The world’s prime ski property, led by luxury Alpine resorts, is recovering and infrastructure investment is spurring new development. That’s the conclusion of leading global agent Savills, which has been investigating current and future exclusive ski property hotspots in its Savills Ultra-Prime Ski Resorts Index, and the point is taken up by Vienna property specialist, Immo-Connect GmbH.
Courchevel 1850, in France, and Gstaad, in Switzerland, continue to lead the Savills Ultra Prime Ski Resort Index, but currency fluctuations are affecting buyers, with a weaker euro bringing opportunities in France, Austria and Italy, but strong Swiss Franc making Swiss property expensive to foreign buyers. However, resorts need to adapt and broaden their appeal to wider markets, if their value is to be maintained.
Courchevel 1850 tops the Savills Ultra-Prime Ski Resorts Index with typical prices of €31,340 per square metre for the best properties. The French resort is followed by the premier Swiss destinations of Gstaad, St Moritz, Zermatt and Verbier priced from €26,450-€31,220 per square metre. In spite of limited price growth, a strong Swiss franc has pushed these markets up the rankings in currency terms.
In North America, only Vail is on par with the top European competition at €25,200 per square metre. Paul Tostevin, Associate Director of Savills World Research, says, “A home in a top-tier Alpine resort is a key component of global property portfolios for the world’s wealthy. A property in Courchevel 1850, Gstaad or St Moritz complements a city residence in London, Paris or Moscow.”
Jeremy Rollason, Managing Director of Alpine Homes International, an associate of Savills, says, “2015 has been a tale of two currencies for UK buyers in the Alps. The de-peg of the Swiss franc caught markets off guard, but sterling has since recovered and now trades within a 5% range of the pre-January 2015 exchange rate. The weakening euro has helped buyers in euro denominated countries. Currency swings have the effect of either suppressing or stimulating markets through affordability, but the net effect has little influence on property values per se.”
Avner Motaev, Director of Immo-Connect GmbH, which specialises in the acquisition and development of real estate in Vienna, tells OPP.Today, “Currency changes mean buyers from different parts of the world will have differing fortunes – right now a British buyer would benefit from rates whereas a US buyer wouldn’t benefit as much.”
Investing in up-and-coming resorts including Grimentz, La Tzoumaz and Villars would be a wise move as property value is set to increase substantially, he says.
There is unlikely to be a change in the world’s top regions over the next decade, but there is more chance of ski properties elsewhere rising in value. “In Europe Meribel, St. Anton, Lech, Zermatt, Chamonix, etc. should remain strong. Eventually this may change because of the impact of global warming and climate change, but this is likely to be decades away. “The sector in Switzerland and top regions in France is fully priced according to our view. In Austria there is still upside left, as there are many top ski resorts of similar quality where real estate trades at far cheaper prices.”
The company is expecting growing international buyer interest. “Investors from emerging markets should continue to assume stronger market share, especially if sanctions in Russia will be lifted at some point.”
Savills has produced a run-down of the major markets for ski property in its Ultra-Prime Ski Resorts Index.
Buying activity in the Swiss resorts cooled in 2015 with foreign buyers, particularly important to the top end of the market, impacted by the strong Swiss franc. However, despite limited supply of second homes, investment in infrastructure continues and the cache of Swiss resorts remains.
Grimentz gained a new lift in the 2014/2015 season linking to neighbouring Zinal and new apartment schemes have followed. La Tzoumaz is also set for revival thanks to a planned lift upgrade, improving connectivity with neighbouring Verbier.
Villars, a year round resort with high quality international schools, has seen high levels of new supply in recent years and has suffered from poor snowfall. This has had some impact on pricing and, for those who shop around there are deals to be done. Prime apartments here trade at between CHF10,000 (€9,000) and CHF12,000 (€11,000) per square metre.
The Austrian Alpine resort market has remained strong on the back of a vibrant local economy, which has generated house price growth nationally of 41% since 2008.
Austria continues to offer excellent value for money compared to the more established French and Swiss resorts. Committed investment in resort infrastructure and investor appetite means there is still room for upward price movement.
Many Austrian resorts are dual season. Zell am See property prices continue to rise due to high demand and low supply, yet still represent value for money. Prices here range from €5,000 to €7,000 per square metre and a planned lift linking Zell am See to neighbouring Saalbach will only serve to increase its appeal.
Sales volumes in the ski regions of Haute-Savoie and Savoie have held up better than the rest of France whilst a weaker euro has opened up investment opportunities for dollar and sterling denominated buyers.
Val d’Isere has seen premium restaurants and boutiques open. Popular with the UK market, there is strong rental potential with yields of circa 3.5% gross achievable for top chalets.
The Chamonix Valley continues to see demand led recovery and prices are now at or around the pre-crisis peak of €10,000 per square metre.
Beyond the Alps, top-tier US resorts do offer potential, says Paul Tostevin. “The US is home to the largest number of wealthy individuals globally, so with the right product there remains a ready demand base to tap in the home market.”
US and Canadian ski resorts are spread across three major mountain ranges, a geographic area 10-times the size of the Alps. Vail and Whistler are resorts of worldwide renown, but both are reliant mainly on domestic buyers. Prices remain below their 2007 high.
The report identified five emerging destinations and resorts opening up to an international market. The Balkans, on the edge of the large European market, already attract British and Russian skiers.
Pyeongchang, South Korea, is the 2018 host for the Winter Olympics. International investors have been attracted by special visa investor programmes.
Japan’s Niseko has an established luxury residential market, supported by those from China, Singapore, Malaysia and Korea, as well as domestic demand.
“We anticipate a continued globalisation of Europe’s top ski resorts as the customer base broadens and attracts a more diverse and market savvy investor,” concludes Mr Rollason
Other markets are set to flourish in the future and Savills has identified five top emerging destinations and resorts that are opening up to an international market.
1) The Balkans
The ski resorts of the Balkans are opening up to a global audience, having attracted western tour operators in recent years. Kopaonik in Serbia has a reputation for ski-in- ski-out properties, and attracts domestic, British and Russian skiers. A candidate for EU membership, foreigners may purchase freely in Serbia under a reciprocal agreement. In Bulgaria, Bansko offers access to Pirin National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, while Borovets has been established as a winter resort since 1896.
2) Las Lenas, Argentina
Las Lenas, Argentina, is an emerging luxury ski resort at high elevation in the Andes. Infrastructure in the resort is more limited than some of those established ski destinations in the northern hemisphere and as a consequence, it is Mendoza, the resort’s gateway city that has attracted the lion’s share of (mainly domestic) wealthy investors. Mendoza also benefits from proximity to the vineyards of Chacras de Coria and Maipo.
As an emerging ski market, 80% of the ski business in China is for beginners. This is reflected in the profile of the 350 ski areas in China, the majority of which are ski fields for learning. Only a handful of resorts are approaching Western standards. The sport is still nascent (and considered ‘play’ by many Chinese), but a growing number of young, wealthy Chinese are taking it up. China’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics should further broaden its appeal. Yabuli in the north of China is the country’s largest resort and the training venue for the national teams.
4) Niseko – Japan
Niseko is one of Asia’s most important ski resorts. Located in Hokkaido, it is famous for plentiful powder snow and the iconic Mount Yotei. This valley resort is internationally recognised as a world-class ski destination, and as such draws visitors from across Pacific Asia and beyond. Niseko has an established luxury residential market, supported by those from China, Singapore, Malaysia and Korea, as well as domestic demand.
5) Pyeongchang – South Korea
Pyeongchang is the 2018 host for the Winter Olympics. Located in the Taebaek Mountains, it comprises several resorts, of which Yongpyong is the largest and a two hour drive from Seoul. Neighbouring Alpensia is a new resort and will be home to the athlete’s village and ski jumping stadium. Pyeongchang has long been the haunt of Korea’s high-society. International investors have been attracted by special visa investor programmes.
Source: Savills & OPP