Authorisation to purchase property is intended to prevent Swiss territory from falling into foreign hands. Not all foreign nationals require authorisation. It depends on their nationality and/or their residence status in Switzerland.
Nationals of EU/EFTA states living in Switzerland
You have the same rights as Swiss citizens to purchase real estate; you do not need a permit to purchase a house or land.
UK nationals resident in Switzerland
If you are covered by the Agreement on Acquired Citizens’ Rights, you do not need authorisation to purchase a house or land. If you are not sure about your status, contact the competent authority in the canton where the property is located.
If you are not covered by Agreement on Acquired Citizens’ Rights, you are subject to the conditions that apply to non-EU/EFTA citizens who are resident in Switzerland.
Non-EU/EFTA nationals living in Switzerland
You need authorisation to purchase the following types of real estate:
a holiday home (which can be rented out temporarily),
residential units in a serviced apartment building,
a second home (which cannot be rented out).
You do not need authorisation to buy your main residence and building land if you meet the following conditions:
you have a valid residence permit (usually a B permit (different rules apply to C permit holders, see below),
you will live in the home and do not rent it out, or
you plan to build your home and can start work within one year of acquiring the land.
Holders of a C permit
If you have a permanent residence permit (C permit), you have the same rights as Swiss citizens to purchase real estate. You do not need authorisation to purchase a house or land.
If you are a foreign national of an EU/EFTA country working as a cross-border commuter in Switzerland (G permit), you can buy a second home in the area where you work without authorisation. However, you may not rent out this property as long as you work in the region as a cross-border commuter.
Other foreign nationals living abroad
Apart from cross-border commuters, foreign nationals living outside of Switzerland require authorisation to buy property.
This rule also applies to UK nationals who are covered by the Agreement on Acquired Citizens’ Rights.
If you need or think you need authorisation to buy a property, you need to contact the competent authority in the canton where the property is located.
You will find a list of these authorities at the end of the Guidelines that you can download from the webpage Acquisition of real estate by persons abroad on the Federal Office of Justice’s website. If you are not satisfied by the decision taken by the cantonal authority, you have a right of appeal.
The conditions for obtaining authorisation to purchase property vary according to the canton and the type of property. Authorisation is granted for a specific form of use and the property may not be used for a different purpose.
Unless an exception is granted, authorisation is valid for three years.
In Switzerland, the number of holiday homes or units in a serviced apartment building that can be sold to foreign nationals is subject to a national quota (currently 1,500 per year) allocated between the cantons.
In some cantons, such as Geneva and Zurich, the sale of this type of real estate to foreign nationals is not possible at all. A list of the quotas per canton can be found in the annex to the Ordinance on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Non-Residents (webpage available in German, French and Italian).
If you live abroad, you may only buy a second home in a place with which you have exceptionally close ties worthy of protection. The cantons are not always consistent in their interpretation of this legal requirement.
In any case, you must meet a number of conditions:
The property must be located in a tourist area.
The living area may not exceed 200m2 and the area of ground is limited to 1000m2.
You cannot rent out the property all year round; only temporarily if it is a holiday home, and not at all if it is a second home.
You may not own more than one holiday home or second home in Switzerland.
Like Swiss citizens, foreign nationals cannot build a second home in a commune where more than 20% of properties are already second homes.
No category of foreign national needs authorisation to acquire real estate for professional, commercial or industrial purposes (with the exception of real estate slated for construction, trade or rental accommodation).
The Federal Office of Justice has provided guidelines available for download on its webpage Acquisition of real estate by persons living abroad.
A list of the quotas per canton for the purchase of holiday homes by foreign nationals can be found in the annex to the Ordinance on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Non-Residents (webpage available in German, French and Italian).