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Ski chalets are hot property for Middle East buyers

Arab buyers are looking for top-end ski chalets to work from Savills
Arab buyers are looking for top-end ski chalets to work from
  • Price growth for home on the slopes highest for eight years
  • Gulf purchasers benefit from strength of US dollar
  • Italy, France and Switzerland all report Middle East interest

Demand for high-end ski chalets from affluent Middle East buyers has surged, even though the price of a home on the slopes is rising at its fastest rate for almost a decade.

Despite the pandemic’s impact on international travel, the specialist property market has benefitted from an influx of remote workers looking for semi-permanent bases during the winter months.

Buyers also get more for their money, with the currencies of many countries in the region pegged to the US dollar which is very strong at the moment.

London-listed real estate adviser Savills said that prime residential ski property prices shot up by an average of more than 20 percent in 2022, and by over 30 percent since 2020.

This year’s Knight Frank Ski Property Index also increased by 5.8 percent year-on-year, its strongest rate of growth for eight years.

“We have noticed increased interest from buyers from the Middle East for ski chalets in the Alps,” Alexander Benedetti, president of Benedetti Real Service in the Italian town of Cortina, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, told AGBI.

“Most of them are looking for properties in prime locations, [such as] Cortina d’Ampezzo, where the Olympic Games 2026 will be held, or in other beautiful locations in the Dolomites, like Val Gardena and Corvara. 

“Cortina is located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Dolomites, [which is a] World Unesco Heritage, and, at the same time, it is the beating heart of Italian and international social life.

“Major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci and Dior, to name just a few, have decided to be present. In Cortina you can combine mountain life with luxury.”

Guy Murdoch, French Alps manager of Savills Ski, said he also noted an increase in Middle Eastern buyers.

“Potential buyers from this region tend to prefer chalets in more discreet locations within prime resorts, and usually, the preference is for brand-new properties, rather than from the secondary market,” Murdoch said. 

“Interestingly, this is not always due to the financial incentives in place for new build properties in France, however, more on account of personal taste.

“Resorts, where there are various non-skiing activities on offer, [like] spas, swimming pools [and] luxury shops, are most popular, such as Megève and Courchevel 1850. 

“Switzerland is also alluring to Middle Eastern buyers, but it is more difficult to find the right product due to purchasing restrictions for non-Swiss residents.”

Alex Koch de Gooreynd, partner at Knight Frank, Switzerland, said that, due to the Swiss restrictions, which limit a purchase by a non-resident of Switzerland, Middle Eastern clients tends to focus on a family apartment with more than four bedrooms in resorts that offer year-round activities.

“In Switzerland, we often see greater Middle Eastern buyers for the French speaking resorts, such as Crans Montana, Villars and Gstaad as they offer many summer activities as well as international schools,” de Gooreynd said. 

“St Moritz is another favourite, but the lack of stock makes this more challenging for buyers.”

Buyers have been making quick decisions on properties before they get snapped up by somebody else
Buyers have been making quick decisions on properties before they get snapped up by somebody else. Picture: Savills

Knight Frank said the highest demand for ski homes in the French Alps among Middle East buyers comes from Dubai, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, while chalets in Switzerland attract most interest from Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Savills’ ski agents reported that just over 90 percent of chalet owners are staying for longer periods of time post the pandemic, and 60 percent of owners are now working remotely from their winter residence.

Savills also ranked the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in Canada’s Coast Mountains, north of Vancouver, Europe’s highest ski resort Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, Italian resort Val Gardena, a valley in the Dolomites, and Gstaad in the southwest region of the Swiss Alps, among the top ranked resorts for their appeal to these so called “executive snowmads”.

The resorts were ranked on their connectivity and ease of access, resilience to climate change, the prime residential market, and quality of life.

Climate change has in general increased the demand for second homes in the mountains,” said Anastasia Menardi Demai from Benedetti Real Service in Cortina.

“Buyers from [the Middle East] region particularly appreciate pleasant temperatures in exclusive mountain resorts during the summer periods. Very often, second homes are used year-round by several family members.” 

Demai added that in many cases search criteria is principally based on the exclusivity of the property, the proximity to the slopes and the views to the mountains. 

“With regard to the size, in most cases the chalet should have at least nine bedrooms and a good portion of land,” Demai added. 

“Price ranges between €14 million [$14.87 million] up to €30 million are in line with the expectations of most potential buyers.”

Knight Frank said US buyers enjoyed a 15 percent discount on ski properties when buying in France in October 2022, compared to a year earlier, due to the strengthening dollar.

Middle East markets also currently enjoy a similar discount.

“During Covid we have had a good number of buyers making a quick decision following a virtual viewing, followed by an actual visit to see the property in person and exchange contracts,” Knight Frank’s Hodson said.

“Due to the shortage of available properties, this trend has carried on with properties going under offer at a distance. This works well for a buyer who knows the area and has a good understanding of the market conditions and values.”

As much as being a lifestyle purchase, ski properties are also still expected to generate good rental income, Hodson added.

“The summer months are often more important for Middle Eastern buyers so they will obtain good rental during the busy winter seasons when their usage is more occasional,” de Gooreynd agreed. 

“The strength of the Swiss Franc, the security of the region and the low interest rates still make Switzerland a compelling story.”

Savills’ said positive price growth in super-prime markets, where cash is generally more prevalent and acute undersupply remains, will continue next year. However, mid-market properties will level out.

“Despite limited stock, we anticipate that double digit price growth is unlikely to continue into 2023, with growth more likely to plateau in certain locations,” Jeremy Rollason, head of Savills Ski, said.

“At the very top end of the market, where purchasers are more reliant upon equity and less dependent upon debt, as well as being a safe haven for capital, the impact of tightening monetary policy is likely to remain limited.”

Asking price at prime ski resorts
1 Aspen, €38,500 per sq metre
2 Vail, €37,900
3 Verbier, €27,800
4 Val d’Isère, €27,800
5 St. Moritz, €23,900
6 Gstaad, €23,500
7 Courchevel 1850, €23,100
8 Zermatt, €22,000
9 Andermatt, €21,300
10 Courchevel, €20,100

Source: Savills