The new law limiting the number of second homes in Swiss resorts hasn’t led to a shortage of new ski homes— at least, not yet. Liz Rowlinson takes her pick of the crop.
Uncertainty surrounding the new Lex Weber law limiting the number of second homes in Swiss ski resorts doesn’t seem to have dampened the market unduly. Some schemes under construction were approved before the 2012 law, a few vetoed projects have been ‘unblocked’ and other new apartment residences come with a rental obligation that classifies them as an investment rather than a second home.
‘It’s not as bad as we feared,’ says Simon Malster of Investors in Property and, indeed, there appears to be no shortage of new homes—yet. ‘Once the existing supply is absorbed, upward price pressure in the leading resorts is inevitable,’ predicts Jeremy Rollason of Savills Alpine Homes. So here’s a taste of what’s new in four very different resorts.
With some of the world’s best off-piste skiing, access to Switzerland’s Four Valleys ski area and the country’s largest choice of trophy chalets, the Valais resort of Verbier is the first choice for many British buyers. ‘It’s the barometer for the rest of the British buying appetite in the Swiss Alps,’ says Mr Rollason. ‘Everyone wants to know what their budget buys in Verbier before anything else.’
According to Savills, that sum is CHF30,500 to CHF38,000 (£20,000– £25,000) per square metre. New apartments are scarce and, when something good comes up, there’s a scramble for it—‘and gazumping is back’.
If you don’t want to refit a 1970s building in the centre, Savills (020–7016 3740) have four three-bedroom apartments left at the Rosalp Residences (from CHF4.39 million (£2.88m)) and Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) are offering a three-bed apartment on the rue du Centre Sportif for CHF1.55 million (£1.16m).
‘The centre is popular for apartments for those wanting to be able to walk to restaurants, but for the new generation of 700sq m to 1,000sq m (7,535sq ft to 10,674sq ft) chalets, the prime locations are Les Esserts and Le Rouge, Sonalon (best for showstoppers), and then rue de Patier/ Chevillard,’ believes Knight Frank’s Matt Hodder-Williams.
In elevated Sonalon, they are offer- ing a new-ish four-bedroom 200sq m (2,153sq ft) chalet for CHF5.5 million (£3.6m), with views over the resort. Chestertons International (020–7201 2071) have a nine-bedroom chalet with a 25m pool, a ballroom for 220 and a 25,000-bottle wine cellar for CHF32 million (£20.9m).
A chocolate-box-pretty village at the end of the Schanfigger Valley in the German-speaking Graubunden canton, Arosa is a sunny and snow-sure resort 21⁄2 hours from Zurich.
Recently linked to the nearby resort of Lenzerheide, the upmarket and dual-season town is not a household name for British skiers, yet it’s where The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge skied last season while visiting for a Society wedding.
It’s also one of the luxury family ski company Powder Byrne’s top five resorts in its portfolio of 2014. So it follows that Powder Byrne Properties is launching its latest development of nine luxury residences there, offered for sale at CHF995,000 to CHF4 million (£651,000 to £2.6m), to be com- pleted by early 2016.
The two- and three-bedroom open-plan properties (from 90sq m (969sq ft)) at Chesa Araus will come with wood- burning fireplaces and south-facing views as well as the super-luxe bootroom and bespoke management and concierge services that Powder Byrne regulars love.
‘Owners are buying into the complete Powder Byrne service and have to sign a rental agreement with us if they wish to let out their property,’ says head of sales Nick Williams (020–8246 5306). ‘Just two or three weeks’ rental a year will cover running and financing costs for the owners.’
The fast-evolving resort of Andermatt in the Gotthard region is rather like Verbier in the 1980s or 1990s—an embryonic A-lister with quite a way to go, but great for the early investor. Yet its creator Samih Sawiris is keen to differentiate the two resorts.
‘Successful destinations don’t thrive on a monoculture of the super-rich like the British in Verbier. In Andermatt, we look at the long term and control the volume of nationalities investing,’ says the Egyptian chairman of Andermatt’s board.
He admits that, until the skiing evolves, the £200 million Chedi Andermatt—‘the best hotel in the Alps’—is the resort’s biggest pull, but when the infrastructure connects the Sedrun Valley within 10 years, there will be 75 miles of (uncrowded) pistes. The current ‘steep and deep’ skiing has put off the masses, but, in time, the new golf course will draw a summer market, such as the Italians (Milan and Zurich are 90 minutes away).
A rare exemption from the Lex Koller law, Andermatt Swiss Alps resort is freely available to non-Swiss nationals, although 60% of the buyers so far have been Swiss, according to Mr Sawiris. Apartments in alpine-style buildings start from CHF495,000 (£324,000) for a 36sq m (388sq ft) studio, and Chedi-branded penthouses start at CHF4.12 million (£2.7m) through A&K International Estates (www.akinternationalestates.com). At the Chedi Andermatt itself, you can buy fully furnished hotel suites, apartments and penthouses, from CHF1.75 million (£1.14m) through Savills.
With its iconic Matterhorn backdrop and beautiful old chalets, Zermatt oozes old-world charm and is Switzerland’s most visited ski resort. Yet with striking designer hotels, including the Vernissage, designed by local architect Heinz Julen, and the Omnia and the Cervo, it’s considerably more hip than Verbier. However, the car-free resort offers only five private ‘trophy chalets’ and, when homes do come up for sale, they are usually discreetly sold to local Swiss residents.
So it’s no surprise that prices are high. Oliver Herweg of local developer Julen Steiger & Cie cites CHF25,000 (£16,000) per square metre, ‘but the true value is much higher than that. Owning a property is a step up to becoming a resident’. His company is behind the town’s biggest new project, a centrally located cluster of seven chalets which each come with their own chef, concierge and view of the Matterhorn. Three of the ‘Seven Heavens’ have sold for asking prices of between £16 million and £20 million; the four remaining chalets are available for £9 million and £11 million (020–8905 5511).