Forms of ownership: ownership in common, joint ownership, or sole ownership

Joint ownership, sole ownership, or ownership in common – what form of ownership is best for me?

There are several forms of ownership in Switzerland. Which one you should choose when buying a property is determined by your own preferences and whether you are buying the property together with another party. Find out what options you have, how they differ from each other, and which ones suit your needs.

What is a form of ownership?

The form of ownership defines who owns the title and who is entered in the land records when ownership is transferred. The law recognizes several forms of ownership for houses and apartments. Looking at the differences between the various forms can help you identify the most appropriate form of ownership.

What forms of ownership are there?

You can choose from the following forms of ownership in Switzerland: sole ownership, joint ownership, and ownership in common. Rather than being a fourth alternative, condominium ownership is a special form of joint ownership. All three forms of ownership determine the share of the property that belongs to someone.

Sole ownership

In the case of sole ownership, the property belongs to one person who also contributes the equity for the property. They are also entered as the owner in the land records. Sole owners can use and take decisions about the property without restriction, but they also bear full responsibility, such as for all associated financial obligations like taxes, maintenance, and interest payments.

Joint ownership

With joint ownership, the property belongs to several individuals, each of whom has a defined share of the property. This share is entered in the land records. Joint owners can freely dispose of their share, by selling or pledging it for example. However, unless otherwise agreed, they also bear the associated rights, obligations, and costs relating to their share. If one owner wants to sell their share, the other joint owners have a statutory right of pre-emption or first refusal.

Ownership in common

With ownership in common, the property belongs to several owners and is deemed to be owned in common. However, the overarching relationship determines how much of the property is owned by each individual. This overarching relationship could be a marriage contract or a community of heirs, for instance. Decisions can only be made jointly. All rights and obligations are the responsibility of the community of owners. The consent of all owners is required for all issues relating to the property, including its sale.

What form of ownership is right for me?

The various forms of ownership can be more or less suitable depending on your specific needs. You should always consider your civil status when deciding which form of ownership is best suited to your own circumstances. For instance, sole ownership is suitable for cohabiting couples who don't want to divide their respective ownership claims. This form also makes sense if the other party lacks the financial resources needed to buy the property or already owns a property.

Joint ownership is the most commonly chosen form of ownership and is suitable for both cohabiting and married couples since, unlike with ownership in common, it is possible to use pension fund and Pillar 3a assets toward a deposit. This is also the most common form of ownership for married couples who have chosen the marital property regimes of sharing of acquired property or separation of property.

Ownership in common is often suitable for married couples who want to keep the property in their family as far as possible.

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