Buying a property in the snow

28th December 2012, by Editor Watts

Ice Cool Ischgl

Ice Cool Ischgl

Buying a place in a ski resort is an ambition for lots of keen skiers and snowboarders. The last few years have been difficult times for the Alpine property market because of the economic problems – and for UK buyers it has been made even more difficult by the weakness of the pound. But in the last year or so the pound has strengthened against both the euro and the Swiss franc, so property prices have become more affordable again. And now may be your last chance to buy a new property in Switzerland before tough new laws effectively banning the building of second homes begin to bite.

Last March, the Swiss voted by a wafer-thin majority in a nationwide referendum to restrict the number of second homes in all communes to 20% of the total housing stock. New legislation is expected to be introduced that will effectively mean that after 1 January 2013 no new planning permits for second homes will be granted in most ski resorts (much to the annoyance of locals and many Swiss themselves because the ban applies not just to foreign-owned second homes but to Swiss-owned ones too).

Simon Malster, managing director of Investors in Property, has been selling property in the Alps for over 25 years. He says, ‘The advice to potential buyers must be to buy now, as this will be the last opportunity to buy a new ski property in Switzerland. New properties can still be built after 1 January, as long as the building permits are processed this year. The new law may still allow communes to give building permits for schemes where the owner is obliged to rent their property out when not using it as these will be classed as investment properties, but we do not know for sure yet.’ Prices are expected to rise in the next few years because the new law will reduce the supply of new properties coming on the market.

Investors in Property has properties for sale in several different villages that link into the Verbier skiing area. Malster says, ‘These start at around 800,000 francs for a three-bedroom chalet in Les Collons and go up to around 3 million francs for a large four-bedroom chalet on the piste above Nendaz.’ He also has apartments available in Veysonnaz, with fabulous views over the Rhône valley. Nick Barnes, a hotel and restaurant-owner from Long Melford, Suffolk, and a keen snowboarder, bought a place there a couple of years ago. Nick told me, ‘We are absolutely delighted with it. My wife Angela and I go there several times a year; my dad uses it too and we rent it out when we aren’t using it.’

Investors in Property also has apartments and chalets in and near the lovely old village of Grimentz (Val d’Anniviers), with prices from around 500,000 francs, and in the brand new Titlis Resort near the gondola base in Engelberg, with prices from around 300,000 francs for a studio to 1 million francs for three bedrooms.

The company has been selling an increasing number of properties in Austria too. Until recently, foreigners were banned from buying in most of Austria, but new rules mean that some properties are now available to foreigners as long as they agree to make them available for renting when not using them personally – this also means that you save up to 20% VAT on the purchase price. Jessica Delaney of Investors in Property says, ‘By far our most popular development has been one on the edge of Bramberg at the foot of the local Wildkogel ski area (with 55km of pistes) and right next to a gondola that opened a couple of seasons ago.’ It is also just three minutes’ drive from a gondola into the Kitzbühel ski area and within easy reach of many other areas such as Gerlos/Zell am Ziller and Kaprun (both around 30 minutes); prices start at 400,000 euros for two-bedroom penthouse apartments and around 500,000 euros for three- or four-bedroom chalets built to order.

France remains a favourite place for British skiers and boarders to buy property. Joanna Yellowlees-Bound, CEO of Erna Low Property, says: ‘We are largely focusing on Arc 1950, which was built in the early to mid-2000s and is a traffic-free, ski-in/ski-out mini-resort with attractive buildings, outdoor pools and hot tubs, restaurants, bars, shops and ski school. Some of the original buyers find their circumstances have changed and now need to sell. Current prices are a bargain for purchasers, and UK sellers are still making a profit in £ terms because of the exchange rate change. We now have an office in Arc 1950 and currently have properties ranging from studios to two-bedroom duplexes.’ A two-bedroom apartment might cost around 300,000 euros if, as with most, there is an agreement for a few years that you use it for a certain number of weeks a year and it goes in a rental pool the rest of the time. Erna Low also has apartments in a 4-star residence in Ste-Foy with prices for two- and three-bedroom places ranging from around 240,000 to 500,000 euros. It also has proper four- to six-bedroom chalets in Val d’Isère for 2.6 million to 9 million euros.

Simon Malster of Investors in Property says: ‘The fastest-selling new development in the French Alps is Kalinda Village at Tignes 1800 (used to be called Tignes-les-Boisses). These are very high-quality apartments built by MGM with excellent leisure facilities and pool and a fast gondola into the slopes. You’ll have all the advantages of Tignes’ skiing without having to look at Tignes’ older ugly buildings. And you are only 15 minutes by taxi from Val d’Isère, so you can enjoy its lively nightlife.’ Prices range from around 210,000 euros for a one-bedroom apartment to 525,000 euros for four bedrooms, and there’s an obligation to allow your property to be rented when you are not using it.

What to look for when buying a home in the snow

  • First, you need to decide whether you want somewhere just for the skiing or whether you want a place in a resort that is attractive in the summer as well. Many French resorts developed after the 1950s can be deadly dull in summer, whereas most of those featured here are attractive for summer as well as winter use.
  • Second, if you want the place primarily for skiing and snowboarding, you will want reliable snow. And with global warming likely to continue, that means going for somewhere with access to high, snow-sure slopes and with good snowmaking.
  • Third, if you intend to use the place frequently yourself, you will probably want somewhere within a couple of hours of an easily accessible airport.
  • Fourth, make sure you understand the legal and taxation aspects – buying and running costs, all types of taxes and any resale restrictions. It is highly advisable to get professional advice on these.
  • Fifth, make sure you understand any arrangements that you may be offered for ‘sale and leaseback’ or ‘guaranteed return’ from renting it out – these can vary enormously and may enable you to save money on the purchase price in some circumstances.
  • Sixth, if you are intending to rent the property out yourself, don’t overestimate the income you will get from it.

For more information check out:

Investors in Property

Erna Low Property

Back to features

Recent features

Popular features

Share |