With one of the longest Alpine seasons and more skiing above 6,500ft than any other resort, the popularity of Val d’Isère is understandable, says Arabella Youens
The results of Knight Frank’s latest Prime Ski Property Index, published last month, show that demand for Alpine property is rising, strengthened by a more resilient Eurozone, low Euro mortgage rates and, from the British buyer’s perspective, the weaker Euro.
According to the statistics, in July 2015, a €1 million property cost a Sterling buyer 11% less than it did a year previously—dropping from £791,000 to £702,000. However, some of these gains have been balanced by price increases in the top French resorts, with the long-term favourite among British skiers, Val d’Isère, registering the strongest annual price growth (see chart, below). ‘The length of Val d’Isère’s ski season explains its long-standing appeal, particularly among British buyers,’ says Mark Harvey, who heads up Knight Frank’s France desk (020 –7861 5034). ‘The season stretches from the end of November into the first week of May.
Few other Alpine resorts can guarantee sufficient snow to ski during both the Christmas- and Easter-holiday periods. Plus,’ he adds, ‘when you’re looking to rent out your property to maximise value—which about 55% of our clients expect to do—the long season helps.’
This view is backed up by Savills Alpine Homes, who have signalled out Val d’Isère in their latest analysis for its strong rental potential, citing yields achievable for top chalets at about 3.5%.
The team at Athena Advisors says that Knight Frank’s figures for Val d’Isère are, if anything, a little conservative— providing the product is right. ‘The market in Val d’Isère is polarised: there are lots of old chalets and apartments available, but renovation costs are high and buying costs for resale are more than double that of new build (7–8% against 2.5%),’ says Lloyd Hughes (020–7471 4500). ‘As a result, new-build properties are always in extremely high demand and prices have increased by up to 10% in the past 12 months.
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They are highly rare, simply due to the availability of land; only a few new properties are built in the resort each year.’ Val d’Isère is linked to neighbouring Tignes—it’s higher, uglier sister— to form the Espace Killy ski area, with nearly 200 miles of pistes that welcome anyone, catering, as they do, for both beginners and veteran powderhounds.
‘It has an incredible infrastructure with a well-designed and modern lift system, which is constantly upgraded, so there are rarely any queues,’ explains Ben Farley of Leggett Immobilier (00 33 631 47 09 26). ‘For example, the whole of the Solaise area is currently being re-vamped, with a new restaurant at the bottom and a new gondola at the top.’
The resort isn’t as accessible as others, such as Megève, which is close enough to Geneva to make it a weekend skiing option; Val d’Isère lies at the end of the Tarentaise valley, a good 2-and-a-half hour drive from the airport. But that has its advantages, adds Lloyd. ‘One of the down sides of Val d’Isère’s location at the end of the valley and resulting longer-than-average transfer can be flipped to become a big selling point, as it means there are less day-trippers and weekenders clogging up the slopes during the busiest weeks.’
This season’s buyers are predominantly British, Parisians and ‘a smattering of Scandinavians’, says Ben, who adds that Russians ‘dominate the smartest hotels and chalets in January, but few actually own in the resort’. One of the biggest markets for Knight Frank has come from British expatriates based in the Middle and Far East who crave the contrasting climate. ‘They relish the fresh, cool air and, in the summer, you can really escape the crowds in the Alps, which you can’t necessarily do in the Med,’ adds Mark.