The single-family home

As children we draw our dream house time and time again - with its own garden, pool or garage. One thing you can be sure will be in every drawing: the little sun in the top right corner. Even in adulthood, many Swiss still have this dream of owning their own private retreat in the country.

The concept of life in the single-family home has established itself firmly in our part of the world. –And there are many good reasons why you should build or purchase a house:

  • never again paying rent
  • planning the house from beginning to end
  • financial security in old age
  • not having to think about other tenants
  • protection against rent increases and terminations etc. 
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We all have our own very personal idea of what a single-family home is. But what actually is a single-family home? These days really only one requirement has to be met: The house can only comprise one residential unit.

The economic boom from the middle of the 19th century onwards saw the first single-family homes built in Europe as we know them today. After the First World War, the boom spilled out across Europe. Today, you cannot imagine the Swiss countryside without single-family homes. 

Indeed, the single-family home is the most common type of housing in Switzerland. The following different types of house exist: 

  • row houses
  • duplexes
  • detached single-family homes
  • courtyard houses
  • atrium houses
  • prefabricated houses

How much does a single-family home cost on average?

The costs of a single-family home are as varied as the houses themselves. First of all you need to decide whether you want to renovate, buy or build the house yourself. It is impossible to say which of these is truly more expensive, but the construction of a house from scratch is typically more so.

Regional price differences within the Swiss property market are large and can be found in the current study “Online Home Market Analysis”. In the urban centers of Switzerland's Espace Mittelland region, properties are advertised on average for CHF 5,000 per square meter. The central municipalities in the Geneva region have the most expensive single-family homes, with average square meter prices of CHF 10,500. In the Zürich region, prices in the urban centers are still well below the CHF 10,000 limit at CHF 8,100.

To finance your single-family home, be it a prefabricated house or a new building, you need at least 20% of the purchase price coming from your own funds in order to obtain the remaining 80% as a mortgage from the bank. Use our mortgage calculator to quickly and easily work out the monthly costs of your home.

Watch out for additional costs​​​​​​​

Many of those interested in a single-family home forget to take into consideration additional costs. Additional costs include: 

  • Insurance premiums
  • Public charges (water, sewage, property tax etc.)
  • Electricity and heating costs
  • Housekeeping

With new real estate you generally expect annual additional costs to the amount of 0.6% of the purchase price. 

So, if you spend one million on your single-family home, you will incur additional costs of around CHF 6,000 at the end of the year - not an insignificant amount. 

As the owner, it is advisable each year to accumulate financial reserves. This cushion helps in the event of renewal and/or renovation work.

Maintenance costs for a single-family home​​​​​​​

As a rule of thumb, approximately 0.40% of the real estate value is incurred per year in maintenance costs. But be warned: If the house is already a bit older or in poor condition, the maintenance costs can quickly amount to more than 0.40%. Additional costs include the expenses of maintaining the house. This can be simple tasks such as painting the walls or renewing the flooring. But it can also be larger financial expenses such as renovating the kitchen, changing the plumbing or replacing household appliances in the kitchen.

How can I reduce my electricity bill?​​​​​​​

In each house, whether bought or rented, there are power guzzlers that squeeze money out of the owner undetected. 

Your habits around the house, in addition to using energy-efficient devices, contribute a lot to reducing power consumption. With the right measures, you can quickly and easily reduce the power consumption in your home by half - without having to sit in candlelight. Typical ‘power guzzlers’ are:

  • Boiler/heating
  • Stove
  • Refrigerator/freezer
  • Washing machine/tumble drier
  • Lighting

As soon as the room temperature drops below 20 degrees, many Swiss turn on their heating. The longer and colder the winter - the higher the heating costs, especially in a single-family home. It doesn’t have to be this way - with the energieschweiz Energy Check, you can calculate the total energy consumption of your property. So you can see exactly how much power you consume and how much your potential for improvement is.

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What to consider when planning your house?

Of course, the idea of being an architect for once in your life is a tempting one, designing your own single-family home according to your individual ideas. You choose the plot size, the number and size of the rooms, the floor plan, the materials to use, garage, garden, etc.

The new construction of a house is generally associated with much more work, greater time expenditure and usually also with higher expenses than the purchase of a prefabricated house. If you want to build a house yourself, you have to plan this venture carefully: From financing the project and supervising the construction to designing the interior.

Finding the right property is often harder than expected and requires a lot of preparation. Everything important should be made note of: Size, location, orientation of the rooms to the sun, solar panels, garden, community, infrastructure (schools, transport links, shopping facilities).

Choosing an architect is a major step - you need to hire someone you trust with considerable sums of your money, who can make your dream home come true.

Buy, rent or build a single-family home yourself?

Whether you decide to buy or build a house depends on your personal needs. In particular, the desires of the family have to be taken into consideration, both now and in the future. And even when the children have flown the nest, you want to be able to live comfortably within your own four walls.

It doesn’t always have to be a purchase. You can also rent a single-family home: Some people will turn up their noses at this and say that renting is always worse than buying. Not necessarily: Renting allows greater flexibility, requires less administrative effort and saves you hours of discussions with construction workers and architects. 

In general, however, you should not rule out in advance the buying of a house. You can save yourself a lot of time, money, and stress as well as the actual construction of the house. Besides, there is a lot of good real estate in all sizes and price ranges, from row houses and duplexes to single-family homes. So if you can live with certain drawbacks, there is nothing stopping a home that has already been built from becoming your dream home.