Posted on 05 November 2019
If you want to invest in French Alps real estate, there are a few things to consider when ski property hunting to make sure your investment is a wise financial move. Wealthy lifestyle investors from America, the Middle East and Asia, including British expats, look for Alpine investment opportunities because this market stands proud and tall, but it still needs careful navigation.
Overseas property buyers with dollar-based capital often look at high-end ski resorts in France like Meribel, Courchevel, Morzine, Chamonix Mont Blanc, Val d’Isère and Megeve. While expats in international business hot spots like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, and Singapore, who have assets in dollars, turn to Alpine real estate for long term solid investments.
The same stands for nationals of other wealthy Gulf states. Their buying power is the best it has been in a decade, not forgetting how the current long-term value of French mortgages, with rates still hovering around record lows, also can be used to their advantage.
Indeed, those looking to purchase a ski chalet or apartment will find the perfect hands-off investment, delivering real lifestyle benefits, both in summer and winter while providing them with a European asset.
French Alps Real Estate: Reasons to Invest
Infrastructure investment in many of the best ski resorts like Avoriaz, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Les Houches and Chamonix, has boosted profiles to international fame. Les Arcs completed its ‘Mille 8’ project, featuring a leisure complex with a swimming pool, beginners’ area, accommodation blocks and a toboggan run. Many resorts also offer year-round facilities, rather than focusing on winter sports.
Additionally, reaching the French Alps and beyond gets more accessible by the year. Budget airlines serve the main hubs of Geneva airport, Lyon, Grenoble, and Chambery. Rail access is also better thanks to a direct train to Lyon from London, taking just over four-and-a-half hours, and the second, a service to Geneva via Lille, takes over six hours.
With international appeal, a revolving rental market and a limited supply of new-build, ski property, developers report appetite to invest in quality off-plan residences has returned in central locations. Without a doubt, France is king and its reassuring for owners and the Alpine property market’s future is that, but France, is home to La Plagne, the world’s most successful resort and this highlights how dominant the Alps are on the world’s ski stage. The French ski resort, at 1,200 metres and in the Paradiski area, attracts the highest number of visitors every year
One-third of all ski resorts sit in the Alps, also home to 40 percent of the world’s ski lifts, and two million foreign skiers visit France each winter season. Brits represent a quarter of these, followed by the Italians, Belgians, Germans, and Russians.
Other top ten French resorts include Les Arcs, Val Thorens and Courchevel-Meribel-Mottaret. Only France and Austria have more resorts generating over one million ski visits per season. France, Austria, and America have the most lifts, with about 3,000 each. They are also the countries posting the highest total annual ski visits.
Ski Property for Sale: Buying Tips
Ski-in Ski-out Luxury Chalets: Nobody wants to trudge to buses at the bottom of the slopes, therefore just putting on your skis and off you go, is a popular requirement for real estate buyers. Ski-in ski-out properties within walking distance of lifts and resort centres always stay in high demand, but property prices drop outside a resort or a short drive from the slopes, so it is about weighing up convenience with a budget.
Ski Areas and Summer: Skiing in France is for everyone regardless of ability, but some areas present more opportunities than others. Therefore, make sure that there are enough ski slopes of various types. Don’t forget off-piste skiing, cross country skiing, backcountry, heli-skiing and snowboarding facilities.
Look at Three Valleys and Grand Massif central for ideal conditions and opportunities. The best resorts also excel in summer tourism including mountain range biking, archery, hiking, fishing, golf, para-gliding, tennis, golf, swimming pools, spa facilities and more.
Altitude: To avoid looking at the weather forecast three weeks in advance and worrying about ample snowfall, choose a higher altitude resort to ensure snow will be there. Think about its skiing areas, both size and altitude (over 2,000 metres for guaranteed snow), lift infrastructure, transfer and driving times, winter and leisure activities, amenities, shopping, ski schools and creches. Would you prefer to drive 90 minutes from the airport nearest to the ski resort, or use useful public transport links instead?
Resort Features and General Atmosphere: When looking at properties for sale, walk the distance to shops and facilities to know how close you are. Also consider architectural styles from new, modern, manmade resorts to traditional alpine mountain villages. Those buying for family ski holidays should also look at childcare and activities for children of all ages. Après-ski is the other facilitator to consider. Does low-key work for you, or would you like a lively après-ski scene on your doorstep and convenient access to attractive bars and restaurants?
Extended Seasons: Property buyers of French ski property should check winter season durations in any resort where they consider purchasing. Every year resorts set an official opening and closing date for forthcoming the skiing holidays season, which is the period when the slopes should be fit for skiing with enough snow, and lifts and gondolas operational.
In years when snow comes early, some resorts open before the official opening date, kicking off the season at weekends to start and limiting the number of lifts in operation. If snow conditions are poor, resorts may put back their opening date. High mountain resorts offer longer seasons, while those that are north-facing keep snow for longer. Owners of Alpine homes who want guaranteed skiing for more extended periods could also consider resorts with access to glacier skiing.
Most resorts, including Les Gets, Flaine, Samoens and Tignes open around the end of December, but a handful open before including Val Thorens, Meribel and Courchevel. However, while many resorts close in April, those with a longer season include Tignes and Val Thorens, which shut at the beginning of May. A more extended season means more opportunities to earn from rentals.
Where to Buy Ski Real Estate
Access, length of season and elevation should be critical considerations of international investors. The French Alp’s Savoie region is home to established high altitude resorts with excellent skiing and easy access from the UK and Europe. Resorts include Tignes, Val d’Isère, Courchevel, Meribel, and Alpe d’Huez a little further south.
Tignes: The Espace Killy ski area, with 300 kilometres of slopes from 1,550m to 3,456m, includes the four Tignes villages. The highest, Val Claret sits at 2,300m, followed by Le Lac (2,100m) and Tignes Les Boisses and Les Brévières. Transfers from Geneva and Lyon are around two-and-a-half hours.
Val d’Isère: The other half of Espace Killy includes lively Val d’Isère lies at 1,850 metres. The resort enjoyed €200 million of investment including €16-million redevelopment of the Solaise area and a new mid-mountain station at 2,500 metres.
Meribel: In Savoie and Les Trois Vallees area, the heart of picturesque Meribel lies at 1,450 metres, but its ski chalets and residences rise 1,700 metres up the valley. Much preferred by Brits, Meribel, a satellite resort sits at 1,750 metres and links into Les Trois Vallées’ 600kms of slopes.
Courchevel: As an upmarket resort and within Les Trois Vallees, Courchevel, a collection of linked villages at different altitudes includes the main town and lift hub in Courchevel 1,850. Courchevel Moriond (1,650), Courchevel Village (1,550) and Courchevel Le Praz (1,300) are at lower altitudes. Attributes to boast about include Michelin-starred restaurants and a £50-million water park.
Alpe d’Huez: In Isère, Alpe d’Huez at 1,860 metres has 250 kilometres of slopes, which comprise France’s fifth-largest ski area and include the Alp’s most extended black run range from 1,100 metres up to 3,330 metres. They guarantee a long ski season thanks to the glacier there. The nearest airport at Grenoble is just 90 minutes’ drive away.
Other Things to Consider
Interest in affordable and luxury ski chalets and apartments experiences seasonal surges as resorts open for business. A memorable ski holiday can be enough to make a potential buyer take the next step and begin searching. Hence, after busy weeks, a spike in interest is typical with Sterling hovering around a 10-year high against the euro.
1) Leaseback or outright purchase. For access to a convenient, well equipped, and hassle-free ski property, consider leaseback but check annual personal usage, maintenance costs and expected rental yields. Many off-plan and new leaseback residences include a spa, pool, and communal areas. Otherwise, for complete flexibility and somewhere to call home, buy outright the usual way.
2) Rentals. Investors planning to rent out either or through an agency should also consider advertising costs, cleaning and maintenance and agency fees. Buying in a top ski resort with an excellent snow record should deliver reliable rental yields – demand comes from domestic and international markets.
3) Currency. To maximise the best exchange rate available and bring down property prices in pounds, use a currency exchange specialist to send euros to France.
4) Mortgages. French mortgage rates, for residents and non-residents, remain at historic lows, with variable rates as low as just 2.2 percent. Combined with the favourable exchange rate, a mortgage might make financial sense for many buyers.
5) French Law. French properties come with two types of council tax (taxe fonciere and taxes habitation). Remember to factor these into running costs. Check out any discounts on seasonal ski passes and ski hire available to homeowners in a resort.
Featured Properties: As an experienced Alpine real estate agent, our portfolio contains a large selection of French Alps real estate that present ideal investment opportunities whether you plan to move to France, generate a rental income or buy a French ski home. Including affordable and luxury homes for sale, each listing includes photos, description, local information, and contact details to find out more or arrange a viewing.