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House Hunters International: Geneva

Posted May 31 2013 3:18am

It has been 3 years since Bo and I hunted for an apartment together and I forgot how utterly exhausting it is, even when you have the help of a professional. Luckily, the city itself is pretty gorgeous and each evening we’ve relaxed with a few glasses of rose or beer along with a long walk along Lake Geneva. I’m also very thankful for my new North Face K Rain jacket which we picked up at REI when my parents were in NYC. It is fitted enough to be semi-fashionable and transition from rain storm to shopping but is still water proof and practical! I’ve lived in it since we arrived on Tuesday since the highs have only been in the 50s.

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IMG_9031 In case you’re new to the blog or need some background, we made a huge decision last month and are moving to Europe in July! We will have flats in both Geneva and London since Bo will be based in London Monday through Thursday for his company and I will be in Geneva. Our weekends will be spent together in either of our cities or hopping around Europe. Yes it will be an adjustment but we’ve done distance before and we are excited for the amazing opportunity.

As part of my relocation, my company provides us with assistance for relocating and finding an apartment. Therefore we have spent the past 2 days looking at flats in Geneva, primarily in the Eaux-Vives and Plainpalais areas of the city.

  • Eaux-Vives: close to the lake, with a lot of shops and restaurants
  • Plainpalais: the very pleasant and lively student neighbourhood, close to the University of Geneva

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IMG_9046 We have seen the spectrum during our 14 flat adventure. Here are just a few of the photos from our tours including some that we loved and some that just left us laughing or wondering how people made the spaces work. We also realize just how differently people live. One home we visited was still occupied and the guy, though a corporate professional, is clearly a “gamer” and needed nothing other than lots of pizza, beer, an Ikea bed, and huge flat screen computer to sustain for two years.

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For those people who are curious, here are a few things we’ve learned about Geneva flats that are quite different than our experience in New York, Philadelphia, or Atlanta.

  • Dishwashers are not very common.
  • Some flats come with “unequipped kitchens” which means you have to buy all your appliances including dishwasher, oven or range, fridge, and washer/dryer.
  • Lifts, the European version of elevators, are very, very small and far different than US elevators. 
  • Everything in square meters which was a bit of an adjustment for us but definitely expected (10.8 square feet per square meter)
  • Apartments are listed by number of rooms rather than number of bedrooms. If a room, when closed off, has no window it is considered a half room regardless how large it is.
  • Most apartment leases seem to be 3 years and there are numerous, confusing real estate laws that we can’t even begin to understand.

So there you have it! We are meeting with our new bank today and seeing a few more flats. So far we have found three options that would work for us though we definitely have a favorite. We are leaning towards Swiss/European charm over some modern conveniences at this point but we’ll see what happens. While the real estate market is more in the renters favor than it was a few years ago it is still in the landlords hands at this point. They have the power to accept or decline our “file” and do not have to explain their rationale.

What is your non-negotiable when looking for an apartment or home? Is it the kitchen? Bath tub? Elevator?

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