Finding a place to live in Switzerland is difficult. Home availability is low and prices are high. On 13 September 2021, the Federal Statistical Office published data showing a sharp drop in the number of vacant homes since 2020, a development that will make home hunting harder.
On 1 June 2021, there were 71,365 vacant homes in Switzerland, representing 1.54% of the total stock of housing. Since 1 June 2020, the number of vacant homes has dropped by 7,467, a fall of 9.5%. The figure includes homes for rent and for sale.
Between 2009 and 2020, Switzerland’s stock of vacant housing rose from close to 35,000 to nearly 79,000, a rise of 126%. However, by June 2021 the number was back down from its 2020 peak to around 71,000.
Cantons with the fastest shrinking home availability over the last year were Aargau (-1,725), Bern (-1,366) and Zurich (-1,331). These three cantons together accounted for close to 60% of the total net fall in vacancies. At the other end of the spectrum was Ticino, which added 378 units.
Vacancy rates vary significantly by canton. The highest vacancy rate in June 2021 was in Solothurn (3.15%) and the lowest in Zug (0.34%). Geneva (0.51%), Zurich (0.72%), Basel-City (1.10%) and Vaud (1.35%) were in between.
Even within cantons there were significant differences. Vacancy rates in Zurich ranged from 0% to 4.16%. The small municipality of Truttikon had no vacant homes, while in the town of Aeugst am Albis 4.16% of homes were vacant. In Zurich city, where there were 381 vacant homes, the rate was 0.17%. Vacancy rates across Switzerland by municipality can be viewed here.
Most of the available homes were rentals (85%) rather than places for sale (15%). In some places such as Basel-City (1%) and Neuchâtel (2%) only a very small percentage were for sale. Cantons with high percentages for sale included Zug (27%), Graubunden (30%), Valais (35%) and Obwalden (37%).
The sharpest drop in availability was in the sales market. Across Switzerland, vacant homes for sale dropped by 1,922 to 10,590, a fall of 15.4%. The number of vacant stand alone houses fell by 18.8% to 5,940. Vacant rentals fell more modestly by 5,545 units to 60,775, a drop of 8.4%.
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71,365 vacant homes are 71,365 too many. I’ve been looking for a new flat for years, but cannot find anything cheap or quiet enough, close to a city center. Maybe there are fewer empty properties as renters have got fed up of waiting for the rental cost to come down. Maybe they have given up on the idea of house plus social life, opting for house only instead. New builds – forget. Some near me, same size, cost almost double what I pay now. I wish salaries were linked to all costs.. 20 years ago, for example, I could afford to eat in a restaurant every night on half of what I earn now. Now, I’m lucky if I can do this once a month.