Finding a flat in Geneva

This is a tWiki page about flat hunting in Geneva.


I've just been out in Geneva for a week looking for flats. It's quite different to my experiences in the UK so I thought I'd let you in on the secrets. Firstly the turn-around time for flats in Geneva is instantaneous. There seems to be a lack of supply, and far too much demand. You'll need to keep your finger on the pulse, and don't expect to be able to bargain about the price. I was dissapointed by how many leads dissapeared in the week before I arrived in Geneva.


Term Translation Description
Agence Immoblier Estate agents Could sell, rent, or even build flats/houses.
TX Flat with X rooms There is no equivalent of a "1-bedroom" advert in Geneva. If you are looking for a flat with Y bedrooms, you are looking for a T(Y+1)->T(Y+2) appartment
FX Flat with some functional spaces, not necessarily "rooms". F stands for "Function", an F1 is a studio flat, with one functional room. It will usually be smaller than a T1.
Meuble Furnished Everything supplied, down to the potato peeler and sometimes the bedsheets.
Immeuble Unfurnished Nothing supplied, no washing machine, fridge, cooker, anything.
Equippe Part Furnished Some things may be provided, you'll have to look yourself with your own eyes.


As with anything this is "Location, Location, Location". A studio in the centre of Geneva may cost upwards of 2500 CHFs, for which price you can get a whole house in one of the french towns in the surrounding area.

I was looking to spend around 1000 EUR, or 1500 CHF, which allowed me to find a nice two-bedroom flat on the French side of CERN, it would also be enough to rent a one-bedroom flat in the outskirts of geneva, or a studio somewhere more central.

Before you go:

- Documents

You'll need a photocopy of the following documents. Make sure you have them to begin with. If you don't have them you won't be able to complete the application process for flats. In fact, some agents need to see these documents before they will even show you a flat!

  • Your passport
  • A recent bank statement
  • Proof of rent and payment (or mortgage if you own your house): you may need all of
    1. Letter from your previous landlord
    2. Your previous rental contract
    3. Copy of your last 3 bank statements where the payment is made
  • Proof of income: you may need all of
    1. Last 3 payslips
    2. Last 3 bank statements where the money is paid in
    3. CERN contract

- Decide on the area

Have a severe think about where exactly you want to live. If you have a car why not one of the villages into France, where your money goes a lot further. If you're a party animal or a city slicker, then you'll really have to compromise price for size of flat in Geneva centre. I list some places nearby CERN.

Place Location Description Local Agencies
Pay-de-gex Generic, france north of Geneva Fantastic views of the Jura mountains, good size appartments and houses Map
Ferney Voltaire France north of Airport, Near P7. Bus F to centre of town, Y to CERN, many many estate agencies. Map
Thoiry France, north west of CERN. Bus Y to CERN wonderful views of Jura and Alps. Close to Val Thoiry, a large shopping centre Map
St. Genis Pouilly France, next to CERN. Nice little village just inside the french border. <5 minutes from CERN by bus Y or car. Map
Meyrin Geneva, south of CERN. Purpose-built little commune. Shopping centre, swiming pool, doctors, dentist, schools, everything is there, even it's own little club, the "Undertown". Almost the best of both worlds as you will be on the tram line into town. Map

- Look on the internet

I'm not joking when I say the internet is rubbish for flats in Geneva. There isn't really a big list of appartments anywhere, or any central collection, like those you find all over the web for the UK. Each flat may be through any of the hundred agencies, which seem to get by on a few flats at a time.

Don't get your hopes up about any of the flats you see on the net. If they are not already gone by the time you reach Geneva to look for flats, they soon will be. But it can generate a few leads, and give you more of a handle on how far your budget will stretch, and where you'd actually like to live. When you're actually in Geneva, a regular check up on websites like glocals and CERN market can be quite useful, to look for new ads.

Don't bother with the CERN housing service. Imagine them as the most pointless useless group of people you've ever met, and you will be mostly right.

Useful Links:

- Advice

Take a good pair of shoes for walking around (I didn't, and my feet were complaining). Charge up your mobile, as you will need to make many phone calls.

If you need advice while you're there, go talk to Mary Elizabeth in the UK-liason office. She's been at the cutting edge of the housing system for a considereable time, and has lots of helpful advice.

When you get there:

  • Hopefully you'll have a few viewings set up. Lucky you.
  • Pick up the local free papers (from the boxes on the street corners), which usually have a few flat adverts
  • Visit (once only) the CERN housing service in building 39 and ask for a print out of all their current listings. In my experience 3/5 of the flats in the list will already be gone.
  • Take a look at the noticeboard near the CERN user's office. Several flats are usually advertised there.
  • Tread the pavement: Now that you've decided on which areas to target, you need to go to those areas and walk around the commercial district until you're sure you've visited every Agence Immoblier. The maps I've given above will go some way to helping you out.

Some of the agencies may refer you to others. You are unlikely to get a response over email, or if you leave a phone message. It's always better to physically speak to someone on the phone or go round to see them in their office.

Tax and Non-residency:

If you are resident in the UK you must pay UK tax.

It is up to you to declare yourself non-resident!

There are diplomatic agreements within europe to prevent double taxation, but as your salary is "tax-free" at CERN, then you would obviously pay UK tax on it! To avoid paying tax in the UK you will have to:

declare yourself non-resident in the UK.:

  • You can do this at any time of the year, and must be non-resident for three consecutive tax years.
  • You can do this retro-actively for up to two years after leaving
  • You are counted non-resident for the tax year if you have spent less than 183 days in the UK.
  • If you declare yourself non-resident, and have already paid tax, you may be entitled to get it back again. The document ir20 will explain this to you.
  • You need to notify the tax office as soon as possible, by filling out a form P85.
  • Once you are abroad you need to notify them again, with form P85, proof of your new address, contract, p45/p60, etc.

See the following links about non-residency:

-- RobLambert - 2009-09-01

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