Are you in the market for a French ski chalet? The choice, whilst exciting, can be bewildering. With over a hundred resorts, France offers an unrivalled selection of ski property to suit all types of investor and winter sports enthusiast, so it pays to do some homework and understand the market before taking the plunge.
The ski market in France has grown consistently over the last five years, which is good news for prospective buy-to-let purchasers. Constant demand from skiers for better accommodation, luxury facilities and quality finishes dictates the high calibre of developments now being built, putting the small chalets and apartments of the past firmly in their place.
Developers are also buying up older, less attractive apartment blocks and hotels and transforming them into smart, revamped, chalet-style buildings, which puts a new lease of life into established buildings in great locations.
Although the French Alps are naturally a skiers' paradise, the region can be enjoyed in the summer too. The mountain climate means that visitors can enjoy the sunshine and make the most of activities such as hiking, mountain biking, canyoning and paragliding.
For property investors to achieve yields on their purchase, year-round rentability is of paramount importance. Ski properties tend to give better returns over the winter season but it's useful for buyers to consider what else the area can offer in the off-peak months. Tourists expect much more from a resort than just the slopes. A good range of bars, restaurants, shops and cafes is now essential rather than just a bonus, and non-skiers expect to have available a range of other snow-related activities.
Villages or resorts with all-year activity tend to be at a lower altitude and may consequently have a shorter ski season, so it is important to check that there are good links to other, higher runs via lifts or cable car to extend the rentability period of the property.
Proximity to an airport with low-priced flights has considerable impact on ski property prices, and many resorts in the French Alps are within an hour's drive of Geneva, making long weekend breaks practical and affordable. For those who prefer to drive, it is roughly an eight-hour trip from the Calais Tunnel terminal down the motorway, or from December to April, the high-speed TGV train provides access from London Waterloo to Aime-La-Plagne, Možtiers and Bourg-St-Maurice.
The long-established, most popular Alpine resorts such as Chamonix, Val d’Isere, Courchevel and Meribel have become very expensive; expect to pay from €7,000 per square metre in Chamonix, and a jaw-dropping €15,000 to €20,000 per square metre in Courchevel.
Understandably, the race is on to find reasonably priced spots that still have good access to airports and other resorts, plus a good atmosphere year-round.
An important aspect of buying a property in a ski area is the potential for capital appreciation, and on this front, the Alps continue to perform strongly. Other ski areas in France such as the Pyrenees and the Massif Central also have interesting capital appreciation, but perhaps less so than the global brand of the French Alps.
Buying off-plan gives purchasers an opportunity to make sensible, realistic investments. Many properties in ski resorts are sold via leaseback, a scheme devised by the French government to increase the supply of accommodation in popular resort areas. Buying under leaseback means that the VAT (19.6 per cent) is rebated to the purchaser, who leases the apartment back to a management company in return for guaranteed rental income, for a period of (typically) nine or eleven years.
Leggett Immobilier have a range of ski properties in different areas of France, from studio apartments to penthouses and luxury chalets. To bag a brand-new home, you'll need to keep your eyes and ears open, keep an eye on our website for new developments, be ready to visit the site and the developer at short notice, and be first in line when a new development is released.
What to look out for when buying a ski chalet or apartment :
- Ski-in, ski-out access
- Good access to airports or motorways
- Proximity to lifts and other resorts
- Attractive, well-built homes with quality finish
- Space – not too crammed in
- Resort altitude and snow record
- Range of facilities within easy reach
- Year-round leisure opportunities
- Good capital growth and rental potential