensive places to live and offer a 30-minute commute from Zurich.


Find out how expensive it is to live in your dream location.