The Alpine Set

If it’s your dream to become one of the estimated 200,000 British people who own a second home in France, then we really can’t blame you. Since David Cameron’s ‘power chat’ with French President Francoise Hollande back in July ’12 produced a promise not to levy punitive new taxes on British owners of French holiday homes, and the recent strengthening of the pound against the euro, is demand on the up? And how is the property market fairing in Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz?

‘If you want a holiday property in a ski resort, there’s a common misconception that higher is better’ Carrie Smith of local estate agent Pastures Greener tells us. ‘Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets benefit from their own recognised micro climate, a result of our location between Mt Blanc and Lake Geneva. This gives the area a fantastic snow record, regardless of it’s altitude, and it’s obviously easier to travel to and from the resorts compared to other popular areas such as the Three Valleys.’

It’s generally thought that local house prices have dropped between 10% and 20% of their value since a peak in 2008. The impact of this has seen increased demand for more centrally located properties, which have good rental potential in both the summer and winter seasons. ‘Bargains are now to be had in the outlying areas for buyers who don’t mind driving, or who are looking for a different type of holiday home’ Carrie explains.

The majority of buyers in the local area are looking for ‘ready made’ holiday homes, without the requirements of extensive refurbishment. But there are a hardcore few, perhaps inspired by the ‘Grand Designs’ dream, who seek out renovation projects with lots of development potential. But what of buying land and starting from scratch? ‘Lots of people want land on which to build their hearts desire. Land is always difficult to come by in the mountains, especially in central resort locations. Of course, if your budget is right, you can probably still find what you’re looking for!’ says Carrie.

All three resorts have a strong summer attraction too. Mountain biking, road cycling, hiking, activities for kids and summers away from crowded beaches in the Med, have made the mountains into an increasingly popular summer holiday destination. Carrie tells us ‘The rental potential of holiday homes in the summer season is one of the key benefits of buying property in Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz’. And with new year-round flight routes to Geneva opening up across the UK, this is expected to continue.

As the popularity and demand for second homes in ski resorts increases, so do the opportunities to make extra revenue from your investment. Snow Swappers is a great new website that introduces property owners in ski resorts around the world who are willing to swap the use of their ski property. Founder Tessa Regan told us ‘We started Snow Swappers to provide a service for like-minded property owners so they can explore other ski resorts without accommodation costs. Members can advertise their properties and decide on where and who they swap with, and there are now chalets and apartments available in ski resorts around the world’.

And what about the exchange rate? While a strong pound gives British buyers more clout when looking for property in France, there is a downside to a weak euro. Fewer properties come on the market when the economy flags in France and at times demand outstrips supply. ‘The pound to euro exchange rate is always going to affect how much you can afford to spend on a property. But it’s certainly not the only factor you should consider!’ Carrie tells us.

What does it cost to join the Alpine Set? Studio apartments, typically used as small ski boltholes start at around €80,000. One bedroom apartments range from around €120,000 to €200,000, and stand-alone chalets can be had for €300,000 in the outlying villages, while commanding anything up to and over €2million in a resort centre.

Carrie’s 10 steps to buying a home in France

ONE – Make a written offer on your chosen property – this is called a ‘proposition d’achat’

TWO – Once the price is agreed, you’ll sign a ‘compromis de vente’ or a pre-sale contract, for which you’ll need to provide your full name, DOB, place of birth, profession, marital status, a copy of your passport, details of your deposit amount and lending amount, and your choice of notary. You should expect to pay around 7% of the sale price in notary’s fees.

THREE – Pay the 10% deposit using the bank details provided. Sometimes a lower deposit amount can be requested, but 10% is the norm

FOUR – Once both parties sign everything and copies have been delivered to you by recorded delivery, there is then a seven-day ‘cooling off’ period. You can walk away from the purchase for any reason and reclaim your deposit during these seven days.

FIVE – After signing the ‘compromis de vente’ you have 10 days in which you must approach banks for a mortgage quote. A copy of your mortgage quote should then be sent to your agent. Following the ‘cooling off’ period, both parties are committed to the sale.

SIX – Your completed file is sent to the notary and it then takes approximately two months for the sale to complete.

SEVEN – You must insure the property and it’s contents in time for the completion date, especially if you have a mortgage on the property

EIGHT – Open a French bank account to pay your utility bills, etc. Your agent will ensure that the utility accounts are transferred to your name on the completion date.

NINE – The fund must be in the notary’s account before the signature date in order for the transaction to complete.

TEN – At the notary’s office you’ll sign the ‘acte authentique’, either with your agent present, or in your absence and with a power of attorney in place, your agent can complete this on your behalf. Then it’s yours!

Find our more about Pastures Greener.

Find our more about Snow Swappers.

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