Being largely tourism-dependent, the holiday home market invariably suffers in any economic downturn. Yet a report by Savills Residential Research and Alpine Homes suggests that bolt-holes in the snow may be bucking this trend.
For while the ski tourism industry has trended downwards of late, alpine destinations have found a new revenue stream in the form of summer visitors. 'This enables property owners to benefit from dual season rental income,' Savills has found. Yolande Barnes, head of research at Savills UK, says that while the appetite for buying holiday homes generally across the globe has dropped, the proportion of those buying alpine property has risen from 3 per cent of all holiday homes in 2005, to 9 per cent in the 2009/11 period.
'Most buyers in the current economic climate are cash-rich, less mortgage-reliant, and tend to be motivated by lifestyle decisions when buying a holiday home, rather than being solely investment-motivated. These buyers are seeking to generate both long-term capital growth from their property as well as income from the ski tourism industry - most of which will probably subsidise the cost of their own use of the property. Importantly, ski resorts are increasingly becoming year-round destinations. This enables homeowners to extend their letting periods and benefit from additional income, strengthening the investment case.'
A survey of prospective buyers shows a fairly even distribution of interest in three European alpine markets: Switzerland, France and Austria. Barnes says that Austria offers buyers a lower priced entry point and the prospect of more attractive yields. 'Switzerland remains the priciest destination and limited supply helps to support price performance. Swiss property is seen as a safe, steady investment, which is important to wealthy investors in this climate. France has seen some price correction but, as demonstrated by its high price point, is still highly sought after.'
While relatively few Alpine homes have been marketed in Hong Kong, Simon Malster, of Investors in Property, has held a number of presentations to clients in the city, locals and mainlanders. 'They were more interested in spending their summers in the Alps than the winter, and some did not ski,' Malster says.
'They were particularly interested in a project we have by a lake in Austria and also a development in the dual season resort of Engelberg, Switzerland.'
They are lakeside Chalets and Kristal II, both in the Salzburg province of Austria. The chalets are in Hallstatt, a Unesco World Heritage Site because of its outstanding beauty. The second property comprises apartments in Kaprun, which has lakes and glaciers.