Spotlight: Alpine Property Market

Alpine Property Market
 
The Resort Markets

6 October 2015, by Paul Tostevin

The recovery led by ultra-prime resorts spreads to the rest of the region. Infrastructure investment spurs new development.

 

Focused on France, Switzerland and Austria, but also including Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Liechtenstein, the residential markets of Alpine resorts are as diverse as the countries in which they are located.

They range from the ultra-exclusive, ultra-prime resorts of Courchevel 1850, Gstaad and St Moritz, to mainstream resorts such as Grimentz, La Plagne and Obertauern. Prime prices in Courchevel 1850 are 93% more expensive than the Alpine average, in Andermatt and Zermatt they are 75% and 72% higher respectively. Austrian resorts are cheaper on average, Obertauern is 55% below the Alpine-wide benchmark.

Additional home buying across the region peaked in 2007-08, with transactions declining significantly during the recessionary years. Price falls in most resort markets were not realised as owners rode out the market until recovery, which began in 2013 and was led by prime property. Recovery has been supported by improving economic conditions in the major source markets, most notably the UK, and a renewed appetite for second homes.

FIGURE 7

Prime property price premiums and discounts by resort

 
Figure 7

Source: Savills World Research

Resort trends

Switzerland

Buying activity in the Swiss resorts has cooled in 2015. Foreign buyers, especially important to the top end of the market, have been impacted by a strong Swiss franc. In the medium term Lex Weber will put a cap on the number of second homes available to purchase in some markets, which may in turn push up prices in the face of limited supply.

Swiss resorts offer premium facilities and investment in infrastructure continues. Grimentz gained a new lift in the 2014/15 season, linking it to neighbouring Zinal, and new apartment schemes have followed. Andermatt has benefited from huge investment, with the new Chedi Hotel an 18 hole golf course and 400 residential units. This has pushed prices to levels seen in Switzerland’s more established prime resorts.

Villars, a year round resort with quality international schools, has seen high levels of new supply in recent years and suffered from poor snowfall. This has impacted pricing and there are deals to be done for those who shop around. Prime apartments trade at between CHF 10,000 and CHF 12,000 psm.

"Swiss resorts offer premium facilities and investment in infrastructure continues"

Paul Tostevin, Savills World Research

France

Sales volumes in the ski regions of Haute-Savoie and Savoie have held up better than the rest of France, whilst a weaker euro has opened up investment opportunities for UK buyers. Prime prices across resorts are now recovering to pre crisis levels but are still notably below neighbouring Switzerland.

Courchevel 1850 remains one of the most desirable ski resorts in Europe with outstanding facilities and infrastructure. Ultra prime prices here are the highest in the region (Figure 8). Val d’Isere, popular with the UK and international market, has seen new premium restaurants and boutiques open. There is rental potential, and yields for top end chalets are circa 3.5% gross.

Chamonix continues to see recovery, and prices are now at or around the pre crisis peak of +/- €10,000 psm for prime chalets and apartments. This large, accessible resort is popular with British buyers, who have been assisted in 2015 by the comparative strength of sterling against the euro.

Austria

The Austrian Alpine resort market remained strong over the downturn, offering excellent value for money compared to the more established French and Swiss resorts. With continued investment in resort infrastructure and growing foreign skier participation levels there is still more headroom for upward price movement.

Many Austrian resorts are dual season. Zell am See property prices continue to rise due to high demand and low supply, but still represent value for money. Prices range from €5,000- €7,000 psm. A planned lift linking Zell am See to neighbouring Saalbach will only serve to increase its appeal.

Kitzbuhel stands apart with its designer boutiques and premium hotels. Home to the famous Hahnenkamm downhill race and popular with celebrities, property prices are the highest of any Austrian resort, ranging from €10,000- €15,000 psm.

Ultra-prime ski resorts

A home in a top-tier Alpine resort is a key component of global property portfolios for the world’s wealthiest individuals. A property in Courchevel 1850, Gstaad or St Moritz complements a city residence in London, Paris or Moscow.

Ultra prime resorts offer much more than just skiing. Quality dining (Courchevel offers seven Michelin starred restaurants alone) and luxury shopping are the norm. St Moritz offers polo, Verbier quality night-life, and Gstaad highly regarded international schools. The concentration of High Net Worth Individuals also make these important places in which to build and strengthen professional networks and undertake business among peers.

Courchevel tops our ultra prime price league, with typical prices of €31,340 psm. The French ultra prime resort is followed by the premier Swiss destinations: Gstaad, St Moritz, Zermatt and Verbier, at between €26,450 and €31,220 psm. In spite of limited price growth, a strong Swiss franc has pushed these markets up the rankings in currency terms.

For comparative purposes we have included two premier North American resorts, Vail and Whistler. Only Colorado’s Vail is on par with the top European competition at €25,200 psm. Demand from America’s super rich and limited supply keeps prices at a premium. Ultra-prime prices in Whistler, the largest resort in North America, stand at €16,860 psm.

FIGURE 8

Ultra prime resorts price league

 
Figure 8

Source: Savills World Research

Switzerland

Policy and planning trends

The Lex Weber law limits the number of second homes in Switzerland, aimed in particular at tourist regions. The initiative was led by environmentalists who want to prevent excessive development in mountainous areas. Lex Weber severely curtails new development and will have the effect of pushing additional home buyers into existing stock, which in turn may drive up prices.

As of January 2013, cantons must ensure that the second homes inventory does not exceed 20% of the total housing stock in the municipalities. Those that are already over the 20% cap are particularly hard hit, given there is no further headroom for new development. The government has indicated some leeway for these municipalities – redevelopment of barns or dilapidated hotels may be permitted, for example – but the scope for new large scale development is limited.

Restrictions already apply to foreign nationals buying holiday homes in Switzerland. The Lex Koller law caps the number of non-resident buyers to 1,500 per year. Permits are split up between the Swiss Cantons, the majority allocated to the south-west region: Bernese Oberland, Valais and Vaud – the areas in which many of the ski resorts are concentrated.

The Alps: Resort Market Snapshots

 

 
The Alps: Resort Market Snapshots

Source: Savills World Research

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Key Contacts

Yolande Barnes

Yolande Barnes

Director
World Research

Savills Margaret Street

+44 (0) 20 7409 8899

 

Paul Tostevin

Paul Tostevin

Associate Director
World Research

Savills Margaret Street

+44 (0) 20 7016 3883

 

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