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Start Looking for an Accommodation
The housing market in Zurich is tight, and finding a place that meets your needs might take some time. We recommend that you organize temporary housing for the first days or weeks already before you leave your current country of residence. This will give you the time to look for a permanent place once you’re here and get an impression of a place in person. It is usually best to begin the search for a room or apartment as soon as possible and possibly even schedule an appoinment with property owners/agents before your arrival.
If you already have friends or acquaintances in Zurich, ask them to help you by letting you know about any vacancies. This is often the most efficient way to find a place to live.
Housing offers and prices vary greatly, depending on size, comfort and especially location. If you’re thinking of living in the city of Zurich, it might be helpful to first get familiar with the city districts (“Kreise”). It is difficult to generalize, but the city center and districts along the lake (1, 2, and 8) as well as the area close to the universities (6 and some parts of 7) tend to be comparatively expensive. The price span is considerable: the average difference between the cheapest and the most expensive option (mostly depending on location and comfort) is roughly 30 per cent. If you decide to live outside of Zurich and to profit from the reliable public transport for the commute, prices are usually lower. If you rent a place near the university, a similar offer will cost more. A room in a shared apartment will cost around CHF 400-1’000, a one-room-apartment CHF 600-1’400, and a two-room-apartment CHF 700-1’900. A furnished apartment usually costs a bit more than a place without furniture.
It is advisable to have a temporary place to stay during your first days or weeks in Zurich. The Housing Office has an extensive list of possibilities, ranging from affordable hostels and hotels to furnished apartments, and offers links to the best websites for temporary housing.
Finding a Room in a Shared Apartment
The Housing Office has compiled a list with the best search options on shared apartments. It is worth trying the different search options, working your way down the list.
Alternatively, you can look for a bigger apartment and offer the remaining rooms to other interested people.
Finding an Apartment
Spacious, affordable, centrally located, comfortable – everyone seems to be looking for the same apartment. If you’re on a tight budget and have some flexibility, consider a place slightly further away from the city center, or look for a place in the surrounding areas. Using several resources at the same time – online search, personal contacts, and advertisements at UZH – will increase your chances of success.
Again, the Housing Office is the best resource to find useful addresses and opportunities to find accommodations. It also has an extensive list of links on its website.
In addition, you can try to find an apartment owned by the City of Zurich. The City of Zurich owns several properties located throughout the city. These are usually let at very favorable conditions. Because the prices are low, special conditions may apply, for instance a minimal number of people must live in the apartment, there is a maximum income limit, and families with children receive preferential treatment. Some of the city’s apartments are subsidized and reserved for people with a low income. Available apartments are published twice weekly on the website of the City of Zurich. Application forms are only handed out at showings.
The City of Zurich also has useful information, tips, and addresses for those looking for housing. Some of their documents are available in several languages, others only in German.
Applying for an Apartment
How does the application process for a apartment work? Usually there is a showing (or several). When a place is particularly attractive, it is common to open the apartment to many visitors at the same time rather than having a showing by individual appointment. Make sure you’re on time and have a close look at the place (is it as advertised?) and ask whatever is important to you. For example, if you have pets or play an instrument regularly, make sure this is allowed. If you’re interested in the apartment, don’t forget to take an application form with you – these are often only handed out at showings.
It is important to fill in the application form carefully and completely. If additional documents are requested, send them in as well. If you’re not in possession of the adequate documents, make sure you explain why you can’t hand them in. Don’t leave blanks in the form – especially not on account of language problems – because you most likely won’t even be considered if your application is incomplete. Contact the ISC if you need help filling in the form. Sending a short letter explaining your interest in the place in question is a nice touch and generally appreciated by homeowners or agents. Applications are often treated in the order of arrival, so send yours as soon as possible.
Excerpt from the debt-enforcement registry (“Betreibungsauszug”)
It is often required that applicants send a copy of an excerpt from the debt-enforcement registry (the “Betreibungsauszug”) along with their application. If you haven’t lived in Switzerland before, it is not possible to acquire the document. In this case, it is important to give a short explanation in the accompanying letter why you can’t enclose this document. It may be helpful to state that your references – for instance your supervisor, HR, or ISC – can confirm your employment at UZH. Be sure to ask your references in advance if you can mention them.
If Germany was your country of residence, you can hand in a SCHUFA credit report.
Studio apartments for PhD candidates
The Housing Office has a limited number of studios apartments that it allocates to international PhD candidates. Please note that your supervisor has to send the application in addition to a confirmation of doctoral study. More information as well as the application form can be found on the website of the Housing Office.
Rent or Buy?
In Switzerland, over 60 percent of the population rent their place. Depending on your situation and budget, you might want to consider your options. The Swiss Homeowners Assocation offers a wide variety of information for persons interested in buying property. You can find an overview of prices on the following price map along with more information on buying real estate in Switzerland.