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Mountain Real Estate Market

The Mountain Real Estate Market

Over the last few months and years, the Alpine real estate market has been in constant fluctuation. This evolution has notably been influenced by new tourism practices, increasingly demanding requirements on the part of buyers, and a Swiss context impeded by economic and tax constraints.

A real estate trend on the rise

At a time when growing numbers of French and Swiss individuals are making the move into luxury real-estate investments at a ski resort, the Alpine villages, aware of the new requirements of these new buyers, need to step up their efforts in order to attract a more selective clientele.

Indeed, the draw of the mountains has never been as strong. Set in motion by the baby boomer generation with a love of Alpine skiing, the taste for higher summits has continued to abound with the generations that followed, so much so that the number of tourists and potential buyers has been on a sharp upward trend since the 2000s. It appears to have reached its peak between 2008 and 2009, with no fewer than 80 million visitors recorded in the French and Swiss Alps.


mountain real estate panorama

Les Alpes couvrant un vaste domaine de plus de 205 000 kilomètres carrés, les futurs acquéreurs doivent hiérarchiser leurs priorités avant de porter leur choix sur une station. On distingue en réalité deux catégories d'acheteurs : les skieurs chevronnés qui privilégient les stations en haute altitude, en opposition à un public d'acheteurs familial qui souhaite tirer un revenu locatif de son investissement immobilier aussi bien l'hiver que l'été, et qui se laisse plus facilement séduire par une station offrant un large panel d'activités.

Growth of the alpine market: from old chalets to ultra-modern resorts

Contrary to popular belief, the practice of alpine skiing is actually quite old. It began to spread in the 1890s, first as a means of transportation and then as an outdoor winter sport. Facing Mont Blanc, Chamonix was one of the first mountain villages to be transformed into a ski resort, and during The Glorious Thirty, many resorts in Isère and Haute-Savoie followed suit. The chalets that were built at that time stand alongside avant-garde buildings with many amenities. Thus, travellers can enjoy winter activities (snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding) and summer activities (hiking, mountain biking, angling).

Historically, the Alpine real estate market has been characterised by two types of properties:

  •  Old real estate, very popular for the purchase of second homes and rental investment
  • New real estate, with the construction of ski-in/ski-out residences and more affordable housing for residents of the resort

In resort towns, all types of properties are in high demand. The installation of new ski lifts, the diversification of services and the amenities offered by chalets are all factors that increase the value of apartments and chalets in the area.

Tourist offices in particular attest to the aspirations of ski resorts intent on diversifying their leisure offering in order to attract visitors whose centres of interest go beyond Alpine skiing. Indeed, a recent survey showed that 25% of people visiting a resort are not Alpine ski enthusiasts, and are interested in additional activities.

Resorts have thus begun to realign their strategy with the development of attractive facilities: spas, water parks, ice skating rinks, summer toboggan runs, and mountain bike trails are all new features that have been added to help them retain a competitive edge.

Why invest in mountain real estate

Some figures on the real estate market in ski resorts

Every winter in France, more than 10 million people visit the Alps and Isère resorts. One third of them are foreigners, coming from Russia, Qatar and elsewhere.

Méribel, Courchevel, Megève, Les Gets, Val d’Isère, and Val Thorens are some of the most sought-after mountain villages. Others, like Saint Martin de Belleville, are more under-the-radar but have an intimate atmosphere that appeals to lovers of the Alps and wild forests.

The budget for their ski holidays is around €1,000 per week per person, accommodation included, or €4,000 for a family with two children. In the most expensive resorts (like Courchevel 1850), the average amount is much higher, around €7,000 per family for an apartment and even more for a luxury chalet.

Rapidly changing ski resorts

The Alpine market is constantly evolving. Resorts have understood that in order to remain competitive and attract new buyers, tourists and residents, they have no choice but to adapt by improving the quality and diversity of their facilities.

With the spike in tourist levels between 2008 and 2009 at 80 million visitors, French and Swiss resorts are now facing a shift in the market, notably in the form of the stabilisation and even fall in annual visitor numbers. Investors also have new demand, with reliable snow cover and high-quality accommodation and facilities ranked top of their criteria.

The major change affecting these resorts is the diversification of leisure activities among Alpine tourists. Whereas the baby boomer generation was all about Alpine skiing, today’s visitors have new needs. Although investing in snow canons, new gondola lifts and ski tows is vital at resorts, it is not enough to attract demanding tourists whose expectations have radically evolved. Indeed, recent data published shows that 25% of Alpine tourists are non-skiers

Proliferation of recreational sports activities at Alpine resorts

Faced with this reality, Alpine resorts have fully grasped the stakes at play when it comes to expanding and enhancing their leisure facilities. This diversification of Alpine activities is also designed to encourage mountain tourism in the summer season.

In order to respond to these new demands, resorts need to step up their efforts to propose varied and attractive amenities. Activities such as mountain biking, ice skating, golf on snow, paragliding and zip lines are all commonplace nowadays at resorts.

Resorts that do not adapt to this new context will inevitably see their real estate investments fall, given that buyers have a vested interest in investing in resorts that promise their future renters modern and attractive facilities.

As such, the communities concerned will benefit from increased services and structures for permanent residents: schools, transport services, health services, etc.

Impact of Covid-19 on prices in the Alpine real estate market

Neither the subprime crisis in 2008 nor the Covid-19 pandemic have been able to stop the rise in prices on the Alpine peaks. At the height of the financial crisis, French Alps resorts saw their prices freeze for 3 years before resuming their constant increase, in line with trends set during the 1980s.

In 2021, ski lifts were closed due to the pandemic and Britons (and other foreign tourists) were unable to enjoy the mountains. Yet, many French people came to ski on the summits and take in the fresh air on the heights of the 3 Valleys and Tarentaise. The activity is not slowing down, and the mountain real estate market is still doing very well.

The Courchevel-Méribel 2023 World Championships should also accelerate the price increase on the ski resorts of the 3 Valleys and surrounding areas.

Alpine resorts with an international reputation

Val d'Isere is also attracting an international clientèle comprised of large numbers of British tourists as well as Swedish, Dutch and German visitors. Brazilians seem particularly taken by Courchevel, while our trans-Alpine neighbours flock to resorts like Megeve.

Ski resorts that are investing heavily in modern and competitive facilities, tourists with a taste for the new activities on offer in the Alpine villages, and buyers who are raising their expectations when it comes to sealing the deal. That is the current profile of the Alpine property market, which promises bright prospects still to come for 2018.

The aim of all new buyers is to procure a property at market price with guaranteed profitability. Many buyers choose to rent out their property in order to take advantage of VAT rebates in France or simply to cover their expenses.

Our Swiss neighbours on the hunt for a primary residence can rely on the strength of their currency, while those looking to acquire a secondary residence will be more tempted to rent or to invest in a property located at the heart of a neighbouring French resort.

Every year, more and more prospects contact Cimalpes for information about real estate in Savoie, Haute-Savoie and Isère. Renting out their furnished accommodation with a para-hotel status allows them to make a return on their investment in a mountain chalet while enjoying the best services themselves: laundry, concierge, breakfast served on-site.

Cimalpes exclusively presents the best apartments for sale and opens the way to mountain properties with exceptional amenities. Whatever your budget or desires, discover our selection of properties for sale and for rent in Courchevel, Val d’Isère, Alpe d’Huez, Chamonix, Tignes and Val Thorens, and on all the most beautiful peaks in Savoie!

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