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Investment Property in the Alps

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
ecureuil wrote:
I agree they probably wouldn't be worth 'nothing', but a substantial drop is quite feasible.


France is littered with places that are quite literally worth "nothing". Places that cannot be sold and have been abandoned by their owners as they'd have substantial property taxes to pay. The Alps were very poor before skiing arrived. Also people have to be able to get to their property which may get harder in the future as transport options shrink. I would have thought that a property on the shores of lake Geneva would be desirable - in a Detroit like abandoned ski area, not so much.
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davidof wrote:
France is littered with places that are quite literally worth "nothing". Places that cannot be sold and have been abandoned by their owners as they'd have substantial property taxes to pay. The Alps were very poor before skiing arrived. Also people have to be able to get to their property which may get harder in the future as transport options shrink. I would have thought that a property on the shores of lake Geneva would be desirable - in a Detroit like abandoned ski area, not so much.


But you'd hope these places gentrify, reshape themselves and still be marketable in the future, despite no skiing. Therefore, keep some value.
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@under a new name, agreed some places will be okay. I have been to plenty of ski resorts in the summer, but most have only a fraction of the numbers around in the winter, perhaps only 10-25% - and that's with those summer visitors compressed into a short season. With no skiing, winter visitor demand would be almost non-existent. And if there is no uplift to support walking, MTB etc, summer visitor numbers will probably decrease (even if the season can be extended given less snow). Specialist ski businesses will obviously shut, and many others won't survive on summer visitors alone. House prices, like everything else, are simply a function of supply and demand, and I don't think there is sufficient demand in the summer to support all the available accommodation in most resorts.
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@ecureuil, There isn't any uplift in the Lake District but it still seems popular.
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swskier wrote:
davidof wrote:
France is littered with places that are quite literally worth "nothing". Places that cannot be sold and have been abandoned by their owners as they'd have substantial property taxes to pay. The Alps were very poor before skiing arrived. Also people have to be able to get to their property which may get harder in the future as transport options shrink. I would have thought that a property on the shores of lake Geneva would be desirable - in a Detroit like abandoned ski area, not so much.


But you'd hope these places gentrify, reshape themselves and still be marketable in the future, despite no skiing. Therefore, keep some value.


is gentrify another word for "fall down"?

The problem with a lot of French resorts is that look like housing projects in the mountains. Take the snow away and they are pretty ugly, even the pretty ones.

Imagine les Arcs 1950 in 2080, it is easy if you try Happy





or even today in the Alps, how much would you pay for one of these apartments? The big problem is that anywhere abandoned for more than a few months gets stripped of wire and copper pipe then trashed by vandals





Apartments in the last photo are priced at 1400 euros / sqm with an abandoned ski area and 800 euros / year co pro charges. Seems ambitious to me but maybe you are right?

What will make them interesting as a long term investment is that anywhere at valley level will be uninhabitable for the summer months by 2100. There was even an article in the local magazine put out by the council about how Grenoble would be abandoned and everyone would have to live at 1000 meters on the Vecors plateau in the future. Real post apocalypse stuff but maybe with teleworking or whatever people will be doing in the future it is a good plan?
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rjs wrote:
@ecureuil, There isn't any uplift in the Lake District but it still seems popular.


Yep but there is only one Lake District - strict planning laws and nothing like the bed capacity of the Alps. In any French resort you have many times the tourist bed capacity of say Ambleside with similar literally just round the corner or up the valley a bit. I'd say winners and losers in the long term - resorts that have already invested heavily in summer tourism being the most likely winners.
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rjs wrote:
@ecureuil, There isn't any uplift in the Lake District but it still seems popular.


The path from Glenridding on Ullswater to Helvellyn rises from 145m to 950m, so a climb of 800m. For leisure walkers, around 1000m is about the maximum they want to do in a day, so for most of the Alps if there is no uplift that might get you halfway up. That's why lifts are run in summer.

The problem with places in France like those shown above is that they were ugly, cheap and speculative developments based on skiing alone but marketed at premium prices, with nothing else to do in the area. When the skiing failed, the bottom quite literally fell out of the property market.

Places which have all-year-round attractions are a much better investment bet than a dedicated ski area.
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ousekjarr wrote:
rjs wrote:
@ecureuil, There isn't any uplift in the Lake District but it still seems popular.


The path from Glenridding on Ullswater to Helvellyn rises from 145m to 950m, so a climb of 800m. For leisure walkers, around 1000m is about the maximum they want to do in a day, so for most of the Alps if there is no uplift that might get you halfway up.

I would say that "most of the Alps" actually matches that height difference, it is only a few places that have more vertical than this.

Not living in the valley during the heat of the summer will probably be more pleasant too.
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Best investment is the UK.
Going to be lots of City living folk in small apartments with no garden looking to move further out now they dont need to go to the office everyday.
Boom time coming.
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My experience has mainly been in places where the difference is more like 1500m, and adding 50% to the daily climb would be enough to put people off if the lifts weren't there. When ski centres sell themselves on the available vertical, 800-1000m is not enough to be a successful ski resort unless they have something else as a USP such as overall size or being snow sure because the base height is very high. According to https://www.skiresort.info/ski-resorts/alps/page/2/sorted/altitude-difference/ there are 60 resorts in the Alps alone which offer over 1500m vertical difference, and 230 with over 1000m difference.

Why would anyone buy in a place with 500m of vertical? Why buy if it was only a ski resort with nothing else to recommend it? Why buy when the top level of skiing is under 1500m? Why buy when the "winter sports" centre rarely has snow in the town/village because it is at 600m? These are some of the factors that matter, and they are reflected in the prices.
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ousekjarr wrote:
there are 60 resorts in the Alps alone which offer over 1500m vertical difference, and 230 with over 1000m difference


How many of those are just a village with bubble taking you to a skiable bowl up top where you can't ski back to the village level?

On the other hand VT is 2400m base and highest point of 3200(?) If memory serves me
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@ousekjarr, The list in your link looks to be a triumph of marketing, the places I know well don't have nearly the listed vertical in one continuous descent, at least not very often.

I mostly ski somewhere in France that is at 1100m and with the top at 1600m, there are lots of places like this that would still provide an experience of being in the mountains if there was no snow and no lifts. There wouldn't be the same demand for this but I don't see things going right back to how the Alps were before tourism.
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Quote:

I don't see things going right back to how the Alps were before tourism.

certainly not if affordable power supplies exist. The Alps in the olden days were pretty hard work. But if you have electricity, work-from-home WIFI, and can just use the beautifully ordered log pile for entertainment, it's probably preferable to living in a valley which might be too hot in summer and polluted and temperature-inverted in winter.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I've looked and eventually shied away repeatedly from buying. The perhaps inevitable problem for most is the property you can afford is not quite in the area you want to ski..no poo-poo Sherlock really.

If you can afford it, as a new buyer, the returns are pitiful so the investment idea is minimal. All of this is before the vagaries of a non sovereign Euro currency that might just go pear shape at some point.

Buy the smallest place in the best resort for you with the lowest service charges. A dual season resort would be a bonus. Treat it as a personal indulgence.
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@davidof, where is photo 3/4 taken please?
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Not sure "investment" even applies, unless you put "bad" in front. But if you're able to look at it as a fun way to lose some money, you might want to proceed. Our place kind of breaks even financially. But every day we walk through the door we feel fortunate and thrilled we did it.
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The best you can hope for is break even on costs if you have borrowed to buy the property. That assumes you have 2 weeks in peak season and then several trips outside of peak. Summers tend to be quieter so probably don’t really add much to your rental return (unless lucky). However if like us, you were spending a (not so...) small fortune on winter and summer holidays then the savings you make on this should be taken into account on returns.

For us, we probably “save” 20k a year on holidays and rental income more or less covers costs. Net net I therefore make a return. But I never really consider “return” to be the reason for buying it.
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This is going to sound "new age" but what do you call an investment? Is it a 100% financial return?
I see our place as investing in our family time & my mental well being.
We get far more joy from it than going to a huge anonymous all inclusive hotel in some frankly ridiculously hot place next to a beach. I have seen the light and especially now, will never be going back to them.
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I've had a flat in Val Thorens for 35-odd yrs. It barely breaks even on a annual basis, but has done pretty well on capital growth, over the years...
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@Jonny996, agreed
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Grinning wrote:
@davidof, where is photo 3/4 taken please?


3 is St Honore
4 is the Col de l'Arzeillier which shut up shop a couple of years ago. Not really due to lack of snow but due to not making a profit and costing locals too much to run. I can see it from my work so for someone in Grenoble it could make a nice bolt hole to escape the summer heat or to do sports like ski touring or snow shoeing in the winter. I don't think they piste the cross country ski tracks either now.
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@davidof, I like the picture you posted of St Honore. It looks rather magical. I heard the temperature in Grenoble was 39 degrees yesterday. I think you could make a good case for your company to move to a summer hill station in these circumstances.

@Jonny996,
Quote:

We get far more joy from it than going to a huge anonymous all inclusive hotel in some frankly ridiculously hot place next to a beach.

Are you talking about Socchi?

I have to confess that I never thought of our ski apartment as an "investment" just as I don't think of my shoes as an investment. It is somewhere very nice to stay when I go skiing or to be in the mountains during the summer. Or to keep my feet from wearing out while I'm in the mountains during the summer.
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It's never been an investment, it's a lifestyle choice...
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Hmmm, we own in the Alps and if nothing else, as it was bought principally as an active investment (holiday lets), over the last 15 years, more or less, someone else has been covering the mortgage repayments.
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johnE wrote:
@davidof, I like the picture you posted of St Honore. It looks rather magical. I heard the temperature in Grenoble was 39 degrees yesterday. I think you could make a good case for your company to move to a summer hill station in these circumstances.


They are moving offices. We used to have a staff of 1500 in the offices but that is down to 550 and will shrink to 450 by 2022 but we are moving next door! The current building (which is French listed) costs a fortune to heat or keep cool. The advantage today is that there is so much room currently I have my own 40 sq m. office which is not bad in times of Covid. It was around 39C yesterday but over 40C in Vizille which is a mega heat trap.

St Honore does look magical in the snow and I'm not even convinced it couldn't work for skiing, there always seems to be some snow up there in the winter but it was too small and too far from population areas. Somewhere like les 7 Laux can work because they can motivate the students to come up in the week and keep things ticking over and hopefully make a profit on the weekends, otherwise it is very hard running small or medium sized ski areas.

As for pwoperdee investment, when you look at the charges and the cost of an Airbnb off season it is hard to justify owning really.
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Quote:

As for pwoperdee investment, when you look at the charges and the cost of an Airbnb off season it is hard to justify owning really.

You are right on a financial side, but knowing your skis are in the cave, as well as coffee and wine are already there and you can come and go as you wish is worth some money
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johnE wrote:
Quote:

As for pwoperdee investment, when you look at the charges and the cost of an Airbnb off season it is hard to justify owning really.

You are right on a financial side,


there are loads of other reasons and someone buying a property and renting certain weeks may be able to cover their costs


Last edited by And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports. on Tue 28-07-20 14:52; edited 1 time in total
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Jonny996 wrote:
This is going to sound "new age" but what do you call an investment? Is it a 100% financial return?
I see our place as investing in our family time & my mental well being.
We get far more joy from it than going to a huge anonymous all inclusive hotel in some frankly ridiculously hot place next to a beach. I have seen the light and especially now, will never be going back to them.


I think for a lot of people, it means they are stuck going to the same place every year, multiple times a year to make like they are getting the value form the investment.
That is what has always put me off buying abroad.

As for lying by a pool at an all inc. resort - I personally cant think of anything worse. May as well stay home if lying by the pool is an idea of a holiday.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
johnE wrote:
Quote:

As for pwoperdee investment, when you look at the charges and the cost of an Airbnb off season it is hard to justify owning really.

You are right on a financial side, but knowing your skis are in the cave, as well as coffee and wine are already there and you can come and go as you wish is worth some money


^This^ And whatever weeks we don't use, there are family or friends who want to use it. They contribute, so overall it covers costs, and we get 4 or 5 weeks skiing a year for 'nothing' * . Plus as you say, having all our stuff there, plus skis to lend to people. We normally only ever need to travel hand luggage, and know we have a nice bottle of wine ready for us when we get there is great.
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@Mr.Egg speaks for nearly everyone contemplating such a purchase, including us.....no, we don't want to feel "stuck" or under pressure to go to the same place. Fortunately, 25 years into it, we don't feel that way at all and never did. I suspect renting it out to help with costs relieves some of that pressure. Doing so also relieves you of the pressure surrounding what's going on at the cabin when you are back home.....somebody has my back if it dumps and the roof needs to be shoveled, etc.
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@Scooter in Seattle, agreed. I think there are also lifestyle/timing choices that change as we move through our lives. What may be "stuck" at some times becomes "useful familiarity" at others.

What we didn't realise until we had kids, is how helpful it is to know how everything works. Who the best instructors are, best skiing options at different times of day/year, where to get kit, restaurants, etc. Sitting in our favourite lunch/dinner venues every time yields a string of disappointed people rocking up hoping for a table that day, or even that week, and being told it's all full. Our ski instructor is booked up a year ahead.

Of course, the flipside is that you lose some of the fun of exploration - the memorable experiences where you turn up at the worst restaurant in town because it's the only one with a table, but makes a great story in years to come. Or the horrendous icy body-strewn run at 4.30, or the chairlift with the 60min queue post-lunch.

There are tradeoffs in the whole process. In our 20s the whole ownership thing wouldn't really have worked. In our 30s and 40s its been amazing, and if we were ever to sell, the hardest thing would be breaking the physical link to the memories associated with our place.

We feel no obligation to come to our place - we holiday at plenty of other locations as well during the year (ski and non-ski), but we come here because we want to.
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Scooter in Seattle wrote:
@Mr.Egg speaks for nearly everyone contemplating such a purchase, including us.....no, we don't want to feel "stuck" or under pressure to go to the same place. Fortunately, 25 years into it, we don't feel that way at all and never did. I suspect renting it out to help with costs relieves some of that pressure. Doing so also relieves you of the pressure surrounding what's going on at the cabin when you are back home.....somebody has my back if it dumps and the roof needs to be shoveled, etc.


Or I could just buy another rental property at home. Rent it out knowing the mortgage is paid & see my investments rocket.

I have thought many times about buying abroad (more Spain than anywhere), but anywhere would just a base for exploring & then I think what is the point in that if it means day tripping it everywhere.

Usually my summer jaunt involves a multi-leg affair road trips. Even visiting the same ski resort becomes boring after 2nd or 3rd time.
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Almost everyone I know with a holiday home gets asked regularly "But don't you get bored going back to the same place all the time?" and most will reply "No. Nor do I get bored living in the same main residence all the time." There are other people, I'm sure, who like to move home regularly and/or who like to try a different place out every holiday. People are different.

As for a holiday home as an asset, you can't generalise. I invested in Gold for a while and made about 220% profit in the end. Other people did the same over a different period and lost money. I know people who invested in property at the wrong time and went bankrupt because of it. While others have made multiples of their investment. Nothing is certain. But those of us lucky enough to have spare capital have to make decisions about how to balance risk and return and for me, a holiday home is just one asset class in a diversified portfolio. I assign a utility value to my personal use which also goes into the equation. On that basis, my Swiss apartment has been a good investment, is all I can say.
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In around 98/99 a friend of mine bought a relatively new build 2-bed in the centre of Chamonix. It was a heck of a lot of money as we were both starting out in our careers, if I recall around £70-80k....I wish I'd had that foresight!
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Quote:
most will reply "No. Nor do I get bored living in the same main residence all the time."

I like this, because it ow we think of our 'second home'.

When we go and stay it isn't so much a holiday, as spending time in the parallel life we've built - knowing the retailers, having a local ("where everybody knows your name"), being recognised in the streets, is all part of that. Somebody the other day referred to me as the eminence grise of the village. I took it as a compliment... I think!

Was it a financial success? Well we originally earned the money in order to do something with it, something beyond simply keep accumulating bigger numbers on the spreadsheet.
This seems a pretty good spend to us.

But. As per @LaForet, it is just one asset class in a diverse portfolio, and I probably wouldn't recommend it for someone just starting out, and who would be putting all their eggs in one basket.
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@Arctic Roll, Good points. Back in the day, ours was an excellent investment, 5-6% return, and also amortizing against the purchase tax. Now , it would be very poor 1% or less, so from that point of view don't go in to it for that. I echo also the @LaForet, comment, it's OK as an asset in a diverse portfolio, and washes it's face from a charges point of view.

IMO it would be a poor choice to borrow money to buy one now, and it's definitely not an 'investment' in the pure sense of the word.
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