Alpine adviser at Athena Advisers, Paris-born Charles-Antoine has left very few slopes untouched. Alongside the best spots to stop for fondue and where to find the best piste, he shares his insights on the property market and the best places to buy a ski property in the French Alps.
How well do you know the Alps?
Thanks to family holidays every year in Val d’Isère, I have been passionate about the Alps since I was little. Whilst growing up, my studies – combining a master’s degree in commercial law and taxations with an MBA – meant that I managed to spend around three months a year on the slopes. I would go every school holiday, most weekends and then spend a month in the summer on the glaciers in Tignes and Les 2 Alpes. Over the past 20 years, I have skied every resort in the Alps – you could say that is how I caught the Alpine bug! After seven years at the Athena Advisers London office, our volume of business became significant enough to need someone in the Alps to coordinate our activities.
Where would you be looking to invest this season?
It may seem simple, but you need to step outside the big-name resorts to find the best value for money. There are some really interesting new projects coming up on the market, particularly in resorts that give access to the area’s best ski domains but offer better value for money and a more authentic experience when compared to some of the now over-subscribed big-name resorts. For example, instead of Méribel, look at properties for sale in Saint-Martin-de-Belleville. It’s one of the last authentic villages, very attractive, south-west facing and you get access to the vast Three Valleys ski domain. This is a great option for buyers who love the idea of Méribel but find that the prices are out of their budget, or for those who want more space and value for their money. The average price per square metre in Méribel can climb to as high as €30,000 in the sought-after Rond Point des Pistes area, whereas in Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, you can buy a property in the best location in town for €11,000 per sqm.
When exploring properties for sale Courchevel, take a look at Courchevel Le Praz. Courchevel is actually made up of five villages, each of which has its own charm. One of my favourites is Courchevel Le Praz – it is much more affordable and is the most authentic part of Courchevel, with a lovely mountain village atmosphere. There’s also a ski run through the trees that connects it straight to Courchevel 1850. Your next option to consider is Courchevel Moriond. Set at 1650m it is the next village up, gets a lot of sunshine and is great for families. We have a few different delivered ski-in ski-out apartments, like Manali Lodge, which are already selling very well. While it is only a four-minute drive to Courchevel 1850, the average price per sqm here is about a third of the price per sqm in 1850. Prices in Courchevel can be crazy, and it’s the surrounding villages that offer the best potential for capital appreciation and value for money.
What is your role at Athena Advisers?
I have several missions, you could say. I have to deal with clients directly, selling properties in the Alps, but also in Paris and Cote d’Azur, because these are places I know very well, and more recently Lisbon. I take care of all the Athena clients who come and visit our properties in the Alps, source new products and handle our relationships with Alpine developers and our network of local agents. Developers use our expertise before launching new projects – they contact us to get our feedback on the land they are about to buy and we advise them on what to build on it.
What are your top-picks for every budget?
High-end: Méribel – If you have the right budget, Méribel is one of the most desirable places to invest in property. It has turned into such a popular resort with high net worth individuals that the market is very competitive for the best properties and there is very limited space to build anymore. We have an amazing ski-in ski-out project in the sought-after Rond Point des Pistes area, the highest and sunniest spot in Méribel. The project comprises a mix of chalets and spacious apartments complemented by on-site facilities.
Mid-range: Châtel – Close to Geneva, with access to a very large ski domain and extremely pretty, Châtel would be my pick for investments around the €1m mark. We have a good selection of ski apartments there in the centre as well as some impressive chalets.
Budget: Combloux – One of my top picks for value for money from an investment point of view is Combloux, where we have just launched a collection new apartments with Mont Blanc views (pictured below) and a great location in the centre. Whilst offering competitive prices and the charm of an authentic French mountain village, Combloux is just five minutes’ drive from chich Megeve – where prices are considerably higher.
What do you think the best ski run in the French Alps?
I know its classic, but I really like the run from the top of Bellevarde mountain in Val d’Isère to the bottom of the Funival in La Daille. It offers a superb variety of piste, from a large boulevard at the top to narrow runs in the trees at the bottom, and no matter how fast you go, it takes more time to ski down than to go up with the Funival.
The restaurant of the Blizzard Hotel in Val d’Isère, its very nice for lunch on a snowy day and also perfect for dinner.
One insider tip for investing in property in the Alps?
I would strongly recommend going for new-build properties in the Alps: the architecture and the materials are much better now than 20 years ago, you can influence the layout of your property, and you won’t need to renovate it for 20 years. You also benefit from several fiscal advantages, including reduced notary fees (only 2% for new build Vs 7% for existing properties) and a 20% VAT rebate if you rent out your property.
Where can we find you? I am now based in Annecy, which is the capital of the French Alps in my opinion. Because I cover all the Alps, being in Annecy allow me to be within 60-90 minutes’ drive of every resort and I am 30 minutes from Geneva Airport, where 90% of our clients land. On top of all that, Annecy is beautiful.