Tip 1: Take the time to choose a resort before looking for a property

You probably already have an idea about the resort where you would like to purchase a second home. It will definitely be a resort you have been to before for a holiday, staying with friends or renting a property yourself. There may, however, be a more suitable destination for your real estate project.

The real estate market in the French Alps is in effect a number of micro-markets, each with its own specific characteristics. We strongly recommend, especially for first-time buyers, that you work with a real estate expert in the Alps, who will be able to advise you and steer you towards the most suitable resort or resorts for you.

© OT_Chamonix-Mont-Blanc_CB

It is important to take the time to fully consider your aspirations and define the requirements for your property so as not to end up choosing the wrong resort. In practice, 50% of buyers choose a different  resort from their initial selection for their property purchase. 

Tip 2: Anticipate a budget consistent with the mountain real estate market

You will definitely be planning to acquire a property for leisure use, driven by the desire to own a home in the Alps and/or have a secondary residence where you can spend quality time with your family and friends. You will therefore be looking for your ideal chalet or apartment, so you must take a strategic approach to your investment - not least because the luxury mountain real estate market is highly specialised, with many investors chasing a limited supply of properties.

Furthermore, so as not to miss out on a good opportunity, you must define your budget range in advance of viewing your first properties. This will allow you to move quickly in a market where there are often competing buyers interested in a property and speed is of the essence.

Having a defined budget will also allow you to decide between a chalet or apartment. Apartments are usually more affordable than chalets, with lower maintenance costs and the communal facilities in today’s luxury residences often rival those found in individual chalets. On the other hand, a private outside space with views of the mountains is an essential criterion, then you should opt for an individual chalet.

© Laurent Salino Station

Tip 3: Specify the time frame of your investment

Even when buying a property for leisure use, you need to be able to define the time frame of your investment. In other words, you must decide whether you are investing for the long term or, on the other hand, you want to have the option to re-sell your property in the relatively near future. As well as other differences between them, the alpine micro-markets are positioned differently in terms of price dynamics:

  • The first category is the long-established markets; with steady price growth, they are perfect for building a solid asset base that is insulated from market volatility and can be passed on to the next generation. This is the case, for example, in the resorts of Courchevel, Méribel or Val d’Isère.
  • The second category comprises markets currently experiencing rapid or extremely rapid price growth. They will therefore be attractive to investors looking to re-sell in a few years’ time, with the increase in the property’s value offering the opportunity for a capital gain if the initial investment is well managed. The fast-growing resort of Alpe d’Huez is a typical example of such up-and-coming destinations.

Tip 4: Consider rental yield when planning your real estate project

We have said before that buying a property in the mountains is a leisure investment. Nevertheless, this should not prevent you from thinking about opportunities to generate an income from your investment. In fact, if managed properly, it is possible that the rental income generated by your future property will cover your annual overheads as well as the costs of your own stays in your second home such as travel, lift passes, etc.

To begin with, you need to determine how much of the time your property will be occupied. If you expect to use your property yourself several times a year during school holidays and holiday weekends (i.e. during periods of high demand), then this will have an inevitable impact on your overall occupancy rate. Taking this into account when carrying out rental simulations and income forecasts will help you avoid disappointment and will also help you to select the best resort. It is better to choose a resort that is easy for you to get to, even if it is less busy, if you plan to go there regularly.

That said, whatever the resort, also consider the layout of your property from a rental perspective in order to maximise occupancy when you are not using it yourself.  If you have four bedrooms, put double or twin beds in each of them to give a sleeping capacity of eight people, even if your own family is just two adults and two children.

Finally, ask yourself whether you want to buy a new or older property. From a rental standpoint, new properties offer the best potential to quickly generate optimised rental income, as well as allowing you to reclaim the VAT on the purchase price. This will allow you to make a more financially viable investment, even though the initial acquisition price may be higher than for an older property. The latter will be preferred by clients looking for premium locations with ski-in/ski-out access, as well as character.

Are you attracted to the alpine lifestyle and want to buy a chalet or apartment in a year-round village resort?

Megève is perhaps the resort which best embodies the alpine art of living. The town has an array of fine dining restaurants, including Emmanuel Renaut's three Michelin star Flocons de Sel, as well as numerous bars and tea rooms. Also on offer, are many luxurious spa experiences, art galleries, and designer boutiques as good as any found in the world's great capitals.

Megève is easily accessible by road or rail, and is an authentic year-round mountain town. As a result, the range of activities on offer is extensive. In winter, there are 400 kilometres of ski runs, an extensive network of ski touring and cross country ski trails, and an Olympic ice rink. It is also a mecca  for dog sledders, hosting the famous Grand Odyssée race each winter. Throughout the rest of the year, activities available include an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, mountain biking, paragliding, climbing and paddle boarding.

©Megève Tourism Office

Tip 5: Be aware of the specific characteristics of a resort

Owning a chalet or apartment in the Alps means having a property in a remarkable environment, frequented by tourists in both winter and summer. Resorts live and breathe to the rhythm of the school holidays. If possible, we recommend that you make several visits at different times of the year in order to get a feel for the atmosphere of the resort in different seasons.

Finally, note that properties offered for purchase are generally less available during school holiday periods, precisely because these are the times when they are most in demand for rental. If your lifestyle permits, it is a good idea to visit the property outside of the school holidays, and then return during high season in order to get a feel for how busy the resort is and the atmosphere during these times.

@OPTV

With its headquarters in Albertville (Savoie), Cimalpes is the leading independent network specialising in the sales and seasonal rental markets in the mountains. It has a presence in twelve resorts in the departments of Isère, Savoie and Haute-Savoie: Alpe d’Huez, Chamonix, Courchevel, Les Gets, Megève, Méribel, Peisey-Vallandry, Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, Tignes, Val d’Isère, Valmorel and Val Thorens.