Jeremy Gates reports on the growing number of British buyers keen to purchase a second home on the ski slopes, as well as easy access to some of the most beautiful mountain locations, you could enjoy good rental income.
Although tour operator Erna Low, one of the great names in travel, took its first customers to the Alps in 1932, it was only a few years ago that the company realised that many of its devoted ski fans were keen to buy on the slopes too. At a time when crowded coastlines of Europe are jammed every summer with cars and crowds, the appeal of a home on the slopes has never been greater. As more and more ski resorts, on both sides of the Atlantic, become year-round resorts, the clean, fresh air in the mountains is also a big draw.
Erna Low chief executive Joanna Yellowlees-Bound says: "The kind of clients who book Erna Low holidays are just the type that would invest in property abroad - many of them going off on holiday and coming back home with a project to buy what they stayed in". In tandem with Canadian developer Intrawest, Erna Low's property sales operation began at Arc 1950, a new self-contained village with its own shops, restaurants, bars and leisure facilities within the hugely popular Les Arcs resort, which is linked to La Plagne within the Paradiski valley area of the French Alps - so popular with skiers at every level from novice to expert.
"With British demand for ski holidays booming, and with very basic studio apartments on the slopes starting at little over £50,000, Erna Low's property division has soon found itself in a fast growing marketplace."
Fiona Crook at Erna Low says British buyers have led the dash for properties built in seven phases at Arc 1950, and plenty aim to get there in winter by the Eurostar service to nearby Bourg St Maurice station and the half-hour transfer by bus to the slopes. Final units at Arc 1950 start around £190,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and from around £290,000 for two bedrooms. Under Intrawest's leasehold scheme for the first eleven years, owners nominate their weeks in residence, and the developer shares rental income for the rest of the year.
With British demand for ski holidays booming, and with very basic studio apartments on the slopes in France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria starting at little over £50,000, Erna Low's property division has soon found itself in a fast-growing marketplace.
Besides the winter snows, many of the more popular resorts offer extensive leisure facilities, including fitness clubs and spas and also a hectic social life at fine restaurants and lively cafes. In the summer months, the emphasis switches to walking, mountain-biking, paragliding, bowls, golf. Investors relying on rental income should obviously check that a resort has year-round appeal. The most popular destinations, like highly fashionable Chamonix in the French Alps, have seen prices soar in the last two or three years.
Erna Low, handling some developments with leading London and international estate agents Savills, has rapidly extended its portfolio. Joanna Yellowlees-Bound confirms a rush for one and two bedroomed apartments at Les Chalets de Wengen, in the traditional Savoyard village of Les Coches, which is due for completion in December 2006 at the heart of the newly-linked Paradiski domain.
Developed by Lagrange, one of the largest suppliers of holiday accommodation in France, Les Coches one-bedroom apartments start aound £100,000. Erna Low is also handling a dozen superb apartments in Les Houches, overlooking the Chamonix Valley, in traditional alpine finish, with prices beginning around £480,000.
Switzerland, for long beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest British buyers, has become more affordable since the relaxation of rigid local property laws.
With more overseas buyers now permitted to buy property, active over-50 UK investors are being tempted by interest rates below 3%, and Swiss mortgages available up to 60% of price. At Les Naturelles in Switzerland's Canton Valais, studio apartments were launched earlier this year from around £64,000 - with owners able to forget about all running costs, including service charges, local taxes and mortgage interest payments, which are covered for the first five years by a guaranteed income level. The scheme of 108 apartments is built in six identical Alpine chalet-style buildings, and is marketed in the UK by agents Overseas Homesearch. Situated some 4,200 feet above sea level, near the town of Leuk and the provincial city of Sierre, Leukerbad is easily asccessible by road, rail or the gateway airport of Geneva. Noted since Roman times for its curative thermal waters, Leukerbad offers great challenges for skiers, snowboarders and tobogganers alike. Sean Collins, managing director of Pure International, which sells Swiss properties, warns: "The Alpine region is spectacular in summer, but it is not a four season destination. Only August rentals match those of winter. Expect returns of 4-5% per year.
"In the Mont Blanc region of the French Alps, the agency A Place in France- one of the UK's leading agents for newly-built property in France- is offering a scheme of high quality three-bedroom bespoke chalets, starting at £343,000 plus cost of the plot. Each chalet will include en suite bathrooms, a beautifully fitted kitchen, stylish living rooms with traditional features such as open fireplaces and mezzanine galleries to ensure maximum warmth and comfort.
The building process takes 12-18 months, including land purchase and fixing planning permnission, and the agency is linked with a leading Mont Blanc company specialising in ski and mountain holidays to earn rental income for owners.
Simon Malster, at the London-based agency Investors in Property, is one of the longest-established agents specialising in Alpine properties. He reckons Switzerland might now offer better prospects for buyers than France, because it has so many attractive, high altitude villages little known in the UK which offer excellent access to the slopes. Malster is particuarly enthusiastic about Wengen, an early centre for ski-ing back in the 1920s and still the HQ of the Downhill Only Club launched by the sport's pioneers. Investors In Property has three/four-bedroom apartments from around £170,000, which offer better value for money because they are a 15-minute walk from the centre of Wengen.
Malster's other tip in Switzerland is the attractive centre of Tasch. Here Malster has apartments with two, three and four bedrooms ranging from £250,00 to around £500,000, within a two-minute walk of the furnicular to Zermatt. "Although many buyers say they want to pay cash", says Malster, "mortgages are so cheap in Switzerland that it is crazy not to borrow".
He is also enthusiastic about prospects for Austria - even though overseas buyers are not allowed to buy within The Tyrol. Malster is selling threebedroom chalets in West Dachstein, about 45 minutes from Salzburg, from around £150,000, with reasonable prospects of a rental return of around 4%.
Malster believes that British demand for ski slope property will keep growingbecause of the increasing success and scope of provincial airports, including Liverpool, Newcastle and Bristol, all offering "no frills" flights into Geneva. Services could also be in place soon from Bournemouth and Exeter.
"Easy access to flights means that the ski slopes are becoming easy weekend destinations", says Malster. "The demand has been there for years, and now British buyers realise it can be accomplished without too much travel and at reasonable expense."
Erna Low Property 0207 590 1624
A Place in France 02392 832949
Investors In Property 020 8905 5511
Alpine Apartments 01544 388234
Overseas Homesearch 0870 240 3258
More articles in this category:
Or check out the Archive for more!