Longer commute or higher rent


I was wondering what is your opinion regarding higher commute time or higher rent.
I have two different option for similar flats:

  • 1100.- with charges
  • 1800.- with charges

Facilities and public transport around the flats are similar

The first option is a lot cheaper but increases my train commute time by 40 min (20 min in one way) each day, 4x a week.

How would you approach this choice? calculate how much 40 min is worth in terms of salary? Take the cheapest one so I can increase my savings rate?
I have also read studies that a high commute time reduces happiness.

It depends on what kind of commute that is,what you do are able to do with your time while commuting and also if you live alone or with someone.

With the higher rent you’re buying time for yourself, and that’s priceless. But what are you doing with this time? I used to had a longer commute and now I walk to work. While it’s great I kind of miss having those 2x40 minutes everyday to pay my bills, read, listen to podcasts or review my budget.


I’d consider following factors:
What is the total commute time ?
Can you use/optimize these extra 20 minutes to do something else ?
Kids ? / kids in the near future ? (for me these 40 minutes do really count…)
Would the farthest location trigger more or less costs vs. the closest one ? (for whatever reason)
Consider the commute for hobbies as well

From my own experience : the older I get, the more convenience and comfort are important to me. And a short commute is now a deal breaker whenever I change jobs. My personal limit is 45 minutes per way max, and I experienced commute from 20 minutes (fantastic) to 1h25 (super tired) door to door and one-way


The commute will be by public transports. So I could do other stuff at the same time.

With the cheapest option, the total it would be 1h10 each way and 50 minutes with the more expensive

You can calculate how much money you save for each hour of commute:
(700 CHF/month) / (40 minutes/day * 15 days/month) = 700 CHF / 10 hours = 70 CHF/hour

You can ask yourself: is this a sufficient compensation for my lost time? You can optimize the time spent on the commute/rationalize it (I will read a book, listen to podcasts, take a nap) and I suppose that too often people go for the money.

Also, since one flat is more expensive, is it also not in a cooler place where there is more going on to keep you entertained? Is the cheaper flat at least in a quiet place near nature, or just some generic sad swiss town?

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Depends what your regular cummute time is. If it goes from 10 minutes to 30, that’s probably not so bad. If it goes from 60 to 80 that starts getting more exhausting.

But if it’s purely train ride time without extra train changes, I personally wouldn’t mind it. In the morning you can sleep, in the evening you can use that time to rest or watch some youtube or netflix.

If you already moving anyway & looking at 2 places 20 minutes apart it seems you quite flexible, then maybe even closer to work would also be possible? About an hour commute in CH covers quite a big area, after all.
Tax should also be considered when doing the comparison financially, esp. different Kantons are involved.

Really nice thread and many different feedbacks - great!

20m one way is really not such a big thing, of course this is depending personally. I would look what location your GF, family or kids is the best for. I personally like 20m cool-down going home and kinda reset from business.

It is also important to take into account your centers on interest and free time activities.
If with 20 min more time to commute you end up in a rural area and for example you like outdoor sports, or horse riding, it could be a nice deal. If in contrary you like urban life it is not so interesting to commute the extra 20 minutes.

The 20min more in your scenario are not so important, from my point of view. You are spending a lot of time commuting anyway.

I had different commuting times in the last 2 years:

  • 8 min walk
  • 15-20 min public transport
  • 1h10min public transport
  • 1h40 min public transport
  • 2h car drive

I am already annoyed if I spend more than 30min each way, but that’s my personal opinion. I would rather pay more for the rent than to spend 1h each way on the train. Also, it’s not easy to work in the train (even with 1st class GA). The most joy I had was when walking only 8min to work. No doubt about it.

fyi: I’m working as a freelancer, that’s why I have so many different commuting times in the last years.


Somehow I overlooked this bit of information. Why are these the only options? Is there no option where the commute is 10 min on foot or 15 with the bike?

I agree. I know people who do it, and they bill the customer for it, but whenever I tried to do some work on the train, I was maybe 40% as efficient, with the distractions, small screen and crap internet.

I’m also a quasi-freelancer, in the sense that I’m not employed by the company I work for, but most of the time, I work for them. But I have to constantly renew my contract so it’s nothing stable. But if I was an employee, I would definitely look for a place within walking distance from work.

I should add, that due to corona, we’re allowed to work from home indefinitely, which changes the situation. And this made me ponder: if it stays like this, and, let’s say, 20-40% of people are allowed to work from home some or most of the time, how will it influence real estate and rent prices? Will city centres get cheaper? Will picturesque villages with access to forests, lakes, mountains get more expensive? If I had the guarantee of 80-100% home office, I would consider moving to some place with low tax and quiet neighbourhood and close to nature.

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Yes, I know. You mentioned it in some other thread already :slight_smile:

Same here. For one of my clients, I was able to work from remote already before. Much better than going onsite, even though some topics are faster clarified eye to eye.

Everything in Switzerland is freaking expensive in terms of real estate. I don’t think city centres will get cheaper, because not all people are able to work from remote (not all are IT guys), and the city has other advantages (more people, more parties etc). Depending on what you want.

Mate, if I would have this guarantee, I would be sitting in a plane to south-east asia, Mauritius or Canary Islands in a minute :rofl:

Yes, I would say I am able to work 90% as efficient at home. There are some people who miss going to work and don’t like to stay at home all day and I get it, but I just can’t forget that I save maybe an hour of commute a day.

But think about it: the demand will get somewhat smaller. If the big tech companies and big banks like UBS & CS tell you: sure, work from home, only come here once a week, then you will think twice before you get a place in the center of Zurich. Yes, you may enjoy the city, but your price limit will be a bit lower. This will not happen overnight, but it could start a trend. Another thing that could make an impact are autonomous vehicles. If you don’t have to depend on bus/train schedule anymore, and can cheaply get transported wherever you want, this could also convince people to move away from places with mass transit infrastructure.

I see two problems here: 1. some companies don’t like if you access their servers from outside of Switzerland 2. where would you pay your taxes? would you pretend like you’re still in Switzerland, or would you officially relocate and pay taxes in your destination country? I wonder how much would you pay in Spain with a Swiss freelancer level salary. I know life would be cheaper there, but I’m pretty sure the taxes would make up for it in cost.

Emphasis on “could” :slight_smile: People don’t only move to Zurich because of work, but because they want to enjoy city life. I don’t really see the demand decreasing in the short-/mid-term for Zurich-City. But I’m no real estate expert.
I also don’t see autonomous vehicles happening in the next 5 years, but even if: public transport might still be much better. An AI car doesn’t help you when you are stuck in traffic.

Yes, true for several banks. They are afraid of paying penalties again to the US.

Why do you say “pretend”? My company would still be located in Switzerland, and I can come back anytime. Still working for Swiss clients. But going to a warmer place in winter would be really nice.

We’re running in circles. Yes, the total demand is combination of factors. There is a small number of people who hate commute and that’s why flats right next to HB or Altstetten are expensive. These people could now be less tempted to get these flats. And for sure there will be an impact on office space. If companies now see that if they introduce docking stations with a free seating policy and 50-80% home office, they could reduce their needed space by half. I just wonder how permanent will be these changes. Maybe people will want to “go to work” so much and the bosses to “keep an eye” on the workers, that we will revert to how things used to be.

Because that’s not how tax works. Tax deals often state that you pay taxes in the country where you spend over 183 days in a given year. You can pretend that you are in Switzerland more than you are, and indeed, probably nobody will notice, but I don’t think it’s entirely legal.

And if you would like to be 6 months here, 6 months there, then you would need to keep both places.

I think this is one of the main problems. Especially in traditional companies like banks, insurance etc I don’t think we’ll see company policies changing to >50% home-office.

Playing devil’s advocate here: why should top level mgmt only reduce the space? If they are changing to 80% home-office, why not outsource everything? And yes, I know that there are a lot of other factors (cultural, timezone, legal etc). Still, in terms of cutting costs, we should not try to view the whole situation from the a pure IT point of view.

Anyway. I don’t see the whole home-office change happening so fast.

It’s more complicated than that, especially with all the double-tax treatys. Please note that I said “my company would still be located in Switzerland”. Profit tax would be paid in Switzerland for the company.

I wouldn’t want to stay in two places only, and it’s just an idea until now. So it would be more like: long-time AirBnB for one or two months somewhere abroad, then come back to Switzerland.

I work for a large bank and here they already said up to 80% home office is allowed “forever”.

Interesting. Then you are working for a different large bank than I did :wink:

@Bojack, if you work for big swiss bank, how come you are allowed to use IB as a broker? As far as I’m aware both biggest ones force all their employees to use their services instead.

I think all banks force to use their own services (maybe it’s linked to finma regulation)
If you work for a bank as a freelancer, a consultant or through other company, you are not employed by the bank. So you can use other services.

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