HK's foreign residents are heading for the slopes to buy prime ski properties With new ski resorts opening and property ownership laws liberalised across the world, the piste loving investor has a wealth of opportunities to own a chalet that produces an income. Investment opportunities are appearing at emerging ski resorts from Bulgaria to Newfoundland. In Europe, the most popular resorts are in France and Switzerland. Simon Malster, managing director of Investors in Property, an estate agency specialising in the sale of Swiss and French ski homes, said many Hong Kong-based expats were buying chalets in these countries. 'It seems that British people working in hot countries like to have a bolt hole in the mountains for cool summer holidays and winter skiing. We have sold several chalets in Sainte Foy to people in Hong Kong,' he said. Prices had risen by 30 per cent in Sainte Foy over the past three years, he said. Mr Malster said returns varied widely in France. 'You will find there is some trade off between yield and capital appreciation. A small studio flat in Chamonix or Morzine could yield 5 to 8 per cent net of rental costs but is unlikely to go up much in value. A chalet in a good location in a resort such as Megeve may yield 3 or 4 per cent net, but will appreciate more in value.' In France, Mont Chery Village is being created in the heart of the popular Portes du Soleil skiing destination by developer Bekenn & Weston. Twenty-five homes are to be built, ranging in price from 289,000 euros (HK$2.6 million) for a two-bedroom apartment to 939,000 euros for a six-bedroom chalet. Facilities include restaurant/bar, spa, swimming pools and chauffeured transport. A government supported scheme to increase tourist accommodation means owners can use their Mont Chery homes for 10 weeks each year in return for leasing them to tenants for the remaining 42 weeks. Summer pursuits such as cycling and horse riding will attract tenants year round, Investors in Property and FPDSavills say. The owner receives the rental income and a full rebate on the 19.6 per cent value-added tax charged on brand new property purchases. A property manager handles lettings, maintenance and tax administration. Investors will receive a 5 per cent to 10 per cent return after three years, the developer forecasts. In Switzerland, Investors in Property is marketing a brand new set of apartments at the up-and-coming ski resort Villars. The Residence Crystal is being built directly on the ski piste above the town. Prices start at 600,000 Swiss francs (HK$3.5 million) for a two-bedroom apartment. In Canada, the developer of Humber Valley in Newfoundland is seeking Hong Kong investors. The new holiday complex is 10km from the emerging ski resort of Marble Mountain, where ski lifts were installed only four years ago. Located outside Corner Brook, the city with the highest annual snowfall in Canada, Marble Mountain boasts 1,200km of cross-country ski trails, snow catamarans and helicopter-skiing, iceberg tours and whale watching. James Barnes, director at estate agents Hamptons International, which is marketing Humber Valley, said the area's summer attractions, including golf and canoeing, meant it could attract holidaymakers all year round. Returns would top 5 per cent gross when the project was completed in 2005, he said. Prices start from GBP150,000 (HK$1.9 million) for a three-bedroom chalet. The most adventurous investors may want to investigate Bulgaria, where post-communist deregulation allows foreigners to become landlords. Here you can buy your own 20-bedroom hotel, 15km from the country's newest ski resort near the town of Bansko, for a mere US$160,000 through estate agents Balkan Ski Chalets. An unfinished three-storey house, which can either be used as one dwelling or converted into four flats, is on sale for US$70,000 through the same agents. Plots of land are available for chalet building. Set in the Pirin Mountains, Bansko has 18 pistes. Six more ski runs and a chair lift will be added this winter, which will make it an increasingly popular destination, Balkan Ski Chalets predict.