Posted on 22 January 2020
If you want to buy an alpine property in France, it is worth researching the housing market to make a wise investment rather than a foolish one. From traditional architecture to ski areas, to quaint villages, the French Alps, despite being a selective real estate niche, offers many choices, and newcomers to the property market can get confused. As experienced real estate agents operating in alpine homes, we have useful snippets of advice to share but before we start, let us clarify, what alpine means.
The Cambridge directory says alpine means anything relating to high mountain areas, so in this case, its home belonging to the French alps area. Sharing the alp mountain range with Switzerland and Italy, the French section sits in the Alpes Cote d’Azur and Auvergne Rhone regions. Reaching up to 4,808 metres high where the Mont Blanc mountain stands, it is an easy qualifier for an alpine destination.
Every alpine destination in winter turns into a skiing haven, one aspect that makes properties, a particular niche and desirable to buyers. Within the French Alps, some world’s best skiing areas shine through and looking at each one will help you gauge which neighbourhood is the best to invest in French real estate.
Two examples include…
Three Valleys: As the world’s largest ski area boasting of 338 slopes and 668 kilometres of pistes, it is no wonder that the Three Valleys receive much attention from ski home buyers. Companies within the valley take business seriously, with over 183 ski lifts, and 2300 snow canyons, and it’s also home to famous Courchevel, an esteemed, upmarket resort known for its millionaire lifestyle and favoured by celebrities and royalty for luxury six-bedroom properties.
Portes du Soleil: Boasting of 239 slopes and 420 kilometres of pistes, the Portes du Soleil, which means doors of the sun, is an all-rounder accommodating beginner and experienced skiers. Operating as a ski destination since 1934, 13 smaller resorts within the area, present house hunters with a variety of location choices. (Read about property investment in Portes du Soleil.)
Alpine Property in France – Investment Tips
When looking at this niche of real estate, it is important to recognise the market is changing, and certain trends are leading the way. Gone are the days when people purchased homes just for skiing. Buyers now want year-round destinations, and this is important should you ever want to convert your bricks and mortar investment back into hard cash.
This impact stems from efforts by resorts to increase tourism, and many market themselves as dual destinations. Investing millions in off-slope and non-skiing activities that can be utilised all year round, resorts leading the way in spring, summer and autumn tourism include….
Les Gets: Sitting between 1172 to 2000 metres high, Les Gets belongs on the edge of the Portes du Soleil area. As an all-rounder offering fantastic Mont Blanc views, the Savoyard ambience is about as alpine as you can get. Ski chalets and apartments often built with stone and wood keep a traditional style of architecture.
As a family-friendly location, all levels of skiers are accommodated for, and recent efforts to promote itself as a summer destination have seen golf, archery, swimming, fishing and much more become favourite activities attracting holidaymakers from near and far. Les Gets is also just an hour from Genova airport, hence short transfer times eliminate weary travel.
Chatel: The many efforts by Chatel to promote itself as more than a skiing destination has paid off. As well as the Forme d’O centre offers indoor swimming, saunas, gyms, and fitness facilities, Mountain biking has taken off, with Chatel having easy access to 650 kilometres of marked trails.
A purpose built bike park also offers 20 more tracks, and beginners or experienced bikers can buy guided tours to explore the best routes. Paragliding, horse riding, fishing, white water rafting and tailored excursions are just a snippet of what is on offer. Thanks to sustainable development, Chatel maintains an authentic alpine ambience.
Alpe d’Huez: Paragliding, a 9-hole golf course, and a state-of-the-art sports centre have all put Alpe d’Huez on the map as an ideal summer destination. Yet they are not prepared to rest on their laurels and are constantly upgrading infrastructure and introducing new off-slope activities for summer and winter.
These include mountain biking, with 140 kilometres of marked trails, and the town often appears on the Tour de France route. The roller coaster opened in December 2017, and alongside walking and hiking routes offers family-friendly activities. Take one look at any house for sale in Alpe d’Huez and you will see the time-honoured architecture that buyers adore. (More about summer in Alpe d’Huez.)
Chamonix Mont Blanc: Year-round diversity makes properties for sale in Chamonix stand out as a worthy contender. First, Chamonix’s 18-hole golf course attracts players from all over the world and now accommodates both beginner and experienced players.
Helicopter and para-gliding rides over the Mont Blanc massif attracts those seeking an adrenaline rush, while Chamonix is a favourite of those who enjoy walking, hiking and the great outdoors. Sitting on the doorstep of beautiful lakes, they head to places like Cascade De Berard, Lac Cornu, and the most favourite, Lac Blanc that belongs to the Aiguilles National park.
Val d’Isère: With guaranteed snowfall from late December to May, Val d’Isère tops the list as a desirable ski resort. Yet it is forging ahead with plans to become the most talked-about French Alp destination. The 200 million euro Le Coin project sees an overhaul of its main town centre to accommodate an expected growing tourism base.
Keeping the authentic alpine architecture in significant buildings like the tourism office and bus station is a core theme alongside expanding underground parking. Aside from that, much effort has gone into their summer program which includes horse riding, mountain biking, canyoning, e-bike rentals, yoga, football, and para-gliding.
Alpine Properties on a Budget
In some resorts, where mass infrastructure has paid off, house values have already risen and hence might be out of the budget for some buyers. A suitable alternative, is to look at back door resorts. These are towns and villages that offer access to the same ski area, just at a lower price.
An excellent example is Combloux. Shing through because of its French Alps style architecture, it offers a middle-range après-ski social scene and is an alternative to nearby, upmarket Megeve. Likewise, Val d’Isère is storming ahead as the place to be seen but has marketed itself out of the bottom end of the market.
In which case, buyers should look to nearby Tignes that also offers easy access to Espace Killy area. As well as the town centre, there are smaller villages, all of which have a unique social scene and something special to offer buyers. Les Gets, just an hour from Genova, shines with traditional alpine ambience and is an excellent alternative to nearby Chamonix.
Alpine Architecture with Modern Trends
Do not think choosing a French property for sale, that has traditional alpine architecture means forgoing modern trends. These days, chalets feature everything alpine like balconies and gable roofs, but still look at modern inclusions of any chalet you plan to buy.
Luxury real estate should feature outdoor hot tubs, a ski equipment room, be ski-in ski-out, bedrooms with ensuite bathroom, and in the most luxurious of properties, indoor swimming pools and spas. Read about how developers are incorporating traditional architecture with modern trends here.
Do not just opt for any ski chalet, whether you just want a holiday home, or a buy-to-let for an rental income or to support running costs. In this article about ski chalets, we discuss what to look for, both in a resort and also the home itself. We discuss thinking ahead, dual season resorts and amenities that every alpine property in France should include.
Find Out More
If you want to buy a French Alps home, contact us today, and we will answer your questions, send a portfolio of potential homes for sale via email, and discuss the buying process and the best ski resorts that provide everything for people buying property in the French Alps.
Also start your property search now from the comfort of your armchair. Our listings of ski chalets and apartments for sale in the French alps contain everything you need to know including prices, location, home features and how to arrange a viewing.