Facts about the housing market in Switzerland

The Swiss population is growing and the last survey showed a significant decline in the dwelling vacancy rate. Investments in new construction projects decreased in 2021. Since 2000 the number of heat pumps has increased considerably.

September 14, 2022

The Swiss population is growing: The permanent resident population of Switzerland increased by 0.8% compared to 2020 (+68,500 persons), reaching 8.74 million inhabitants at the end of 2021. Over the last five years, population growth has fluctuated between +0.7% and +0.8%. The increase in 2021 is thus within the range of previous years.

The reference scenario describes the growth that seems most plausible in the coming decade and is expecting a further increase in the permanent resident population up until 2050 to approximately 10.4 million people.

Considerable decline in dwelling vacancy rate in 2022

On 1st June 2022, there were 61,496 empty dwellings in Switzerland. This was 1.31% of the total housing stock (including single-family houses). The dwelling vacancy rate has thus fallen 0.23 percentage points year-on-year. Such a large year-on-year decline was last observed 20 years ago. There were 9,869 fewer empty dwellings compared to the previous year, representing a striking decrease of 13.8%.

In a cantonal comparison, the lowest vacancy rate was again measured in the canton of Zug (0.33%). The rates in the cantons of Geneva (0.38%) and Obwalden (0.48%) were also below half a percent on June 1st, 2022. Vacancy rates decreased in 22 cantons compared to the previous year and increased in only four cantons. The canton of Jura (+0.40 percentage points to 2.96%) showed the largest increase and thus also the highest vacancy rate in Switzerland. Vacancy rates above the 2-percent mark were also recorded in the cantons of Solothurn (2.66%), Ticino (2.49%) and Neuchâtel (2.20%).

In absolute figures, there were a total of 9,869 fewer vacant apartments on offer compared with the previous year's reporting date. Vacancies fell most sharply in the cantons of Aargau (-1,313 units), Valais (-1,040 units) and Vaud (-985 units). As in the previous year, the highest number of unoccupied apartments on the reference date of June 1st, 2022, was recorded in the canton of Bern, with 8,633 units. The only cantons to report more vacancies than a year earlier were Jura (+178 units), Basel-Stadt (+93 units), Schaffhausen (+38 units) and Glarus (+6 units).

As of June 1st, 2022, a total of 52,556 unoccupied apartments were available for rent. This corresponds to a year-on-year decline of 8,219 rental apartments or a minus of 13.5%. Once again, the decline of 15.6% (-15.7% a year earlier) in the number of owner-occupied apartments on offer was also striking. A total of 8,940 (-1,650 units) vacant apartments were advertised for sale on the reporting date.

4,863 vacant new-build apartments (no more than two years old) were advertised for permanent rent or sale in Switzerland on June 1st, 2022. This was 2,203 units or 31.2% fewer than a year earlier. The number of single-family houses offered and unoccupied on the reporting date also decreased by 661 units, or 10.3%, year-on-year. In total, 5,329 single-family houses were vacant across Switzerland on the reporting date, finding neither a tenant nor a buyer.

Compared to June 1st, 2021, the vacancy rate decreased for all housing categories (number of rooms). Although the 3- and 4-room apartments recorded the largest decreases within a year (-13.8% and -16.8%, respectively), they remained the apartment categories that were offered the most (20,716 and 15,743 units, respectively).

Construction and housing

Switzerland is a country of tenants. At the end of 2020, there were 2.3 million tenant households and 1.4 owner-occupier households. The urban cantons Basel-Stadt (84%) and Geneva (78%) had the highest proportion of rented dwellings whereas the cantons Appenzell Innerhoden (39%) and Valais (41%) had the lowest. Tenant households were primarily single-person households (45%) or couple households with or without children (44%). These two household types correspond to 36% and 54% of all households, respectively. In 2020, there was an average of 2.2 persons per dwelling. In 1970 this figure was 2.9. 

The highest rents were found in the cantons of Zug, Zurich and Schwyz. The cheapest cantons are Jura, Neuchâtel and Valais. Almost half of all rented dwellings were owned by private individuals in 2021.   

Construction expenditure again remained stable in 2021 compared with the previous year. Investments in civil engineering rose by 1.0% and those in building construction fell by 0.4%. 

More than a third (38%) of buildings were built in the past 40 years, i.e. after 1980. Whereas 45% of single-family houses have been built since 1981, only 36% of multi-family buildings were built after this year and 20% of buildings in other categories (buildings not for solely residential purposes). The building stock in the canton of Fribourg is exceptionally recent with 26% of buildings built in the 21st century. In contrast, only 4% of buildings were built in this period in the canton of Basel-Stadt.

Heating system and energy sources

Almost 90% of 1.5 million Swiss residential buildings that are the main place of residence for at least one person have a central heating system which covers one or more buildings. Less than 5% are connected to district heating. Although the use of heating oil is continuously declining, almost two out of three buildings are heated by fossil fuels (heating oil and gas). Since 2000 the number of heat pumps has increased considerably. Nowadays almost one in every five buildings has this type of heating. 20% of all buildings have a secondary energy source, which is wood for over half of them. For many years the main energy sources for hot water were electricity and heating oil. In recent years their importance has declined in favour of heat pumps, gas and solar installations.

Ownership structure

In 2020, around two-thirds of residential buildings (67.5%) were owned by private individuals. More than one in ten buildings were owned by legal persons (11.5%).

More information about the housing market in Switzerland can be found here: