Covid-19 has undoubtedly affected the ski property market. However, local market conditions are helping resorts in the French Alps to weather further effects of coronavirus better than other second-home destinations, according to SkiingProperty.com.
Director Julian Walker says despite the pandemic bringing a premature end to Europe’s last winter season, it wasn’t the end of foreign interest in the Alps this year.
“For many people, being in a mountain resort surrounded by stunning natural scenery has become an antidote to the unpleasant consequences of the pandemic,” he comments. “The result is that many have discovered the benefits and year-round appeal of this magical environment. And with early snow already falling in some resorts, the excitement generated about the Alps in the summer is rolling into this coming winter season.”
Here, we list SkiingProperty’s main reasons why interest should remain strong in the French Alps.
A healthy way of life
The pandemic has created a major shift towards people wanting to be somewhere with fresh air, uncrowded natural space and easy access to an active lifestyle. Very few environments offer all this to the same extent as the French Alps.
The unpolluted air there is beneficial to everyone, but it’s especially good for helping to ease respiratory problems, including asthma, as well as reduce the effects of allergies. Being at altitude has health benefits for the heart, too, helping to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Meanwhile, keeping active and doing exercise comes with the territory in the Alps, whether it’s doing winter sports or one of the many outdoor activities suited to the warmer months.
While skiing and other winter sports are the main attraction of the French Alps, most resorts have just as much to offer outside of the winter months. These range from mountain-biking, climbing, rafting, canyoning and trekking, to other leisure including golf courses, aqua parks, indoor sports facilities and swimming pools, health and fitness centres.
Covid-19 has done a lot to raise awareness of the dual seasonality of the Alps, in particular in the Haute Savoie region, which reported 2020 as being its busiest summer ever. Resorts there recorded occupancy levels of 80% during July and August this year, compared with a more typical level of 40%.
There are four main airports serving the French Alps (Geneva, Grenoble, Lyon and Chambéry), making flying the most popular way to reach the slopes under normal travel conditions.
However, the Eurotunnel and/or ferry services combined with France’s efficient motorway system make driving to the Alps an easy option for British people, as well as travellers from wider Europe, and has been especially useful during the pandemic.
Travelling by rail is also a viable option, thanks to Eurostar services into Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice.
New development sites are regulated carefully in the Alps, which helps to control supply and maintain values.
This year, property analysts report a noticeably lower volume of new-build stock coming to the market compared to previous years, which is likely to soften any potential negative effects on the market caused by Covid-19.
Another incentive for buyers in France is the competitive mortgage rates, currently lingering at historic lows thanks to the ECB’s Euribor being in negative territory.
Currently, even non-resident buyers can benefit from deals offering rates fixed below 2% for 10 or 20-year terms, requiring a 20-30% deposit.
Many prospective cash buyers from the UK are opting for a euro mortgage, rather than cover their entire purchase price with Sterling funds that would need to be converted and exposed to today’s poor £/€ exchange rate.
Relocation, relocation, relocation!
One trend picked up over summer 2020 is the arrival of British and European professionals moving to or spending long periods in the French Alps.
Turning their backs on busy urban environments, where Covid-19 spreads easily, they are relocating to the Alps, often with young families, where they can create their own bubbles within their home and benefit from the cleaner, healthier lifestyle of the mountains.