In 2016 after breaking up with my girlfriend of that time I started looking into buying an apartment close to work. I’ve seen one being offered for almost 5 months for a reasonable price and in August 2016 I started checking it out. It was a 100sqm apartment in a 4 floor house (plus basement) with 5 other apartments. The apartment I was interested in was kept by the owner of the land as a potential apartment for himself and it was pretty much in a raw state. That means no floors (except for the concrete and heating pipes) and no finish on the walls and no built-in closets. The price: 810k CHF plus one parking spot for 40k CHF totaling in 850k CHF.
I liked the location of the apartment and the fact that I could still modify and decide over a lot of things. So I signed a letter of intent for purchase and made a 50k CHF reservation deposit. And the wild ride began. Each of the rooms had a fixed budget to it, for example the Kitchen was allowed to cost 27k CHF, the bathroom appliances 10k CHF, etc.
I then was invited to about 5 meetings over the course of 2-3 months.
The first one was with the architect where I told them to tear down a wall blocking a lot of sunlight in the bathroom and put a Glass separator instead. Plus a rain shower and moving the bathtub next to the shower to the guest bathroom. I also moved the washing tower (laundromat & tumbler) to the bathroom instead of having it in the kitchen (WTF?). I also told them that I want a SmartHome and that I chose Loxone as the solution.
The second meeting was with the Kitchen builder after I sketched the kitchen together with my future wife in the 360° View Experience in Chicago (another story I might write about later). This one was awesome, we basically got our/my dream kitchen. With a central island including a higher counter for a bar like place to sit. Above it a lowered ceiling with LED strips. It has plenty of cupboards and a small cabinet that fits our recycling center and a shelf with cleaning tools. Very very nice. We also selected the oven and microwave appliances, no need for a steamer.
The third meeting was with the sanitary vendor to select wall & floor tiles for the bathrooms and the bathroom appliances. I ended up with dark-ish floor tiles and beige wall tiles but only in the wet areas (around the bathtub and the shower).
The fourth meeting was with the hardwood vendor. From the architects suggested were land house floors (not sure if that translates) those are 200x50cm long floor tiles. The problem there many branch holes. I said no thanks and went for the smaller 130x20cm wide tiles in a higher quality without any branch holes. Much cleaner looks.
The fifth meeting was with the electricians to define the SmartHome features. All actors (blinds and lights) needed to be controllable and also the heating system. No motorized sun shades on the balcony for me. I also wanted a separate distribution cabinet for network and TV signal into every single room.
The execution and the final invoice
All my wishes were executed accordingly and I ended up paying some 20k CHF extra on top of the budgets. 12k alone was the SmartHome, the poor electricians had to rip out every single cable that they already prepared and replace them according to the star setup that Loxone mandates to be able to switch everything with Relay Extensions in the distribution board. Plus the network distribution and some power sockets that needed to be placed for the Home Cinema etc.
Where the architect pulled me over the table was with the Kitchen, the net prices were all happily below the budget, however I missed the fact that the budget was for the gross prices. The kitchen appliances had some fantastic 40% discounts which all ended up with the architects, very disappointing. I wouldn’t have gone for the VZUG appliances if I knew that I don’t get charged the net prices in the end.
The bathtub had some non-functional drain which required them to remove the tiles and re-open the isolation under the bathtub, the replaced tiles were put much uglier than the first execution. In this process they also must have spread some silicone to the wall tiles because they became a bit de-colored since then. No bueno
The kitchen was pretty much perfect, if I remember correctly some construction worker made a dent in one of the cupboard panels and the granite cover had some scratches. Both issues were fixed without any questions.
The SmartHome was a bit of a disaster. I didn’t get the documentation of how they wired everything up until after I moved in, by then I already programmed it by myself and figured out all the light actors etc. They also had to come by two more times to correctly terminate the DMX RGB light with a resistor before it was functional. Pretty weak for people that claimed they used the system before. In all fairness it might have been tricky for them to test it because I insisted on programming it myself, which saved me 3k CHF by the way.
Nice was the free addon of a fixed code garage door receiver so I could program my Tesla to open the garage door GPS based when I’m entering our driveway. HomeLink is the magic word here.
Things I’m unhappy with
So back to the topic of this post. Here’s the list of things I wished I knew before I bought/built the aparment:
- The VZUG appliances are outdated overpriced crap: I should have informed myself better and directly gone with some SmartHome enabled appliances from Samsung or Miele. The oven and microwave for example are from the same generation but have different beeping sounds and user interfaces. The tumbler broke down 3 months after the guarantee expired (planned obsolescence much?)
- The kitchen budget was for the gross price: As mentioned before that was my oversight but did cost me around 7k CHF. Don’t get blinded by great discounts which never arrive in your wallet!
- Sliding doors are the worst: We have a sliding door between the bathroom and our bedroom. However the metal rail of the door got damaged by some constructions workers, replacement impossible because it’s embedded into the concrete… it’s the loudest thing in the whole apartment. The rattling of the door can even be heard by the neighbors upstairs. I blame the architect apprentice which came up with this crazy idea (btw every single floor plan of every apartment was modified from it’s suggestion by the architects, nobody wants a bathtub 30cm next to a shower!)
- Late to the game: I regret a bit not having had the opportunity to influence the floor plan and the electrical plans ealier. This led to an ugly white 3×3 square in one of the walls which was meant for the simple light switches and blinds controllers. My Loxone solution combines 5 switch actions and a temperature and humidity sensor in the same space like one simple switch. Changes like tearing down the wall in the bathroom and having a rain shower instead of a regular one also led to some extra costs (another 7k CHF iirc).
- Kitchen imperfections: The kitchen builder tried to push me to get more expensive drawers instead of cabinets. Nothing we specifically regret right now. However my wife said several times if she could design the kitchen again she would go for a full-height 30cm wide drawer for all the spices and cereals etc. Writing of full-height. I would also try to go for a fridge & freezer combo using the full height of the kitchen instead of having a rarely used cabinet above the fridge. The fridge only has a small integrated freezer compartment. We will probably get a small freezer to put in the space next to the fridge tho.
- Electric planning short comings: Today I wouldn’t ask for two switchable circuits in the bathrooms (one for the mirror closet and one for the main light) but instead to have the ventilator not connected to the lights. The toilet ventilator runs for 10 mins straight and sucks so much air that there is a noticeable under pressure build up when all windows are closed. With my SmartHome I would have had the opportunity to program it that it only runs when a window is open or during day time. In the dining room I also made the mistake to combine two switchable sockets in one controllable circuit, so the Christmas tree now always lights up with the standing light in my office area.
- Heating valves and cooling: The house was built with Minergie standards in minds in terms of insulation, which leads to 28°C inside temperatures in the summer. If I was involved earlier in the project I would have insisted on a FreeFlow cooling module for the floor heating system which would allow to use cold water in the summer to cool the apartment. We’re still trying to figure out if adding it now would be possible. But I also bout an A/C to keep me cool. I also didn’t realize that the heating system is still somewhat centrally managed, my SmartHome could regulate individual room temperatures by opening/closing the valves however the temperature of the heating system is centrally regulated and might not be warm enough when the weather/temperatures change quickly.
Things I would do again
It’s not all bad thought. Here’s the list of things I would get again when I had another opportunity to build:
- SmartHome: It’s not only convenient to not leave the couch when turning on lights or lowering blinds but it also has several advantages if you can check from abroad if you switched of all lights or closed all windows. I built also a full integration with Google Assistant of which I have devices in every single room (mainly for music listening but also for controlling the home). There are other solutions today which might be better for different use cases. The Window/Door sensor for example I just recently added by using Shelly sensors.
- Rain shower: People who ever used a rain shower in a wellness hotel or in a country with high water pressure (looking at you USA & Mexico) know how nice a rain shower is. It’s the one thing I always look forward too when returning home from a business or leisure trip to another country. Worth every Rappen.
- LED Lights wherever possible: We have LED spots in the Kitchen, the hallway and the bathroom and toilet. There are only 2 non-LED lights left in the childroom and our bedroom (not really true we replaced some broken spots recently with LEDs). Except for one light in the hallway that recently started flickering 0 maintenance for replacements otherwise in the last almost 4 years.
- Kitchen design: We still love our decision for the kitchen island with the sink and the included elevated bar counter. And I’m still proud of the lowered ceiling and RGB Light idea. The RGBs are bright enough to light up the open floor living and dining rooms in the area. For watching movies I often just put the RGB lights on a low dimmed level. Perfect.
- Mosquito nets: Being situated close to a little pond the amount of mosquitos in the neighborhood is very high. In our house first the downstairs neighbor installed nets, then the upstairs and ground floor neighbors so they all ended up coming into our apartment. We’ve installed nets in front of 3 windows (Bathroom, Bedroom, Childroom) to allow for some fresh, mosquito-free air during the night.
- High voltage Socket for parking spot: Somewhat essential and something only my parking spot has is the CEE16 400V power socket to charge my Tesla. The other parties only went for a 220V household socket and will only realize about their mistake when they get an electric car later on.
So that’s it for my sharing of my experiences for my specific apartment building and buying story. I hope this post helps other people which don’t know about the options they have and the issues that might come up during such a life changing purchase.
If you have any feedback or questions feel free to post them in the comments below.
Thanks for your time.