A rugged little pocket of the eastern Pyrenees wedged between France and Spain, Andorra is the new kid on the international ski property scene.
This small country of 468 sq metres with more kilometres of ski slopes than roads has long been popular for affordable ski holidays in resorts such as Soldeu-El Tarter and Arinsal, but it is now attracting property hunters.
It’s a well-run co-principality with high-speed broadband that has been gradually establishing itself as a tax-friendly ‘safe haven’ destination for wealthy individuals, along with lifestyle buyers drawn to the vibrant Catalan culture and cuisine.
Negligible crime combines with 300 days of sunshine a year (more than the Alps) and that healthy high-altitude lifestyle (it’s mostly mountains) to produce one of the longest life expectancies in the world (83 years). Tourism rates are healthy in both winter and summer, and wellness is a growing business sector.
Why the change in the last few years? In 2012 Andorra altered its immigration laws so that foreigners need only spend 90 days there per year (instead of 183) to enjoy the benefits of “passive” residency. As long as they invest at least €400,000 in property, stocks or shares in Andorra they can enjoy a single tax rate of 10%. There are already 100-odd nationalities amongst its 85,000 population, so it’s a wonderfully cosmopolitan place.
Whilst many locals or expats live in the main city of Andorra La Vella where there are tax-free designer shopping malls and great restaurants, ski property hunters will head to the resorts of the two domains of the Grandvalira (over 200km of ski runs) and the Vallnord (nearly 100km of runs).
The French and the Spanish for obvious geographical reasons are the biggest buyers in Andorra, but 40% of the buyers for high-end agent Engel & Volkers (who have opened an office there this year) are from the UK. Meanwhile, the average sale for another agent, Andorra Sotheby’s Realty, is €500,000.
So What Might That Buy?
Because of the topography of the country, only 12% of the land can be built on, so property prices are fairly high (there is not even room for an international airport so skiers tend to use Barcelona or Toulouse).
But Andorra was not immune from the global downturn and the ski resorts were hit the hardest with price drops of up to 50% and some bank repossessions. However you can get a small two-bed ski apartment for around €150,000 in the popular resorts of Soldeu-El Tartar or Arinsal, a one-bed unit for around €120,000, or entry level is around €80,000 for a studio. There is usually more choice of these in the more developed resorts, Soldeu and Arinsal in particular.
Soldeu may not be chocolate-box pretty, but it is a large, snow-sure resort with great amenities at the heart of the Grandvalira ski domain and linked to Grau Roig, Pas de la Casa, Canillo and El Tartar. In the other valley, Ordino, the Vallnord, Pal, La Massana and Arinsal are the hot spots.
If you want a new-build property, agent Lucas Fox, for example, has two-bed apartments in nearby El Tartar (a resort that hosts lively outdoor discos) for €225,000. Also, keep an eye out for the new French starchitect Jean Nouvel project at Ordino, a traditional village that is frequently requested by buyers, according to Sotheby’s. The new “cave” styled development will offer properties costing around €1.8m, but is still in construction.
If you can afford €475,000 you might want a home in one of the rustic “pleta” developments – stone and oak “antique” style homes designed by the same architect – close the ski slopes in resorts such as El Tartar/Canillo, Soldeu, Arinsal and Ordino.
These attractive looking communities near the slopes offer good lock-and-go homes with security and extra services. They also rent well – for around €3,500 a month. Currently there are examples of different sizes for sale from €499,000 (through Engel & Volkers).
The average price of a house in Andorra is €600,000 and you should expect to pay around €1m-plus for a typical mountain country house or “borda” built in the granite and timber vernacular. A two-bed detached nicely renovated home with plenty of charm costs around for €995,000 in Ordino through Engel & Volkers.