What is the ski market looking like?
Property markets across Europe have been exposed to both Covid-19 and Brexit, with ski resorts being no exception. Reassuringly, specialist agents in the luxury sector report a shift in what clients want from their ski home rather than any significant drop-off in enquiries.
Prices have held up too and even increased in premium resorts, underpinned by short supply of new-build and top-end homes combined with equally strong demand from domestic and international markets. It’s an interesting time to be house-hunting in the Alps – here are three observations of what’s happening on the ground!
Not just for holidays!
Properties bought in the Alps before the pandemic were purchased typically as second homes – somewhere for enjoying winter and summer holidays rather than any substantial lengths of time. Rewind a year and agents began to see a change in this approach, triggered by the pandemic and the limitations of lockdown. Today increasing numbers of owners are choosing to treat their ski home as a more permanent residence, somewhere they can spend long periods working from home and enjoying the healthy mountain lifestyle. Knight Frank calls this “the blurring of the lines between primary and secondary residences” in its 2021 Ski Property Report.
A leading agent in the Alps points out that one of the biggest attractions of the Alps is the mixture of nationalities in the resorts: “This year we have been selling properties to buyers from dozens of different countries. Interestingly, it is this cosmopolitan nature that attracts domestic buyers too. Clients have said that if they are going to work from home then they would like to have scenic views and be able to mingle with a range of nationalities, in the shops, bars and restaurants. They are seeking something different from their main residence, which is usually in a city.”
“Increasing numbers of owners are choosing to treat their ski home as a more permanent residence”
Mod cons and space
The shift towards more day-to-day occupancy means today’s premium ski properties need to be more than just luxurious – they need to cater for a cutting edge 21st-Century lifestyle. “Whether a home office, outdoor space, faster broadband, a cinema room or smart technology – these homes now need to have as high a specification as the owner’s primary residence,” noted Knight Frank’s report. Another legacy of the pandemic could be automation, and voice and facial recognition technology becoming more prevalent.
In terms of living area, “a desire for space is paramount, born in part from anxiety linked to the health crisis,” highlighted French developer Cimalpes in its latest Panorama report. “With large living spaces, open fireplaces and a minimum of three bedrooms now a prerequisite”.
Likewise, apartments with larger balconies and outside space are becoming preferable. Erna Low Property has seen demand for small off-plan apartments to be re-designed into bigger four-bedroom apartments. According to the ski property specialist, buyers are choosing to have a bigger residence where they can host their family and friends, and still have space to work.
Design-wise, the market now favours a more timeless style, observed Cimalpes, inspired by traditional mountain chalets built using stone, wood and other natural materials accented with steel, leather and other modern touches.
Be ready for long-term renters
In tandem with more owners ‘relocating’ to their ski home, operators and managing agencies note growing demand for long-term rentals. A direct result of Covid-19, this trend could be good news for buyers who want a hands-off investment and could be here to stay, thanks to fast broadband and opportunities to ‘work from home’ becoming the norm.
This tallies with a recent survey by ski retailer Snow+Rock which found that 60 per cent of skiers and snowboarders from London considered relocating to the Alps for the 2020-21 ski season. The nationwide average for this was 35 per cent of skiers/ snowboarders.
Natasha Robertson, co-founder of Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne, is one of number of luxury chalet operators to report an increase in demand for long-term rentals this year. Her firm has had “clients looking to escape city living, hunker down in remote surroundings and test the waters of relocating to the Alps”, she said in a Daily Telegraph article.
“Rents are competitive with major urban centres, such as London, New York or Geneva and you can hit the slopes in your lunch break,” highlights the Knight Frank report about long-term rentals in the Alps.