Buying property in a ski resort

26th November 2015, by Dave Watts

The Mammoth Lodge apartments in Courchevel 1650 are convenient for both the slopes and the new aqua centre

The Mammoth Lodge apartments in Courchevel 1650 are convenient for both the slopes and the new aqua centre

Buying a place in a ski resort is an ambition for lots of keen skiers and snowboarders. Buying in most of the Alps is more affordable than at any time since the £ plummeted against other currencies in 2008. In the last two years the £ has risen by around 25% against the euro, making property that much cheaper for UK buyers. Interest rates in Europe are low as well, so getting a mortgage in euros is affordable too. Sadly the £ hasn’t fared as well against the Swiss franc and remains almost 40% lower than its 2008 value.

Simon Malster, managing director of Investors in Property, has been selling property in the Alps for over 25 years. He says: ‘We are now selling many more properties in France. That is due not just to the strong pound but also because some superb properties have come on to the market in top resorts such as Courchevel, Méribel,

Val d’Isère, Châtel and Les Menuires. Another factor is the tax break you get in France if you buy a new-build property and sign an agreement to rent it out to a specialist company on a long lease.’

With these agreements you can block out periods in which you intend to use the property yourself and the company rents it out the rest of the time and pays you a rental income of, say, 3.5% to 4% a year. The big tax advantage of doing this is that you can claim back the 20% VAT that is charged on new-build homes – which adds up to a huge saving (eg £100,000 on a £500,000 property).

‘We are seeing more and more buy-to-let investors buying Alpine property to diversify their portfolio. You can get French mortgages at the moment from around 2.75% fixed for 10 years, so it makes a lot of sense. Many investors also like the idea of getting fun out of their investment by using it themselves,’ says Malster.

One of Malster’s favourite properties at the moment is Mammoth Lodge which is being built in Courchevel 1650 close to the swanky new aqua centre and the escalator up to the main street and the lift into the slopes. This will have one- to four-bedroom apartments with underfloor heating and be built in traditional chalet-style using wood and stone. Prices start at 460,000 euros.

Investors in Property also has a smart-looking development of terraced chalets and apartments ranging from two to five bedrooms in the village of Les Allues, just below Méribel which is reached by a gondola. Prices start at around 490,000 euros and rise to over a million for the biggest places. And they are selling one- to three-bedroom apartments starting at 265,000 euros in Châtel (part of the Portes du Soleil ski area), and at 247,000 euros in the lovely old village of Samoëns (part of the Grand Massif ski area).

Erna Low Property specialises in France and has a sales office in Arc 1950 as well as London. François Marchand, the general manager, says: ‘We are seeing many apartments in 1950 coming to the end their leasing agreements and being bought by people who want to use them a lot. Most of those we do sell with a rental agreement end up being promoted for holiday stays by our sister company Erna Low Travel.’ A typical price for a two-bedroom resale apartment in Arc 1950 is 290,000 euros. Their London office sells properties in lots of resorts – the most popular resorts with buyers last year were Les Gets, Morzine and Châtel in the Portes du Soleil.

Marchand says that a lot of UK investors have bought Santa Terra apartments in Tignes-les-Brévières, which ‘is the highest quality we have ever seen in a new-build tourist residence in France’ and has a pool, sauna and steam room. Prices start at 205,000 euros for a one-bedroom apartment.

Swiss properties still available
In 2012, the Swiss effectively voted to stop the building of second homes in ski resorts. ‘But developments that already had a building permit can still be built,’ says Simon Malster of Investors in Property. ‘And developments which oblige owners to rent their properties out when not using them can also be permitted.’

They are selling apartments 200m from the lifts in Laax which will have four-star hotel services such as a reception, restaurant and spa. These can be bought either outright or with a rental obligation – prices for a one-bedroom place start at 595,000 francs for the former, 465,000 for the latter. In Arosa (now with a fair-sized ski area of 225km because of a new link to neighbouring Lenzerheide) they have one- to four-bedroom apartments from 650,000 francs. And they have plots on which four- or five-bedroom detached chalets can be built to order in Les Collons (part of the same ski area as Verbier) for around 1.5 million francs.

Austrian options too
Investors in Property has been selling an increasing number of properties in Austria too. In most cases, properties are available to foreigners as long as they agree to make them available for renting when not using them – this also means that you save up to 20% VAT on the purchase price. In a few rare cases, some new properties have ‘second-home status’ and do not have to be rented out.

Jessica Delaney says, ‘We are delighted to be selling two lovely ski-in/ski-out apartments in St Anton, Austria’s premier resort.’ They are close to the Nasserein gondola and are priced at 700,000 euros. They also have one- to four-bedroom apartments in the centre of Sölden, linked to a 4-star hotel with use of all its facilities including restaurant and fabulous two-storey spa and wellness centre. Prices start at 290,000 euros.

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 others 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 climate change 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 other 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.

Read more tips on buying property in a ski resort by Editor Watts here.

Back to features

Recent features

Popular features

Share |