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Is the sale of your apartment subject to approval? What are the restrictions if you want to sell your apartment located in the development zone or if it is rented? The following points must be observed if you wish to sell your apartment in the canton of Geneva:

Several owners

If your apartment belongs to several people, e.g. several heirs, the decision to sell it must be made jointly.

According to Art. 169 of the Swiss Civil Code, a spouse may only sell the family home with the express consent of the other spouse. A family home is a principal residence used as a home by married or registered partners, with or without children.

Legal regime of property

The sale is carried out differently if the ownership is in condominium ownership or in SIAL ownership. The sale of a SIAL apartment takes place through the sale of shares. For more information on the different regulations of legal ownership read my article and watch my video Legal regimes of property in Switzerland

Sale of an apartment in the development zone

If you have bought a newer apartment in the Geneva Development Zone, the selling prices will be controlled by the Geneva State for 10 years. The period of price control starts from the average entry date of the first owner. The real estate office of the Cantonal Housing and Spatial Planning Office calculates the approved sales price. During the inspection period, the apartment must be occupied by its owner, unless there are reasons approved by the department, such as divorce of the buyer or death.

Sale of a rented apartment to an investor

If your apartment is currently rented, you can sell it to an investor who undertakes to take over the entire lease. In the current real estate market, rented apartments are in demand by investors. According to Art. 261 paragraph 1 of the Swiss Code of Obligations, the lease is transferred to the buyer when the property is transferred. The transfer of the tenancy agreement is mandatory law, i.e. the parties cannot exclude the transfer by means of a contractual clause.

Sale of a rented apartment to a buyer who wants to live in it

If you sell your rented apartment to a buyer who wants to live in it, you should be careful. According to Art. 261 paragraph 2 a of the Swiss Code of Obligations, the new owner may terminate on residential as of the next legally admissible termination date if he claims an urgent need of such premises for himself, his close relatives or in-laws. There is no legally admissible termination date in Geneva; the buyer can terminate the lease with three months' notice to the end of the month.

The Federal Supreme Court is of the opinion that the seller violates the rental agreement if he sells the property without receiving an obligation from the buyer to take over the entire rental agreement, and the tenant can claim damages from him. To avoid this risk, you can wait until the tenant terminates the contract or you can terminate it on the next contractually agreed date. A notice of termination given in order to be able to sell an apartment is permitted by law. If you have terminated the tenancy agreement at a certain point in time and the tenant does not leave the apartment and you have specified the delivery date in the purchase agreement on the following day, you are obliged to compensate for the resulting damage in accordance with Art. 97 of the Swiss Code of Obligations.

Sales authorisation

If your apartment has previously been offered for rent, the sale is subject to authorisation if it belongs to a category of aparments with a housing shortage due to its rental or type. Authorisation is granted if the dwelling has been condominium owned or similarly owned since its construction or on 30 March 1985 and has been transferred individually, at least once a permit has been issued or it has never been rented. Details can be found in Article 39 of the Geneva LDTR-law.

The Mortgage

Early termination of a fixed-rate mortgage can be expensive, especially if it was recently concluded for a longer period and you have to pay compensation. There may also be costs associated with the termination of a variable-rate mortgage. Ask your mortgage lender for more information.

Determination of the sales price

Have your apartment appraised by a real estate professional so that you can offer it to prospective buyers at a fair market price.

Property gains taxes

In the canton of Geneva, the property gain is calculated between the sale and purchase value. The broker's commission and certain expenses can be deducted from the profit. The tax rate varies between 50% for a period of ownership of less than 2 years and 0% for a period of ownership of 25 years or more. Further information on the calculation of real estate gains  tax in Geneva can be found on the following site:Taxes on profits on properties

Estate agent

In order to be able to sell your apartment at the best conditions and without worries, I recommend you to engage an experienced professional broker, who has enjoyed a recognized education. At the federal level, real estate agents with a federal professional certificate and Property Fiduciary with Federal Diploma of Higher Vocational Education and Training, are recognized.

 © Written and translated by Esther Lauber, Real Estate Trustee with Advanced Federal Diploma of Professional Education and Training, real estate broker
Legal terms taken from the portal of the Swiss goverment (Swiss laws), mostly translated from German to English with DeepL and corrected by me, in case of doubt, the French or Germain version should apply