How to buy a property in the Alps for both lifestyle and investment
PUBLISHED: 15:58 07 December 2015 | UPDATED: 15:59 07 December 2015
If you are looking to make money from your Alpine property purchase you will need to think carefully about location and access but that doesn't mean you have to compromise on the Alpine lifestyle you want
Buying a French property is a lifestyle decision for most. But you’d still quite like a return on that investment, non? Whether you’re considering a leaseback or running a B&B or gîte, there’s one particular spot in France where you can truly buy with both your head and your heart – and that’s the Alps.
ALPINE PROPERTY TRENDS
House prices in the Rhône-Alpes region have risen by 2.2% since 2010, while apartments have increased by 6% in value, clearly bucking the overall trend for France. When you look at the departments where the ski resorts are located, this increases to 8.6% (houses) and 10.1% (apartments) in Haute-Savoie, and 7.7% (houses) and 4.6% (apartments) in Savoie – so a better return on your property investment.
The returns are perhaps even more impressive when you consider that these areas are among the most expensive for property across the country – an average house price of €340,000 in Haute-Savoie and €227,500 in Savoie, compared to a national average of €157,000 (excluding Paris) and a regional average of €215,000. For apartments, average prices are €3,300/m² in Haute-Savoie and €2,630/m² in Savoie, considerably higher than the national and regional averages of €2,270/m² and €2,510/m² respectively.
Within the resorts prices vary significantly too. World-renowned hotspots like Courchevel 1850, Megève, Val d’Isère and Méribel command eye-watering prices, and ski-in ski-out properties are in particular demand across the piste. Relative bargains can be found in less sought-after resorts and further away from the ski lifts – get in early at resorts with planned infrastructure improvement and you should maximise your future capital gains. The Rhône-Alpes region has the second highest number of transactions by non-resident foreigners, 16% in 2014 (after PACA at 23%), with an average transaction of €370,112, according to BNP Paribas’s Investing & Living Abroad report. The average transaction value by department in 2014 was €380,907 in Haute-Savoie and €374,630 in Savoie.
The British are by far the first nationality, representing 36% of overseas buyers, followed by the Swiss and Belgians. Furthermore, Rhône-Alpes was the preferred region by non-resident British buyers, representing 17% of British buyers in 2014 (up 30% from 2013), followed by Poitou-Charentes (10.8%) and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (10.7%).
France was the world’s top ski destination last winter, according to Domaines Skiables de France, with the USA, traditionally in the lead spot, coming in second. The fact that so many of the resorts are connected was a factor in the French Alps’ favour, as well as affordability.
MAKE YOUR PROPERTY PAY
When it comes to buy-to-let potential, again the Alps stand out. The mountains are not only popular through the winter ski season, but in summer too, offering year-round rental opportunities with two strong seasons.
While property prices are generally higher, rental values are up there too, offsetting the initial cost of purchase if you decide to rent your property out. The most exclusive resorts require big budgets but will equally command the highest rental prices for investors.
“If you buy in a prime location, in a dual- season resort, not only do you benefit from a winter and summer property but rental yields are high in the winter if the property is close to the centre or the pistes,” comments Wendy Bull of Wendy’s Houses.
Obviously there are seasonal highs and lows, so if you’re looking to make the most of your property, you will need to make it available for rental in the peak of the season and use it yourself in quieter weeks. But even if you want to visit at busy times, there’s still plenty of scope for bringing in a rental income.
WHERE TO BUY
The Alps has a resort for every kind of skier, from beginners to black-run aficionados, families to party people, and those watching the pennies to those who don’t need to ask the price. “Buying a ski property is all about personal choice; it’s as much a lifestyle decision as an investment after all,” says Heather Byrne.
When choosing a ski resort, the figures will obviously be key – whether you can afford a particular location being an obvious factor, but those with an eye for investment will also compare prices with rental yield and will research the resorts that are most likely to increase in value. You also need to consider lifestyle factors though; how you will use the property, what amenities you require, how close you need to be to the slopes, and so on.
High-altitude ski stations like Tignes offer snow-sure conditions, but many lower resorts have snow cannons to guarantee skiing. Awarded the Quality Tourism award by the French government, Tignes has added a whole new village, Tignes 1800, to its ski offerings.
The most exclusive (and expensive) resorts include Courchevel 1850 and Megève, both with a wide range of après-ski activities including Michelin-starred restaurants. Courchevel 1850 has been particularly popular with wealthy Russian buyers and you’ll find flagship stores for the world’s leading luxury brands with Ferraris idling outside. Megève was the first purpose-built resort, conceived in the 1920s by the Rothschild family as an alternative to St-Moritz across the border in Switzerland.
Cheaper ski properties can be found in smaller, less well-known resorts. If you’re prepared to catch a ski bus to the slopes, properties further from the ski lifts and pistes offer more space for your euros, while resorts lower down the slopes often offer more year-round life too. One example is St-Sorlin d’Arves in Savoie.
With buyers wanting to be able to use their property for frequent visits, resorts close to Geneva are more popular than ever – the closest resort to Geneva is La Clusaz, at 68km. “A large proportion of people arrive in the Alps for long weekends and a quick transfer is very important,” says Wendy Bull. “Two dual-season resorts stand out with short transfers (75 mins) – Les Gets and Morzine in the Portes du Soleil ski domaine, offering 650km of pistes.”
Are you looking to buy in France? Read our buying guides for a comprehensive guide to the property buying system in France
Here are 3 Alpine apartments to get your property search started!