So recently I have noticed that there are more and more young people arriving to live and work in Zurich. With attractive salaries, good job opportunities and a lively international atmosphere it is very understandable. If you already have the benefit of a job the next step to actually living here is accommodation, but in case you were not aware, being a foreigner and depending on your permit and income, apartments can be hard to find. If you are a family, couple or someone who is looking to live alone then things can be very tough as dealing with agencies and multiple websites that are only in German can be difficult, also the landlords are notoriously fickle and may look at many applicants before choosing the one with the best credentials. However if you are someone (maybe a young professional or student) that would like to share an apartment then there are many easier options that don’t require mountains of paperwork, are relatively fast and cheaper. Shared apartments are quite popular here as this results in lower rent for larger apartments and you get to meet new people or live with friends. Also some people can be eager to live with English speakers as this allows them to practice their English. Firstly a shared apartment here in Zurich is called a “WG” which stands for Wohngemeinschaften or Residential Communities. Also WG is never pronounced in English, even expats all pronounce the phrase “vay-gay”. Websites So now that you have established that you would like to live in a WG, here are some helpful websites. There are literally hundreds of accommodation websites out there but this shorter list I have compiled are websites I have had personal experience with. They are all free and are popular with the WG community here in Zurich. WG zimmerThis is possibly the most popular website for WGs in Switzerland with hundreds of ads and the website is available in English which is great. It deals almost exclusively with rooms in shared apartments, but there are some studios available. While you can just spend you time browsing the ads I would recommend actually posting your own ad, as this allows you receive offers from people looking to rent a room, as well as alerting you when a new room that matches your criteria is posted. The only downside about this is that you will end up receiving a lot of email notifications. There can be a lot of competition for popular apartments though, so make sure to write a good email application (see below). Ron Orp English This is one of my favorite websites for Zurich and I would recommend signing up for their newsletter when you arrive. There are 2 parts of the site one for Zurich in English and one in German. The site is very good and tends to be used by local people, especially students and young professionals. This means that you can sometimes find much cheaper apartments in great locations. The English site is obviously all in English which is great for some one who has just arrived and can’t speak any German, however there are far more ads in the German part of the site. See below. Ron Orp German As mentioned above this is a great site used by local people. Also it is not as frequented as WG zimmer so you have less competition. The main trouble here is that you will have to navigate in German, however don’t be put off and use this as an opportunity to start trying to learn some new vocabulary. The accommodation listings are included in the “Dach über dem Kopf” section, which directly translates as “a roof over your head”. I would also try to include you application email in German, if you can’t do it yourself simply google translate it, and paste it in along with the same one in English. This will make a better impression. tutti.ch This is another good website for accommodation, it is a small classified website and has ads for every type of thing. While not as popular as some of the above it means you have less competition. Also worth noting is that the website is not available in English, only French, German and Italian. Select your Canton and then accommodation section will be called “Immobilien” then further narrow the field by selecting “mieten” which means rental and then you should be able to narrow the fields further by filling in the location cost and size. English Forum This forum is a wealth of Information about renting in Zurich. Since the forum is exclusively in English it is easy to understand and navigate for non German speakers. If you go to the bottom there is a Market Place section with an accommodation listing. Here you can search the ads, also If you are a member you can even post a wanted ad. However the draw back here is the amount and quality of posts. While there is a certain camaraderie among the Expat community, not many will be directly offering a room in their apartment but will announcing that they are vacating it and you might still have to deal with an agency for a studio as there are not a lot of WG adverts. Gratis Inserate Another classified website with all kinds of small ads. As above with www.tutti.ch narrow down your search. There is not a huge amount of ads but it is used by locals and competition will be less intense.Furnished? Furnished apartments are not standard in Zurich and the great thing about moving into a WG is that the apartment will already be lived in which will save you spending thousands on basic kitchenware, couches, tables and chairs etc. Often though your room will not be furnished but I have previously written an article about how to get free and cheap furniture here in Zurich. So don’t be worried if your room is empty. Writing an email application When you are applying for a WG make sure to send a more information than “I’m interested, when can I view”. Reasonably priced accommodation is at a premium here and cheaper apartments will have hundreds of applicants.This is why you should write an email describing yourself in as much detail as you feel comfortable, the important points to include are
- spoken languages
- what you are doing here in Zurich
- what your expected income is if you are working (they want to know you will be able to pay the rent after all)
- when you are available to move in and when you are leaving
- make sure you include your likes/dislikes
- mention if you have shared apartments before and why you really enjoyed it and want to do it again.
It is always nice to customise each email and try to write why that apartment appeals to you in particular, for example “your apartment seems affordable and I really like that area” or “you seem like a cool group of people and I would really like to live with people I could be friends with”.As previously mentioned rooms in cheap and good locations will have many applications and they will often only invite a selection of people to view it, so the more information you give the better your chances.Viewings, So once you have managed to sell yourself and have a viewing be prepared to be very friendly and chatty as viewings take more the form of an interview rather than first come first serve. Also something that can be a shock to some accommodation seekers is the “casting” this is a viewing/interview but in a group situation, yes you will literally meet some or all of your rivals. This is a tricky situation but can be all to common in Zurich, especially for popular locations with a cheap price. It can be difficult to stand out in a group but make sure you don’t stand out for the wrong reasons and avoid rude or aggressive comments with the other candidates as you will be judged on how you engage with the other people.Questions to ask:
- is everything included (internet, heating ect)
- what is your relationship with your neighbours and landlord
- how does cleaning the apartment work (often there will be a schedule)
- will you have a contract (important if you are declaring your address to get your permit)
Don’t be afraid to ask some questions as it will show that you are interested, these are just a guide so make sure to add your own. Rental costsZurich rents seem quite high compared to other cities but if you are working it should balance out as the salary’s are also quite high. For a WG you should expect to pay in the region of 700 – 1100 CHF. Yes this is high for a room, but when you consider the quality of the communal spaces for example you will often get a proper kitchen with a dishwasher, oven, dining table, and a sitting room with a couch and TV, then the costs is much cheaper than what you would get alone in a small studio.The social aspects of living with people who are already established in the city can be very beneficial for new arrivals, and personally I can say that living in a WG is a great experience. Remember that while the castings and meetings might be a bit of a put off, the concept that you only want to live with people you will get along with is perfectly understandable.Best of luck with your search.