Your first home – costs, tips and useful insights

Moving into your first home is something special. Careful planning will ensure you don't blow the budget.

Finally moving into a place of your own is an unforgettable experience. But it’s important not to let your heart rule your head when it comes to property and the associated costs. There are many different factors affecting how much you can invest and how much the monthly outgoings will be. Comparis has produced a breakdown of the costs involved in getting your own place, and reminds you of what else to look out for.

All the costs at a glance

As a rule of thumb, the total cost of a rental apartment – including ancillary costs – should not exceed 25 to 30 per cent of your net income. That's why you are often advised not to budget more than a quarter of your net income for rental costs. This ensures that you have enough left over to cover other living expenses. The following table contains a breakdown of the costs you can expect to pay – divided into one-time and recurring expenses – based on an example apartment.

Example calculation for a 2-room apartment in Winterthur


One-time costs in CHF
Rental deposit 2,520.00
Furnishings Variable
Removal van Approx. 150.00/day


Recurring costs/month in CHF
Rent 840.00
Ancillary costs (heating, caretaker, etc.) 170.00
Electricity/water 60.00
Contents insurance 50.00
Billag fees 40.00
Internet & TV 79.00
Parking space/garage (if not included) 50.00
Fixed monthly costs for this apartment 1,289.00

These are example costs – actual costs may vary.


If you want to know what whether a rental price is fair, you can check out other rental prices in the area. Here you can find rents and sold property prices based on listings from the last 5 years – this will give you an insight as to what prices to expect on the market. Since tax rates also vary by location, it is advisable to put money aside to avoid a financial setback. You might also find it beneficial to compare taxes for the different areas.

On the hunt for an apartment

Once the budget is set, you can start thinking about the criteria your apartment should fulfil: comfortable, contemporary, the right size, convenient location, suitable price category, and so on. And if you're planning to stay in the apartment for the longer term, you could also consider factors like public transport connections, proximity to shops, leisure facilities and available parking spaces.

The quickest way to research the property market in Switzerland is to go online and scour the numerous property portals. Happily, you can do this in one place – the property search at gives you access to the 16 largest online property portals in one go.

One aspect to consider when choosing a municipality to live in is the tax rate. To gain an idea of how this could affect you financially, you can compare taxes here. You can also find out about social, cultural and leisure facilities on the cantonal and municipal websites. On the subject of municipalities, local administrative offices often keep up-to-date lists of available apartments as well. The property pages of local daily newspapers can also be a gold mine for property hunters. Similarly, it's worth keeping an eye on Facebook and other platforms because apartment ads are often posted there.

If you're short of time, one alternative is to instruct an estate agent to help with the search. But remember – if successful, Swiss estate agents usually charge commission amounting to one month's rent.



Viewing and applying for an apartment

Found your ideal home? Then it’s time to make a good impression. Arrive punctually for your appointment and adopt a friendly and respectful attitude to make sure you come across well.

After viewing the apartment, you will need to fill out an application form and return it with the debt collection record to the landlord. It is often useful to write an application letter as well, as interest in apartments can be very high – particularly in popular residential areas. For more on this topic and help with how to increase your chances of securing that dream home, see Tips on how to apply for an apartment.

Tenancy agreement, deposit and insurance

Finally, the apartment is yours. All you need now is the tenancy agreement, which the landlord will give you to sign. As well as your personal information, this document also includes details such as the rent, heating and ancillary costs, and parking space or garage fees. Check all the information carefully before signing.

The rental deposit is also usually mentioned in the tenancy agreement. Landlords usually charge between one and three months’ rent for the deposit, and the money must be paid into in a security deposit account in the tenant's name before the rental period begins. When you move out, if the landlord decides that you have incurred no damage to the apartment, the money will be released to you after a short period for you to use as you wish.

If your savings don't stretch to a rental deposit, there is always the option of insurance. Security deposit insurance involves paying annual premiums to an insurance company instead of depositing a large amount in a bank account. However, you must obtain the approval of the landlord before entering into such an arrangement.

On the subject of insurance – before you move in, it is imperative that you take out contents insurance to cover fire and water damage, burglary and vandalism. Make sure the sum insured corresponds to the actual value of your contents. The best thing to do is create an inventory of your entire home contents listing all the values. Premiums vary, so it’s worth obtaining quotes from different insurance companies. You should also think about taking out liability and legal protection insurance – the latter in case of disputes with the neighbours, which can and do occur.



Apartment handover and moving in

The apartment handover is the last step of the process before you can start unloading the van. Together with the landlord, you will draw up an inspection report, which is a form for recording any defects or problems with the property. This might include damage, discolouring or general wear to walls and floors, scratched kitchen cupboards and doors, and much more. Inspect the apartment carefully yourself before signing the report, as a similar report is produced again when you move out. If new damage is incurred during your tenancy, you may be billed for some of the costs.

The actual move is a challenge in itself. The aim is to organise vehicles and helpers and try not to forget anything – a detailed moving checklist is invaluable in this respect. So that everything can be organised on time, you should definitely start planning a few weeks before the moving date. You can also check out the Comparis article Top tips for a stress-free move to ensure your move goes according to plan!