Swiss luxury real estate—not a guaranteed success

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UBS Chief Investment Office GWM (UBS CIO GWM) published the UBS Luxury Property Focus 2024, the annual study on the luxury real estate market. The reality of higher interest rates has swept the luxury segment in 2023 and led to a slowing of the luxury market.

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28/03/2024 |
  • Old town Zurich

The price boom we’ve seen in the Swiss luxury property market, which peaked at nearly 10% in 2022, appears to be drawing to a close. Last year in contrast, luxury home prices rose by just over 2%. This slowdown was most evident in single-family homes, where prices rose about 1% in 2023, a steep fall from 2022’s 8%. Owner-occupied apartment price growth showed a similar decline, falling from 9% in 2022 to 3% last year. Overall, luxury real estate price increases lagged behind those of the wider market, but still sit some 25% above pre-COVID levels.

Few tailwinds in the short term

As a safe haven, Switzerland, with its stable institutions and high standard of living, will likely continue to be a draw for foreign buyers, particularly given the current geopolitical climate. However, this “security” has become significantly more expensive given the strength of the Swiss franc and the cost of Swiss luxury property, likely curbing international demand. Furthermore, the average Swiss household has seen its wealth, excluding real estate, stagnate over the past two years. The economy is developing below trend, not supporting the demand for high-priced real estate. «Advertised properties are garnering less interest, and asking prices are being increasingly challenged by prospective buyers. If sellers are pressed for time, they may have to accept price reductions. For the current year, we expect a slight decline in prices in the luxury segment, in the low-single-digit percentage range», explains UBS real estate economist Katharina Hofer.

Three out of four of the most expensive luxury real estate locations can be found in Switzerland’s mountain regions. St. Moritz tops the ranking with prices of over 42,000 francs per square meter. Gstaad comes in a close second, where prices start at around 39,000 francs per square meter, while Cologny, on Lake Geneva, commands prices of over 35,000 francs per square meter, similar to what you would have to pay in Verbier. In other municipalities with a high proportion of luxury real estate—for example in the Geneva region and on Lake Zurich—luxury properties start around 25,000 francs per square meter. For a property, in good condition sitting on 1,500 square meters of land, a purchase price of eight to ten million francs is to be expected. In Ticino, luxury prices start at just under 20,000 francs per square meter.

More affordable locations gain ground

Ten years ago, the established luxury locations of St. Moritz, Gstaad, and Verbier topped the ranking of the most expensive Swiss municipalities, where they remain to this day. «Over a longer time horizon, luxury markets, especially traditional ones, have shown remarkable durability, with short-term cyclical price corrections over the past decade mostly having been recouped.», says Katharina Hofer. Within the 100 most expensive Swiss municipalities, there were relatively few shifts in rank in the Lake Zurich and Geneva regions on average.

The situation is different in Central Switzerland, where Zug and its municipalities have risen on average by more than 30 ranks within a decade. This shows how the canton’s low-tax strategy has made the location such an attractive draw, especially for people with high incomes and assets. But the biggest winner of the last decade is the up-and-coming municipality of Andermatt, located in canton Uri, where the influx of foreign money and the development of luxury amenities has made this more of a luxury destination. In Ticino, however, prices have failed to keep pace with other municipalities due to an oversupply of high-priced apartments.

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