Look to Austria for well-priced ski properties with plenty of snow and an attractive Alpine locations
For years British buyers of Alpine ski homes have been missing a trick by overlooking Austria. Although we love skiing in the big-name resorts of St Anton, Lech or Kitzbühel, we’re much more likely to buy a ski property in Courchevel, Chamonix or even permit-restricted Verbier.
Yet, when it comes to old-world charm, fabulous après ski and the level of genuine hospitality offered by family-run hotels and restaurants, Salzburgerland or the Tyrol regions are hard to beat. Austria even has the best glacier skiing. So why the disparity? It’s partly to do with perception. Ten years ago, a headline-grabbing report by the OECD warned of the affect of climate change on European ski resorts and, along with Germany, Austria came out the worse for its ‘risky’ low-lying ski villages. A sufficient number of snowy seasons have followed to reassure investors and the village of Lech (am Arlberg) is especially high and snow-sure.
‘Austria can be colder than the southern Alps and enjoys a longer season, due to blasts of Siberian air,’ says Jeremy Rollason of Savills Alpine Homes. ‘Localised weather patterns also explain why Lech gets three times the snow that St Anton gets, 25km (15 miles) down the road.’ Jeremy also points to the economic stability of the nation, where property prices predictably climb in single digits each year and where interest rates are low. ‘It didn’t share the 2001 to 2007 property-price boom of the French Alps, yet neither did it share the 30% price drops that followed, so it’s a steady market. Prices have risen nationally by 41% since 2008, yet Austrian resorts still offer excellent value,’ he says.
A rise in prices in well-known resorts, such as the lakeside Zell am See, is down to the other major issue in Austria— a lack of property permitted for second-home ownership feeds the perception that top Austrian resorts are a closed shop. This is particularly true of the Tyrol (Kitzbühel, St Anton, Ischgl) and Vorarlburg (Lech and Zurs) regions. ‘I think there’s still a common myth that you can’t buy in Austria and that puts people off,’ comments Thomas Joyce of Pure International. ‘We do have a lot of “off-the-market” properties in Lech, but when a new scheme does come up, it sells very quickly—as with our project [of 18 apartments] in the hamletof St Christoph am Arlberg in Lech last year—so the demand is definitely there.’
You’ll need €2 million to buy a good property in Lech itself, where Diana, Princess of Wales loved to ski. Although the chic resort packed with gourmet restaurants is expensive for Austria, at €15,000 to €20,000 per square metre, it’s still far cheaper than Verbier (€26,450), St Moritz (€30,900) or Courchevel 1850 (€31,340).
Pure is now selling three new five-bedroom chalets in Lech from €5.8m, but, like most new projects in Austria, they come with a rental obligation. Rentals are managed by the five-star Hotel Aurelio and owners can enjoy three weeks of free usage, with an income from the rest. ‘Investors will benefit from a new ski lift linking Lech-Zurs to Arlberg resorts on the other side of the mountain, such as St Anton, and continued investment in high-quality infrastructure is another feature of Austrian resorts,’ adds Thomas.
In another resort linked to Lech, Warth am Arlberg, Savills is about to launch a project of 14 new ski-in apartments,to be completed in two years, priced from €500,000 to €1.5m. ‘Warth is as charming, if not more so, than Lech and enjoys amazing views,’ says Jeremy. ‘It’s quieter, but has nice restaurants and shops and the development is about 250 yards from the ski lift.’ Jessica Delaney of Alpine Marketing has sold Austrian property for a decade and offers 59 projects across various regions, but agrees that the biggest trend has been the opening up of the Tyrol and Vorarlburg regions.
Along with ‘steady’ sales in Kitzbühel (€3m for a chalet), she has ‘rare’ projects in the lively Tyrol resort of Sölden (prices from €289,500) as well as in St Anton. British skiers have always loved the world-class resort of St Anton, which combines traditional Tyrolean customs with superb off-piste and great après ski—and only an hour from Innsbruck.
The Arlberg Residences offers 33 furnished apartments some 400 yards from the ski lift and access to extensive spa facilities, with prices from €289,000 (one bedroom) to €2.25m (five-bedroom penthouse). Naturally, there is a rental obligation—and guaranteed returns.
Many of the Salzburgerland resorts offer dual-season appeal and, although Pure has a project in Maria Alm, Mark Warner Property has seen interest in Zell am See, Saalbach-Hinterglemm and Kaprun. ‘With new-build prices peaking in Zell am See [€5,500 per square metre] after a slew of schemes, buyers are looking to Schuttdorf or Kaprun for greater value,’ says agent Giles Gales. ‘Although, as the quality of projects has risen, we are seeing clients with bigger budgets: five years ago, the average was €250,000 to €300,000, now, it’s €450,000.
Buyers tend to be younger in Austria than in Switzerland, preferring family-friendly resorts with plenty to do in the summer.’ Mark Warner has a new project in Kaprun and investors will benefit from a lift linking up the neighbouring resorts of Zell and Saalbach, explains Giles. Savills will be launching a project in Saalbach in the New Year, along with one near Kitzbühel. Austria is a closed shop no more.
Situated in one of the sunniest locations in St Anton, this luxury penthouse apartment enjoys unspoilt views down the Nassarein valley and the surrounding alpine meadows.
Offering a ski-out location, this property is just a 500-metre ski across the fields down to the Nasserein ski lift. Spread out over 161 square metres and with 4 bedrooms, it offers plenty of space to relax after a day on the slopes.
As part of the luxurious Aparthotel, Mountain Spa Resort, owners have access to extensive leisure facilities including a 600m² on-site spa with a sauna and massage rooms, and a 12-metre indoor and outdoor swimming pool.
Other facilities include an on-site lounge bar and brasserie restaurant, and two underground parking spaces. The apartment comes with an on-site concierge, providing services such as airport pick up and a personal chauffeur.
More information from Kristall Spaces on 020 3735 8790; www.kristall-spaces.com