|  Ramzi Chamat

Understanding the Lex Koller for the purchase of real estate in Geneva.

In a globalized world, real estate investment often crosses national borders, attracting those looking to diversify their portfolios or find a new residence. Geneva, with its undeniable charm and its strategic position in the heart of Europe, is a popular destination for many investors and future residents. However, the purchase of real estate in Switzerland by non-residents is governed by specific laws, aimed at balancing local interests with international openness. Among these laws, the Lex Koller stands out as a key legislation, directly influencing the purchasing possibilities and processes for foreigners. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of the Lex Koller, with a focus on its applications and implications in Geneva, providing an essential guide for anyone considering a real estate investment in this cosmopolitan city. 


Introduction to the Lex Koller


Switzerland, with its picturesque landscapes and high quality of life, attracts a large number of foreign investors and real estate buyers. However, the acquisition of real estate in Switzerland by non-residents is regulated by the Federal Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad, commonly known as the "Lex Koller". This legislation, which varies from canton to canton, aims to limit real estate speculation and maintain the availability of housing for local residents. It imposes restrictions based on the buyer's nationality, type of residence permit, and intended use of the property.



Geneva and Its Specifics


Geneva, a strategic and economically dynamic canton, applies the Lex Koller with specific rules. The focus is on promoting primary residences and limiting the acquisition of secondary or vacation properties by non-residents.



1. European and EFTA Buyers


Citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) residing in Switzerland with a B, C, or legitimation card can acquire residential properties. They must justify their residence in Switzerland with a valid permit and various documents. The purchase can be personal or via a company. This ease reflects the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and these countries, aimed at promoting mobility and investments.



2. Non-Europeans


a. Non-Europeans with a C permit or a legitimation card leading to a C permit are considered the same as EU or EFTA citizens.


b. Those with a B permit are limited to purchasing their main residence in Geneva, with additional conditions such as no property in Switzerland for the spouse or minor children, and the obligation to establish residence within six months of purchase.



3. European Residents with a G Permit


European residents with a G permit, often cross-border workers, can acquire a secondary residence in Geneva. They are exempt from the obligation of daily return but must return to their main home once a week.



4. The Situation of the British after Brexit


The purchase conditions for the British vary depending on their residential status before or after Brexit. Those with a C permit follow the same rules as EU/EFTA citizens, while those with a post-Brexit B permit are subject to stricter restrictions.



5. Acquisition without Prior Residence


It is possible for a foreigner to buy their future main residence in Geneva even without already being domiciled there. This transaction requires authorization from the Department of Institutions and Digital (DIN).



Implications and Advice


The Lex Koller is complex legislation that reflects Switzerland's desire to control access to its real estate market. Potential buyers must be aware of the nuances and specific requirements related to their status. It is strongly recommended to consult a notary or a legal advisor specialized in Swiss real estate law to navigate these rules.


Real estate investments in Geneva, in particular, are subject to strict scrutiny to ensure they meet the criteria of the Lex Koller. However, commercial properties are generally exempt from these restrictions, thus offering interesting investment opportunities for foreigners.





The acquisition of real estate in Geneva by non-residents is a framed and regulated process, but remains accessible under certain conditions. Understanding the Lex Koller is essential for any foreign investor wishing to establish themselves or invest in Geneva. With appropriate planning and a deep understanding of the law, purchasing real estate in Switzerland can be a fruitful and enriching venture.



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