Photo credit: KitLKat
The ski property market in the Alps is building up momentum as the 2012/2013 season looks set to achieve record snow falls.
Visitor numbers and hotel bookings are both up, according to the latest report from Alpine Homes in association with Savills, with diligent investors returning steadily to the slopes.
"New Year brings fresh snow and fresh buyers," explains Jeremy Rollason, managing director of Alpine Homes, who notes that 2012 was a "good year" for the ski property market, with sales rising by 30 per cent over 2011, asking prices in 72 per cent of resorts in Austria, France and Switzerland stable or up, and occupancy rates much improved.
Now, the momentum is building.
"Activity has increased significantly," comments Rollason. "We have made four sales in both Austria and Switzerland so far in January. Resorts include Zell am See and Turracher Höhe in Austria and The Four Valleys in Switzerland. Prices range from €330,000 in Austria up to Chf 2 million in Switzerland. Buyers are however also active in the higher price bracket, typically Chf 5m- Chf15m, but there is a dearth of buyers above this point."
Property viewings are also up by one-third from the same time last year, with February half-term expected to be busy with "shoppers", boosted by the strong snow fall.
"Recent snow fall has certainly helped tourist numbers, which in turn helps the property market," adds Rollason.
"However, levels of activity and sale volumes do not necessarily equate to increased sales prices. Many vendors remain firmly implanted in a pre-crisis vacuum of market denial. Some still need to realise that alpine property prices took a dip in the period 2008-2010, stabilised in 2011, and only in certain cases, have they started rising again.
"For anyone looking to sell a second hand property, the clear message is that prices need to be at least 20% below the equivalent new build asking price in their resort. This is less applicable for more recently built property, however anything over 10-15 years old can become tired or outdated, especially if it has been rented out, and may need a degree of refurbishment. Buyers of second homes rarely want the hassle of having to oversee a renovation project in a foreign country."
In Switzerland, much has been made of the new legislation that came into effect on 1st January 2013, capping the number of second homes permitted at 20%.
"[It's] good news for existing second home owners (with values widely predicted to rise), but not such good news for the construction industry in Switzerland which accounts for more than 5% of GDP," says Rollason.
"Every cloud has a silver lining however, as almost simultaneously, certain cantons, including Valais and Vaud, are now permitting Swiss nationals to re-sell their properties to non-Swiss nationals after five years of ownership. So, even though buyers may not be able to buy a new home in Switzerland in the future, this will ensure second home liquidity, subject to the usual restrictions."
A weak pound may be good for the UK economic recovery, he continues, but is less welcome for those buying abroad. Nonetheless, he concludes: "On a positive note, finance, both within the Eurozone and Switzerland, remains accessible and affordable. Swiss borrowing rates remain the lowest in Europe."
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