How to choose the right family
Fresh mountain air, the appetite for quality time with our families and new opportunities for remote working – these are just reasons why our desire for a home in the Alps is stronger than ever. In our 2021 Global Buyer Survey, 18% of respondents said they were likely to buy a ski home – even more than the 11% in 2020. What’s more, it’s no longer just a place for short breaks or winter holidays, with buyers increasingly seeking a ‘home from home’ for extended escapes with high-speed broadband and good outside space. But how do you go about finding the perfect mountain home that suits the whole family? With over a thousand ski villages in the Alps, from tiny hamlet to world-famous ski resorts to choose between, here are a few pointers.
“If rental income is essential then do you go for a new-build scheme in a high-altitude resort and where you will achieve good weekly rates or maximum weeks of occupancy?”
Something for all of the family?
The ideal family ski home should offer the perfect balance of all-age activities and some ski-runs for both learners and experts, but of course families grow and change. Whilst the gentle skiing and winter wonderland of Megève or the low-key charm of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville are ideal for small children, in a decade they will be teenagers looking for more excitement, with the ice rink and après-ski bars of Mèribel making it a better all-rounder. In the Swiss Alps, the wide-open slopes of Villars suit younger children, whilst Verbier is hard to beat for its high-octane offerings, on and off the piste.
Some of the Swiss resorts like Verbier, Villars, Leysin, Gstaad & Crans-Montana boast high quality international schools that not only offer good local schooling options but also ensure the resort is active all year round.
To rent or not to rent?
For Roddy Aris, Knight Frank's French Alpine property expert, the very first question for buyers is whether they plan to rent out their property: “If rental income is essential then do you go for a new-build scheme in a high-altitude resort(with the possibility of a VAT rebate) and where you will achieve good weekly rates or maximum weeks of occupancy (dual-season locations)?” If you don’t want to rent it out, do you go for ski-in, ski-out? Those planning on spending longer periods in their property may prefer not to be in the thick of things close to the ski lift and bars.
Roddy says the biggest mistake people can make is to get the location wrong: “Beware of falling for what seems like great value, or a ‘deal’. If you buy in a hamlet off the beaten track with no amenities or bus routes you will struggle to sell.” How important is access? For those keen on weekends away throughout the ski season, being within an hour of an airport will be high on their list.
The same goes for long-haul flyers into Geneva who tend to favour the ease of access into the Mont Blanc valley over Les Trois Vallées. “In terms of the best resorts for remote workers - looking at broadband speeds, provision of amenities, how open the resort is to non-resident buyers and proximity to the airport, Chamonix, Mègeve, Villars and Verbier rank highly,” says Kate Everett-Allan, Head of International Residential Research.
“Beware of falling for what seems like great value, or a ‘deal’. If you buy in a hamlet off the beaten track with no amenities or bus routes you will struggle to sell.”
Future-proof your investment
Climate change is a reality and many major ski resorts have been seriously investing in snow-making capacity, lift links to alternative valleys and diversifying non-snow reliant activities. “Find out now much a resort is spending on future-proofing itself,” suggests Alex Koch de Gooreynd of our Swiss desk. “For example, at Villars, they harvest rainwater from mountain-top lakes to make snow at the bottom.” Meanwhile Verbier, long known as purely a high-altitude winter resort, has been evolving into a vibrant summer destination to sit alongside dual-season favourites such as Crans-Montana and St Moritz; or Megève and Chamonix in France.
Ease of buying (but also selling) a second home is another factor. In Swiss ski resorts, the number of second homes is strictly limited and you need to consider the classification of the property you are buying. “If you purchase a chalet designated a primary residence then you can only ever sell it on as such, which may well mean it will take longer to do so,” he adds. Take expert advice.
“If you can afford it, go for a property with multiple zones so children and/or grandparents – or another family you invite out - can comfortably enjoy their own space,”
The right type of property?
Whilst location is the most important thing to get right, choosing a property that will adapt to your changing needs is also key. “If you can afford it, go for a property with multiple zones so children and/or grandparents – or another family you invite out - can comfortably enjoy their own space,” says Roddy Aris. “In a typical sized chalet, a popular way to do this is to create a dorm for the children in the attic.” Sustainability and keeping control of running costs is also increasingly important to buyers.
Will you go for an energy-efficient new-build rather than a charming old rustic chalet that leaks heat? If you retro-fit solar panels or air source heat pumps it’s possible to have the best of both worlds.