Your own ski chalet — a more affordable dream

1st September 2014, by Dave Watts

The strong pound has made buying in the Alps cheaper

The strong pound has made buying in the Alps cheaper

Buying a place in a ski resort is an ambition for lots of keen skiers and snowboarders. Buying in the Alps is more affordable than a year ago because the £ has risen by around 10% against the euro and a bit less against the Swiss franc. Interest rates in Europe are low as well, so getting a mortgage in euros or francs is affordable too.

Simon Malster, managing director of Investors in Property, has been selling property in the Alps for over 25 years. He says: ‘We’re getting a lot of interest from British buyers at the moment, especially for sale and leaseback properties in the 200,000 to 500,000 euros price range in French resorts.’ With these you buy a new-build property and agree to lease it back to the developer or property management company for at least 11 years in return for rental income of, say, 3.5% to 4%, allowing for using it yourself for a couple of weeks. A big advantage of doing this is that you get back 20% VAT charged on the price of new-build properties.

‘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 3.2% fixed for 20 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. They currently have a ski-in/ski-out development of 124 4-star apartments with communal pool, sauna etc in Les Menuires in the Trois Vallées with a guaranteed rental return of up to 5.2% – prices start at 153,000 euros for a one-bedroom apartment. They also have 5-star apartments for sale right in the middle of Chamonix at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi cable car – two-bedroom apartments here cost from around 500,000 euros.

Malster also has ‘some lovely apartments in the centre of Châtel in the Portes du Soleil. These have one to three bedrooms, panoramic views and are light and airy thanks to large picture windows’ – prices start at around 360,000 euros for two bedrooms.

Erna Low Property specializes in France and has a sales office in Arc 1950 as well as London. François Marchand, the general manager, says: ‘We have some really nice resale properties in Arc 1950. We also have around 30 very high-quality apartments in the lovely old village of Tignes-les-Brévières with excellent spa facilities (the big swimming pool is the size that you would expect in a development of 150 units) – a two-bedroom apartment costs from around 300,000 euros.’ At a similar price there are also apartments in the MGM-built/CGH-operated Kalinda Village development at Tignes 1800, just above Tignes-les-Brévières. And there are properties in Les Gets in the Portes du Soleil. Marchand says: ‘These are really high-end properties where buyers will be able to have an input into the design and so opt for either a huge living room and two bedrooms or less living space and four bedrooms, say. Prices range from 630,000 to 1.4 million euros.’

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 it seems like new developments may still be permitted, provided the owners rent these properties on a commercial basis,’ he adds. They are already selling a ski-in/ski-out development in La Tzoumaz (part of the Verbier ski area) where purchasers are obliged to rent their apartments (when not using them themselves) for 15 years from the date of purchase – prices for two-bedroom apartments start at around 550,000 francs.

Malster adds: ‘We are also about to start marketing a huge new development to be built next to the lift at the foot of the Piste de l’Ours (the World Cup race piste) between Les Collons and Veysonnaz. The building permit was given before 2012 so these apartments will be classed as second homes, but a full rental and professional management programme is available if required. We also have some stunning developments in Crans-Montana.’

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 have some lovely ski-in/ski-out apartments in Kappl which has its own small ski area and there are longer-term plans to link it to St Anton’s Rendl area. It is also just 8km from Ischgl’s extensive ski area. The first phase sold out last year and now we have the second and final phase which will have access to full hotel facilities including a spa with swimming pool, steam rooms and saunas, a lounge and bar area, and a restaurant.’ Prices for two-bedroom properties start at around 700,000 euros.

‘We are also excited about some charming chalets, which are very rare to find in Austria,’ says Delaney. They are close to three ski areas served by regular free buses: the local Bramberg area with 60km of pistes (five minutes), the Kitzbühel area with 170km of pistes (15 minutes) and the Zillertal Arena with 140km of pistes (20 minutes). Each chalet is stand alone and built to order so buyers can have a say in design and styling. The price for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom chalet is 390,000 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.


Investors in Property
020 8905 5511

Erna Low Property
020 7590 1624

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