Acquisition of second homes and holiday homes by foreigners

Legal Framework:

Access to real estate in Switzerland by foreign individuals is governed by the Federal Act on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad, commonly referred to as the “Lex Koller,” along with its associated regulations. Notably, Swiss legislation in this domain expanded with the introduction of the Second Homes Act in 2016. This act restricts the construction of new second homes in municipalities where they already comprise more than 20% of the total housing stock.

Acquisition of a Holiday Home:

Federal Act on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad

The country of origin and/or the category of Swiss residence permit determine whether foreign prospective buyers are affected by legal restrictions.

The restrictions imposed by the Federal Act on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad affect the following property buyers:

  • EU/EFTA citizens without an existing residence permit in Switzerland
  • Non-EU citizens without an existing residence permit
  • Non-EU citizens with an existing type L or type B residence permit

In such instances, acquiring a vacation home is only permissible if stipulated by the law of the respective canton. Currently, the following cantons allow for this possibility: Appenzell Ausserrhoden (AR), Bern (BE), Fribourg (FR), Glarus (GL), Graubünden (GR), Jura (JU), Lucerne (LU), Neuchâtel (NE), Nidwalden (NW), Obwalden (OW), St. Gallen (SG), Schwyz (SZ), Schaffhausen (SH), Ticino (TI), Uri (UR), Vaud (VD), and Valais (VS). Notably, it is not feasible to acquire a holiday apartment in cities such as Geneva or Zurich.

Furthermore, the holiday apartment or vacation home must be situated in a municipality officially designated as a “holiday resort” by the respective canton.

Once a suitable holiday property has been found, a licence must be applied for. The number of licences that can be issued each year is limited to 1,500 units throughout Switzerland and is allocated to the cantons in quotas by the Federal Council. No permit is required if the holiday property in question is also being sold by a foreign person and has already received a permit.

There are further restrictions on the purchase of a holiday home by a foreign person, such as for example:

  • The maximum plot area may not exceed 1’000 m² and the net floor area may not exceed 200 m².
  • If an undeveloped plot of land is acquired, the construction must be carried out within a reasonable period of time (within a maximum of one to two years).
  • The holiday home can be rented out for short periods, but year-round rental is not permitted.
  • A family, comprising a husband, wife, and/or minor children, is restricted to acquiring only one holiday home or second home in Switzerland. In cases where one family member already possesses a holiday home or second home in Switzerland, the acquisition of an additional property is contingent upon the sale of the initial property.

In Andermatt, there is a special exception to the “Lex Koller” for some properties until at least the end of 2040: for example, no restrictions or authorisation requirements apply to the purchase and resale of a residence in the 5-star deluxe hotel The Chedi Andermatt for Swiss and non-Swiss residents.