Austrian ski resorts survived the global downturn well, offering an affordable alternative to France and Switzerland for buyers looking for a home in the Alps.
Further good news for property hunters is that the choice of offering has expanded considerably over the past five years and tempting new-build schemes are reaching the market in both big-name and below-the-radar resorts.
Historically Austrian resorts are famed for being especially hospitable, lively, truly dual-seasonal and on the whole, much less developed than their French and Swiss counterparts.
In recent years Ischgl’s become very fashionable, St Anton’s been a big hit with buyers, along with Kitzbuhel, (though some celebs prefer classy Lech); and then there are a raft of traditional British favourites led by Zell am See-Kaprun and Solden.
Many more resorts do remain very provincial rather than international in make-up, and that is also an attraction for some buyers. Frequently Austrian ski villages are dominated by just a couple of local land-owning families who will not always sell to outsiders but have now begun to “open up” to development of touristic properties.
That said, non-EU citizens cannot buy in the Tirol or Vorarlberg – or Salzburg, since they introduced a new restriction in 2013.
Even more zealous than the Swiss in their desire to avoid ghost-town mountain ski villages – the so-called “cold beds” of absentee owners – the Austrians enforce a rental obligation on 90% of their ski property schemes. So whilst you don’t always have to professionally let out your ski home (the flexibility in schemes varies widely), you do need to keep it occupied for a good number of weeks a year – welcome news for friends and family!
Buyers tend to buy new homes in Austria rather than resales, and as mentioned above, there is a lot being built by a healthy construction industry. One of the leading agents selling Austrian property to overseas buyers, Alpine Marketing, offered a handful of schemes five years ago. Now they have 63 new developments on their books, spanning low to high ends of the market.
Having stolidly avoided the speculative peaks and troughs of recent years, the price of ski homes has remained fairly steady, rising around 4% each year. Positive economic factors underpin the housing market, tourism is healthy, and rental yields can be hard to beat.
According to Savills – another one of only a handful of well-known agents selling Austrian property to the UK market – Austria still offers great value for money: prices are €5,000 to €7,000 per square metre in popular Zell am See – a fraction of the figure for Meribel (€21,630) or Verbier (€26,450).
So where best to look right now? Here are a few hot spot:
Big hitters in the Tirol and Vorarlberg
If you are lucky enough to be shopping for a luxury chalet than you will generally head for classy Kitzbuhel where you will find a few on the open market around €2-4m.
You might also fancy Lech or St Anton where there have been a new schemes recently – Kristall Spaces has been selling apartments at St Anton’s Mountain Spa Residences from €635,500, or new chalets in the Chalech development at Lech from €4m. Or in Kuhtai, the less glamorous but the highest ski resort in Austria, their 2020 project offers apartments from €213,570.
In a less well-known resort popular with the Dutch, Serfaus (in a valley between Ischgl and Solden), Alpine Marketing is selling new apartments from around €450,000 in a scheme launching soon.
For another agent expanding its Austrian portfolio, Mark Warner Property, the ‘golden triangle’ of Zell am See, Kaprun and Saalbach is the bestselling area, although there’s a lack of stock in Zell. The new lift link between Zell and Saalbach opens in December.
Zell am See, a resort that ticks many boxes, is positively cosmopolitan by Austrian standards, with some of its apartment complexes housing an array of nationalities these days. An accessible, attractive and truly dual-season town, it offers a (relatively) wide choice of resale apartments from around €170,000 upwards. Alpine Marketing is selling high-spec new contemporary Water Apartments there from €708,000.
Less touristy than Zell is nearby Bramberg, a fast-evolving ski resort with a high-end feel liked by some British buyers for its family-friendly and authentic village. Alpine Marketing have properties there or in nearby Neukirchen there’s a great new scheme of detached chalets with spa facilities from €706,800.
The skiing is Saalbach is arguably better than in Zell, and if you have €297,000 to spend you can get a ski-in, ski-out luxury apartment (through Savills).
Inevitably more money stretches further in the less popular ski areas, and in the past couple of years there’s been interest in Bad Kleinkirchheim, a lovely traditional spa town in the Carinthia region.