Posted on 25 March 2019
The first bit of advice on buying a ski chalet in France is to think big because there is more to consider than snow conditions and hitting the slopes. Savvy home hunters will not just be planning their ski trip but also weighing up long-term investment potential, monitoring the local property market, crunching financial data, organising their budget, finding out what long terms plans are in place for the ski resort, and thinking about their chalet investment as a year-round home.
There are plenty of new builds alpine properties to choose from thanks to an increase in residential construction, with the number of allowed dwellings up 6.7% year-on-year in July 2017. The French housing market is showing no signs of slowing over the coming months, with low-interest rates making the cost of borrowing cheaper and improving economic conditions.
Price tags sometimes put buyers off, but there are ways to ensure a chalet is a worthy investment, not a financial drain. To make the best investment, here are seven snippets of advice when buying alpine homes.
Advice on Buying a Ski Chalet in France
1: Ski Areas in France
Bigger is better as they say, and this is true with the size of the ski area. A broader terrain ensures something for everyone and chalets hold more appeal for all levels of skier and snowboarder, from those who want to learn to ski to experts. Obvious candidates here are huge lift-linked areas like the Portes du Soleil or the Three Valleys. Be warned, such world-famous domains are pricey, so be prepared to settle for a mid-size resort with access to around 150 kilometres of slopes if working to a tight budget.
2: New Lifts, Shops and Accommodation
According to a report from Knight Frank, what impresses ski home-buyers is the financial commitment of resort owners. That includes chair lifts and gondola services being upgraded or replaced, smart communal areas such as shopping malls and open-air food courts, snow parks, plus all the ways of accessing the resort.
Watch out for luxury brands opening shops and upmarket lodging groups committing to the area; they will have done the legwork already! It’s a winner all round because skiers love the new facilities, rental investors have a higher yield potential, and property values flourish. An exciting project is taking place to modernise and upgrade Val d’Isère resort.
3: Buying in a Resort with Varied Amenities
Anyone on a ski holiday wants a wide range of amenities on their doorstep. Aspects to consider are the après-ski scene. Is it party all night bars or quiet establishments accommodating families? Rental investors need to look for resorts featuring the best ski schools to attract beginners who will sign up for ski lessons.
Snowboarding is another feature that some resorts are gearing up to accommodate, but hardcore skiers will also look at backcountry trails, and maybe even heli or night skiing. Off-piste activities are just as important as the slopes and will keep the non-skiing fans entertained. Also, look for a rental shop with ski equipment for hire, and kids ski runs to keep the little ones entertained.
4: Buy a Chalet in a Dual Season Ski Resort
Buying in a region with plenty of summer visitors will mean two bites of the cherry. Do the lifts operate in summer? Are there cycling events planned for the summer? Is there a summer festival? A great example of a mountain resort doing this well is Chamonix, which thanks to an ongoing investment plan have become a multipurpose year-round resort.
Rather than leaving your property empty and gathering dust during this period, take advantage of this army of adventurous summer holidaymakers who shun package holidays on the coast in favour of fresh mountain air.Seeking dual seasonality towns will maximise rental income throughout the year. It might be easy to forget, but there is more to life than just skiing. Once the mercury rises, people flock to the Alps to bike, hike, fish, canoe, raft, climb and play golf, or to relax and enjoy the views.
5: Advice on Selling – Think Ahead
As any mountain enthusiast will say, before setting off, have a plan for getting out! While you are all excited at buying a gorgeous mountain home and the salesperson is offering the earth, what will potential buyers see a few years down the line?
This is pertinent if buying new-build luxury chalets or off-plan, where agents may offer rental guarantees. You cannot provide that when you sell, so will the resort and property qualities be enough to compensate? Factors affecting selling potential include location, access to an airport and amenities, views, ability to ski-in and ski-out, plus the usual basics of adequate parking and storage.
6: Buying a Ski Chalet to Rent out
You are buying a bolt hole in the French Alps for two reasons; to indulge a passion for hitting a ski slope whenever you choose, and to afford the time to enjoy the alpine slopes at your leisure, rather than being rushed by an annual whistle-stop holiday. To ensure you have the financial resources to achieve your goals, you may opt to enter the chalet hotel market. If you conduct the research and make a quick purchase with rental potential, the property could pay for itself.
Check the summer rental potential – You will not have any trouble renting out your property during winter, but what about the summer months? Rather than leaving it dormant while you continue to pay the mortgage and bills why not be savvy and rent it out before the season kicks off again? This way it could end up paying for itself.
Even in the winter month’s work and family commitments may not permit you to be in residence permanently. Rather than leaving their property dormant, many alpine home owners cash in by renting out their prize possession. In agent lingo, a ski property often ‘needs to wash its face’ by generating enough rental income to either cover its maintenance or fund the family’s biannual visits.
7: Don’t Just Buy in Winter
Anyone serious about snow sports will countdown the days between the dreaded melt and the first dump of the following season. However, how are you going to kill time during this endless sun-drenched period? Life is such a chore! If you plan to buy a chalet in your favourite resort, the summer months are a great time to head over for a viewing trip.
When the landscape turns green, flowers bloom and snow turns to rush streams; the French Alps are a sight to behold. Only by heading out to resorts between May and September can you gauge whether the local area and property will attract visitors when the temperatures soar?
So why not treat it as a holiday with the excitement of checking out properties with potential thrown in? Plus when you’re not viewing chalets or apartments, a host of activities fills the skiing void, from mountain biking, parasailing and white-water rafting, to hiking and rock-climbing – the lifts don’t stop ferrying visitors up and down the mountains just because the snow has melted.
Unlike the typical summer destinations on the Mediterranean coast where the sangria is flowing and the property market is in full swing, the French Alps experience a more sedate pace of life at this time of year. For making an offer on your dream home, you might be in an excellent position to negotiate a price well within your budget during this slow period for local estate agents.
Where to Buy a Ski Chalet in France?
Deciding where to buy a French ski chalet can be a headache because over 100 places are worthy destinations. It is a cliché but the “three rules” of buying a chalet; location, location, location apply to any property venture being a success, once you pack away the skis and snowboards.
Many high-altitude, snow-sure resorts are a magnet for snow sports lovers once the white stuff has settled but stop out of season. While destinations lower down the mountainside attract visitors when the flowers bloom and landscapes turn green, plus they are more affordable. It is about finding a resort with the right balance of snowfall in winter and activities in the summer.
Dual Season Mountain Resorts: Many mountain resorts offer wealthy choices of outdoor activities that make them great for adventure sports enthusiasts and those who love the great outdoors. Chamonix, Alpe d’Huez, Val d’Isère are a prime example of year-round resorts offering visitors a plethora of non-ski activities outside of the winter season.
Snow Sure Ski Areas: For anyone serious about shredding powder, altitude is everything. Buy a chalet above 1850 metres in Val d’Isère, Tignes, La Plagne, and it will come., Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe with ski lifts going up to 3200 metres. Other resorts include Les Arcs, Chamonix, and Les Menuires. (The best French ski resorts with guaranteed snowfall.)
Luxury Ski Resorts: Luxury is all about the more delicate details, and chalet buyers will be glad to know luxury resorts in the French Alps are experts at comfort, style, and finesse. Courchevel 1850 is one of the most famous and often visited by glitzy celebrities and esteemed royalty, yet there are many other luxury ski resorts to choose from.
For more advice on buying a ski chalet in France, call or email us. We can answer questions, outline the process of how to buy, and send a portfolio of properties suiting your budget, reasons for buying and preferred lifestyle themes. You can also see our wide range of French ski chalets for sale here, and for more information on any of them fill in the enquiry form or use the chat messaging feature.
(Feature property photos: A gorgeous five bedroom chalet for sale in Meribel.)