International appetite snowballs as French ski property splits into two-tier market

International appetite for French ski property continues to snowball.

Last year was a record-breaking season for French resorts, buoyed by the strong pound, strong dollar and historically low mortgage rates. While the pound is weaker this year, appetite has continued, with the extremely affordable mortgage market helping to underpin interest.

The lack of availability for certain property types across the market has created pockets of high demand and low supply, particularly with new-build, and developers are trying to react quickly to respond to the needs of the market, according Athena Insight’s latest report. This trend, along with the ageing nature of many resorts’ property stock, is creating a two-tier market for ski property.

Indeed, recent figures from the French Notaires shows that sales in half of resorts in the French Alps increased in the year to September 2016, while the other half saw sales decrease.

Resale properties in the Three Valley’s resorts (Courchevel, Méribel, Les Ménuires & Val Thorens) and those reachable by a Mont Blanc ski pass (Les Houches and Chamonix Mont-Blanc) all posted increases. In contrast, one third of the stations saw their prices fall, particularly in Tignes-le-Lac (down 5.8 per cent), La Clusaz (2.4 per cent) and Grand Bornand (5.6 per cent).

Decreases are usually due to the ageing resorts, notes Athena. Megève and Val-d’Isère remain the most expensive resorts for resale ski property at €7,620 and €7,970 per square meter respectively. However, these average figures are heavily tempered by cheaper properties at the boundaries of the resort. Conversely, one or two sales in the historic centre, of prime properties that change hands once every few decades, can affect these figures the other way significantly.

“The price differential between resale and new-build French ski properties shows that many resorts are hitting a critical ageing point with their property stock, creating a two-tier market of properties that either meet the requirements of modern day buyers and renters, or don’t,” says Lloyd Hughes, Athena Communications Director. “Properties older than ten years or not renovated within the same period now have a significant disadvantage in both the sale and rental market. Alpe d’Huez is a good example here, with around 300 properties being deemed unusable by the tourism office each year. The same is true in older resorts and this is creating increased demand for newly built ski property, especially if done in an old savoyard style.”

Indeed, older resale properties require significant investment to bring the property up to modern standards, with spending often spread across two ski seasons. As a result, international investors are increasingly turning to new-build resorts instead.

One of the strongest examples of the new-build supply and demand trend can be found in Val d’Isère in the Espace Killy ski domain, where opportunities for developable land are extremely rare. Such is the rarity, this is one resort where buyer waiting lists for certain property sizes have appeared again, something not seen since the last decade. In Val d’Isère prices for new-build or renovated properties of a sufficient quality have risen by almost 18 per cent over the past two years, with high specification apartments now arriving to the market at around the €20,000 per square metre mark.

The recent announcement of a large-scale redevelopment of the central ‘Le Coin’ area of the village will see around 100 new-build properties in phases over the next 5 years, the largest ever addition of accommodation to a French ski resort that pre-dates the purpose-built resorts of the late 1970s.

 

Strong dollar strengthens French ski property appeal

8th February 2017

The strong dollar is strengthening the appeal of France’s ski property to US investors.

American interest has notably increased in the last year, with Trump’s election said by many agents to have ignited interest in European markets, including the French Alps.

However, it is not just US buyers taking to the slopes. Wealthy lifestyle investors from the USA, Middle East and Asia are becoming increasingly prominent in the luxury sector of France’s Alpine property market, says ski property specialist Skiingproperty.com.

With dollar more than 20 per cent stronger against the euro during the past two years, high-end resorts in the French Alps, including Méribel, Courchevel, Morzine, Chamonix, Val d’Isère and Megève, have been especially attractive to buyers with dollar-based capital.

“For expats in international business hot spots such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Singapore, who typically are remunerated or have assets in dollars, investing in the French Alps could make a lot of sense right now,” comments Julian Walker, director at Skiingproperty.com. “The same stands for nationals of other rich Gulf states. Their buying power is the best it has been in more than a decade, not forgetting how the current long-term value of French mortgages, with rates still hovering around record lows, also can be used to their advantage. Ski homes can be the perfect hands-off investment for expats, delivering real lifestyle benefits, both in the summer and winter, while providing them with a European asset.”

 

Flurry of interest fuels Cluttons French Alps launch

14th December 2016

Cluttons has opened a new office in Courchevel in the French Alps.

The office, which will offer residential sales services in Courchevel, Chamonix, Megève, Meribel, Valmorel and Annecy, will be managed by Pierre-Jean Sanchez, who has over 15 years’ experience in prime property markets in the area.

Pierre-Jean says: “I am delighted to be opening the new Cluttons office in Courchevel. Cluttons has been in operation for 250 years with operations in over 50 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. In the UK Cluttons is a household name and we look forward to taking the brand into France and offering specialist market knowledge and insight to our clients.”

The new opening has been prompted by the area’s strong local market, interest from British buyers and an emerging appetite from the Middle East.

Joanna Leverett, Cluttons’ head of international residential, adds: “The French Alps has historically been the number one destination for second homes in the mountains for British buyers. There are many draws to owning a property in the French Alps, the region is home to the three largest ski areas in the world and the wide variety of resorts in the region offer something to suit most budgets.”

Pierre-Jean continues: “Many buyers are attracted to Courchevel for its ultra-prime chalets in one of the most sought after leisure addresses in Europe. There is a huge variety of excellent skiing on offer in the Trois Vallées ski area and neighbouring Méribel, also part of the Three Valleys, has an unrivalled selection of good-quality chalets.”

 

French Alps: A hotspot for US investors?

29th November 2016

The French Alps could become a hotspot for US investors, say agents, as the strong dollar and low French mortgage rates combine to create a highly attractive market.

Indeed, the US dollar has risen to almost a one-year high against the euro recently, with positive sentiment surrounding the US economy and the Federal Reserve’s likelihood to hike interest rates both bolstering the currency’s health. At the same time, mortgage rates in France have plunged to historic levels, thanks to the low Euribor rate.

“Rates below 2 per cent with 20-year terms and requiring just a 20 per deposit are quite normal at the moment,” comments Julian Walker, director at Skiingproperty.com.

“A French ski home could appeal to those Americans disenchanted by Trump’s victory in a number of ways,” he adds. “They may have concerns about the US economy after Trump takes the reins and feel having a euro-based immovable asset makes sense for the long-term. Others may be considering leaving the country altogether or spending half the year in Europe, in which case a home in the fantastic mountain environment of the French Alps could be ideal. And there will also be many American expats working overseas who would rather invest in a home in Europe, including the Alps.”

Walker highlights Les Trois Vallées, Paradiski and Les Portes du Soleil as popular target markets, all reachable via flights from the US into Geneva, or high-speed train after flying into Paris.

“Each of these is larger than any single US resort and includes a choice of resorts in terms of style and budget. For example, Courchevel and Les Menuires are both in Les Trois Vallées, but the former is one of the Alp’s most upmarket resorts, with a large choice of multi-million-euro apartments and chalets, while the latter is more affordable and suited better suited to families,” notes Walker.

 

Bargain hunters turn to hidden gems of the French Alps

8th November 2016

As the skiing season draws closer, investors seeking bargains on the slopes of the French Alps are starting to turn to some of the area’s smaller, hidden gems, according to agents.

Meribel, Courchevel and Val d’Isere are top of the list for many ski resort shoppers, but a short distance away from these can be found the smaller resorts of Sainte Foy and Saint Martin de Belleville, which have good transport connections but boast better value for money.

Indeed, properties in Meribel are approximately 30 per cent more expensive than in St Martin, while Courchevel’s ski homes are around 50 per cent dearer. Over in Ste Foy, on a per square metre basis, for a large chalet, prices are between one quarter to a third of what is expected up the road in Val d’Isere. For example, a budget of €2million offers a buyer in Ste Foy a five/six-bedroom ski chalet less than a five minute walk to the slopes, whilst in Val d’Isere, a similar property would be at least four or five times more expensive.

Improvements to St Martin have helped to boost its reputation, with the addition of a high-speed chairlift last year, giving the resort faster access to the entire Trois Vallees area. Before then, it was considered a hassle to either ski down to, or to ski from as a base.

Ste Foy, meanwhile, sits in the Tarentaise valley, with easy access by car to top resorts within the Espace Killy – Val d’Isere (25 mins), Tignes (20 mins) – as well as Les Arcs (40 mins), La Plagne (1 hr) and La Rosiere (30 mins).

Charlie McKee, who heads up Hindle & Baldock’s alpine department, comments: “Potential chalet buyers are starting to see the exceptional value for properties in Ste Foy and St Martin, given all they have to offer. When speaking with our ski clients, we also recommend they seriously consider three primary criteria: snow-sure credentials, a large well joined up ski area and proximity to the slopes.”

 

Gstaad leads ski property price growth

21st September 2016

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Gstaad is leading ski property price growth around the world, as the resort sees a severe lack of stock.

The surprise result sees the Swiss Alps resort prove the strongest performer in Knight Frank’s latest Alpine Property Index, a report that was dominated by French resorts in 2015, thanks to the rise of the Swiss Franc. Now, though, even with the Franc still strong, Gstaad was the best performer in the year to June 2016, with prices rising by 13 per cent.

“This year there is no clear division between the two countries,” says Knight Frank.

The snowballing increase in values was driven by a shortage of quality stock, as well as factors such as its high quality international schools, pushing up values from CHF30,000 per sq m to CHF 34,000 per sq m.

“In some Swiss markets the lack of product for foreign buyers – who are usually only permitted to purchase a property up to 250 sq m in size – has supported prices,” notes the report.

France’s Three Valley resorts, along with Val d’Isere, were another area of strong growth, with investment in infrastructure and the resorts boosting both tourist and buyer interest. Indeed, Knight Frank highlights a notable correlation between those improving their ski infrastructure and expanding their non-ski activities and their performance, with prime prices increasing 6 per cent and 5 per cent in Val d’Isere and Chamonix respectively.

Courcheval and Meribel completed the top five, with rises of 3 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively. With the overall index rising 1.8 per cent, more than reversing the 1 per cent dip in 2015, buyers are now increasingly hunting for value, with interest in the better value resorts of Chamonix and St Gervais on the up.

Buyers are also increasingly turning to US destinations, with the country’s premier ski resorts seeing “strong levels of new investment” and “a broader pool of demand”.

“Although small in number, high net worth individuals from Australia, the UK, Eastern Europe and Asia are increasingly adding Aspen and Vail to their global property portfolios,” reports Knight Frank.

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