Giving piste a chance


Growing demands for French ski properties means continuing strong sales despite rising prices

With the first falls of snow in the French Alps only a couple of months away, the region’s leading developer of ski resort properties reports that demand, sales and prices are going up as swiftly as skiers will be going down the slopes this season.

Unlike many overseas property markets, prices in the French Alps are not just stable but actually rising in many locations, reflecting the steady demand from families and young professionals wanting second homes in top ski resorts, many of which are year-round destinations offering outdoor holidays when the snows have melted.

The UK office of MGM French Properties, the Annecy-based developer that has specialised in the design and construction of ski resort properties for almost 50 years, reports that sales to British buyers in the eight months to August matched those for the whole of last year. “And the surge in sales which tends to follow the first snowfalls of the winter is still to come,” says Richard Deans, sales consultant in the firm’s London office.

“It’s not just skiers who are showing a keen interest,” Richard continues. “Increasingly, investors are realising that properties in good locations, like some of Europe’s top ski resorts, can offer better returns than the uncertainties of the stock market.

“That’s why we have introduced an innovative new scheme enabling investors in leaseback properties in r�sidences de tourisme to receive, in addition to a guaranteed annual rental income, extra income from lettings achieved in place of the four weeks of personal use, which skiers generally prefer.”

The plan is being pioneered in Flaine in the Haute-Savoie region where MGM currently is building 66 brand new apartments, which are described as “state-of-the-art in terms of sustainability and fuel economy”. They are on schedule for completion at the start of this year’s ski season.

Another green’ development – the first and biggest eco-village of its type in the French Alps – is attracting conservation-minded Britons who account for around a fifth of the buyers who have snapped up holiday homes in the initial phase.

Plans for Kalinda Village in Tignes, announced by MGM earlier this year, include a brand new r�sidence de tourisme of 250 apartments for sale on a leaseback basis. It forms part of the €150 million transformation of the old village of Tignes les Boisses into a modern holiday resort. Re-named Tignes 1800 it will, in effect, be a new gateway’ to all the established areas of the wider Tignes resort, one of Europe’s most popular skiing areas.

MGM is working with the local authority to create a sustainable development catering for many of the1,500 skiers who visit Tignes in the winter months. Together they have devised a way of heating their properties which is cost-effective, conserves fossil fuels and has low carbon emissions.

Every MGM apartment will have exceptionally high levels of insulation with low-cost under-floor heating being supplied by an innovative new plant – the first of its type in the French Alps – run on wood waste pellets fuelling a 4,000 kilowatt boiler supplying heat to all the buildings in Tignes 1800.

The concept has really caught the imagination of buyers, with MGM’s property sales in Tignes this year running at the same heady level as they were before the credit crunch and the banking crisis.

Chamonix, too, is as popular as ever. “After two tough years, buyers are back and prices have risen by 6% in a year that many overseas property developers around the world describe as one of the worst on record’,” reports Richard.

French market-watchers have always paid close attention to what happens in Chamonix, traditionally regarded as a good indicator for the whole of the French Alpine region.

“The news from Chamonix bodes well for the coming season,” comments Richard who says that MGM’s average prices in the French Alps have risen from €390,000 a year ago to €470,000. They are continuing to rise, despite fluctuating exchange rates.

Pundits are predicting that the 1.2% sterling/euro exchange rate will be restored around the turn of the year and if that happens it could trigger a mini-boom, says Richard.

That would be good news not only for big name resorts like Meg�ve and Combloux where demand has remained consistently strong but also archetypal Alpine villages like Samo�ns – where MGM is about to start construction work on a new residential development – and towns like Bourg-St-Maurice, where apartments in MGM’s latest schemes are being snapped up by Britons wanting to enjoy a French lifestyle.

A resurgence also would benefit lesser-known destinations which MGM has earmarked for first-time developments. They include Val Cenis – where the company already has sold off-plan all but a handful of the apartments in the first phase of its Chalet de Flambeau r�sidence – and Valmorel, described by Richard as “an idyllic rural location tucked away in the Grand Domaine area of the French Alps.”

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