Could 2020 turn out to be the year that brought the health benefits of mountain living into focus? Knight Frank poses the question in its “Ski Property Report 2021”. With homeowners re-evaluating their lifestyles, the combination of fresh air, open space, recreational activities, good health care and reliable Wi-fi makes alpine living “an obvious choice for high net worth individuals seeking shelter from the pandemic ”. “The Alps offer freedom, space, fresh air, nature, exercise, adventures with family and friends, escapism – all the things lockdown did not provide,” said Kate Everett-Allen, partner, International Residential Research, Knight Frank. “This chimes with a key theme in our “2020 Wealth Report”, that of wellness and well-being. According to the report’s attitudes survey, 80 per cent of respondents said clients were dedicating more of their time to personal wellness and fitness, a theme that has become more important since the pandemic.” Post-corona, where are luxury property investors looking to buy? This focus on wellness, combined with the fact that alpine locations in Knight Frank’s report (France, Switzerland and the United States) offer some of the best health care facilities worldwide and fast broadband speeds, “means we are seeing the birth of a new trend – the blurring of the lines between primary and secondary residences”, said Everett-Allen. “Across all our ski markets, the last six months have seen second homes reclassified as ‘semi-permanent’, and with this comes higher expectations. Whether a home office, outdoor space, faster broadband, a cinema room or smart technology – these homes now need to have as high a specification as the owner’s primary residence.” Russell Collins, head of Real Estate at Andermatt Swiss Alps, a Switzerland-based real estate development company, said the trend has benefited Andermatt, a year-round alpine destination where foreigners can buy property without any restrictions. “Buyers are opting for the relative safe haven from the pandemic and are drawn by the appealing prospect of spending extended periods in the Alps, particularly in light of the shift to remote working,” he said. What do wellness and health have to do with buying a home? Demand from Hong Kong and Singapore has grown significantly, with 20 per cent of Frame, the company’s latest development in the village, sold to buyers from the region in a matter of weeks, said Collins. “There is also notable interest in the price bracket of 5-10 million Swiss francs (US$5.5-11 million), as investors are drawn to the region for Andermatt’s growth story in a country that offers very robust credentials.” Despite the disruption to real estate markets globally this year, Knight Frank’s data suggests the pandemic has had little impact on ski property prices to date. After tracking the price movement of a four-bedroom chalet in 19 resorts across the French and Swiss alps, the firm’s index found an increase of 1.2 per cent in 2020, down marginally from 1.4 per cent in 2019. Saint-Martin-de-Belleville in France, the closest of the Three Valleys resorts to Geneva Airport, leads the index this year with prices up 3.4 per cent on an annual basis. Last year’s front runner, Val-d’Isère, falls to second place with prices gaining 3.2 per cent, while Verbier in Switzerland is third with a 2.9 per cent gain. Knight Frank notes that Verbier’s “schools continue to attract an international clientele, (and) a number have opted to base themselves in the Alps semi-permanently due to the pandemic and upgraded their home as a result”. Explaining France’s dominance of the top half of the ranking this year, Roddy Aris, Knight Frank’s head of sales in the French Alps, says buyers are attracted by the resorts’ rental prospects and good liquidity. “Prices in most French resorts are being supported by a lack of new supply as building permits become increasingly hard to obtain, which is resulting in a 5-10 per cent premium for new-build homes,” he said. In particular, the Courchevel resorts’ solid performance is linked to investment in infrastructure in recent years, paying off for buyers looking to future-protect their purchase. Make a move on Malaysia for great value property investment High levels of stock combined with the ongoing impact of the Second Homes Act (20 per cent cap on second homes) are deflating prices in some Swiss markets, but resorts such as Crans-Montana, St Moritz and Gstaad are turning a corner. Alex Koch de Gooreynd, Knight Frank’s head of sales in the Swiss Alps, said: “The smaller resorts of Grimentz and Champéry offer non-residents a choice of new-build apartments at lower price points, which is generating interest.” The report says a ski home is a discretionary purchase, unlikely to compete with a city flat in terms of short-term capital appreciation. However, with 90 per cent of owners now opting to rent their ski home (up from 65 per cent in 2005), numbers are crunched on the projected returns. The results are a mixed bag. In Three Valley resorts such as Courchevel and Val-d’Isère, the net yield for a two-bed flat has increased in the last decade from two to three per cent due in part to stronger summer tourism, while in Chamonix, already a year-round destination, yields have remained flat in recent years. “Those homes that generate the highest yields tend to be the smaller properties: one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, although the mid-range chalets also deliver good returns,” said Andy Symington, director of Mountain Base, Knight Frank’s partner in Chamonix. “Occupancy levels vary between 20 and 30 weeks, with most owners reserving the property for two to four weeks a year for their own use.” Factors that can impact visitor occupancy and yield include proximity to an airport, accessibility for locals wanting a weekend rental, events that attract tourism, operational, maintenance and letting costs, and whether the resort has an international profile. Bookmark now: the 10 hottest luxury hotel launches of 2020 Outside Europe, Knight Frank’s researchers found robust activity in Colorado, US. According to Ed Foran, Douglas Elliman’s managing broker in Aspen, by September 2020, Aspen Snowmass had already shattered all previous records for dollar volume sales with the cumulative total for 2020 surpassing US$2.6 billion, a 36 per cent increase over the previous year’s total (US$1.9 billion), “and we’re on track to exceed US$3 billion in total dollar volume sales by the end of the year”. In the first nine months of 2020, Aspen recorded 464 sales, exceeding the total of 418 for the whole of 2019. Since 2018, total sales have increased year-on-year with transactions above US$11 million now accounting for 11 per cent of all sales compared to two per cent in 2016. However, according to Foran, a gap might begin to emerge between buyer and seller expectations in the coming months. “Inventory levels have not kept up with demand and new listings are down by as much as 50 per cent,” he explains. “Sellers may start to adopt aspirational asking prices, but it remains to be seen how buyers will respond.” Would you buy a multimillion dollar London home over Zoom? Meanwhile, Foran adds, all eyes are now on the reopening of the slopes before the Thanksgiving weekend – which falls on November 26-29. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .