Maximising your ski property rental income
More than 10 million skiers all over the world choose French ski resorts for their winter holidays each year. In a market that can be highly competitive, how can you get the best rental income for your ski property? What are the most important things to remember? We look at the challenges and how to overcome them.
“A ski property that’s far from the lifts, pistes and resort centre may be cheaper but it’s going to be much harder to rent as these are the things skiers want when visiting.”
Before you’ve bought the ski property
Some of the biggest decisions which affect the amount of rental income a ski property can generate are made before you’ve even purchased. These are the basic things like the property’s size, location, views and orientation.
A ski property that’s far from the lifts, pistes and resort centre may be cheaper and offer a lot of ‘privacy’ but it’s going to be much harder to rent as these are the things skiers want when visiting. On the other hand, the most expensive ski properties are those that are close to, or directly on, the pistes, and a short walk from the lifts and centre. So, in the beginning, a lot depends on your budget and the type of ski property you want.
Size can matter
Very few people buying a ski property in the French Alps purchase one just with a view towards renting it. Their ski home will always be designed for them, for the size of their family or if they want to bring groups of friends too. So how much does size matter when it comes to rental income?
“Arguably a two-bedroom apartment is easier to rent than a six-bedroom, just because there's a bigger market for those,” comments Nick Leach, a Partner at Athena Advisers. “Six beds are probably a bit harder to rent, but there are very few of them, which means when someone is looking to rent one, they've got very few choices. So it tends to balance out.”
“You can't squeeze a four-bedroom apartment into a 65sqm space and make lots of rental income because no one will want to stay there.”
More beds, more rental income
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying. The more beds a ski property can accommodate, the more rental income it can generate because more people can stay there.
“Whilst it’s true that the general rule is that the most successful rental properties are ones that can accommodate the most guests, that doesn't mean you can squeeze a four-bedroom apartment into a 65sqm space and make lots of rental income - no one will want to stay there,” explains Leach. “Some ski properties have extravagant uses of space, such as an enormous sitting room but then only have two bedrooms, which means it might feel wonderfully spacious, but the rental potential is limited.”
One popular way of getting around this is looking for properties with ‘dortoirs’ or buying an apartment with one or more ‘cabine’ rooms. Dortoirs (French for dormitories) are rooms where bunk beds are built into the room, often big enough for adults too, but normally used by children. These can significantly increase the number of beds a ski property can offer.
Cabines are small bedrooms, normally of less than 10 sqm, which house one or two single beds. These discreet rooms are clever ways of supplementing the number of bedrooms a ski property has. It’s still common today to see modern and spacious ski apartments for sale in the French Alps with one or more cabine rooms.
Semi-detached ski chalets are also becoming more popular with buyers as they can be rented as chalets but do not carry the purchase price of a detached chalet with its own plot.
Tech has changed everything
The way technology has improved has made a big difference to the way ski properties, particularly ski apartments, are rented and this is something that ski property buyers must be aware of today.
Before the onset of websites like Airbnb in the late 2000s, people would just book a ski holiday and be given an apartment relative to their price. “Back then you didn’t get to choose whether it was ground floor, second floor or a penthouse,” adds Leach. “People tended to turn up and get what they got, kind of similar to a hotel. But with improving technology, people are now more able to choose the exact apartment they want or what features the apartment should have. So the concept of buying the cheaper apartment in a building with no view but receiving the same rental yield doesn't really exist anymore.”
Today’s ski holidaymakers want to see everything their apartment has to offer, from the view to the fireplace, all the rooms, sometimes with virtual reality or 360° pictures. Therefore, when purchasing a property, it’s important to consider these characteristics as they will affect the rental value of the property.
Extras can help, but the basics matter most
When buying a ski property today, it’s very common for the purchaser to be able to add on optional extras like jacuzzis on the balcony or private saunas or hammams inside the apartment. Such extras will look very good when it comes to renting the property, but the rental income may not immediately pay off such items.
“Having a penthouse with a view, plus the extras like a sauna or hot tub, adds to the desirability, but the basics like interior layout and design are more important,” continues Leach. “People like to imagine themselves relaxing in the sauna at the end of the day, but if they see their family having to squeeze into the living area because space has been used for a spa, then they’re unlikely to book the property. Any extras should be considered carefully and only chosen if they’re something the owner really wants for themselves.”
When you own the ski property
You’ve got the keys to your brand new ski property and, aside from a burning desire to get out there and enjoy it, you now want it to generate rental income. It’s a daunting task for most and for those that want to generate as much rental income as possible, it’s important to make a choice about how much time you have to invest. Fortunately, there are a number of different ways you can rent a ski property and each require different levels of involvement from the owner.
- Getting local help
Firstly, you can team up with a local rental management company, who will rent the property for you. Here you agree on which weeks you want during the season and then they will provide a complete package for the visitor, including catering and concierge services if necessary. They will do the photography, create the listing and do everything they can to rent your property. You then receive a percentage of the rental income, net of their fee which is normally around 25-30%.
- Do it yourself
If you have the time and energy to handle the rental management yourself, it is possible to generate rental income for a ski property even if you are located elsewhere. You’d have to do all the photography yourself, create the listings on various websites like Airbnb and then manage the clients when they come to visit. You’ll need to organise cleaners, key holders and possibly meet and greet services. With this option, whilst you wouldn’t have to pay a rental management agency fee, meaning a slightly higher net rental income in your pocket, it will take a considerable amount of your time to manage.
- Let the big boys do it
The other option, which is more common with bigger properties, like chalets and large apartments or penthouses, normally in prime locations, is to approach a large luxury rental company. If your property fits the type of demand they have and an agreement can be found, they will block book the chalet for most of the season and pay you a lump sum of rental for the entire period. This is a very hands-off approach and whilst more rental income could often be generated if the owner was to let out their ski property independently, with a large property there are even more things to consider, such as full catering and in-house chefs.
Regardless of which route you choose, there are still a number of ways you can maximise the rental potential of your ski property.
Photos are everything
Whether you’re doing it yourself or it’s being handled by a management company, ensure that the photos are the best they can be. That first image a person sees will often determine whether they want to stay in the ski property or not. Hopefully, you’ll have a property with a nice interior design, one that reflects the modern-day skier, but each image should tell a story about the property, as well as be descriptive.
Avoid using summer pictures for winter rental marketing. “This is a common mistake people make, to try and make a rental listing that works year-round,” comments Leach. “If an owner wants to generate rental income during the summer, then they should rotate the photography. Summer visits are often booked last minute or at least after the ski season has finished. Nobody visiting during the winter will want to see the property with no snow.”
Think about big details and the little ones too
Most vacation rental sites such as Airbnb, Abritel, or TripAdvisor recommend adding 24 photos to listings. Obviously, photographing the same thing 20 times would offer nothing to the viewer, but it’s important to photograph small details and unique elements of the rental as well as the big ones.
Visitors appreciate the character accommodation can provide, so highlight the equipment that gives charm to the property: the fireplace, original decorative elements or even typical materials such as wood or stone. These can be just as important as showing off the living area, balcony and kitchen.
Little extra tip: make the place lively by lighting the fireplace, candles and using soft furnishings to bring warmth to the place. A good rental management company should be able to advise on this.
Capture the imagination
People look forward to their holiday in the snow for a very long time. If your property is competing amongst thousands of others, you have to try and offer something different.
Ski property rental advertisement or listing should be accurate and comprehensive, but should also spark the reader's imagination. You have to allow people to dream, to project themselves into their holidays in the mountain.
The idea is to tell a story to future visitors while giving them the practical information about the property that they need.
“The chalet has a living room with a large sofa and a fireplace”
“After a day on the slopes, come back and relax on the large wrap-around sofa in the living room in front of the open fireplace, which looks out beyond the rooftops onto the valleys below.”
It’s the same information but with a completely different level of impact. Again, a good rental management company should be able to handle this well.
Don’t assume people know the resort and ski domain
Whilst skiers often come back to the ski resort they love, time after time, year after year, not everyone will know what your resort has to offer and how your property makes the most of where it is.
Explain the resort, its skiing, how it’s good for families and the size of the domain.
Be very clear about proximities to the nearest pistes, the lifts, restaurants, supermarkets, ski rental shops, ticket offices, bars, cafes, bakeries, ski schools, everything you can think of. Talking about nearby activities and the environment around the property is important too. For example, is there is a good area nearby for the children to do some sledging after skiing.
Finally, be careful not to forget non-skiers. Today, non-ski activities are multiplying in the resorts: snowshoeing, toboggan runs, mountain biking on snow, snow scooters, dog sledging, fun and aquatic centres… the list is long. Think of these people by mentioning in all the non-skiing activities easily accessible from your property.