What’s it like to be an expat arriving in the Lake Geneva region and looking for accommodation?

How is it to be an expat, to arrive around Geneva lake region and to search an apartment?

Let’s begin with the general options you have between furnished and unfurnished apartments in Geneva region.

For any person moving in a new country the question of the accommodation comes along with the question of the furniture. Given the time I think I will stay in this new place, do I want to invest in furniture and other utilities like internet, telephone, and TV, known that most of these utilities are based on a yearly contract? Also, do I want to have to manage myself the assembly of furniture and possible difficulties that can happen with plumbers, electricity providers, internet providers…?

Follows the question of the obtention time of the unfurnished flat in a very stretched market.

There are less than 0.4% of the apartments that are on the rental offers since 20 years. If you want a market to be smooth you normally need above 1% of the total of the apartments on the rental offers. Therefore, it will take you minimum six to eight weeks to find an apartment when you are accompanied by a relocation agency that will help your application to be successful. If you don’t have a relocation agency, it might take you up to 4 months to get a decent apartment at a decent price.

Do I want to wait so long, given the price difference between a furnished and unfurnished apartment? Statistics from European real estate corporations show that on average a furnished apartment is 30% more expensive than an unfurnished one.[i]


These 30% more are justified by the purchase and depreciation of the furniture, and the service you are supposed to get. The furnished apartment agencies are here to help you find a flat and equip it to you fully equipped, working and clean and if there is a problem to provide a fast intervention. Even though, they are not to be confused with a luxury caretaker.

Exemplifying the financial perspective could help you make your decision. For instance, a good price for an unfurnished studio in Geneva center around the old town district is around 1’600 chf, charges included, but without Wifi, TV and telephone. Thirty percent of 1’600 is 480.-, so rounded up it means that a centrally located furnished studio inclusive of all utilities will cost you 2’100 per month of rent. Then when you add the Wifi, TV and service of the company you should expect to find a good and central studio at 2400.- per month.

Secondly, you have the remaining question of the effort you want to provide to equip the flat yourself or let someone else do it and just come with your luggage. This is mainly linked to the question of the time you are going to spend in this apartment and the time needed to find an unfurnished flat.

You need to distinguish two cases, the one where you plan to stay more than two years and the other one where you plan to stay less than that.

If you plan to stay more than two years, it is definitively worth renting a furnished apartment first and then an unfurnished one. If you plan to stay less, it is really not worth investing time and effort into it.

As professionals, we observe that it gives a good return of investment to rent an unfurnished flat the first two months if you have a relocation agency to help you or six months if you don’t, and then rent an unfurnished one. This length is correlated to the second point: the amount of time you need to find the unfurnished accommodation. You need to know that therefore, you will be queuing up in a waiting list of around 50 persons to be selected, so on a pure statistical point of view you will need to apply to around fifty apartments to get one. Maybe we can take in consideration that generally spoken, expatriate have a better income and situation than an average Geneva’s inhabitant, even if you have twice a better application chance, remains 25 applications to obtain your accommodation. This means on 5 month effort, 5 applications per month and thus a bit more visits per month.

Therefore, it seems obvious that for someone looking at staying in Geneva’s region longer than 2 years, he should look at taking first a furnished flat and then after a few months an unfurnished one. His stay in a furnished apartment will allow him to better understand Swiss institutions, languages and to smoothly be ready to undertake the equipment of their future home yourself. Don’t under evaluate the problematic of even calling an internet service provider that most probably only speaks French and explain him what you would like, the same applies to all utilities provider.


What are the options available on the market to guide you through these steps?

Fist of all you have a wide range of service offered by relocation agencies, they will guide you through the selection of accommodation, school, bank, visa, work permit etc… They will also show you around town. This service is very helpful if you come from a country with a very different cultural background. Generally, they work with furnished apartment agencies in Geneva to provide you a furnished accommodation and then they collaborate with “Regies” to find you an unfurnished flat. This might be more costly than doing it yourselves but will ensure you a smooth and easy integration. It is recommended to families in particular.

The second option is to work with a furnished apartment agency and do the other procedures by yourself. Homenhancement can help you find a furnished accommodation. Our local real estate experts can advise you on which flat to select given some criteria you have: district, budget, size.

Secondly, we offer great flexibility on the length of the rental, we start at one month, as most of the other agencies start with a minimum of 3 months. We also offer week-end check-in. Their “à la carte” services allow you to select alongside the rental a cleaning lady service or a transport option with their partners.

To conclude, three important elements to keep in mind: the budget you have, the time you will stay, the effort you want to provide.


[i] https://www.century21.fr/edito/article/pourquoi-et-comment-louer-en-meuble/ consulté le 21/08/15