It may not be common knowledge, but canny people are beginning to realise that while property in the UK, Spain and France has been rising at unprecedented levels over the past decade, prices in Switzerland have remained for the most part unchanged.

This fact, coupled with a change in the law which allows more properties per annum to be bought by foreigners, means that the aforementioned canny people are looking for a second home which provides an alternative to the old favourites of sun, sand and sea.

While some people enjoy the eternal jostle for space on the beaches of the Cote d?Azur or the Caribbean in July and August, others might appreciate the entirely different appeal of the Swiss Alps. High up in the mountains the lakes are clear and the scenery is breathtaking. It seems an ideal place to escape the summer crowds, and to pause and get some perspective.

A different view from the Cote d?Azur

One of the reasons this corner of Europe is still so secluded is that in 1985 the clever Swiss made sure that the buying up of choice property by foreign nationals, which was taking place in Spain and France, did not happen there and as a result the country remains much more unspoiled, and less overrun, than both these countries.

But because it was so strict with letting people buy, Switzerland acquired a reputation for being extremely exclusive, allowing only a very small percentage of the super-rich to purchase property, and to accept offers of residency and the advantageous tax laws which come with it.

This is changing, however, because the Swiss Government has woken up to the fact that there is some extremely good property which is uninhabited and crumbling away, and without people willing to take care of it, it could be lost forever.

The powers that be have therefore decided to open up the number of properties allowed to be purchased each year by foreigners by carrying quotas over from year to year, which means many more properties are now available to those who have a love of quiet beauty and dramatic scenery.

One company which has decided to take advantage of these changes is Hartmann Singleton. The partnership comprises one Swiss national living in Yorkshire, and one English property developer, and their aim is to combine their expertise and provide a service to locate and purchase dream Swiss homes for their clients.

With contacts in the UK and all over Switzerland, their aim is to de-mystify the process of buying property there, and to make sure their clients get to pick from absolutely everything which is available. From buying a plot of land and building your ideal chalet, to buying a period waterside property, Hartmann Singleton aims to help.

?We want to provide the whole service from beginning to end,? says Beat Hartmann, one half of the two founders. ?We are not just estate agents -because our wealth of contacts and knowledge and experience of the country are unrivalled we can effectively tailor our search once we know what the client is looking for.

Prices are not prohibitive: a four or five bedroom house in a good secluded location will set you back in the region of £600,000 and taxes are, unsurprisingly, not much: one or two percent of the value of your property is about average.

The only rule when you own a second home in Switzerland is that you have to use it for at least three weeks of the year, this is to ensure that you are taking care of the property. This is quite standard and leaves room for lots of flexibility, whether you need to work around school holidays or you want to pop over once a month.

The cantons where foreigners can buy tend to be the more tourist-besieged areas, but if you go a little further afield than the obvious main towns, there is still a large amount of lovely property for sale at a reasonable price, promises Mr Hartmann.

Seclusion and privacy are often key when finding the right property

?People who want to buy are increasingly moving away from places like Verbiers which tend to be flooded with the English during the winter. Many buyers are looking for peace and quiet in a place where locals are just getting on with their business, and this is what we are good at finding. For instance Champrey is becoming more popular at the moment. It is an hour and a half from Geneva airport, so easily reached and extremely quiet and pretty,? he adds.

There are limitations on buying in Switzerland, but the fact that a dedicated company has set up in the UK which can help with the process of purchasing there is surely a sign that the popularity of this beautiful place is on the up, and the prices are sure to follow suit. The smart advice seems to be, don?t wait until the ski season: act now for the pick of the best.

Hartmann Singleton can be contacted on www.hartmannsingleton.com or telephone + 44 (0)1845 597 795.