Do You Want to Buy a French Ski Chalet? – What to Consider and Know

Posted on 16 November 2019

Anyone planning to buy a French ski chalet will delight in knowing France is the world’s most popular skiing destination. Figures show France records an average of 55.3 million skiing days (every day bought on a pass in a resort), which was more than any other country, including the USA (51 million) and Austria (50 million).

Top ski resorts in France have invested more than €300 million, with the great Les Trois Vallées domain receiving €135 million over four years. Méribel is typical of desirable villages to choose from within Les Trois Vallées.

Most French resorts are at a higher altitude than resorts in other countries, therefore offering better snow quality and quantity. Besides, many well-established resorts offer lots of amenities and activities other than skiing.

This has increased popularity, and the French Alps are appealing to a younger demographic. Having a broader appeal will lead to the chance of increased rental returns all year round. These resorts have also enjoyed significant amounts of investment during the last few years, which has been used to improve infrastructure, accessibility, and skiing quality.

Buy a French Ski Chalet

Ski properties for sale in the French Alps come in all shapes and sizes, including new build, off plans, and resale. When searching for homes for sale, decide what you want from a resort and look at the demographics of skiers it attracts. Also, browse tourist office websites to see what events they host and besides winter sports events, look for music festivals.

Tignes and Val d’Isère, both in the Savoie region and part of Espace Killy, are examples of student resorts. They combine excellent skiing with a busy events calendar and colourful nightlife. Chalets in Tignes will be in demand during events, bringing in rental income for those owners who prefer to stay away until revellers have left the resort.

In contrast, a chalet in Vallorcine, a sweet village a few minutes from Chamonix, would be the picture-postcard winter bolt-hole. It is a peaceful resort but still has good skiing options, including the Col de Balme ski area and the slopes of Les Grands Montets. Also, Argentières and the world-famous base Chamonix are accessible by mountain railway.

Need to Know: Insurance when Buying a Chalet

Ski properties are holiday homes, and owners should check buildings and contents insurance covers them for rentals, and periods when the chalet is vacant. Standard policies don’t include these scenarios. Property owners should also take out coverage for buildings and contents insurance, time on the slopes and winter sports.

Renting out your ski home means your policy should include public liability insurance, loss of rental income following a claim, emergency travel and accommodation, and accidental damage cover for holiday tenants, friends, and family (this covers spillages and breakages).

Remember to include contents – on a “new for old” basis – in your policy. Buildings insurance will cover permanent fixtures and fittings against damage but other items, such as appliances, furniture, and equipment, will need insuring under a contents policy.

ski chalet

Using a UK insurer enables payment in Sterling, and there will be no language barrier when talking through plans or making a claim. It is advisable to get a no-obligation insurance quote, to get an idea of what annual premiums will be.

For protection, your insurance policy should cover the whole family for every type of skiing or winter sports, and usual travel insurance cover. This means your plan may need coverage for guided and non-guided off-piste skiing, mountain rescue (including by helicopter), 24-hour emergency help, tobogganing, skidooing, ice skating, not to mention liability for injuring other skiers.

French Bank Accounts

Buying property in the French Alps means opening a local bank account, but before choosing which bank, research options and familiarise yourself with French banking systems.

Utility bills, council taxes, property management fees, rental income, spending money are just a few reasons to open a bank account. As a second home-owner in a resort, such as Tignes, Courchevel and Val d’Isère, your account will be ‘non-resident’ account and incur tighter terms and conditions than residents.

The largest banks in France include Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole (CA), Banque Populaire,  LCL and La Banque Postale. There is also CA Britline, a branch of Crédit Agricole Normandie, which provides a French banking service for English speaking foreigners.

Always choose a bank with a local branch which has English-speaking staff. In France, banking still has the personal touch with a first name basis. As a final note of caution, going overdrawn without prior agreement is an offence in France – overdrafts are available, but you will have a specified window in which to access and payback that credit.

Property Market Tip

The flexible living space offered by purpose-built chalets means buyers can utilise living spaces. A two-bedroom chalet with fold-out beds in the living area or a mezzanine area is a more affordable – and often practical – alternative to an chalet with three bedrooms.

To reflect this, French property descriptions refer to a property’s ‘pieces’, which translates to rooms rather than bedrooms, as any room that isn’t a bathroom or kitchen provide bed space.

ski property

A spokesperson for a developer said: “It makes sense to think this way when buying a chalet because making the best use of space is more critical than counting bedrooms. The way of life during a French Alp holiday is outdoor, either on slopes in winter or enjoying the countryside in summer. Our studies reveal that the number of time owners spends inside their chalets is minimal.”

Longer-term, an under-used third bedroom is a financial burden when children grow up and find family holidays less appealing. The spare bedroom in a French résidence de Tourisme, incurs a higher annual service charge than they would face with a two-bedroom chalet.

Choose the Best Ski Resorts with Longer Seasons

Every year resorts set an official opening and closing date for the forthcoming season which is the period when the slopes should be fit for skiing with enough snow, and the cable car, gondola, and lifts are operational. In years when the snow comes early, some resorts open before official dates., if poor snow conditions force resorts to postpone opening dates.

Higher altitude resorts offer longer seasons, while north-facing keep snow for more extended periods. French Alp homes owners who want guaranteed skiing for more prolonged periods could also consider glacier skiing resorts.

Nine Things to Consider When Buying

ACCESS: Is your chosen resort a short transfer drive away and does it have excellent public transport links?

STYLE:  Does a purpose-built ski resort appeal or is an authentic Alpine village more suitable?

SKIING: Renters love well-established ski-in ski-out chalets but also consider how close the chalet is to shops and facilities.

SKI RUNS: Do you want easy access to daring black runs, gentler slopes better suited to my young family, or both?

ALTITUDE: Is it vital that you stay in a high-altitude location with ‘guaranteed’ snow during the season or, being an older person, would you feel comfortable at a lower altitude?

SUMMER:  Most resorts open during the summer for hiking, biking, fishing, golf, tennis, para-gliding and other activities.

CHILDREN:  Are there childcare and activities for young children or local facilities geared to the needs of teenagers?

EVENINGS: Après-ski scene aren’t for everyone. Some prefer low key family resorts for evening entertainment.

BUDGET: Know your budget, and this should include the purchasing costs.

If you plan to buy a French ski chalet and would like to know about the buying process, property investment or the real estate market, call us today and speak with an experienced real estate agent.  Additionally, Let us know your budget and requirements and we will send a portfolio of chalets for sale via email. Also start your search for ski chalets here and use the contact details to find out about any listing that catches your eye or to arrange a viewing date and time.

Mountain ski resort