Buy a House or a Flat: Which Suits Me Better?

August 5, 2021
  1. House or flat: How much can you afford?
  2. House or flat: Where do you want to live?
  3. House or flat: How much space do you need?
  4. House or flat: How much peace and quiet do you need?
  5. House or flat: How much free space do you need?
  6. House or flat: Do you like your neighbours?
  7. House or flat: Do you love to work in the garden?
  8. House or flat: Are you technically competent?
  9. House or flat: How old are you?

Would you rather own cheaply than rent expensively and therefore buy residential property? The first question that arises is: house or flat? Both types of housing have their advantages and disadvantages. The decision depends on rational factors, first and foremost price and location, but also on emotional factors. For example, whether you grew up in a detached house or a condominium, or how much distance you need from your neighbours. With our nine questions you can find out whether you are more of a single-family house or condominium type.

House or flat: How much can you afford?

Building land is scarce in Switzerland, especially in cities. That's why single-family houses, semi-detached houses and terraced houses in the city are unaffordable for most of us. According to Handelszeitung, a single-family house costs 1,425,000 Swiss francs in Bern and 2,359,000 Swiss francs in Zurich (April 2021). For this you would need at least 285,000 or 471,800 francs equity capital and a gross household income of 239,200 or 396,000 francs to meet the bank's affordability guidelines. A 5.5-room condominium costs 13.5 or 17.5 percent less, but that is still a lot of money. That's why more and more people are looking for home ownership in the countryside.

Conclusion: Single-family houses are the most expensive, condominiums the cheapest. Semi-detached houses and terraced houses are roughly in the middle. You live more cheaply in the country than in the city.

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House or flat: Where do you want to live?

If you dream of a house but don't earn that much, it's best to look in the agglomeration or in the countryside. The price is determined by these factors in the city and in the countryside:

  • View and sun exposure
  • Shops in the proximity
  • Immissions (especially noise)
  • Kindergartens and schools nearby
  • Neighbourhood
  • Transport links (car and public transport)
  • Tax rate

Think about which of these factors are important to you. More and more people who work in the city have moved to the countryside. They work at least part of the day in a home office and don't have to commute to the city every day. With the money they saved buying a house, they bought a bigger house with a room for the home office or garden. That is why the prices of single-family houses in the countryside have risen sharply in the Corona pandemic.

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House or flat: How much space do you need?

Houses are usually larger than flats and offer more rooms, storage space and places to retreat. This makes you and your family more flexible. In a large house, each child has its room, the mother her home office and the father his craft room. And guests spend the night in the guest room instead of on the sofa. But more rooms also mean more work, for example for cleaning, or more costs, for example for heating and maintenance. A small but intelligently furnished flat can offer almost as much living and storage space as a house. Besides, with less space you think about whether you really still need all the things that have been stored in the cellar or attic for years.

House or flat: How much peace and quiet do you need?

Regardless of how you live, you and your neighbours must abide to the neighbour rights. In many municipalities, a night's rest from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. is mandatory. Noisy work, such as mowing the lawn, is prohibited from 12 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday to Friday, from 12 a.m. to 1 p.m. and after 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and on Sundays and public holidays. In an apartment building with condominiums, where people live closer to each other, minor disputes are more common. Usually it is about loud music, a garden party or a barbecue that smokes too much. If you like your peace and quiet, a (detached) single-family house makes more sense than a condominium.

Woman looking out of balcony in neighbourhood with houses
Neighbours often argue about little things. Sometimes it helps to let a five be even.

House or flat: How much free space do you need?

As soon as you buy a condominium, you become part of the condominium owners' association. It uses, manages and maintains the common property. As a member of the community, you must abide by the condominium owners' regulations, among other things. These set out rights and obligations and define how common costs are distributed and what is prohibited or permitted. As a condominium owner, you must abide by all resolutions of the owners' meeting and may not, for example, simply paint the façade pink. In addition, you must contribute to the maintenance costs of the common components and pay your share into the renovation funds.

House or flat: Do you like your neighbours?

If you live in a semi-detached house, in a condominium or in a terraced house, you live wall to wall with at least someone. That means you have to get along with other people, even if they are a bit annoying sometimes. Like the neighbour who still plays the saxophone in the evening, or the neighbour who has planted bamboo on the border of your garden. Especially in a condominium owners' association, you have to be willing to compromise and sometimes let a five be even. In return, of course, you can expect the same from your neighbours. Every neighbourhood is also a relationship - and they work best when everyone gives and takes.

House or flat: Do you love to work in the garden?

A house with a garden requires work. Even a meagre meadow needs to be planted and tended. You can plant whatever you want, for example flowers or vegetables. And you can mow the lawn as you like: Ankle-high or as short as a green on the golf course. A garden gives you something to do, but it is a free space for sociable garden parties, quiet moments and play or fun with the family. Moreover, many people recover better and more sustainably from gardening than from a wellness oasis. If you don't feel like working in the garden, a condominium with a balcony or terrace makes more sense - and if you buy a ground-floor flat with a garden seating area, the caretaker will mow the lawn ...

House or flat: Are you technically competent?

Removing leaves from the gutters, shovelling snow from the pavement or painting window frames - with a house you always have something to do. Everything that has to be done, you have to do or hire someone to do and pay for. As a condominium owner, it's easier and more convenient: the manager or caretaker is responsible and paid for it. However, there are also condominium owners' associations that stipulate that the owners clean the staircase on a rotational basis, for example. You also have to make time for at least one condominium owners' meeting a year and take on any work or tasks for the community.

Man removes leaves from the roof of the house
Homeowners have more to do with their residential property than condominium owners.

House or flat: How old are you?

An indiscreet but important question. If you want to start a family or your children are still small, you need a lot of space. Inside and outside. That's why a detached house would be perfect if the budget allows it. But if the children are older and will be leaving in two or three years, you should think twice before buying a house that will soon be half empty. Perhaps a condominium that is not too big for you and your partner will suffice for the time until your children fly away. But if you buy a house, you may have to sell it after the children have moved out because it is too big for you and too expensive to maintain.

Are you still unsure whether you're more of a detached house or condominium type? Talk to an experienced real estate agent from our exclusive partner network. With just a few clicks, you can contact up to three estate agents from your region.

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