THE OPENING OF THE NEW GOTTHARD TUNNEL MAKES REAL ESTATE IN SOUTHERN SWITZERLAND INTERESTING. UELI SCHNORF KNOWS WHAT BUYERS ARE LOOKING FOR.
Residence: What impact do you expect the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel to have on the real estate market?
Ueli Schnorf: Whenever a center is better connected to the periphery, the periphery experiences an upswing. Bellinzona and Lugano in particular will benefit, perhaps Locarno to a lesser extent, because people still have to change trains. More important for Ticino will be the opening of the Ceneri Base Tunnel, which will create a true metropolitan area.
Many German-speaking Swiss, who will soon be in the sunny region of the country an hour faster, associate Ticino with an idyllic image of palm trees, polenta and rustico. Is this image true?
It may be true for some senior citizens and perhaps for part of the middle class. In the meantime, there are completely different population groups that have come to appreciate Ticino: In summer, after all, half of Zurich is on the Piazza Grande in Locarno. Wealthy people from all over the world are interested in real estate, for whom Ticino is one of the best places to live. They appreciate the nature, security, infrastructure, the central location in Europe and the tax attractiveness. Polenta and palm trees are not mentioned!
It is said that the Italians, once one of the most important customer groups, hardly buy anymore.
This is not true. Italians have always bought mainly in Lugano. They are still one of the most important demand groups for luxury residences, also because they continue to view the situation in Italy with skepticism. They are increasingly being joined by buyers from the Netherlands, Scandinavia or Eastern Europe - and even from the Far East.
The market for second homes has cooled considerably. Do sellers have to make concessions on price?
Yes, especially in the luxury segment and for new construction projects, we are seeing slightly falling prices at the moment. Only properties that offer very good value are being sold. In addition, banks are providing financing at extremely favorable rates, but at the same time they are very reluctant to grant loans.
In general, the Ticino real estate market is suffering from a partial oversupply. Why?
In the case of second homes, an attempt was made before the ban to have as many as possible approved, which is now leading to a temporary oversupply. In the luxury segment, supply has almost doubled compared to 2012, when prices were at their peak. We analyze this very closely: the reasons are often property-related. In addition, there is a large group of owners in their seventies who want to exchange their too-large properties for smaller ones. Because they lack the pressure to sell and the price expectations have not yet been adjusted, there is a certain stock of unsold properties on the market.
"In the luxury segment of the real estate market, supply has almost doubled since 2012."
What advice do you have for real estate developers?
The location is crucial, which means you should build where people want to live in the future. Then there's the price. Tenants and buyers are more sensitive today than they have been for a long time. Other important aspects are construction quality, design and building services. Ticino is still quite behind in this respect. Many new buildings look as if they were built in the 1980s.
What kind of luxury is crucial for market success?
Here, too, location comes first. Buyers today pay attention to the fact that maintenance requirements are as low as possible and that home automation is easy to operate. Finally, the price is also important in this segment; it must be realistic.
The people of Ticino themselves prefer to build a small house on a greenfield site instead of buying an expensive apartment in the narrow city centers. Why?
Here, too, sooner or later it will be a case of: Back to the city. Many Ticino residents are still connected to the earth and prefer a house on their own land to an apartment. Even if it is small and modest. Luxury under palm trees Ueli Schnorf is the owner and managing director of Wetag Consulting. Founded in 1973 and based in Locarno with offices in Lugano and Ascona, the company specializes in brokering luxury residential property and is the exclusive partner of Christie's International Real Estate for Ticino.
Interview: David Strohm
Photo: Claudio Bader