Peak properties in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region remain as popular as ever, with clients seeking a ‘safe refuge for their cash,’ agents say.
A Four-Bedroom Chalet Near Lake Geneva
$4.1 MILLION (3.98 MILLION EUROS)
This four-bedroom chalet is perched on the brow of a hill in Samoëns, a town in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeast France, bordering Switzerland. Large windows and wide sliding doors offer panoramic views of the mountain-ringed Giffre Valley and the Grand Massif ski station in the Haute-Savoie area.
“Your gaze is constantly drawn outside, taking in the sweeping epic views that forge a deep sense of connection with the natural world,” said Rebecca Watkins, who owns the chalet with her husband, John Watkins. The property, on just under a quarter acre, is listed with Jeoffrey Sarrasin, a sales consultant with the Mont Blanc office of Barnes International Realty.
Built in 2019, the 3,229-square-foot wood house is an ecologically designed, energy-efficient take on the region’s typical ski chalet and the traditional Savoyard farm. It has a gently sloping roof and dramatic eaves overhanging the front and sides, which keep the interior cool during the summer. Additionally, the property faces 130 degrees southeast to produce maximum solar gain. The sun streams through the back of the house in winter, but not in summer.
Just past a two-car carport, the front door opens at street level. Steps lead down to a foyer with an alcove and a great room framed in Douglas fir, with a beamed vaulted ceiling, wood flooring and a Scandinavian-inspired open kitchen. A coarse stone fireplace and a television niche anchor the den area. Near the central seating area, sliding doors open to a broad balcony with wood and glass balustrades running the length of the house.
The bespoke kitchen has a separate timber-toned open pantry, an island with waterfall-style countertops of solid engineered limestone, and premium appliances. Also on the main level is a guest bedroom with an adjacent bathroom.
On the lower level, three additional en suite bedrooms have sliding glass doors to a garden terrace abutting the back lawn. The monochromatic bathrooms have cream fossilized limestone tiles, illuminated vanity mirrors and oversized vanity sinks and showers. A gym, sauna, laundry room and storage room are also on the lower level.
The selection and layout of various flowering plants in the gardens and meadows were designed to be “pollinator-friendly” and encourage biodiversity, Ms. Watkins said.
Near the road is a two-car detached carport with an office below. Steps lead down to the terrace and gardens.
The resort town of Samoëns, about 40 miles east of Geneva, Switzerland, is a popular destination for both winter and summer sports enthusiasts. This property is a 10-minute drive from a supermarket, 15 minutes from the ski slopes and 15 minutes from Lac de Flérier.
The steady growth of ski-resort areas in the European Alps goes back to 2013 and the end of the global financial crisis and credit crunch. “Between 2012 and 2022, the rise in real estate prices reached 50 percent,” said Steve Hillion, deputy director of Barnes Mont-Blanc and director of Barnes Megève.
Ski properties in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, which borders Switzerland and includes the metropolis of Lyon, remain as popular as ever. “Demand continues to increase as clients seek a safe refuge for their cash in an environment of rising inflation and economic uncertainty,” Mr. Hillion said.
But the pandemic-induced boom, which saw skiers and summer-sports aficionados scoop up chalets and apartments across the area, may flatten out, said Jeremy Rollason, head of Savills Ski, which will release its annual report on Nov. 24. While a scarcity of available homes drives the top end of the residential market, “double-digit price growth is unlikely to continue into 2023, with growth more likely to plateau in certain locations,” Mr. Rollason said.
Val d’Isére, Courchevel and Méribel — premium ski resort areas at the high altitudes of Haute-Savoie — “naturally appeal to a smaller cohort of wealthy buyers, seeking the best skiing conditions,” said Kate Everett-Allen, head of International Residential Research for Knight Frank and author of its ski property report, released Nov. 15.
Pent-up demand from three seasons of closures and restrictions at ski areas sparked a 5.8 percent price jump in the year ending in June, up from 4.6 percent the previous year, Ms. Everett-Allen said, citing Knight Frank data. Most inquiries during that time were “from domestic buyers,” she said.
Apartment dwellers in Paris, Lyon, Annecy and Geneva yearned for the countryside or mountains, and remote work made it possible to relocate full- or part-time to resort areas. In Megève, known for both its winter and summer beauty, chalet prices increased by 40 percent between 2018 and 2021 (including by 25 percent for apartments), said Bertrand Rassat, country manager for Baerz & Co.
These days, due in part to the warming climate, he said, “more and more resorts are diversifying their leisure activities and developing a four-seasons offer.”
Many foreign buyers use and also rent out their chalets. Homes accommodating 10 to 14 people can rent for 250,000 euros a week ($260,000), staffed with professional chefs and drivers, Mr. Rollason said.
In the resort area of Chamonix, which sits in the shadow of Mont Blanc near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy, the appeal has long been year-round, with mountaineering, biking and hiking in summer, said Martin Beaujouan, a lifelong resident and a real estate consultant with efficity.com. Upon reopening after the initial pandemic shutdown, Chamonix saw sales volume increase compared with prepandemic levels as buyers sought refuge in the mountains. “It is a paradise for mountain sports,” Mr. Beaujouan said.
Two-bedroom apartments in Chamonix sell for between 800,000 and 1.5 million euros ($831,000 and $1.56 million), while five-bedroom chalets go for between 3 million and 6 million euros ($3.1 million and $6.2 million), Mr. Hillion said. New chalets with pools and views of Mont Blanc or close to the ski runs range from 16,000 to 22,000 euros per square meter ($1,540 to $2,120 per square foot).
Three-bedroom chalets needing renovations start at 950,000 euros ($987,000), he said, noting that these properties “do not remain on the market for long.”
The market is also fueled by easy access. Unlike in the neighboring Swiss Alps, there are no restrictions on buyers in the French Alps. About 18,000 total sales closed in Haute-Savoie and 10,700 in Savoie last year, Mr. Rassat said.
Who Buys in the French Alps
This year in the region, about half of all buyers have been French residents, compared with 80 percent in 2020, Mr. Hillion said.
Mr. Rassat said that “the leading international buyers are the British, followed by the Russians, the Swiss and the Dutch. Depending on the resort, the distribution may vary: The British, for example, tend to favor Val d’Isére, while the Russians are mainly present in Courchevel and Méribel.”
Many buyers come from Scandinavia and the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg Mr. Rollason said.
American buyers are currently “seeing quite a big discount due to the dollar,” Ms. Everett-Allen said — about 15 percent in October compared with the previous year. The favorable currency exchange also woos buyers from Hong Kong, the Middle East and Latin America, she said.
There are no restrictions on foreign buyers, except for some Russian and Iranian oligarchs, said Pierre Jay, a notary in the Haute-Savoie department and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Closing costs run about 7 percent of the purchase price, Mr. Jay said. Stamp duties total about 5.9 percent of the sales price, registration fees cost about 0.1 percent, and notary fees are approximately 1 percent.
Mortgages are available for foreign buyers.
New homes have a built-in advantage for buyers. When purchasing off-plan, buyers can receive a 20 percent value-added tax rebate if they agree to rent the property with a registered management company for at least 20 years and include three of four possible amenities: linens, regular cleaning/housekeeping, breakfast, and reception for guests. (If the property is rented for less than 20 years, some of the VAT will be repayable pro rata, Ms. Everett-Allen said.)
French government: gouvernement.fr
French Alps Tourism: inauvergnerhonealpes.com
French Ski and Snowboard Schools: ultimatefrance.com
Languages and Currency
French; euro (1 euro = $1.04)
Taxes and Fees
The annual taxes on this property total about 2,000 euros ($2,075), Mr. Sarrasin said.
Jeoffrey Sarrasin, Barnes International Realty, 011-33-4-48-05-09-45, Barnes-international.com
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