Building a home in Switzerland

Building a home. What you need to know.

Building your own home – a dream that many Swiss people have. Nevertheless, planning your own dream home often seems difficult. However, with the right planning, this dream can become reality. There are numerous options, from a prefabricated house to a single-family dwelling with massive brickwork. Find out which points are important and what you need to consider if you want to build an individual owner-occupied home.

When building a house, there are many factors that need to be taken into account in order to achieve a flawless result. This includes the right planning, solid financing, and the right building materials. Below we look at the major points:

Building a house in Switzerland requires good planning

Whether your house is prefabricated or designed by a top architect, planning your new home is fundamental and takes time.

It's important to know and comply with building regulations: The maximum height of the building in the corresponding building zone, for instance, can be found in the building and zoning regulations of the local municipality. These also contain further information, such as details of the minimum setback permitted and rules relating to the facade and roof.

In addition, you must consider neighbor law. For this reason, corresponding easements should be taken into account and, depending on the agreement, entered in the land records. This will not only ensure a seamless construction process, but will also prevent the relationship with the neighbors from getting off to a bad start.

Once the legal framework has been established, you need to adapt the construction to your own needs. For example, if you're planning to expand your family, it makes sense to factor this into the size of your home. If you plan to continuing living in the property after you retire, it's also worth thinking about accessibility when you build your home.

Finding building land for your owner-occupied home

Finding a suitable plot of land can be a major hurdle when building a house in Switzerland. This is particularly true in urban areas. If you're lucky, your family may own building land reserves. Otherwise, undeveloped land is mostly only found in rural areas, outside of the larger, central urban areas. Another way to acquire building land is to buy an old property. This can be torn down to build a new house.

Read this article to discover how to find the right plot for your construction project.

Developing the land for your owner-occupied home

An important requirement for being allowed to build a house is access to the plot of land. It's important that public services such as waste removal, paramedics, and the fire department, can also access the property. If it can only be reached via a neighboring property, the corresponding easements must be taken into account. Access to public roads and connections for water, waste water, and electricity must also be considered. For building zones, the municipality is generally responsible for development outside of the property. However, the builder-owner must take care of the connections for the plot itself. Read the following article to find out what a good floor plan looks like.

Taking building permits into account 

The construction of a new house – or converting an existing one – requires a building permit. For this purpose, you must submit a planning application, and there is a possibility that third parties may raise objections that could delay construction. In addition, a building permit will only be issued if the access road to the property is wide enough. And construction can only begin once a building permit has been granted for the new building. The important thing to remember is that approving a building application takes time. For this reason, the application must be submitted early enough in advance. Find out in our article what the planning application process entails.


Building your own home with the right insurance coverage

Building a house doesn't always go smoothly. For instance, a ladder can fall during construction and scratch window panes or construction materials may get stolen. That's why it's worth protecting yourself against possible construction risks with contract works insurance. Construction period insurance is mandatory in most cantons. It provides insurance for new buildings against fire and natural damage, similar to buildings insurance for existing buildings. Since the builder-owner is also liable for damage to third parties, they should also take out builder's liability insurance with sufficient coverage. In some cases, other insurance policies, such as guarantee insurance or legal expenses insurance, may be worthwhile.

Choosing building technologies and building materials prudently

In addition to size, the right construction technology also plays a crucial role in creating a comfortable living environment. For example, a Minergie house has a pleasant climate without air drafts thanks to controlled air exchange. A passive house can also score points with a pleasant living climate, such as a constant indoor temperature.

Important: When building, the relevant measures regarding building materials and building technologies should already be incorporated into the planning stage. This will make it easier to implement future expansions. This can be done, for example, through modular design, which makes it easier to add additional modules later.

Taking sustainability into account when building a house

Sustainable buildings are not only good for the environment – they also improve the quality of life thanks to ecological practices or environmentally friendly building materials. More sustainability in construction offers you the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of your home. There are many ways to build in an energy-efficient manner, for example through comprehensive thermal insulation or sustainable manufacturing processes. Some building materials also provide better air quality inside – for example, by regulating humidity. Depending on your budget, you may need to choose cheaper materials.

Investments in sustainable construction and renovation generally pay off in the long run. For example, good thermal insulation with wood fibers or stone wool means lower heating costs over the long term. A solar thermal or photovoltaic system also contributes to lowering your energy bills.

Duration of house construction – this is how long it can take

Building a single-family dwelling takes time. Depending on whether a prefabricated house or a traditional house is being built, the actual house construction can take several months to a year or longer, from the groundbreaking to the handover of keys. It's also important to carry out a thorough inspection of the newbuild before you accept it and report any visible defects immediately. You can lodge complaints about newly occurring, obvious defects for up to two years after the building inspection. In the case of hidden defects, the guarantee period according to the Swiss Code of Obligations is five years. In the event of a serious defect, including fraudulent deception, this deadline is even twice as long: ten years. It is essential to report defects immediately and in writing.

Build everything yourself or buy a ready-made house?

The options for building your own single-family dwelling are much more diverse than they were a few years ago. In addition to the traditional house made of concrete, there are also houses made of wood and prefabricated houses. A comparison shows the different advantages and disadvantages:

A ready-made house comprised of prefabricated modules can be built quickly. In Switzerland, you can also choose from many offers and expand the building according to your own wishes despite some restrictions. Read here what the prefabricated house has to offer.

A house built from the ground up can be individually designed and adapted to your personal needs. This also includes precise control of construction quality and the materials used. However, this type of house construction takes longer and may incur higher costs due to the time invested, resources, and other responsibilities. Read the article to find out more advantages and disadvantages of newbuilds.

Financing the construction – debt financing is essential

In most cases, it's not possible to build a house without the help of debt financing. However, instead of taking out a mortgage, as when buying a house, people wanting to build a house take out a construction loan. This is more flexible than a mortgage. Unlike like a mortgage, a construction loan merely involves defining a limit. Ongoing bills can be paid using the loan until the limit is exhausted. The construction loan can later be converted into a mortgage. This is possible starting from a tranche of CHF 100,000. The interest rate on the construction loan is somewhat higher than for a mortgage, but only applies to the actual amount used and not to the entire credit line. Find out exactly how you can finance your dream home with a construction loan. You can find further information on the Financing your own home page.

Saving costs – opt for space-efficient construction

You can save materials and, above all, costs by building in a space-efficient manner. Using intelligent floor plans and room concepts, it's possible to reduce the cost of building materials. The creation of multi-purpose rooms or storage rooms also helps to ensure you get maximum usage from the living space. It's also important to make sure your house is only as big as necessary and take into account density. After all, a larger house not only costs more to build, but also to maintain. Because the larger the living space, the greater the need for heating. Read this article for more information on space-efficient construction.

Are you interested in building a house and need a construction loan?

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