“Purchase prices of the Mont blanc Valley real estate have risen 5% over the last six months”, says Yves Vannoye, manager of VIP Chamonix Real Estate.
While restrictions connected to the public health crisis have made seasonal rentals this season extremely difficult, the prices of apartments in Chamonix and the Mont-Blanc valley are on the rise. Alpine properties confirm their role as a safe investment.
Your agency, VIP Chamonix Real Estate, mainly handles purchases rather than season rentals, which have suffered enormously under recent restrictions. How have prices and volumes changed since the pandemic began for the Mont Blanc valley real estate?
Yves Vannoye: For 2-bedroom apartments, the most highly sought-after properties, prices have risen 5% over the last six months. Of course, business did suffer from the halt to visitors in the spring, during the first lockdown. But from May, we saw a boom in urban customers, wanting either to move out of town, or to acquire a second home, to live and work remotely in more pleasant surroundings. Admittedly, transactions were lower in volume as banks started to narrow the terms under which loans were offered, but property continues to be popular with well-off customers as an excellent safe investment.
How does your customer base break down?
Y.V: Usually, about half of our customers are French and half foreign, with 25% being British, 10% Swiss, 10% Scandinavian and 5% for the rest of the world. The Chamonix and Arve valleys are a unique setting, and the ideal location for international customers attracted by a mountainous region where three countries meet (France, Italy and Switzerland), with Geneva international airport nearby. But the decline in international travel has changed matters radically. French customers now account for 70% of the transactions logged since March for Chamonix Real Estate.
How are rental investments bearing up? What yield might one expect from a standard property?
Y.V: Yields from rental properties in Chamonix and the Mont-Blanc valley deliver an average of around 4-5%. Rental investment in our region mainly comprises private buyers looking to acquire a pied-à-terre to rent out, but with the idea of using it themselves for part of the year, outside of the most popular weeks for winter sports. Lastly, note that rental demand is very high for Mont Blanc valley real estate during the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc traditionally held in August (except in 2020).
What repercussions have been seen on the construction market? Have the sites closed in spring re-opened?
Y.V: Halted in March-April, sites re-started on 11 May as lockdown was lifted. We have not seen any cancelled off-plan projects in the Chamonix-Mont Blanc combined district council area (Chamonix, Les Houches, Servoz and Vallorcine).
The closure of ski-lifts for the Christmas holidays was a hammer blow for seasonal lets. Has the lack of visibility been felt yet on February bookings?
Y.V: Yes, we are in a completely new situation. The occupancy rate for seasonal rentals is scarcely 10% for the end-of-year holidays, and 20% for the February school holidays.