The effects of relocation behavior on the Swiss housing market

Moving house – how relocation behavior affects the housing market

The Swiss real estate market is influenced by the relocation behavior of the population. How often and where Swiss people move depends on various factors. Age and gender in particular affect house moves.

House moves have many reasons

In the NZZ Immo-Barometer 2020, 63% of those surveyed stated that they were essentially willing to move – they were either planning a move or at the very least considering changing where they lived. In total, more than 800,000 people move house in Switzerland each year. Young adults are particularly keen to move – 18- to 34-year-olds make up 21% of the population but account for 43% of all moves.

The Immo-Barometer also identified the main reasons why people move: a change in their living situation, dissatisfaction with where they currently live, or their apartment or house being too small. Respondents also cited professional grounds and dissatisfaction with the location as reasons.

A growing family is also a common impetus to move. Relocation behavior changes once people have started a family, and the frequency of moves decreases. For those aged 35 to 49, the primary goal is to purchase a residential property, financial means permitting. This group is the key driver of demand for single-family dwellings. Many people look to downsize when their children leave home. The likelihood of a move increases again temporarily shortly before retirement – driven by a higher emigration rate.

Age and living situation influence the number of rooms in a property.

Starting a family fuels desire for more rooms.

Moves by change in home size, in % per age category

Last data point: 2021

Source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Credit Suisse

Swiss population stays close to home when moving

Although dissatisfaction with location is the fifth most common reason for people to move, most seem satisfied with the canton in which they live. More than 80% of people remain in the same canton when they move, and over half of them actually stay within the same municipality. Overall, the average distance people move has been between 12 km and 13 km over the last five years.

Households that include children and young people are the most likely to move within their immediate neighborhood or within the same district. The social environment and the existence of appropriate infrastructure are important considerations for them. People aged between 18 and 34, on the other hand, are more likely to change municipality or canton. This is the only age group that frequently moves to cities. All other age groups move out of the cities.

Families with children move the shortest distance

Families with children move shorter distances than young adults.

Domestic moves by type, in % per age category

Last data point: 2021

Source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Credit Suisse

Factors that affect relocation behavior

  1. Age: The most important factor affecting relocation behavior and the probability of moving is age. The desire to move house declines noticeably from the age of 50. In addition, the trend of moving to a property with more rooms reverses after the age of 50. People of this age cohort who move at all typically move from a larger home to a smaller one.
  2. Gender: On the one hand, men are likely to move further away from their previous home than women. On the other, the probability of moving house rises and falls more quickly with women than with men. Accordingly, on average women move out of the family home well before men and often settle down earlier.
  3. Nationality: People without a Swiss passport move almost twice as often as Swiss nationals. Many will initially move close to their place of work and then optimize their living situation if they decide to stay in Switzerland for a longer period of time. After retirement, people are more likely to relocate again, in most cases to their native country or another country entirely.
  4. Money: Lastly, money is a relevant factor when it comes to moving house: Some 50% of new occupants of a single-family dwelling have moved to a municipality with price levels that are at least 10% lower. There is less of a focus here from renters.
Relocations in Switzerland broken down by age category

Those under the age of 50 account for the vast majority of all moves.

Relocations in Switzerland in 2021 broken down by age category, in %


Last data point: 2021

Source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Credit Suisse

Effect on the planning and rental of new residential projects

Relocation distance and population structure in the vicinity of a property are decisive indicators of housing demand – on average, 72% of demand comes from a catchment area of just 10 km.

For investors and developers, this means that demand will first and foremost come from within the same municipality. It is therefore all the more important to incorporate into the planning process not just the aspect of intensity of relocation, but also competitor projects in the surrounding area. Moreover, it is important to know where potential movers might relocate from in the first place.

Landlords and property managers should also consider the likelihood of a relocation based on age, gender, and nationality: For example, the average probability of a 25-year-old woman with a Swiss passport choosing to move house works out at around 27%, whereas the equivalent figure for a 50-year-old man without a Swiss passport is just 12.5%. These probabilities can provide an insight into how long a potential tenant will remain in an apartment.

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