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Should investors be considering investment in ski homes?

International property consultancy Knight Frank recently launched its Prime Ski Property Report 2019, which revealed that the popular ski resort of Val d’Isere had the highest annual price growth in the year to June 2019.

The Prime Ski Property Index found that Val d’Isere – a huge ski area in the French Alps, close to the Italian border – experienced price growth of 2.9%, ahead of other French resorts such as Chamonix (2.6%), Saint-Martin-de-Belleville (2.4%) and Grimentz (2%).

The report highlighted that the impact of the EU referendum decision was largely priced in to the Alpine resorts back in 2016, which means that the recent Brexit uncertainty hasn’t affected these locations as much as it could have.

It also revealed that an increasing number of Swiss residents are looking at a ski home as a means of preserving wealth, largely due to negative interest rates making saving a no-go.  

According to Knight Frank, in the last decade or so there has been a considerable increase in the number of people renting their ski properties out. In fact, since 2008, this has nearly doubled, up from 50% of clients making their property available to rent to close to 100% now.

Additionally, in a sign of the continuing appeal of ski resorts worldwide, there has been considerable investment in new resort villages, ski and non-ski infrastructure at non-Alpine resorts such as Aspen Snowmass (in Colorado), Whistler (just north of Vancouver) and Niseko (on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island).

How is the ski market performing?

Visits to the French and Swiss Alps in the 2018/19 ski season increased by 5.3% and 10.6% respectively year-on-year, according to The International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism.

This growth was shown in the property market through robust rental demand, steady sales rates and strengthening prices in most resorts.

“As a lifestyle asset, the purchase of a ski home is often an emotive decision but investment rationale is becoming more compelling,” the report said. “Few purchase a ski home expecting double-digit capital growth each year but a look at the performance of ski homes over the last decade reveals average price growth of 19% over the period, outperforming a number of tier one cities.”

In general, most Alpine buyers have a clear and defined tick list, including: easy accessibility, low mortgage rates, hassle-free rental, stable or rising prices, market liquidity to facilitate their future exit strategy and ideally a currency advantage.

With this last point in mind, British buyers – arguably now more than ever – must keep one eye on currency shifts. Capital Economics believes, with the general election now underway, that sterling could jump to 1.30 or even 1.38, which would result in savings of £93,000 or £121,000 respectively on a €1 million chalet compared to current rates.

The Index also pointed to the changing nature of ski resorts, with shifting consumer habits leading these holiday staples to reinvent themselves, in some cases as luxury brands in their own right (with luxury hotel, spa or retail offerings) to attract a new type of tourist – one who rarely, if ever, ventures out onto the slopes.

In other words, ski resorts are no longer just for skiing – they are becoming far more than just that.

Keeping your finger on the pulse

For those considering investing in a ski property, Knight Frank’s report says there are five major trends to monitor.

These include alpine fitness (with the fitness and wellness industry taking off in the last decade, the mountains have become a perfect place for this), family time (buyers cite this as a key factor behind purchasing a ski home) and non-skier appeal (approximately 35% of visitors to the Three Valleys are now non-skiers).

Other major trends include technological advances helping to reduce the hassle of monitoring and maintaining a second home, and ‘maxing out’, which is seeing some resorts joining forces to offer access to multiple resorts or domains.    

Earlier this year, in a Q&A with Mark Lightfoot, founder of SnowOnly, we looked at what investors need to bear in mind when considering an investment in ski property, including when is best to buy a home of this type and whether buyers should focus on dual season resorts to maximise rental returns.   

You can read the full Knight Frank report here.

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