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Ski Resort Property: Should I Buy in France?

France Property | Welove2ski
Photo: © David Andre/OT Courchevel.

Even more than Paris and the Cote d’Azur, the French Alps have become a holiday home market for buyers from increasingly diverse parts of the globe.

Without the restrictions on foreign or second-home ownership of Switzerland or Austria, and the near impossibility of getting your hands on Italy’s Alpine homes, French ski properties are the easiest for most people to buy.

What’s more, whilst the French residential market has struggled since it ‘double-dipped’ – and many regions remain pretty static – the Haute-Savoie and Savoie have held up better than the rest of France.

Excellent lending rates in France continue, combined with depressed prices, make it still a good time to invest, and for a resurgent flow of British buyers France is still cheaper than Switzerland, easier to reach than Austria.

There’s simply the biggest choice of ski homes – across all budgets, new and old, very ordinary or fabulously deluxe, and there have been a flurry of new projects in the past two years.

From a studio apartment for €40,000 to an uber-chalet of 600m2 costing €30 million, there’s a great diversity in prices between resorts, and you it’s worth doing a bit of research rather than just buying where your friends are (though that often makes sense).

Property France | Welove2ski
MGM Samoens.

Why Such Variation Between Resorts?

They’ll be “AAA” locations in most places – the ones with the stupendous views down the valley or within a whisker of the ski lift – but resorts tend to divide into those where mostly the French buy, and those with an international demand.

The bulk of France’s 200-odd ski resorts don’t attract hordes of foreign buyers and property prices enjoy less movement. Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes, to take two examples of major resorts – that may one day be “superlinked” if rumours are to be believed – remain affordable because foreign buyers have not overheated their prices. The same goes to some degree for two slightly more expensive resorts, Tignes and Les Arcs, that may well be linked in the future. In ski resorts, for the greatest affordability and possibility of capital appreciation – as ever – can be found in those likely to be boosted by infrastructure improvements such as new links or lifts.

Contrast Courchevel, Chamonix, Meribel and Val d’Isere where prices have already been driven up by demand that peaked in 2008 and surpassed even €20,000 per square metre.

Property France | Welove2ski
Six Senses Residences, Courchevel.

But What Are the Current Hot Spots and Major Trends?

Well first up it depends if you want new-build or resale, chalet or apartment, a major or a minor resort, authentic old-world charm or purpose-built resort?

There are relatively few affordable new developments in the ever popular Three Valleys so for a good choice of these you might look to the newer resorts: Tignes, La Plagne and Chatel, for example.

Chatel has been one of the last season’s big success stories due to the improvement in infrastructure there – new one-bed apartments in that were selling for Chatel €170k last year are now €185,000, according to Erna Low Property; Tignes les Brevieres at €205k – compare Courchevel 1850 where you’ll need at least €600k.

Actually at the most glamorous new apartment development launch for a few years, Six Senses Residences Courchevel (in the heart of 1850, of course), new one-bed apartments start at €1.5m, although they have access to full ski concierge and spa services. The superb new aquacentre between 1860 and 1650 that opened this year is a major boost to the dual-season credentials of Courchevel.

Agents reports that prices of new-builds have gone up, according to official figures, with only “marginal” increases in resale properties.

In Meribel, Erna Low has been selling new leaseback apartments in a Pierre & Vacances scheme right in the centre for €385,000 to €1m, showing the premium on the big-name 3 Valleys resorts.

With many off-plan/new-build schemes you’ll have a choice of classic freehold (also known as outright ownership) or leaseback ownership, where the developer leases your property back to you for 9-11 years typically, and for that period you are guaranteed a set income (usually between 3-4%) and several weeks’ personal usage. You also get back the 20% VAT on (new-build) leaseback homes.

Property France | Welove2ski
Combloux. © Erna Low.

The government-backed leaseback scheme has been very successful in France – with French buyers especially – as a “safe” and hassle-free way to invest in a property. It doesn’t suit those who want to use their property frequently, or don’t want to be tied in for several years, but there are new “hybrid” types of leaseback coming to market where personal use is much more flexible (there is an example in La Rosiere that has attracted much interest, with prices from €322,500).

You tend to need deep pockets for a new-build chalet in France – Austria has a far wider choice of affordable options, although in the pretty resort of Combloux, for example, you can get three to six-bed chalets with views of Mont Blanc for less than €1.5m. Or Leggett has new five- or six-bedroom chalets in Meribel Les Allues at €1,212,000.

For new-builds in other authentic old villages, check out MGM’s scheme in Samoens (Savoyard chalet buildings of apartments from €216,666) or in Valmorel. They also have a new development in the Paradiski’s Champagny-en-Vanoise with prices from €215,000.

But now is a good time to buy a resale chalet – in Courchevel prices are down 20% from the 2008 peak according to Savills – and you can get a modest one for €350,000 in a popular yet affordable resort such as Les Deux Alpes.

Double that figure and you could get an entry-level chalet in Morzine or Les Gets – both an easy hour from Geneva and popular for their summer biking scene – but you’ll need to double it again for the same in Chamonix or Meribel – for example, Leggett has a six-bedroom renovated chalet in the latter for €1,495,000.

About the author

Liz Rowlinson

Liz Rowlinson has reported on overseas property for nearly 15 years.
Within this time she has looked after the Daily Mail property section, freelanced for most UK publications and covered ski property extensively. She is currently Editor of A Place in the Sun magazine.


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  • Cash purchasers of hi-end French property need to be aware of French wealth tax (ISF) which applies to residents as well as non-residents who are assessed annually on the net value of the equity they hold in French assets. The current threshold for ISF is1.3M Euros but the lowest tax rate of 0.5% applies to the band covering 800K to 1.3M, with rates of 0.7% and 1% applying to the 1.3M to 2.57M and 2.57M to 5M bands respectively. For example therefore, the owner of a chalet worth say 3M, who has no mortgage, would end up paying well over 15,000 Euros in annual wealth tax.

  • Property prices in Chamonix are much more comparable to those in Morzine – rather than Courchevel, Meribel and Val d’Isere. There is a huge price range between the different villages in the Chamonix valley and you can still get an entry level chalet in the valley for well under €1million.

  • I bought a leaseback in Sainte Foy station recently, which we love. As you state in your article, buying an apartment close to mega resorts with snow guaranteed was also an important factor for me. Val D’Isere, Tignes, Les Arcs and La Rosiere are all accessible by car in 20 min. to half an hour.
    What was even more important however, was that the season is shorter in Ste. Foy than the other resorts! A negative point, you may think? Not at all, it means I can stay out of season in my apartment (no loss of rental income), with only an administration fee and cleaning cost while skiing in the mega resorts!
    Already skied 3 weeks this autumn/winter out of season and will also be skiing the week of easter monday ‘out of season’.
    Sainte Foy is a ‘ hidden’ gem for many reasons, in fact I don’t know why I am informing people by writing this.