The new year 2017 will undoubtedly be synonymous with innovations, both for the high-end market and for Cardis | Sotheby’s International Realty. It is an opportunity for us to talk with our CEO and partner, Philippe Cardis, to take stock of the current and past state of luxury real estate in Frenchspeaking Switzerland.
In the last few years, the luxury property market has seen something of a slow-down. What do you think the reasons for this are (legislative, economic, etc.) ? And what is the state of play today ? Are we now seeing an uptick ?
As many people know, we experienced a peak in the years 2010-2013 when the sale of luxury property reached excessive prices. There are two reasons for this : the first is that many foreign companies have settled in our region, above all because of the tax advantages. Then, two years ago, there was the vote on quotas, that is, the law on the maximum number of foreigners that can be accepted in Switzerland. This has had the effect of calling into question all the bilaterals. These votes, recently associated with the rejection of the RIE3 (3rd reform to business taxation), pushed foreign companies to leave. The wealthy expatriates virtually stopped buying, which compressed the luxury market. Meanwhile, we experienced the episode of the glass ceiling ; the Swiss National Bank dropped the euro, so the Swiss franc became more expensive than before, which increased the cost of all properties. All these factors together made Switzerland less attractive than before. The market for the sale of luxury property is extremely sensitive to these circumstances. We have seen variations in the order of 30 to 40%. Today we see prices that have dropped by as much as 50%. So we are starting to feel a certain dynamism, because such large changes attract the interest of wealthy Swiss and foreigners alike (those already living here), as well as clients who have just moved to our country.
What is the difference between the five major regions of Frenchspeaking Switzerland, namely Geneva, Lausanne, La Côte, the Riviera and Fribourg, in terms of the high-end property on offer ?
Perhaps we can start with Geneva and La Côte. The La Côte/Geneva region is the one with the most high-end properties, and is clearly the most privileged and the most promising. The reason is simple: many luxury properties have been built over the years, economic and real estate activity is strong, and the market is more aimed towards a foreign than Swiss clientele. Geneva has always been the “gateway” to Switzerland, so people are naturally interested – initially – in what happens in this region. It is also historically the area in which Cardis | Sotheby’s International Realty has sold the most luxury properties. Since the beginning of 2017, after two difficult years, the recovery of the high-end market has made itself felt very strongly. Although the future looks bright for the Geneva region, this is strongly linked to developments in the RIE3, which is crucial legislation for the establishment of foreign companies.
This region has also been restructured and our company has a new director here. Can you tell us more ?
We are very pleased with the arrival of our new Director for the Geneva and La Côte regions, in the person of Mr. Dino Moschovis. The new local teams are experienced and dynamic, led by a new boss who has strong managerial qualities and is extremely motivated to develop the activities of our company, both in the resale market and in luxury and new projects. Dino Moschovis will bring a breath of fresh air to these agencies. Moreover, a special emphasis will be placed on the development of the Geneva agency, with the arrival of new, handpicked experts.
Now, what about the other regions ?
Lausanne and the Riviera are quite similar. Foreigners coming to live in Switzerland don’t see these regional differences. For them, in the end, living in Montreux means living just 40 minutes from the airport (a classic situation in all major international cities). Often, the Vaud-Riviera region proves to be an excellent solution. Finally, the Fribourg region is unique in offering exceptional luxury properties (mansions, castles, etc.), at prices four times cheaper than in our peak regions. And, though it is not on the shores of Lake Geneva, Fribourg is extremely pleasant. It should be noted that the local high-end clientele is predominantly Swiss.
In the end, what are the reasons for foreign wealth to return to Switzerland ?
When foreign fortunes shunned Switzerland for Ireland or Belgium, they quickly realized that the quality of life is not the same as in Switzerland. It is also very important to emphasize that this quality of life is something that no vote can take away from us. Many of our clients, especially French speakers, have tried out going elsewhere. However, they always return to Switzerland for our pleasant climate, as well as for the language. Naturally, the shores of Lake Geneva are a peerless attraction, together with the stability of our currency, the safety of our streets and the pleasantness of life here.
What are the strengths that make Cardis | Sotheby’s International Realty the company of reference for high-end transactions in French-speaking Switzerland ?
The strength of our company is clearly our affiliation with Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the largest real estate network in the world. We also anticipated the recovery of the high-end market by creating a website wholly and exclusively dedicated to this segment, which has been online since September. Today, however large or small your fortune, everyone uses their tablet to surf estate agents’ sites, looking for the property of their dreams. There are far fewer intermediaries than before, which makes our tools dedicated entirely to luxury all the more important. In the same spirit, we restructured our brokerage teams to create a “luxury team”. Each region has one or more representatives, who are specialists in highend real estate. The goal is to offer a truly personalised service, because luxury brokerage is different from ordinary brokerage and demands a very special kind of attention, and dedication every step of the way.