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Finding a property for your company in Switzerland

Why Switzerland

Finding a property to establish a business in Switzerland is an essential step in the process of setting up a business. To do so, it is important to understand the Swiss laws governing the purchase, lease or construction of a commercial property.

Real estate used for the exercise of a professional activity

In Switzerland, there is a distinction between real estate that is intended to be used for a business activity and real estate that is not. This distinction is important because the taxation applicable to these two property types is different. Each canton has its own real estate tax system, so it is recommended to contact a competent authority such as a cantonal economic development agency like Greater Geneva Bern area once you have chosen your location.

Where to look for commercial property in Switzerland? 

While private housing is, as in many countries, a relatively scarce commodity, the supply of commercial real estate is particularly important in Switzerland. To find suitable premises, numerous real estate and trust websites list commercial premises or buildings available for purchase or rent. Note that a building is considered to be in commercial use if it is used for more than 50% for business. Here are a few sites that list numerous offers for commercial real estate:

It is also possible to consult the homepages of the various Swiss communities, which mostly contain information on upcoming or current construction projects.

Finding a property to establish a business in Switzerland is an essential step in the process of setting up a business. To do so, it is important to understand the Swiss laws governing the purchase, lease or construction of a commercial property.


In Switzerland, real estate agencies are responsible for the management of buildings. They are generally mandated by the owners to take care of the maintenance of the buildings, the collection of rents and charges, as well as all the administrative procedures related to the rental. They are different from real estate agencies, which intervene in buying and selling transactions as intermediaries between buyers and sellers. If you are looking to rent premises to set up your business, it is therefore generally with the agencies that you deal with or directly with the owners.

There are also many technology parks, often specialized in a particular field of activity. Designed to foster synergies between innovative companies, they pool premises and infrastructure to host start-ups. These technology parks can therefore be an excellent opportunity for start-ups wishing to establish themselves in Switzerland.

Purchase of commercial buildings and land

The purchase of real estate used for the exercise of professional, artisanal, or industrial activity (except for land intended for the construction, sale, or dwellings’ rental) and of commercial land is possible without restriction for individuals residing in Switzerland or abroad, regardless of their nationality. However, owning a property in Switzerland does not give any right to obtain a residence permit.

The situation is somewhat different in the case of the purchase of a property not intended for professional use. Indeed, persons residing abroad and wishing to buy a house are subject to a particular regulation defined by the Federal Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad. This law is intrinsically linked to the regulations on land use planning and environmental protection, which we discuss in the article “Building in Switzerland: land use planning and environmental protection“.

When purchasing a property and before signing the sales contract, it is advisable to consult the land register – a register that contains information on the identity of the owner, the rights of all other persons to the land, and the existence of liens – to determine the rights and obligations related to the land on which the property is or will be built.

To view the land register data and obtain detailed information, proof of interest in the land must be provided. An extract from the land register can then be ordered from the relevant land registry office. Since there is no central land registry, you must contact the land registry of the canton in which you wish to build or buy premises for your business. Although each canton manages its register, they are all subject to the same supervision by the Federal Office of Justice.

Please note that only the sales contract – which must always be authenticated – constitutes the real land transaction and therefore the condition for the entry of the property in the land register. Ownership of the land does not pass to the buyer until the entry in the land register is made. As the registration in the land register can be complex, it is recommended to contact an expert who can guide you through the process. You can also contact the notary who can provide you with additional information.

Build a building for your business

If you want to build your company, you need a building permit which is issued by the competent cantonal authority. The project must comply with the zoning plan of the municipality concerned and satisfy the legislation on construction and environmental protection. The average time required to obtain a building permit is three months, but it can vary depending on the complexity of the project and the workload of the departments responsible for issuing the permit. In addition to the project plans, other forms and supporting documents must be provided depending on the construction project, which you can find on the website of the competent authority.

A typical procedure for a building permit generally consists of four phases:

  1. Obtaining information and advice from the relevant authorities;
  2. Filing of the building permit application, which may be accompanied by a preliminary examination and a request for additional clarification, such as an environmental impact study or a study of classified monuments and sites;
  3. Review of the application and issuance of the building permit (with conditions and deadlines), followed by public notification (publication and staking of the site);
  4. Finally, the construction phase following the validation or, if there has been a refusal of authorization, the possibility of appealing against the decision taken by the competent authority.

In a nutshell: Individuals residing in Switzerland, regardless of their nationality, as well as those living abroad, have the opportunity to construct, purchase, or lease real estate for business purposes. Since the real estate market is largely governed by the legislation of the various cantons, it is important to choose a location that best meets your needs before selecting a property for your business.

Greater Geneva Bern area (GGBa) is the investment development agency of Western Switzerland. If you would like to know more about the acquisition of a commercial property or about other subjects that could help you in your implantation, contact us.

Our articles ” Why Switzerland “can answer the questions you have.