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PROPERTY

How a cross-border train has pushed house prices up in Switzerland and France

A commuter rail link between Switzerland and France has caused property prices on both sides of the border to rise sharply.

How a cross-border train has pushed house prices up in Switzerland and France
Private universities market their location near international institutions to attract students to Geneva. (Image by 495756 from Pixabay)

When the Léman Express (LEX) was inaugurated in December 2019, its main goal was to connect the Geneva region with neighbouring French towns and provide a quicker commute for cross-border workers.

Established by the Swiss (SBB) and French (SNCF) railway companies, LEX is Europe’s largest cross-border regional rail network.

Some of the approximately 92,000 employees from France commute to their jobs in the Lake Geneva region by car, while others prefer to take Léman Express, which was launched specifically to reduce journey times and cut traffic in and around Geneva.

But while this goal has been largely achieved – the train carries 52,000 passengers a day — the rail link is also causing rents and property prices in the vicinity of the train’s 45 stations to soar by 8 to 9 percent on average — a sharper increase than elsewhere in the region.  

Prices rose in the French departments of Haute-Savoie and Ain, as well as in Swiss cantons of Geneva and Vaud, all of which lie along Léman Express’ 230-km track, according to Tribune de Genève (TDG).

Screenshot Léman Express

Why has this happened ?

As a general rule, transport infrastructure influences real estate prices, according to Dragana Djurdjevic, statistician at Wüest Partner real estate consultants interviewed by TDG.

Increases vary based on the type of transport —such as trains, buses or trams — as well as the frequency and the distance of the property to the nearest stop.

Typically, prices / rents are the highest within 300 metres around a station.

In general, Swiss and French municipalities with a LEX station have recorded significantly higher rents and sale prices than areas that have no access to the train, Djurdjevic said.

Just how much have prices increased along the LEX line?

On  the Swiss side, rents rose by 4.9 percent along the track.  In Geneva itself (already the most expensive rental market) , they went up by 1.5 percent, and only slightly less (1.4 percent) in Vaud.

READ MORE: Why is Geneva’s rent the highest in Switzerland?

In terms of properties, prices along the network rose by 17.7 percent; in Geneva the increase is 12.3 percent, and 13 percent in Vaud.

In neighbouring France, rents increased by 6.1 percent along LEX stops. In Haute-Savoie, the increase is 6.3 percent and in Ain 9.1 percent.

Sale prices went up by 15.7 percent along the track, 14.8 percent in Haute-Savoie and 23.7 percent in Ain.

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For members

WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Why do foreign workers flock to Switzerland?

Despite its notoriously high cost of living, an increasing number of foreign nationals seek employment in Switzerland, whether they are cross-border workers or Swiss residents. Why is this?

Why do foreign workers flock to Switzerland?

The latest numbers released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on Thursday indicate that between the third quarter of 2021 and 2022 (July to September), the number of foreign nationals employed in Switzerland went up by 3.7 percent.

Among  these workers, the increase was the strongest among holders of a short-term residence L permit  (+7.9 percent), followed by residence permit B (+7.7 percent), and cross-border workers G permit holders (+5.9 percent).

Even though Switzerland — and its two largest cities, Zurich and Geneva — are among the world’s most expensive places to live, the demand for Swiss work permits is not slowing down.

What is Switzerland’s appeal to foreign nationals?

The reasons seem clearest for cross-border G-permit holders.

As these employees work in Switzerland but live in the their home countries, they can enjoy the benefits such as higher salaries and lower taxes without the disadvantage of having to pay Swiss prices.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that French, Italian, German, and Austrian citizens prefer to work for a higher pay in Switzerland.

In one case reported by The Local, one employer who runs a plumbing business in the French commune of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, which is located right on the border with the canton of Geneva, said he couldn’t find any employees to hire as “everyone wants to work in Switzerland”.

This disparity in Swiss and French wages was also made clear by another French citizen, Kévin Lecoq, who makes a daily cross-border trek to the Swiss canton of Jura.

“If we add up everything that has to be paid in taxes, we still have one and a half times the French salary,” he said.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who can work in Switzerland but live in a neighbouring country?

What about permanent foreign residents?

The group of permanent foreign residents, as the FSO survey shows, increased by 3.7 percent between the third quarter of 2021 and the same period this year.

Unlike cross border-workers, who earn money in Switzerland but spend it in their (cheaper) home countries, permanent residents must live on their wages right here.

So why do increasing numbers of them want to work in Switzerland?

There are several reasons:

High salaries

Of course, money is a big draw. Swiss wages are among the highest in Europe and even the world. True, the high — and growing — cost of living eats up a lot of people’s wages, especially for fixed expenditures such as rent / mortgage, health insurance premiums, energy, food, transport, clothing, and taxes.

But studies show that there is still enough of it left (especially for high earners) to enjoy a good life.

An in depth analysis by a digital employment platform Glassdoor provides some interesting and no doubt surprising insights into Switzerland’s purchasing power parity in comparison with other nations.

“Taking not only income and cost of living into account, but also the effects of differences in taxation, it is possible to derive an indication of after-tax, local purchasing-power-based, standard of living,” the study reported.

“On this basis, the highest overall standard of living is found in the cities of Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany. Although the cost of living can be relatively high in these countries, so are average wages and purchasing power”.

READ MORE: Do wages in Switzerland make up for the high cost of living?

Working conditions

Switzerland has a strong pro-employee legislation, with provisions for vacation, time off, sick leave, and other workplace-related situations that is more flexible and generous than in many other countries, especially the United States.

No company can act unilaterally or arbitrarily; all circumstances are covered by either the law, collective employment agreement, or individual work contract.

Quality of life

You have probably read by now countless articles about how Switzerland consistently rates among the top nations in terms of quality of life.

In fact, in September 2022, Switzerland was ranked “the best country in the world” by US News & World Report.

The survey  explained such a high score thus: “Beyond the essential ideas of broad access to food, housing, quality education, health care and employment, quality of life may also include intangibles such as job security, political stability, individual freedom and environmental quality.”

READ MORE: Switzerland ranked ‘best country’ in the world

Did anything else prompt you to find a job in Switzerland? If so, let us know.

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