Apartment Applications - Normal Process

Hi all,

Next week we're going to be visiting Burgdorf to look for an apartment, ready for our upcoming move to Switzerland.

I just wanted to check that I've understood a few points correctly first, before we start filling in applications.

So I understand that it's useful to fill in an application quickly after the visit, if it's a place you might be interested in, as it is usually first-come first-served. The impression I have from Burgdorf, is that apartments are not quite so scarce like in the big cities. I'm therefore wondering if we should still apply for multiple apartments, in case we don't get approved, or if this is likely to not be well received by the letting agents, or even incur costs?

I understand I shouldn't ask them to prepare a contract without risking paying some fees if I don't sign, and of course not to sign anything unless we want to commit to moving there. Is there also any risk of sending off multiple applications in this case though?

Many thanks in advance for any pointers people have here!


I'm living in the French-speaking part so my experience could be a little bit different and I welcome others to comment but here are few considerations.

If one is just moving to Switzerland it could be quite hard to find a normal long-term apartment right away, because one does not have the set of standard documents, most essentially 3 latest payslips, an already issued permit, a contract post probation period.

Commonly, people do the following,

- rent an expensive apartment for 4 months, on the 3rd month one'd probably have the set of documents mentioned above, and can start looking for an apartment; by expensive I mean airnb and alike offered by smaller firms, one needs to be sure that the owner is fine with letting a tenant to officially register (ie. a contract is required or at least a written note etc.) - ask about it in advance

- some companies are able to hire agencies, that'd bypass the necessity of having to get the set of docs first, but their range of properties can be more limited quality and price wise, also maybe you can find such an agency yourself but is it worth it, I don't know

- some people probably manage to find a good enough guarantor to convince a rental agency in a pro-tenant market

- some towns probably have a pro-tenant market and more flexible, but I don't have experience in this regard

Now, as for the stage of visiting appartments, indeed,

- be as a fast as possible when you like an apartment, have all docs scanned on your laptop and go to a nearest convenient place to send them right away (it's sometimes in physical form too, so you may want to have a set of print outs ready as well)

- as for penalties, some agencies do make you sign that you'd pay a penalty refusing an approval, there're some threads about it and people conclude this is barely legal but I'd personally prefer to completely avoid such situations and only sign such forms if I indeed like the apartment for sure, so just pay attention to that

- try looking on Facebook Marketplace, I've found it more efficient when I could message directly a leaving tenant

Thanks for the advice! I'll definitely keep an eye out for any details of penalties on the application forms in this case.

I'm cautiously hopeful that it might be a more pro-tenant market than some of the cities, as I've explained my situation to a few of the estate agents in the area while booking the viewings, and most have said I'll be OK to just send them over a copy of my work contract and passport (plus some have asked for references and/or German credit history as I don't have a Swiss one yet). Let's see when it actually comes to the applications if there are any issues.

Glad for you, good luck then! Also, try to choose a good apartment the first time as it won't be as easy to leave it.

When leaving the apartment, you'd typically either need to wait for a specific date and respect a lengthy notice period or find someone else (and to easily find someone else it needs to be advantageous for the next tenant as well).

Quick update on this for anyone who it might be useful for. Out of our 2 applications, we were approved for one of the apartments within a couple of days. The other one had unfortunately already been taken, but in general it seems like the market in the area is not super competitive.

In terms of documents required, we were fine with a German credit history (Schufa report), Swiss work contract and UK passport for ID. We didn't have the full permit approval yet when applying, and this wasn't an issue.

Our contract also has free choice of date for leaving, except for over Christmas or within the first year of moving in, which seems fair. The notice period is 3 months.

Quite a few of the application forms we got did state that you would have to pay a fee if you were approved for the apartment and didn't accept it. This ranged from around 70-150 CHF depending on the estate agent. Luckily this didn't end up affecitng us anyway, and it wasn't 100% clear if this fee would be chargeable only after you requested the contract, or even just from having submitted the application form.

We are planning to move in on the 15th November. Hoping it all goes OK!