Finding your flat: the Squirro way

February 5, 2013

By Felix Hürlimann

Last weekend was a busy weekend, I was moving to a new place. Packing all the stuff up, getting it to the new flat and installing everything again was quite a bit of work. But compared to the effort I put into actually finding a new home, this was peanuts. Finding a suitable and affordable flat in Zurich is no easy task. 

In Zurich there are mainly two types of rented apartments: privately owned/profit-oriented real-estate companies and housing cooperatives. There exist several dozens different cooperatives that own approximately 17% of all apartments. The main advantage of these apartments is, that they cost considerably less than the average price of a comparable sized flat, as the cooperative does not operate profit-oriented. The difficulty however is to get into one of these flats, as the demand is much higher than the offer. Traditionally the cooperative maintains a waiting list of all interested parties, therefore the objective is to get on this list, but the wait can be pretty long.

Lately some of the bigger cooperatives changed this model and do not maintain such a list anymore, but publish available flats on their website. Obviously these flats only stay online for a day or two, as someone usually finds them very quickly and applies. So for the flat-seeker this means checking the cooperatives website on a very regular base, which is really time consuming especially since those sites usually do not provide a form of active notification or rss feeds.

This is where Squirro comes in very handy: when I was looking for a flat I set up a topic ‘Available Flats’ in Squirro in which I included the different cooperative websites as information sources (for example ABZ) . From that point on, everyday I received an e-mail digest including all the published flats. No need to go and visit all the websites every morning any more, I just had to check my inbox.

Now a great ending here would be if I could tell you that on one morning the flat we moved in was mentioned in my Squirro mail. But to be honest with you, even though I got many offers of available flats thanks to Squirro, the one I signed up for was one I found by talking to neighbors, like in the good old days. So it’s not just about what you know or what technology can do for you, it’s who you know. But Squirro nevertheless saved me a lot of time during the months I was searching.