Facts about the housing market in Switzerland

The Swiss population is growing and the last survey showed again a significant decline in the dwelling vacancy rate.

September 13, 2023
  • Daniel Stocker

On 31 December 2022, Switzerland's permanent resident population was 8,815,400, i.e. 0.9% more than in 2021. The permanent resident population thus increased by 76,600 (+0.9%) and population growth continues, albeit less than before 2017. In the last five years, it has ranged between +0.7% and +0.8%, while in 2022 it was slightly above the previous years' values at +0.9%.

Compared to the EU countries (+0.6%), Switzerland recorded a similar growth rate as Denmark and Liechtenstein (+1.0% each). At the top of the table were Malta, Iceland and the Czech Republic (+3% and more), with Greece at the bottom with a negative growth of 0.6%.

Migration is the main driver of population growth, with Switzerland registering 190,900 immigrants in 2022. 21,800 of the immigrants were Swiss nationals, 169,100 were foreign nationals. 122,100 people emigrated, including 31,300 Swiss and 90,900 foreigners. Thus, both immigration and emigration increased compared to 2021 (+15.2% and +4.6%).

The permanent resident population of Switzerland was around 6.8 million in 1990. Since then, the population has risen sharply and reached 8.5 million in 2018. The reference scenario is expecting a further increase in the permanent resident population up until 2050 to approximately 10.4 million people. The “high” scenario assumes that the population will grow rapidly and that at the end of 2050 the number of inhabitants will have risen to 11.4 million. The “low” scenario predicts slower population growth and 9.5 million inhabitants at the end of 2050.

Third consecutive decline in vacancy

The vacancy rate fell by 0.16 percentage points from 1.31% to 1.15% within a year. In the cantonal comparison, the lowest vacancy rates were 0.42% in the cantons of Zug and Geneva. In the canton of Obwalden (0.43%), the ratio was also below half a percent on 1 June 2023. In 21 cantons, vacancy rates decreased compared to the previous year and only increased in five cantons. The canton of Jura (+0.21 percentage points to 3.17%) 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 (2.39%) and Ticino (2.17%).

In absolute terms, minus 6,731 vacant apartments were offered compared to the previous year’s reference date. Vacancy in the cantons of Aargau (-918 units), Bern (-816 units) and Ticino (-773 units) has fallen the most. As in the previous year, the highest amount of vacant apartments (7,817) were counted in the canton of Bern. More vacancies than a year earlier were registered in the cantons of Geneva (+130 units), Lucerne (+124 units), Jura (+100 units), Zug (+58 units), Nidwalden (+16 units) and Basel-Landschaft (+6 units).

On June 1, 2023, a total of 44,213 unoccupied apartments were offered for rent. This corresponds to a year-on-year decline of 8,343 rental apartments or a decrease of 16%. Likewise, the offer of vacant new apartments (not older than 2 years) decreased. Only 4,131 newly built apartments were offered on the market on the reporting date, 732 apartments or 15% less than a year earlier.

Compared to June 1, 2022, the vacant housing stock decreased mainly in 1 to 3-room apartments (between -15% and -16%). The offer of vacant 4-room apartments also became smaller (-10%). In contrast, more large apartments (5 and more rooms) were offered on the reporting date, 3% more for the 5-room apartments and a striking 18% for apartments with six or more rooms.

Construction and housing

In 2021, two thirds (67%) of residential buildings in Switzerland belonged to private individuals, with legal entities owning around one in ten buildings (12%). 41% of these were companies active in construction or real estate. 14% of the buildings were owned by communities (simple societies, communities of heirs, communities of property, communities of municipalities).

Switzerland is a country of tenants. At the end of 2021, there were 2.4 million tenant households and 1.4 owner-occupier households. The urban cantons Basel-Stadt (83%) and Geneva (78%) had the highest proportion of rented dwellings whereas the cantons Appenzell Innerhoden (38%) and Valais (40%) 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 37% and 54% of all households, respectively.

Regardless of size, the average net rent in 2021 was CHF 1,393 at national level. The highest rents were found in the cantons of Zug, Zurich and Schwyz. The cheapest cantons are Jura, Neuchâtel and Valais. In general, it can be observed that the longer households rent their dwellings, the lower the rents. New dwellings, i.e., those built less than two years ago, are the most expensive. For older dwellings, leases concluded less than two years ago are at clearly lower levels. For example, a new four-room apartment has an average rent of CHF 2,112, while older four-room apartments have an average rent of CHF 1,700.

Investment in new buildings (+0.3%) as well as in conversion (+4.2%) increased in 2022 compared to the previous year. This positive result is attributable to the private clients who invested significantly more in conversions (+7.2%). In the same period, they also spent more on new construction projects (+0.3%). Total investment in construction rose by 1.8% in nominal terms in 2022 compared with the previous year. However, since construction prices have risen sharply, this results in a real minus of 5.9%.

More than a third (39%) 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 37% 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 27% of buildings built in the 21st century. In contrast, only 5% of buildings were built in this period in the canton of Basel-Stadt.

Heating system and energy sources

In 2021, there were 1.77 million residential buildings and 4.69 million dwellings in Switzerland. 58% of residential buildings in Switzerland were heated with fossil fuels (heating oil and gas). There are striking differences between single-family houses (55%) and apartment buildings (66%). Heating oil was used in 41% of the buildings and thus remains the main source of energy for heating. However, this proportion has steadily decreased over the last 40 years. 18% of the buildings had gas heating, twice as many as 30 years ago. 17% were equipped with a heat pump, the share of the latter has quadrupled since 2000.

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

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