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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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PROPERTY

REVEALED: Where in Europe have house prices and rent costs increased the most?

Is it time to buy a property in Italy, Cyprus or Greece? House prices have shot up across Europe in recent years but there are major differences between certain countries.

REVEALED: Where in Europe have house prices and rent costs increased the most?

House prices have risen by an eye-watering 45 percent, and rents by 17 percent, across the EU since 2010, the latest figures released by the EU statistical office Eurostat reveal.

However, there are major differences among countries. In Austria, house prices have more than doubled and rents have increased by 45 percent compared to over a decade ago. In other countries, they have stalled or declined over the same period.

Greece is a notable example, with prices plummeting by 23 percent and rents by 25 percent between 2010 and 2021.

In Italy, house prices have fallen over overall since 2010 although like much of the EU they have been rising again in recent years.  Rent prices in Italy have registered only a modest increase, while Spain has recorded very small rises in both rents and house prices.

Here is the situation in the countries covered by The Local, according to Eurostat.

Finding a new home abroad?

Between 2010 and the first quarter of 2022, house prices have more than doubled in Austria (+114 percent) and have grown even more in Estonia, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about buying property in Germany

In Germany, house prices shot up by a hefty 94 percent, in Sweden by 92 percent and in Norway by 91 percent.

Denmark (59 percent) and France (29 percent) also recorded double-digit growth.

Spain was the country with the smallest rise, 3 percent, among those countries covered by The Local.

Over the same period, prices have declined in Italy (-10 percent), Cyprus (-8 percent) and Greece (-23 percent).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

According to Italian real estate agency Tecnocasa, house prices in the country are now 29 percent lower than in 2010, even though a slow upward trend started in 2017. Only Milan bucks the trend, with an 8.5 percent increase between 2010 and 2021.

The reasons behind these data, according to Fabiana Migliola, director of Tecnocasa’s research unit, are dwindling salaries and low capital availability, with most buyers being able to afford properties of up to €250,000.

“Of course, a modest growth of real estate and lower prices compared to many other countries inside and outside of Europe make our country attractive to investors,” Migliola said. “This is a phenomenon we have recorded above all in the holiday home market, as 2021 signalled an increase in the number of holiday homes purchased by foreign buyers, especially from the US, France and Eastern Europe.”

2022 could be a year of adjustment, she continued, but rising interest rates could have an impact on buyers who finance their home purchases with a mortgage.

Looking at prices, the agency forecasts a recovery with a rise between 2 and 4 percent, with high demand currently from Italians.

Scaffolding on a high-rise apartment block

Austria has seen the highest average rent increase over the last 12 years. (Photo: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Where is it cheaper to rent?

Rents have not risen quite as much as house prices, but they have risen steadily since 2010.

Between 2010 and 2022, rent increased by 17 percent on average across the EU. The highest growth among the countries covered by The Local was in Austria, with a whopping 45 percent rise. Denmark (21 percent), Sweden (21 percent), Germany (17 percent) and Switzerland (10 percent) also experienced a double-digit rise.

READ ALSO: Property: How to find a rental flat when you arrive in Austria

Increases were more modest in Italy (7 percent), Spain (5 percent) and France (8 percent).

The highest growth was in Estonia (177 percent), Lithuania (127 percent) and Ireland (77 percent).

On the other hand, in Greece, rents decreased by a quarter over the period, and Cyprus recorded a -1 percent.

The problem of affordability

While average increase rates only give a partial picture of the real estate market, an additional indicator cited by Eurostat is the housing cost overburden rate, the percentage of people spending 40 percent or more of their disposable income on housing.

READ ALSO: 5 of the most affordable places to buy property in France

Despite its plummeting house prices and rents, Greece had the highest rate in 2020, with one in three people (33.3 percent) spending 40 percent or more of their income on housing.

Other European countries with a high-cost overburden rate are Denmark (14 percent) and Switzerland (14 percent).

Just below the 10 percent line stand Norway and Germany (9 percent), Spain (8 percent), Sweden (8 percent) and Italy (7 percent).

Despite the significant rise, Austria has a relatively low-cost overburden rate, at 6 percent.

How has Brexit impacted British buyers?

For British citizens, Brexit may have added difficulties to the purchase of properties in EU locations. Countries such as Austria have specific restrictions for non-EU citizens and where there are no restrictions, higher taxes and new immigration rules may result in fewer British buyers entering the market.

In Spain, it was reported this week that purchases by British residents, which used to make up almost a quarter of all transactions (24 percent), now only account for 12 percent.

However, a recent survey among 900 British buyers found that only 4 percent had given up plans to purchase a property abroad due to the difficulties caused by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some 11 percent went ahead as planned last year and 85 percent are still planning to buy.

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This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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