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RENTING

How the Swiss city of Geneva impacts rent prices across the border in France

Geneva’s high housing costs — the most expensive in Switzerland — are spilling over to the neighbouring French municipalities as well.

How the Swiss city of Geneva impacts rent prices across the border in France
High rents in Geneva (here the Old Town) affect neighbouring French communities. Photo by Angélie Page on Unsplash

For the French, living close to Geneva is a double-edged sword: on one hand, the wealthy city and its job market provide better economic opportunities and higher wages.

On the other hand, however, this proximity means that tenants living in French municipalities of the so-called “Greater Geneva area” — towns located near the border — have to pay higher rents than their counterparts almost anywhere else in France.

They are among the most expensive dwellings per square metre in France.

This is the finding of a recent study by France’s National Agency for Territorial Cohesion, which shows that rents in the small French community of Divonne-les-Bains, located 20 km from Geneva, are third-highest in France, after Neuilly-sur-Seine and Paris.

Average rent per square-metre in Divonne is 23.7 euros (23.38 francs). As a comparison, the average rent per square-metre in France is 16 euros

Rents  for French and Geneva accommodations, as reported by the study, can be seen here

In all, rents are higher in 15 French municipalities located near Geneva than, for instance, in Antibes and Cannes.

Why is this?

As mentioned above, living in the vicinity of Geneva has its benefits as well as disadvantages.

Among the benefits for the people who commute from France to work in the Geneva area is higher pay — cross-border workers can earn up to double the salary they would get in France for the same job. Also, taxes are lower in Switzerland than in France.

READ MORE: Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland 

On the negative side, as Geneva rents continue to soar, so do rents in French border regions.

It could be said that these areas are also victims of Geneva’s geography and demographics, both of which are driving housing prices upward.

The tiny canton is nestled in the southwest corner of the country, where it is wedged between France and Lake Geneva, with no room to expand. Therefore, land for new constructions is limited.

At the same time, the demand for housing is increasing steadily; Geneva’s population had grown from 530,000 in 2010 to 620,000 in 2020, while not enough dwellings have been built to accommodate the new residents.

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

Another rent “booster” in the region is the Léman Express, a train linking the Geneva region with neighbouring French towns to provide a quicker commute for cross-border workers.

Since its inauguration in December 2019, it has caused housing costs on both sides of the border to rise sharply.

In the vicinity of the train’s 45 stations, real estate prices soared by 8 to 9 percent on average — a sharper increase than elsewhere in the region.  

Prices went up 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.

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

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SECOND HOMES

New French property tax declaration – your questions answered

This year the French tax office has announced that property-owners have to complete an extra tax declaration - from the rules for non-residents to second-home owners, we answer your questions on this.

New French property tax declaration - your questions answered

In 2023 there is an additional requirement for anyone who owns a home in France – they must fill in a one-off Déclaration d’occupation, stating whether their property is their main residence or a second home.

The reason for this is changes to the tax system that are gradually phasing out taxe d’habitation for all but the highest earners – with the exception of second homes.

You can find a full explanation of how to file the declaration HERE.

Many of our readers have contacted us with questions about this new requirement, so we’ve answered some of the most frequently-asked here;

Do I still have to do this even though I don’t live in France?

A fairly sizeable number of people own property in France (usually holiday homes) but live elsewhere, such as the UK or the US. If you don’t live in France or have income in France you probably won’t have to do the annual income tax declaration, but the Déclaration d’occupation is different.

It concerns anyone who owns property in France, including second-home owners who live in another country.

Do I have to do this even though I pay all my taxes in another country?

If you own property in France you probably do, in fact, pay tax here – property taxes. Bills go out every autumn for the taxe foncière (the property owners’ tax) and taxe d’habitation (the householders tax) – and second-home owners would usually pay both. You may also receive a bill from your commune for waste-collection services, although the annual TV licence bill (which used to be sent out at the same time as the property tax bill) has been scrapped this year.

If you own property in France and have never paid property taxes, it might be worth a trip to the local tax office to check that you are registered correctly, as almost all property owners are liable for property taxes.

Do I have to do this every year now?

No, this is a one off. You complete the declaration this year (before June 30th) and then you don’t have to do it again until your situation changes – eg a second home becomes your main residence.

Why do we have to do this?

It’s because of changes to the tax rules. Taxe d’habitation – the occupier’s tax – used to be paid by virtually everyone, but is now gradually being phased out for all but high earners. The exception to this is second homes, so the tax office needs to know whether your property is used as your main residence or a second home so that they know whether to send you a bill in autumn.

Does this mean more taxes?

No, the declaration is purely for information – if your property is a second home you will continue to get your annual taxe d’habitation bill as normal, if it is a main residence you may receive no bill or a reduced bill, depending on your income.

What about commercial property?

If you own commercial property such as a workshop, bar or retail premises, then this does not affect you, the tax declaration is in relation to homes.

It’s all about clearing up the property status for taxe d’habitation, and you don’t pay this type of tax if it is a commercial premises.

What about gîtes, holiday homes or Airbnb properties?

It’s really all down to what you use the property for – if you run it entirely as a business it should be registered as a business and is therefore not concerned by this.

If the property is your home and you occasionally rent it out on Airbnb (say, when you’re on holiday) then it still counts as a home and you will need to complete the déclaration d’occupation. Be aware that certain areas, including Paris, limit how many days per year you can rent out a property on Airbnb without registering it as a business.

Some people keep properties mostly for their own use as second homes but sometimes rent them out for extra money – be aware that if you do this, you may need to register as a business and declare any income received – full details here.

Can I just ignore it, or tell them my second home is a main residence?

Ignoring or lying to the tax office is generally quite a bad idea whatever country you’re in – they can get quite cross.

This sounds like a massive pain

Welcome to France – home of bureaucracy! Paperwork is a fact of life in France and that’s probably unlikely to change soon. If you’re already registered in the impots.gouv site then this is one of the more painless admin tasks – a couple of clicks, fill out the form and file it online and you’re done.  

If you have questions on the property tax declaration, you can email us on [email protected] and we will do our best to answer them

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