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Why Covid-19 shouldn’t be a slippery slope for property in the French Alps

Posted on 13 October 2020

The breathtaking scenery, healthy lifestyle and local market conditions are helping resorts in the French Alps to weather the effects of Covid-19 better than other second-home destinations, reported SkiingProperty.com in October.

“It was unfortunate that Covid-19 brought a premature end to Europe’s last winter season,” said Julian Walker, director at SkiingProperty.com. “But that wasn’t the end of foreign interest in the Alps this year. For many people, being in a mountain resort surrounded by stunning natural scenery has become an antidote to the unpleasant consequences of the pandemic. The result is that many have discovered the benefits and year-round appeal of this magical environment. And with early snow already falling in some resorts, the excitement generated about the Alps in the summer is rolling into this coming winter season.”

Here are six reasons interest should remain strong in the French Alps:

– Healthy way-of-life. Covid-19 has created a major shift towards people wanting to be somewhere with fresh clean air, uncrowded natural space and easy access to an active lifestyle. Very few environments offer all this to the same extent as the French Alps. The unpolluted air there is beneficial to everyone, but it’s especially good for helping to ease respiratory problems, including asthma, as well as reduce the effects of allergies. Being at altitude has health benefits for your heart too, helping to lower the risk of cardio-vascular diseases. Meanwhile, keeping active and doing exercise comes with the territory in the Alps, whether its doing winter sports or one of the many outdoor activities suited to the warmer months.

– Dual-season appeal. Skiing and other winter sports are the obvious attraction of the French Alps, but most resorts there have just as much to offer active types outside of the winter months. From outdoorsy pursuits, such as mountain-biking, climbing, rafting, canyoning and trekking, to enjoying the world-class leisure amenities available in many larger resorts, including golf courses, aqua parks, indoor sports facilities and swimming pools, health and fitness centres, there are so many ways to combine having fun with staying fit.

Covid-19 has done a lot to raise awareness of the dual seasonality of the Alps, in particular in the Haute Savoie region, which reported 2020 as being its busiest summer ever. Resorts there recorded occupancy levels of 80 per cent during July and August this year, compared with a more typical level of circa 40 per cent. This was thanks to people, in particular the French, staying away from crowded coastal resorts, instead heading to the mountains.

– Travel options. There are four main airports serving the French Alps, namely Geneva, Grenoble, Lyon and Chambéry, making flying the most popular way to reach the slopes under normal travel conditions. However, the Eurotunnel and/or ferry services combined with France’s efficient motorway system make driving to the Alps an easy option for British people, as well as travellers from wider Europe, and has been especially useful during the pandemic. Under normal non-Covid conditions, travelling by rail is also a viable option, thanks to Eurostar services into Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice.

– Controlled development. New development sites are regulated carefully in the Alps, which helps to control supply and maintain values. This year, property analysts report a noticeably lower volume of new-build stock coming to the market compared to previous years, which is likely to cushion any potential negative effects on the market caused by Covid-19. In some resorts, supply of quality new properties already cannot meet demand from the international market.

– Cheap mortgages. Another incentive for buyers in France are the competitive mortgage rates, currently lingering at historic lows thanks to the ECB’s Euribor – to which most European banks peg lending rates – being in negative territory. Currently, even non-resident buyers can benefit from deals offering rates fixed below two per cent for 10 or 20 year terms, requiring a 20-30 per cent deposit. Many prospective cash buyers from the UK are opting for a euro mortgage, rather than cover their entire purchase price with Sterling funds that would be need to be converted and exposed to today’s poor £/€ exchange rate.

– Relocation, relocation, relocation! One trend picked up over summer 2020 is the arrival of British and European professionals moving to or spending long periods in the French Alps. Turning their backs on busy urban environments, where Covid-19 spreads easily, they are relocating to the Alps, often with young families, where they can create their own bubbles within their home and benefit from the cleaner, healthier lifestyle of the mountains.

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