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Insider advice and tips on renting an apartment in Zurich

Some believe that Zürich is the secret capital of Switzerland. Many clichés spring to mind when talking about Bahnhofstrasse, Niederdorf, Sprüngli, and the banks on Paradeplatz. But Zurich is above all a city that offers the good life.

In Zurich, it is best to find an apartment before finding a job. At the time of writing (spring 2020), the number of empty apartments is shockingly low: just over 300 apartments are empty, representing at total 0.14% of all apartments on the market.

Getting around by public transport in Zurich

No matter where you rent accommodation, you will have no difficulty getting around. Zurich’s inner city and suburbs are well served by public transport. Parking spaces are scarce. In Zurich you don't need a car.

In 1990, Zurich's public transport system, the Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (ZVV), was the first of its kind in Switzerland - including being the first to sell tickets are based on the number of zones crossed, independent of the mode of transport or number of connections. The ZVV is regularly upgraded and serves 650 million passengers a year in six cantons.

Apartments for rent in Zurich’s Old Town

Based on the last census of vacant apartments, the best apartments available to rent were to be found in Lindenhof, in the heart of the Old Town. In Lindenhof, only 0.88% of all apartments are available to rent.

However, you will have to dig deep into your wallet to find an apartment near Bahnhofstrasse: the price of a one-room apartment starts at CHF 1,500 and rents quickly rise to astronomical heights.

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Apartments for rent in Witikon - a district with a village feel

In Witikon, located in District 7, only 0.48% of all apartments are available to rent. For a city dweller, Witikon has a remote, village feel. Here, rents are cheap by Zürich standards. Expect to pay around CHF 2,000 for a 3-room apartment. You can find some 4-room apartments for less than CHF 3,000. However, most apartments available to rent in Witikon cost between CHF 3,000 and 4,000. Compared to rents in Bern, Basel or Lucerne, renting an apartment in Zurich is expensive. In general, expect to pay CHF 1,000 per room for an apartment in Zurich.

Apartments for rent in Zurich to suit all tastes

Each district in Zurich has its own gems. The Old Town is synonymous with beautiful buildings that are hundreds of years old. This is why renting an apartment in the Old Town is often very expensive, even by Zurich standards. Renting a 4-room apartment can cost as much as CHF 14,000.

Wollishofen, Albisrieden, Altstetten, Oerlikon, and Affoltern

The districts of Wollishofen, Albisrieden, and Altstetten are closer to nature on the outskirts of the city and are well suited to families. Oerlikon and Affoltern are booming areas and you will find a high number of apartments available in spacious buildings.

Oerlikon and Affoltern offer a high number of subsidised apartments, including student apartments and co-ops.

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District 5, Limmatplatz and District 4, Langstrasse

In District 5, around Limmatplatz, you will find a lot of old buildings with expensive rents. Meanwhile, District 4 and the area around Langstrasse is famous throughout Switzerland.

Zurich's nightlife is mostly centred on this district. This means District 4 is somewhat less suitable for families.

Luxury apartments available to rent in Seefeld and Zürichberg

If you can afford it, try a hillside or lakeside location. Seefeld boasts apartments with lake views. From the top of the tranquil Zürichberg, you can see the lake and the Alps. The Zürichberg area is also popular with celebrities.

Top tips for renting an apartment in Zurich

You have chosen the area you want to live in and are now looking for an apartment to rent? Given the limited number of apartments available to rent, it is key to be thorough when putting your rental application together. There are many websites that offer good advice.

However, there is no need to search day and night as we have compiled the top tips for finding an apartment in Zurich.

The first thing to do is to find a vacant apartment. Many apartments are rented out before they are advertised online. Sometimes apartments available to rent can be found on community portals. For example, make sure you check the Ronorp.net website for vacant apartments. Sign up to get the Naloo newsletter via the immomailing.ch website. Remember to also sign up to get the newsletters of less well-known real estate portals.

It is estimated that half of the apartments available to rent in Zurich are never advertised. A search through online portals such as Homegate, Home.ch, Immoscout, immoclick.ch, newhome.ch or apartmentfox.ch will not suffice if you are searching for an apartment to rent. For this reason, we recommend :

  1. Ask as many administrations and/or building co-ops as possible to provide you with a registration form for housing applications. For example, property management company Livit has many apartments on its books in Zurich.
  2. Word-of-mouth can also be a great way to find a vacant apartment in Zurich. Tell your friends, acquaintances, and work colleagues that you are looking for a apartment.
  3. If you use social media, let friends and followers know that you are looking for an apartment in Zurich. You can also join one of the many dedicated Zurich apartment search Facebook or Whatsapp groups.
  4. Sign up for newsletters for the well-known and less-known online portals.
  5. From the outset, don't limit yourself to one geographical area. You will find an apartment faster if you search throughout the city and beyond, and not just in your favourite area.

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How do I prepare my rental application so I can rent an apartment in Zurich?

Without a rental application, it is almost impossible to rent an apartment in Zurich. In order to rent an apartment, your rental application must contain at a minimum:

  1. An application letter that makes you stand out from the crowd in which you briefly introduce yourself and talk about your living situation, explaining why you are the right person for this apartment,
  2. An extract from your local debt collection register that is no more than six months old,
  3. An accurate and fully completed rental application form.

We also recommend adding some or all of the following:

  1. A copy of your last tax invoice and/or copies of your payslips
  2. A photo
  3. A letter of reference from your previous property management company
  4. A letter of recommendation from your employer
  5. A curriculum vitae/Resume
  6. A rental guarantee certificate

In short, applying for an apartment is very similar to applying for a job.

Calling to ask about your rental application

You are not alone in your search for an apartment in Zurich. Call the property management company or the landlord two or three days after you have submitted your rental application.

Ask if they have received your application, what happens next and how you will be informed in the event of a rejection. Show interest and initiative, without being pushy or unpleasant. Daily telephone enquiries can be inconvenient for landlords or property management companies.

Visiting an apartment for rent in Zurich

If you are lucky, you will receive an appointment to visit the apartment for rent. Whatever happens, accept the time you are offered. Suggesting another date or time does not work, as there are simply too many people looking for an apartment in Zurich.

In order to avoid problems at work, inform your employer that you are looking for an apartment, so that you can count on his or her understanding if you have to visit an apartment on short notice.

Be on time! It is better to be a little too early than too late. Allow a little extra time for the journey to the apartment so that you are prepared for unforeseen delays.

Most of the time, the landlord will not be there, making the rental application even more important. However, if the landlord is present, try to make a good impression. Most people tell the same old fairy tales, hoping to attract the landlord’s sympathy: ‘I am looking for an apartment quickly because of a bad break-up’ or ‘I have been thrown out by my parents’ or something similar. Be yourself, don't talk too much and above all tell the truth!

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Check the apartment carefully during visits

You should be critical when you visit the apartment so you don’t end up in substandard conditions. Go through all the rooms, even if there are a lot of people in the apartment at the same time. If possible, turn on lights and electrical appliances to see if they are working properly. Run the water from each tap for a short period of time.

Your Firstcaution rental guarantee

Found an apartment you’d like to rent? Congratulations! Firstcaution will take care of the rental guarantee. With Firstcaution, you can obtain a rental guarantee without a bank deposit quickly and easily. Or you can take advantage of the Option Flex, a combination of a rental guarantee and a deposit. Contact us to discuss your options.

Tips for enjoying your free time in Zurich

You are now sitting in your apartment and don't know what to do with your free time that you no longer have to spend looking for an apartment? We have some insider tips.

The former botanical garden is an oasis in the heart of Zurich. Although it has not been a botanical garden for more than 35 years, it is still the perfect place to relax. The garden is located between Talstrasse and Schanzengraben, close to Paradeplatz.

If you want to enjoy a wonderful view and a fantastic meal without going as far as Üetliberg, the restaurant Ziegelhütte is not to be missed. Take Tram 9 to Schwammendingerplatz, and the restaurant is a quick 10-minute walk away. Our tip: go for brunch! Make sure you burn off those calories afterwards. You could walk the two-kilometre path through the forest that leads to Zurich's famous zoo.

The Kle restaurantis out of this world. It is fully vegan but so tasty that it is even popular among meat lovers. The owner, Zizi Hattab, trained with Andreas Caminada.

We also recommend the Viadukt restaurant near Josefswiese, which serves innovative, seasonal, and light cuisine. The Viadukt offers supported training positions for young people who have difficulties accessing the labour market.

Do you have everything you need for your accommodation search? Please contact us if you still have questions. And if you find an apartment to rent, you can get a rental guarantee quickly and easily from us.

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