It’s that time of year again where the festive spirit is floating around our stunning mountains again, with the chalets and apartments dotted around the resorts looking absolutely stunning under the snow.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the local property market has flourished - particularly from Swiss buyers who have flocked to the mountains to buy a holiday home or somewhere to live permanently. Like with most places, demand far outweighs supply, and so the competition is strong if you are looking to purchase an alpine home. Also, with various travel restrictions in place once more, it may be difficult for buyers to get here at the moment. So we thought we’d put together a few of our tips and tricks for buying your dream alpine home this winter, where ever you are.
TIP 1 – REGISTER WITH LOCAL AGENTS
As well as keeping an eye on property portals, it’s worth registering with local agents who are based in the Swiss Alps to ensure you are being kept up to date on the latest chalets and apartments for sale. Many of them are being sold off market and so won’t appear on the portals, but often they sell within days of going live. Unless you’re monitoring the portals every day, it’s hard to keep up to date. By keeping in touch with agents out here regularly, you have the best chance of finding something before others can, reducing your competition tremendously. For example, Alpine Homes contact our registered buyers first before uploading properties onto the portals. This ‘heads up’ means they can be the first viewers whether physically or virtually.
TIP 2 – VIEW VIRTUALLY FIRST
This is especially important if you can’t visit the Swiss Alps at the moment. It’s still absolutely possible to view properties from elsewhere in the world via video technology. For example, we conduct virtual viewings for buyers where we physically walk through with them on a video call such as FaceTime or WhatsApp. This allows for an in-depth viewing where we can show the buyer anything they want, and they can ask us as many questions as they desire. It’s been hugely popular since the pandemic began and meant international buyers can still find an alpine home from the safety of their home. For those who can travel, it’s also a great way to reduce the number of properties you need to visit physically – so important when time is precious. Instead, you can view a number of properties virtually then select your favourite one’s to visit in person, saving yourself a huge amount of time.
TIP 3 – MAKE SURE YOUR AGENT TRULY UNDERSTANDS YOUR CHECKLIST
There’s nothing worse than having your time wasted, especially if you have travelled overseas, so to ensure you’re not presented with a list of properties which don’t tick all of the boxes on your checklist, make sure the estate agent truly understands what you are looking for, as well as what you wish to avoid. It’s often helpful to write these down on a list so that you don’t miss anything out.
TIP 4 – UNDERSTAND THE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Unfortunately, with the threat of Omicron, there are travel restrictions back in place for countries all over the world. As well as checking your own rules for returning home from the Swiss Alps, make sure you know what the latest guidelines are for coming into Switzerland from your location. These are changing all the time so it’s important that you check regularly.
TIP 5 – BE READY TO BUY
Sellers want buyers who are ready to purchase so have all of your paperwork ready and in place. Also contact a Swiss Alps bank to see how much you can get for a mortgage and become prequalified. Swiss Banks can lend up to 70% of the purchase price. Finding out if you can actually get a mortgage first will save you and the seller a lot of time once the buying process begins. Research online to find the best one’s but also ask the estate agent for local recommendations.
TIP 6 – CHECK WHAT YOU CAN AND CAN’T BUY
There are different rules for purchasing a property in the Swiss Alps, depending on whether you are an international or domestic buyer. These include location, size and how long you can stay for, so to save you time and disappointment, make sure you are looking at properties you are allowed to purchase. A good estate agent can explain this all to you.
TIP 7 – LOCATION IS KEY
Location is vital when looking for an alpine home, as you want to avoid the hassle of selling again having only just bought the property. For example, if you want to be remote, research how far away the shops, pubs and ski lifts are to walk or drive. Or if you want to be within the hub of a resort, are you going to mind lots of cars and people whizzing around? They may not necessarily be there on your property viewing but in the ski season or warmer months, it’s going to be busy. The last thing you want to find is that the peaceful relaxing three bed penthouse you bought when the resorts were closed, turned out to be somewhere you couldn’t enjoy your evening meal on the balcony anymore because of noisy traffic and people below. Many people love the buzz and vibrancy of a place like this, but it’s not for everyone.
TIP 8 – DO YOU WANT WINTER, SUMMER OR BOTH?
If you are purely looking for a place to ski and aren’t looking to rent it out, then it doesn’t matter if you do not purchase in a dual season resort. However, if you want to also spend the warmer months cycling, being on the water or playing golf as examples, then you need to make sure you are looking at dual season resorts. The same applies if you are looking to rent your property out. You want to be maximising all year round revenue and many of the locations out here now accommodate summer as well as winter, with some of our favourites being Crans Montana, Nendaz and Verbier. From lakes, picnics and forest schools to mountain biking, paragliding, paddleboarding and even surfing now, the Swiss Alps really is an amazing place to be in the summer as well as winter.
TIP 9 – BUDGET
As well as budgeting for the purchase price, you also need to factor in other costs such as notary fees, registration fees and purchase tax. It’s also worth bearing in mind the property’s ongoing costs such as annual charges if it’s part of a hotel complex, heating bills and any potential repairs that may need doing now or in the future.
TIP 10 – BE AWARE OF TAXES YOU’LL NEED TO PAY
If you are a foreigner and using the property as a holiday home, you will be charged income tax, wealth tax and property tax. When it comes to selling, you will also have to pay capital gains tax.
TIP 11 – UNDERSTAND THE BUYING PROCESS
It’s worth understanding the whole buying process to avoid any stress and frustrations further down the line. Once you have made an offer, the next part of the journey usually includes signing a reservation contract, paying a deposit, applying for a mortgage, appointing a notary, getting a foreigner purchaser permit if you need one, signing the deed of sale, registering with Land Registry and then of course, handing over the keys. Allow approximately two months to complete all of this, assuming there aren’t any major delays. You do not need to do all of this in person. Digital contracts for example are in place and you can assign somebody in the Swiss Alps to act on your behalf.
TIP 12 – MAKE YOUR BEST OFFER POSSIBLE
In the current market, there are far more buyers than there are sellers. This means a lot of people are bidding on the same chalet or apartment, which ultimately helps to push prices up. When you’re told by the estate agent that there are so many buyers interested in the property and so they’re going to go to a ‘best and finals’ or ‘sealed bids’ situation, you need to be putting in your very best offer possible in order to compete with other purchasers. It’s very unlikely you will be able to negotiate on price in this scenario.
FIND OUT MORE
For more information about buying an alpine home in the Swiss Alps this winter, do get in touch with a member of the team at Alpine Homes. We wish you a very merry Christmas meanwhile.
The Feature Photograph is a 7-bed apartment in Gstaad. For more details click here.