"How to buy my first home in Switzerland" guide | Step 4 - The Visit

At this point of time, you'd have checked your cash availability, defined the what and subscribed to as many real estate newsletters as possible.

Our first visit happened some months after our initial research phase.
I wished someone could have shared with us the key questions to ask and the most common pitfalls to avoid.
I don't want you to repeat my mistakes!

Don't rely on (beautiful) classifieds, check by yourself

That is my first lesson learnt.
Like a well written blog post, one key element of a good classified is its story telling tone. It makes it engaging. It makes you dream about your future home.

Except that qualitative presentation and inspiring stories are called marketing for stuff on sale!

The only thing that can disentangle your dreams from the reality is to check the property by yourself.

Our first visit was an apartment close to Yverdon-les-Bains train station.
It was a brand new construction as we like.
Despite the nice pictures on Homegate, the reality check made us realize that the sun was hidden from 4pm on (have you seen our winter's duration in Switzerland?!). No picture described this. I even knew about the sun exposure and it wasn't a blocker since the pictures were so nice...

The closeness with other buildings weren't on the picture neither.

Another bad point was the feeling.
We had the floor plans and knew the dimensions were OK.
When we visited the property though, the feeling was so different from cold square meters. It felt tiny. Too tiny for us.
Thankfully we didn't buy this one as we learnt some weeks ago that material quality used by the constructor was poor...

Don't discard opportunities due to external appearance

The opposite to the previous statement is also true.
We almost missed our life opportunity.
This property is now what we call our home!

We saw this classified of a gorgeous rural farm, composed of few apartments.
I went there to check what was around and follow my first advice.
On the marketing brochure, the close neighbors weren't mentioned.
I came back home and told my wife that it was a nogo for me.
Yet she persuaded me to visit it as the apointment was already setup.

The next day, we entered the apartment.
It was a revelation. It was clear for both of us: this property was our home.

About my "too close" nogo, it was due to scaffolding which were giving a wrong visual impression.
Enter. Then decide.

I'm glad I've listened to my wife!


The view I get every week when I go for a run! Beautiful.

Ask good questions

You have to be prepared before a visit.
The stronger your questions, the less you will risk to face a real estate agent who try to rip you off.

It will help in the next negotiation phases.
Document yourself and think you are knowledgable when you visit.
Don't feel "less good" than your real estate agent.
As said the author D. J. Schwartz: "You are what you think you are."

I started to prepare you a list with things to ask like:

  • What heating system?
  • Is the land next to the house a building plot?
  • Has the new construction a Minergie label?
  • What is the sun exposure?

Then I realized that someone surely had created such a checklist. I found several ones.
I would recommend you this one in English from Homegate.ch. It is quite complete and even has some questions I didn't think about.

Print it and fill it together with the real estate agent.
If the guy/gal feels upset with all your questions, don't feel bad. We talk here about one of the most important purchase of your life.

Cheat on your interests

We lost negotiation power after our first visit.
We were so cheerful in our reactions.
The real estate agent must have thought by the end of the visit: "It's gonna be an easy deal with this young family!"

Instead, you should mention all the cons out loud during the visit. And keep the good points for the debrief with your wife afterwards.
I don't ask you to play gambling negotitation, just to not reveal your interest until it becomes necessary.

Don't disclose your numbers

If you're in a situation where you're not under pressure - i.e. 50 visits of the property planned the same day - then don't share infos about your numbers with the agent.
They almost all ask what's the status financially, which is normal as they don't want to lose their time with lurkers.
You don't wanna give them weapons for the future negotiation phase...
Simply say you've got the required amount of money for the property.

Be also careful with partnership between the agency and real estate financing solutions' companies.
The agent tells you that you can get free help from a financing company which does the mortgage research work at your place.
I have no problem as I think these independant companies - when really independant - can do a great job to find the best interest rates.
But, this direct link between the two companies bothers me. I can't help to imagine they share at least some infos like "Don't worry they have way enough cash to support the sale!".
My advice is to choose who you want to work with and pay for it. It will cost less in the end compared to the potential increased price from the real estate agency (as they know you have cash).

Compare

In total we visited three potential apartments (including our current home).

The first one was in Yverdon-les-Bains which confirmed we really liked new constructions.

Noticing prices weren't going down, and our will to buy as soon as possible, we went for a visit in the countryside to see if we could accomodate with birds and trees - as well as lower price tags.
We didn't feel well in this small town.
The apartment wasn't amazing neither.
We ended the visit declaring: "The countryside isn't for us. We are not ready for such a change. We really prefer to stay in Yverdon-les-Bains."

Some months later, we decided to challenge ourselves again.
The village was way smaller than the small town.
Nevertheless, we felt good. We still do.
You know how the story ends.

We were lucky to be quite aligned with my wife. Even though, comparing properties can only help you to triple check your assumptions and maybe change your opinions.
Do not neglect this step. Moreover, it's free!
You can have really good surprises in the end.

Next step: Visit your money men, again

After many visits, you found your gem. Congratulations!
Serious discussions can finally take place.

Now that you've a real usecase, your money men will be way more listening to you as they know there is potential to make money... That sounds like a cliche, but it's really the reality.
Be prepared, it's gonna be harsh to dive into the sharks' pool!

If you're on your way to home ownership (or already a home owner), let us know about your secret tips to handle a visit like a pro.
I will update this blogpost based on your comments.



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