As Summer in the Alps continues to flourish post lockdown, Switzerland remains the perfect opportunity for potential buyers and seasoned investors to experience the Swiss Alps in the warmer months, whilst finding a property for the upcoming winter season. We interviewed our General Manager, Elyse Constantin, to find out what life has been like in the Swiss mountains over the last few months – for the property market as well as the Alpine Homes business – and what she expects for the winter.
What did you get up to whilst Switzerland was in lockdown?
As the office in Sion had to close during lockdown, I worked from my home up in the mountains, which was just heaven as I could admire the surrounding hilltops and mountain peaks from my desk every day. I kept in close communication with my active buyers the whole time, providing property information through virtual tours as well as updates on the Covid-19 situation for Switzerland as our local restrictions eased a lot earlier than the UK for example. I also kept my sellers up to date on progress, as our virtual tour offering proved popular very quickly with buyers. Interestingly, some of our sellers actually travelled over to spend lockdown in their alpine homes so that they could work remotely whilst enjoying the lifestyle the Swiss Alps has to offer during the warmer months.
When not at my desk, or home-schooling, I spent quality time with my family, going for lots of walks and picnics around the various lakes up here, which are actually some of our favourite things to do in summer. With blue skies and the sun shining most days, I was reminding just how wonderful summer in the alps is – it’s a season often overlooked by property buyers, which is why Alpine Homes rolled out a ‘summer in the alps’ marketing campaign throughout this period.
Have alpine buyers been visiting the Swiss Alps during the summer?
Yes, once lockdown measures started to ease and physical viewings could happen again, we have seen a big increase in active buyers looking for alpine homes. Since June, when we could show properties to perspective buyers again, the highest proportion of our enquiries has come from Switzerland, Holland, Germany and the United Kingdom. In early July when it was announced that UK travellers didn’t need to quarantine once returning from Switzerland, British enquiries sky rocketed, and we had several arrange physical viewings of the property shortlists they had created from their virtual tours throughout July and August. Around 70% of clients who have visited us since lockdown have made an offer - which is really encouraging news for sellers.
Nendaz and Veysonnaz are proving very popular with the British and the Dutch as prices are a lot lower than Verbier, yet in summer they can still access the same cycle paths, hiking routes and so on, whilst accessing the same slopes in winter. Crans Montana attracts many golfers, cyclists and hikers from Belgium, but the British are beginning to realise its appeal in summer too. In June for example, we had a call from a UK buyer who had read Cassandra Levene’s piece on why she loves Crans Montana in summer. He told us that he had no idea they could do so many things during the summer there and wanted to find something his family could enjoy now as well as in the winter. Meanwhile, the Swiss Germans continue to show interest in Les Collons, Les Masses and La Anzère, whilst the French and Swedish love Verbier if they can afford it.
Why are the Summer and Autumn seasons an ideal time for potential buyers to purchase an alpine home, and for sellers to be selling?
It seems like the Swiss Alps are considered more than ever as a safe heaven, both for financial and sanitary reasons, but the Summer and Autumn seasons are proving to be an ideal time to be purchasing an alpine home for many reasons. Firstly, it is absolutely beautiful here. There are a lot of events during the summer, the level of sunshine is usually high and there are a lot of beautiful lakes for a swim. Combined with endless outdoor options on offer to include cycling, hiking, water activities and adrenaline fuelled fun, plus wonderful views, nature and wildlife, people who visit now are realising more and more the joys of being here outside of the winter season. That perhaps they should be considering a ski property in a dual season resort, so that they can enjoy summer there too given there’s so many activities for the family to enjoy.
It’s also a lot quieter time of year when compared to winter, especially in the Autumn, meaning there’s more time to speak with estate agents and it’s much easier to visit properties. Many buyers believe they should only buy an alpine home in the winter, but whilst there are many advantages to doing so, it can be quite hard to organise viewings because most of the properties are rented for skiing.
Furthermore, using the basics of economics, property prices in winter tend to be at their highest, because the skiing season is ‘peak time’ for the Alps. If demand is high compared to supply, the competition from other buyers is higher.
For sellers, buyers tend to be very motivated at this time of year to make a decision, because if they purchase something between May and September, they know they will most likely be able to use it in just a few month’s time for skiing. Whereas if buying in the winter season, they will have to wait six months or so to visit in the summer, and another year to hit the slopes. We often find also that some buyers in the winter get caught up in the excitement of skiing, and cancel their viewings. And obviously, it’s much easier to show buyers round when people aren’t renting them.
What are the best dual-season resorts?
The resorts are working hard to enhance their appeal all year round, but Nendaz, Verbier and Crans Montana are the main dual season resorts where we sell alpine homes.
Have buyers’ requirements changed as a result of Covid-19?
Absolutely. The mindset towards remote properties has definitely changed due to Covid-19. People used to be wary of being isolated, but now they love the fact they can walk around and not bump into anybody. This is particularly important for clients who live in busy cities such as Paris, London and Berlin, who are most likely living in small apartments with little to no outside space. They are now looking for something in the more quieter places such as Les Masses and Les Collons, or the outskirts of Verbier and Crans Montana, where space and privacy are plentiful.
The common denominator between all buyers however is space, privacy and home offices, as people realise the benefits of being in their second homes at any time of year – not just for winter. Most of our clients are seeking chalets with a garden to welcome the whole family, but also liking the idea of being isolated should we go into another lockdown or have another big outbreak of Covid-19. Chalet Nicande in Nendaz ticks all the boxes in that respect. Hamlets have increased of popularity as a result. For example, we currently have nineteen chalets called Au Pied des Pistes under construction in the charming village of Les Masses. The site is accessed from two roads, with the upper access road located just opposite two floodlit tennis courts. There are stunning views across the valley and at 1550m, they are just 200m from the chair lift. Chalet Touti in Les Masses is another example, whilst Belle Neige is a lovely hamlet in Verbier which allows people to be in a busy town whilst remote.
Which resorts offer great value for money and why?
In the Four Valleys, I would say that the resorts of Les Masses, Les Collons and Veysonnaz are very attractive at the moment. They offer the same ski domain as Nendaz and Verbier but the property prices are much more affordable.
How expensive is it to buy a property in the Swiss Alps?
The joy of the Swiss Alps is that it doesn’t need to be expensive to buy a property – there is something for most budgets. This obviously depends on size, location and the resort itself. We are currently selling a wide range of properties, from a 1 bedroom apartment in Crans Montana for 277,000 CHF to a 4 bedroom chalet in Verbier at 8.9million CHF.
Which properties provide the best return on investment?
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, which is why it’s important to speak with a local agent who really understands the local markets. Generally, properties offering ski-in ski-out or boast a central location in a good resort and easy access to facilities offer an excellent return on investment. These can either be chalets or apartments, resale or new build, but generally they tend to be in a dual-season resort so that they can provide a rental income all year round. However, it’s worth looking at the smaller resorts as well as the bigger one’s where a lot of investment is going on at the moment to improve the area. Property prices will be lower now than in a few years’ time where a good return on investment should be seen. Such locations include Les Masses, Les Collons or Champex-Lac for example. If you look at hamlets where the demand is growing the most at the moment, you could argue that there are some great opportunities here because prices are lower than the equivalent property in the main resort. If those locations continue to be highly sought after as a result of Covid-19, those prices should rise accordingly – both for rental and sales.
How have you changed the way in which people view properties now to keep people safe?
We have the ability to adapt to a lot of different situations when it comes to viewing a property physically, and have put in place the necessary measures of protection and precautions to keep our buyers, sellers and colleagues safe. For our international buyers who cannot or would prefer not to travel to Switzerland, we are still offering virtual viewings too where they can get plenty of information about the property and the resort as we ‘show’ them around.
Who are your sellers at the moment?
Our sellers at the moment are mainly families, and retirees who cannot enjoy their alpine property as much as they used to.
What are your top tips for sellers at the moment?
It is very important to work with a local agent who has access to good quality Swiss and international buyers, who promote their properties to the widest audience possible via PR and Marketing, and who will provide a true reflection of how local markets are performing in terms of prices. A property which is priced too high will simply not get the interest hoped for, which is a shame since the market is so active at the moment. Once buyers see how long something has been on the market for, they will just put in lower offers.