The ski property market in the French Alps during the last 12 months has been pretty unique given the circumstances around the world. However, it hasn’t performed as many clients expected it to. In fact, the early finish of the 2019/20 ski season meant that developers were able to start their projects earlier than planned and some projects are ahead of schedule.
Summer in the French Alps last year was unusual too as the resorts saw higher than usual occupancy rates. This is due to many holidaymakers choosing to stay closer to home as opposed to travelling long-haul.
Reflecting on the previous year, our Head of Alpine Operations, Charles Antoine-Sialelli, shares his insight.
“Construction started in May and there was amazing dry weather over summer which is perfect for construction work. On the French Alps ski property sales side, it was very dynamic as the resorts can be easily reached by car and we were much busier than expected. I was looking at properties for sale in Châtel this morning and there were plenty of people around despite the lifts being closed. Even during this time, it is still possible to get takeaway coffee and some attractions are open for children.”
We have had an unusual scenario where we have had more enquiries this year than in 2019. In some cases, clients haven’t been able to make their final decision about buying a ski property as they wanted to visit in person before doing so. They are now just waiting for travel to reopen. Developers are seeing lots of interest and many of their projects are ahead of schedule which means that they haven’t been offering the sort of discounts that clients have been expecting and, as a result, we have seen a bit of a discrepancy between clients’ and developers’ expectations.
We have done a great number of ski property sales through virtual visits as well. This is where we organise a call for a client via Zoom or Whatsapp with Charles-Antoine and he gives them a tour if it is delivered and shows them the plot. Many clients make a decision on the back of this. But there are some clients who are just waiting for flights to be allowed before making a decision. Until flights resume, we are making the most of these virtual visits, VRs and CGIs. Overall, ski property sales have been pretty good all things considered, some developers have been open to some small levels of discount too but nothing dramatic.
As construction has started now on ski properties that are only a year away from delivery, we have seen a surge in ski property sales for the remaining ski apartments for sale as many clients want something ready soon.
Rarity of new builds & prime locations
This is something that makes Athena Advisers quite unique as we go for larger new-build properties and there is a real lack of these on the market. Most ski properties for sale date back to the 70s and 80s and at the time apartments were a lot smaller. To give you an idea, back in the 70s a one-bedroom apartment for sale in the French Alps was around 20 sqm. Today, a one-bedroom apartment in a new project is more like 30-40 sqm. Back in the 70s and 80s, developers were mainly building studio apartments and two-bedroom apartments – properties with four or five bedrooms were almost unheard of. Nowadays, people are looking for larger apartments with around four bedrooms as it gives them the capacity of a ski chalet and is easier to maintain. Ski apartments also have more efficient layouts with little unnecessary space like in a chalet which can make them pretty well priced in comparison.
Another great advantage of new-build ski properties for sale is that you have the option to completely customise the property by optimising the layout or even combining it with another apartment to create something more spacious.
Save €1,000s by reclaiming the VAT
VAT rebates are possible on a new-build property only and clients who rent out their property when not using it can reclaim the 20% VAT form the property price.
Reduced notary fees for new builds
The notary fees, which are a bit like stamp duty in the UK, are only 2-2.5% for a brand-new property, around 5% lower than an existing property.
Ultra-low French Mortgages
By buying a French property, investors will also be able to access French finance which offers low interest rates and it is possible to fix the rate for 20 years. Maximum LTV is around 80%.our sister company, French Private Finance, can help you with your mortgage application.
In France, new-build constructions come with a 10-year guarantee which covers the roof and structure. Plus the appliances within have two-year guarantees, giving them peace of mind. We work with well-established developers who focus on Méribel and have a great track record.
Méribel is located in the Three Valleys, the largest ski domain in the world with 600km of pistes to explore. The Three Valleys caters for all abilities and it will take you a lot of time to explore everything – no two days are the same here! In the first valley, you have Courchevel, Méribel is located in the middle and Saint-Martin-de-Belleville and Val Thorens in the third valley called the Belleville Valley. As you can see from the map, it is easy to travel from one side to the other without removing your skis. The Three Valleys is very well connected and uses the latest types of ski lift. It is quite difficult to find a drag lift here!
Méribel is a very attractive resort, not least due to its charming architecture. The resort has had the same urbanism plan since the 50s and 60s, this means that the construction code, which encompasses design rules such as the angle of the roof and number of openings, has not changed. So the architecture is pretty and homogeneous – no ugly buildings here.
Thanks to its great positioning, the resort is largely south-west-facing which guarantees sun until the last ray of the day which isn’t something seen in every resort. Indeed, resorts located lower down in the valley tend to be obstructed by the surrounding mountains. Though sometimes overlooked, the sun is an important factor to remember when choosing a property for sale in the French Alps. Méribel has a dominant position which means that it also offers stunning views from every level.
Méribel is built over different levels. You have Méribel Centre and the bottom, Méribel Morel in the middle and at the top, there is the Rond Point des Pistes and Belvédère. Each level has its own ski shop, lift and shops. All levels enjoy unobstructed views too as the village is built on a slope.
When you are in Morel it is very easy to walk to the centre thanks to the large pedestrian walkway sheltered from the road. It is about 5-10 minutes’ walk depending on your speed or there is a bus too. The Rond Point area is its own centre with shops, a slope and the Belvédère district is found here too, slightly higher up
Properties for sale in Méribel range from €10,000 to €30,000 per sqm. This is a very large bracket but prices tend to be higher the higher you are in the resort. From one road to another, you may be 200m higher and the price per sqm can double. Plus, larger properties from 50-100 sqm tend to have higher price tags too, often exceeding €20,000 per sqm.
The two projects we have selected were hotels previously before being transformed into high-end apartments for sale.
70s and 80s
Back in the 70s and 80s, winter sports were becoming more popular and during this time low-cost travel started to pick up too. There was a big incentive from the French government to build ski properties in the French Alps to help bring in tourism revenue.
90s – 2010s
The Alps were even more popular during this time than in the 80s and the resorts were also much more accessible, especially Méribel after the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic Games. All of the roads have been very carefully designed to promote easy access and a few new hotels were built in Méribel for the Olympics too.
A lot of hotel owners who created hotels 20-30 years ago are deciding what to do next. Though there is a high demand for tourism residence here, a lot of the hotels here are family-run and the children of the owners may not wish to take over the hotel. So some hotel owners have decided to convert the hotel into ski apartments. It is important to explain here that these residences are often new-build as the original building is knocked down and a new one takes its place. Unlike other resorts, Méribel didn’t have much in the way of properties for sale, just small projects here and there so this is really exciting news for investors as it means that there are new properties appearing in prime locations.
The construction work started in May last year and the original building, a hotel called Le Grand Chalet des Pistes, has been demolished and the structure for the new residences has already been built. The project is set for delivery next December.
In a ski-in ski-out spot opposite the slope, this project comprises a collection of ski apartments and three ski chalets. There are seven apartments left, including a well-priced two-bedroom apartment with a double bunk bedroom that can sleep four kids and amazing views. On the top floor, there is a spacious four-bedroom ski apartment for sale with a double bunk bedroom too. This property spans 170 sqm over one floor, which gives you a great lateral space to work with.
This is a new project we launched in Morel, a couple of minutes’ walk (150m) from the Morel chairlift and a short walk from the centre. It is built on a steep plot so it offers amazing views. Looking at the CGI you’ll see that there are multiple apexes too which means that there are lots of ski apartments located under the eaves – something that is quite sought-after. All of the top-floor apartments come with wood-burning fireplaces too whilst those on the other floors have gas fires.
The developer has recently completed a project in Courchevel so if you would like to see an example of the level of finishes do let us know and we can arrange a virtual or an in-person visit for you. The floorplans are very well configured for this project and there are lots of big apartments, plus you may also combine apartments to create spacious triplex properties. In addition, whilst there is a central wellness area with a pool and spa facilities, many of the properties have their own private saunas or we can have one fitted for you should you so wish. We can also adapt the floor plan too and you will be able to choose the materials used.
As the property is built in stadium-style down a slope, almost all of the properties benefit from stunning views.
Do these projects come with parking?
Yes, both Chalets des Pistes and Falcon Lodge have underground parking. All properties will include at least one underground parking space in the price.
Can the VAT be recovered if it is not rented on the open market?
No. When you are not using the property yourself, you have to make it available to be rented and it has to be seen to be made available to rent. If it is not rented at all it does not matter but that is one of the conditions of the programme.
What are the sizes of ski apartments for sale in Falcon Lodge?
The range from one-bedroom apartments with a bunk bedroom to a seven-bedroom chalet. You can combine and reconfigure apartments as you wish, we have many clients who choose to do this.
Where is the best place for ski-in ski-out in Méribel – Méribel or Rond Point des Pistes?
Both Morel and Rond Point are very nice areas and, generally speaking, the higher you go, the better the views and the higher the prices. It really comes down to budget.
What are the commercial leases needed to reclaim VAT?
Instead of an annual rental mandate where a rental management company manages your property in the normal way, to recover the VAT you need a commercial lease agreement or a management contract with hotel services. In order to qualify for the VAT rebate, the management company will need to carry out three hotel services like linen change, key collection, cleaning breakfast provision – these are things that you’d expect from most basic rental agreements anyway.
It is definitely worth considering applying for this rebate. Even if you only do this for a few years, you only would need to pay back the VAT pro-rata. Most of our clients buying newbuild properties in the French Alps decide to do this.
What is Méribel like in the summer?
Méribel is very pretty in the summer with lots of green spaces filled with flowers. Last summer, the tour de France came through the village, heading down a new road to Col de la Loze, passing from Morel to Rond Point to the top of the junction between Méribel and Courchevel. There is also a lovely golf course near the altiport. There are tennis courts too, mountain biking and horse riding – lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy. It is a great place to immerse yourself in nature.
Is the centre of Méribel the most expensive?
No. The most expensive areas are the Rond Point neighbourhood and the Belvédère area which is located just above Rond Point.
What is Méribel Village and Méribel Motterat like
Méribel Village is a separate hamlet and is not part of the main area. It is very charming and is composed of beautiful chalets and has a little supermarket. We have two exceptional projects over there recently which have sold very well. Motterat is a purpose-built resort and is quite small, it’s a bit like Belleplagne in that respect or even some parts of Les Arcs. It is a short drive from the main part and is very well positioned at the junction of Courchevel, Méribel and Val Thorens. Here you will find only small 80s-style apartments managed by tour operators.
Where is best for teenagers and those who don’t ski much?
Rond Point is good for non-skiers and Morel too. Morel has the advantage of being in the middle so you can easily walk up to the Rond Point or down to the centre. However, walking from Rond Point down to the centre is a bit of a trek. Based on this, I would recommend Morel as there are plenty of amenities and you also have easy access to the other neighbourhoods too.