Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

After searching among a handful of Alpine resorts that offer reliable snowfall, Ashley Winton (51) centered his property search on Val d’Isère in France. But the London lawyer wanted a place with plenty of space for his family and a bit of outdoor space – features that were far beyond his budget in the town.

So, in the summer of 2020, he bought a chalet in a place that many visitors to Val d’Isère had never heard of: Le Chevril, a 10-minute drive north but within walking distance of a lift that connected to the same ski area.

“We have a garden, parking space and a wonderful view of the reservoir. [To buy a similar home] in the middle of Val d’Isère, we would need a budget of four or five times what we paid, ”he says.

Thanks to rising prices in many of the world’s leading ski resorts, an increasing number of buyers are looking for nearby locations that offer access to the same ski areas for less. In addition to the lower price tags, these locations often have better views and more outdoor space for summer outings than the more prestigious resorts – and since the pandemic, larger homes are better suited for the longer stays made possible by homework.

The savings can be significant. Research for the Financial Times by PriceHubble, a real estate data company, found that the average house price in lesser-known locations is linked to the same ski resorts of four leading Alpine resorts in France and Switzerland – Courchevel 1850, Val d’Isère, Megève and Verbier – was between 43 and 62 percent less than in the resorts themselves.

The leading resort of Val d'Isère

The leading resort of Val d’Isère, France © Andy Parant

Unless money is no object, buying homes in the front resorts can force buyers to make some awkward compromises. “In Megève you do not have a garage, you park your car outside in the snow,” says Petra Cornel (57) from the Netherlands. “The street is narrow and your view is a tennis court.”

Cornel is looking for a home in either Megève or a nearby town like Demi-Quartier or Combloux. Over the past four years, the average property price in towns joining the same ski resort as Megève has been € 4,020 per square meter, according to PriceHubble, a 47 per cent discount on the resort itself.

With rental income often important in helping mortgage payments and operating costs, the pandemic has also highlighted the financial risks of buying an expensive resort home.

In 2021, 57 percent of ski home buyers surveyed by real estate agency Savills said they plan to rent out their home when they are not using it. “It’s now almost standard for buyers to inquire about a home’s rental income,” says Jeremy Rollason, head of Savills’ Alpine sales business.

In recent years in Verbier, Switzerland, the average property price was € 14,318 per square meter, more than double the average of surrounding areas

In recent years in Verbier, Switzerland, the average property price was € 14,318 per square meter, more than double the average of surrounding areas © Getty Images

In 2019, UK-based Harry, who refused to give his real name, bought an apartment in the prestigious French resort of Val d’Isère for € 3.08 million – budgeted at around € 110,000 a year in rental income, before costs, to help cover his mortgage. Then the pandemic hit. “There was literally no rent for the two years we owned it,” says Harry, who decided to sell the house in 2021.

Even before the Covid-19 restrictions, renting out his ski home also meant additional stress. “To maintain it, the paperwork, to look around the building to see if something is broken, to be worried [whether] it will rent, ”he says. “The dream of owning something gets a little murky when you rent it [out]. The reality is that as you approach it, it feels a bit like you are going to work. ”

Real estate agents say the growing demand for ski homes has reduced supply over the past two years. It focused on the search efforts of Hans Etienne (52), who is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. A ski house has been on his bucket list for 20 years, he says. “But [during the pandemic] houses we had looked at before suddenly disappeared; houses that have been on the market for a long time. ”

In the end, Etienne bought a house near Les Masses in Switzerland; A local ski lift offers access to the Four Valleys ski area, which includes Verbier – where the average property price over the past four years has been € 14,318 per square meter, according to PriceHubble, more than double the average in the surrounding areas. .

The pandemic has also increased the attractiveness of using ski homes throughout the year. “We have deliberately chosen somewhere where you will be so happy outside in your garden [in summer] as you would with winter ski boots, ”says Winton.

“It’s important to us to have outdoor space – we love to have fun outside in the summer,” says Gill Ross, 59, who owns a chalet in Le Coupeau, about 6 km from Chamonix in France. The more remote location also means better weather: Le Coupeau often avoids the cloud that will lie on the valley floor. “We may be 10 degrees warmer; you look down on a blanket of clouds from this very sunny place. ”

Les Gets in France

Les Gets, France, a cheaper alternative to some of the Alps’ more prestigious resorts © Hemis / Alamy

She and her husband are selling their chalet and want to buy something smaller, but they do not want to return to Chamonix, where they bought their first ski house 18 years ago.

“We prefer to be outside Chamonix,” she says. “If there is bad weather here [during the ski season], we’re 10 minutes from the Mont Blanc tunnel so we can be in Courmayeur [in Italy] in half an hour. You get a delicious lunch and everyone looks good on the slopes. ”

As buyers consider longer and off-season stays, greater value is placed on good views and rest and peace, which is easier and cheaper to find outside a resort than inside one, says Roddy Arris, who runs Knight Frank’s Alpine sales business.

“Your priorities change,” he says. “If it’s no longer just about access to the slopes, you can try to get rid of all that resort excitement. If you use it like a house-from-home, the best place on the mountain can be with the goats. ”

The choice to forgo the prestigious resorts in favor of cheaper, quieter alternatives obviously has its drawbacks – buyers will have to be content with fewer Michelin-starred restaurants, designer boutiques and large spa complexes. But while the leading resorts have lost nothing of their treasure, some buyers say these things have become less important to them.

Harry paid the deposit last spring at a chalet under construction in Les Gets. The French town may not have the splendor of Val d’Isère – and Harry’s chalet will not have the communal pool to which he previously had access – but the new house will be a third larger, with a garden, better views and is 90 minutes. closer to the airport in Geneva. And at € 1.5 million, that’s about half the price.

“Having a ski-in-ski-out property in Val d’Isère, one of the most expensive resorts in Europe, is phenomenal. The feelgood factor in achieving this is massive, ”he says. “[But] we did the very cosmopolitan areas and the incredibly expensive restaurants. We would rather have a cute, family-oriented town than a party town. ”

Satellite Alps towns near major resorts

Courchevel 1850, France
In Courchevel 1850, the average price of houses sold over the past four years is € 13,623 per square meter. In the two lower-lying towns of La Tania and Le Praz, where lifts join the same ski area, the average price is € 7,138 per square meter.

Val d’Isere, France
In Val d’Isère, the average price is € 10,109 per square meter. In the neighboring villages of La Daille, Les Brévières and Les Boisses, where lifts join the same ski area, the average house price is € 5,764 per square meter.

Megeve, France
The average property price in Megève is € 7,610 per square meter, according to PriceHubble. Across the three surrounding villages – Demi-Quartier, Combloux and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – which all have lifts connecting to the same ski area, the average is € 4,020 per square meter.

Verbier, Switzerland
The average price of a property in the Swiss resort of Verbier over the past four years is € 14,318 per square meter. Across the six neighboring villages of Le Châble, La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Les Collons and Les Masses, the average is € 5,408 per square meter. All six villages are connected by base lifts to the same ski area as Verbier.

For which you can buy. . .

SFr999 000 (€ 952 128) A four-bedroom chalet on a plot of almost 500 sqm. The property is less than 1km from the town of Nendaz in Wales, Switzerland, which offers access to the Four Valleys, the country’s largest ski area. On the market with Alpine Property Finders.

€ 2.5 million A five-bedroom hill chalet in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, France, near the Monts Rosset lift that provides access to the Megève ski slopes. There is a sauna, spa and home cinema, and all bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms. For sale with Knight Frank.

€ 2.6 million A 14-bedroom, three-storey chalet with 415 sq m of living space in La Tania, about 185 km from Geneva airport. The property overlooks La Tania gondola, or gondola, which provides access to the Courchevel ski slopes. Available by Free Spirit Alpine.

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