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Expat Accommodation in Zurich

There are plenty of reasons for moving to Zurich! Switzerland’s largest city attracts numerous expats due to its booming economy and high quality of life. Our guide to Zurich introduces you to the Greater Zurich Area, Swiss visas and permits, and housing for expatriates.
Residential areas with a view of Lake Zurich are very popular — and very expensive.

Once you have decided upon moving to Zurich, the big question is where to settle. Since the Greater Zurich Area is fairly large — it goes even beyond the 1700 km² of the canton — we cannot make any specific recommendations. The major factors in choosing a home are often the proximity to the workplace and the transport connections, to avoid too much stress during the daily commute, as well as the rental costs.

Where to Settle in the Greater Zurich Area: The Lokalisator

The Zurich Office for Statistics offers you a tool to make choosing a place to live in the Canton of Zurich easier: the Lokalisator. Unfortunately, it’s only available in German, but here are some tips for using it.

If you choose “ganzer Kanton” in the dropdown menus, it will search for results in the entire canton of Zurich. As an alternative, you can select various municipalities, districts, and regions. For example, if you already know you’ll be working in Winterthur and want to live nearby, you can select only data from “Region Winterthur” in the right dropdown menu instead.

Under Standortfaktoren, you can select those factors that matter to you when it comes to searching for a new home. For instance, ticking the box next to “S-Bahn Haltestelle” and choosing “nah” (close) on the sliding scale means that a stop for the regional express train shouldn’t be far. “Wohnungsmiete/m²” (rent per square meter) should probably be “tief” (low) — unless you can afford it.

You can also adjust for other factors (e.g. availability of schools, medical facilities, shopping opportunities, cultural institutions, household size, neighborhoods popular among families with kids, etc.). After you click on “Karte aktualisieren” (update map), the tool will highlight suitable areas in bright green.

The Expensive Hunt for Accommodation

As soon as you know where you’d like to relocate to, you can start hunting for an apartment or house. If you are busy, but have put aside a nice sum of money, look into hiring a real-estate agent or relocation agency in Zurich. The latter has the advantage that the staff will also help you with administrative issues, such as getting a residence certificate or enrolling your kids in school. If you are lucky, your future employer will recommend or even pay a relocation agent for you.

But even if you make do without professional help, moving to Zurich does not come cheap. We have already mentioned the high cost of living in our introduction to the Zurich area. Rents are no exception to this rule. The national average in 2015 was about 1,600 CHF for a one-bedroom apartment and 2,900 CHF for a three-bedroom apartment.

You should keep in mind that Zurich tends to be far more expensive than the rest of Switzerland, and rents keep rising. Also, don’t forget to check whether service charges and utility fees are included, or if you have to pay them extra.

Find more information on heating, hot water, and internet in our in-depth article on utility costs in Switzerland.

The Most Popular Places to Live in Zurich

Certain areas in Zurich City are particularly coveted and especially expensive, i.e. districts 1, 2, and 8. Districts 6 and 7, near the Zürichberg, are also popular, but a little more affordable. 11 and 12 in the north of Zurich are less costly and more family-friendly than some trendier parts of town.

District 4 and 5 — Zurich’s industrial areas, former working-class neighborhoods and once infamous hangouts for drug addicts — are often snubbed by the more affluent population. However, the drug scene is more or less gone, and the process of gentrification has started in these neighborhoods. The area around Langstrasse, for instance, has become a favorite among creatives and designers.

Tips for the Property Hunt

Here are some multilingual online resources to look for a new place in Greater Zurich:

When you have found a place you like, move fast. The Zurich real-estate market is really competitive, and you have to convince a potential landlord to take you on as a new tenant. Always have a copy of your employment contract and references from previous landlords with you for such appointments.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Andrey Vasilyev

"I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides."

Elin Gustavson

"At the first InterNations event that I attended, I met my wonderful partner. We now live together in a flat next to the Limmat."

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