As the ski season has now come to an end, it's the perfect time for potential buyers and seasoned investors to find a property for next season.
With the recent surge in popularity for ski property investments, Property Investor Today carried out a discussion with Mark Lightfoot, founder of SnowOnly, to find out how prospective buyers can locate and make the most of their ski property.
Why is now – with the ski season at an end – the ideal time for potential buyers to purchase a ski property for next season?
There is a myth amongst many sellers that the best time to list a property is in the height of the ski season. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles that make selling during this frantic period a real problem. For example, there is only a small window to show the properties after a day’s skiing and most properties are rented so there is limited access.
Sellers are also the victim of timewasters as buyers are in the ski bubble mindset and may not keep appointments they speculatively make for viewings. Finally, a buyer will have to wait at least nine months before they can use a ski property purchased, so will be in no rush to make a decision.
In reality, a more qualified buyer comes in the summer as there is more time to speak with agents and more opportunity to access the properties. It is also the perfect time to buy as the peak winter season is less than six months away and there can also be more appealing prices due to the owners exiting after a strong peak season.
How big a budget would a buyer need to purchase a home in a ski resort?
There is something available for most budgets. For example, on SnowOnly.com we currently have properties ranging from 16,500 EUR for a small property in Les Houches, France to 2.25 million EUR for a five-bedroom chalet, also in Les Houches. A buyer could purchase a studio apartment in Samoens, France (an excellent resort to consider due to the investment being made in the infrastructure) for 79,950 EUR.
Should investors be concentrating on new build or re-sale properties?
Both types of property can provide an excellent investment. What is key is the area in which the property is in. Whilst demand will be high for properties in the most popular resorts, any purchase price will also be a lot higher than a comparable property elsewhere.
Investments can be found in smaller resorts, where investment in the infrastructure is planned for the near future (and where the resort aspires to be bigger than its current footprint). Within five to 10 years, an excellent return will be seen – and the buyers will have got more property for their money.
Samoens is an excellent example of this - they are investing in the infrastructure of the resort. This is a perfect place to invest – a good ski area, good location and room for improvement.
With so many potential ski properties available across the world, how can a prospective purchaser choose the right resort to invest in?
Making a decision on the resort to purchase property in can be complicated, with so many variables to take into consideration. This is one of the reasons we have launched SnowOnly.com- we know that the purchase decision for a ski property is made on far more than just the property itself. Buyers want to know about the resort, how easy it is to get to and what level of skiing is available.
Therefore, we complement the property information that we show to buyers with our unique resort guides to ensure a would-be-purchaser has the most up-to-date information about the location, ski season dates, ski pass prices, lifts and slopes and reliability of snow with detail on snow-making capabilities also highlighted. Each resort guide also includes historical information on snow depths (upper and lower) as well as current snow reports and weather forecasts.
How does buying a property out of the ski season deliver returns for buyers?
First and foremost, it’s easier for them to buy as they can gain access to properties for viewings much more easily than during the peak ski season.
They also have the opportunity to see a resort out of season, to understand what the potential for off-peak rentals could be. We have also seen some very attractive pricing with some of the properties put onto SnowOnly as the season ends – the seller is keen to exit after a strong winter and sets their asking price accordingly.
Should investors consider dual season resorts to maximise rental returns as visitors flock there in summer as well as winter?
Absolutely. Investing in a dual season resort (for example resorts across the French and Swiss Alps including Zermatt, Portes du Soleil, Chamonix, Verbier and Tignes, Austria’s Tirol and the Italian Dolomites) enables investors to realise a return for more than just the four-month ski season. As other owners are seeing their last rental income until Christmas, owners in dual season resorts will see only a short break before the summer rental season starts.
As well as fantastic winter skiing, these dual season resorts also have an excellent summer offering with alpine activities including walking and mountain biking attracting a large number of visitors per year (for example, 44% of global visitors to the Austrian Tirol visit in summer, with 100,000 summer visitors from the UK alone). Some resorts, for example Les Deux Alpes & Tignes, also have summer skiing courtesy of a glacier.
Unlike undeveloped mountain villages, ski resorts have all had lots of investment ploughed into them to cater for the high spending winter market, so people there in the summer enjoy the benefits too. Therefore, visitors in summer can expect the quality of facilities they enjoy in the cities, but high in the mountains.
For sellers of ski properties, how can the ‘on-the-market’ time be reduced without sacrificing the price achieved?
Selling ski properties can be challenging, with each property on the market, on average, for a year. It is easy to see why they traditionally don’t sell as fast as other investment properties – potential buyers either need to trawl through general property portals to find something in the area they wish to buy, or they have to visit the websites of each agent based in their chosen resort, it is simply not an efficient process.
Whilst, of course, there is no denying that sales will be made in this way, there are not enough buyers to satisfy the demand of sellers - it is clear that more buyers are required.
SnowOnly gives agents and property developers access to a captive audience, thus introducing them to more potential buyers and converting a sale more quickly. In addition to saving vast amounts of time customers can be confident that, as SnowOnly does not take a commission on the sales, the decision is left to the buyer to find the best property for their needs with no sales pitch.