Anyone who holidayed in the Alps this summer will know that even without snow, the mountain range is a tourist hot spot. Chamonix in the Savoie region is a hub of summer activities and now receives as many visitors in the warmer months as in winter.
To keep on top of things, the Chamonix lift management company, Compagnie du Mont Blanc (CMB) and the Chamonix council have announced a 40-year investment programme worth $617m, which will see the upgrading of ski lifts and facilities in the area.
For many people, including homeowners, skiing is the main reason to visit the French Alps. However, there is arguably a larger variety of activities on offer in many resorts during summer, and we’re not just talking about walking or cycling along mountain trails. Fancy navigating gorges, floating on snow-melt streams, and sliding down waterfalls? If so, the increasingly popular sport of canyoning is one of the most exhilarating ways to experience the natural beauty of the French Alps. Resorts, in particular Chamonix, have guides who can take you out for a day or half a day.
Rafting or kayaking are popular too, and there are some fantastic rivers in the Haute Savoie that offer this, including L’Isère, the source of which is near the similarly named Val d’Isère, and the Dranse, which is only 30 minutes from the Châtel ski resort. Châtel is also home to one of the world’s longest aerial runways – an extreme type of zip-wire, so not for the faint-hearted.
Horseriding, mountain-biking, paragliding, paintballing, fishing and sailing on Lake Geneva and Lake Annecy are all options as well. There are golf courses dotted around the region too.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of resorts offer excellent tennis facilities – indoor and outdoor. Flaine, part of the Grand Massif, has quality tennis facilities, which are used for tennis camps during the summer. And Les Gets also has two free tennis courts for public use. Serious followers of tennis will know that facilities in Courchevel are of a standard to host international tennis, while Méribel’s tennis club at Le Bois d’Arbin, just above the resort centre, has 10 courts (plus four children’s courts) where you can take private coaching or simply hire a court and racquets.
With this in mind, investing in property in a resort like Chamonix should make sound long-term sense. While income from winter season rentals is regarded as the key to a successful investment, savvy investors will know there’s money to be made from a mountain property even when there’s no snow.
So if seeking a mountain investment to manage yourself, pick a resort that operates year-round and boasts a full range of outdoor activities. If you’d prefer to invest in a ski property that comes with a guaranteed rental yield each year, a leaseback property would be your best option.
With a leaseback property, the buyer owns the freehold but is obliged to lease the property to a management company that uses it for tourism. Management companies take care of all maintenance and bookings, making it a completely hands-off investment. Leaseback owners can typically include a certain number of weeks’ annual personal use in their contract, usually from two to six weeks.
The amount of guaranteed rental income paid with a leaseback property, typically three to five percent, will fall in line with the amount of personal use an owner receives. It is usually less than letting a property individually, but the investment is hands-off.
Leaseback contracts are fixed for a minimum term, typically nine or eleven years, after which the owner may have the choice to assume outright freehold ownership. Buyers should check these details before committing to a purchase.
When developers in the French Alps build skiing developments, called résidences, they will usually allocate a certain number of properties for leaseback purchase with the remainder available for outright purchase. Built for tourism purposes, résidences usually include communal facilities such as lounge areas, a bar, indoor swimming pool and a spa. Not dissimilar to a hotel, they have a reception that deals with bookings and general enquiries. Owners of leaseback property typically have to pay a contribution towards maintenance charges as well as the tax foncière council tax.