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An article all about buying a ski chalet in France
This year, one million British tourists took to the French ski slopes and an ever-increasing number are buying their own ski chalet. The question is, is it a good idea and what should you look out for?
Buyers should be aware that whilst they have paid for their skiing holidays for the foreseeable future, it will be a while before the chalet's total rental income exceeds the original outlay. However, a chalet can provide a welcome regular, rental income, which is not necessarily limited to the winter months. Property prices have been rising steadily in the skiing regions in recent years so buyers should be able to look forward to a substantial return on their investment in the long run.
The vast majority of British people looking to buy a ski chalet choose France as the location for their second home. It can be difficult to find good ski chalets in the surrounding Alpine countries, whilst in Austria, strict regulations on the ownership of holiday homes have virtually wiped out the market. In France there is a wide variety of skiing available to suit beginners and experienced skiers alike. There are also plenty of derelict slope side buildings just waiting to be converted.
More and more people are beginning to recognise the benefits of staying in chalets. They are usually around half the price of staying in a resort hotel and offer a level of good level of both comfort and privacy. Some British people have moved to France to run profitable businesses from their chalets. Accommodation is not the only thing you can earn money - hiring out equipment, guided tours and midday meals are other possibilities.
The most popular French skiing destination is the Alps. The French Alps are found in the Haute-Savoie and Savoie departments in Rhône-Alpes. Here, you'll find the highest slopes, the most snow and the widest selection of amenities, instructors, bars and restaurants of all ski destinations in France. The Alps is also home to a number of resorts that have found fame the world over including Courchevel, Chamonix, Val d'Isère and Tignes. The international renown of these resorts means that chalets that come on the market here are snapped up quickly and come at a premium. More affordable and arguably more picturesque are the smaller Alpine resorts which have retained a village feel and become popular with families looking for a quieter skiing experience. Examples are the resorts of Morzine or Megève which were amongst France's first ski resorts. Morzine is particularly good for mixed ability groups as runs of different abilities lead you to the same destination. It is also possible to cross into Switzerland from here without going through passport control. The second generation of resorts include L'Alpe-d'Huez, Les Deux Alpes and Val d'Isère, all of which are located higher up the slopes than the original handful. After the Second World War, the planned resorts of Courchevel, Chamrousse and more recently the likes of Les Arcs and Les Ménuires came into their own. The resorts now cover higher areas and some areas are now linked to form extensive ski areas such as Les Trois Vallées, which incorporates Les Ménuires, Courchevel, Val-Thorens, La Tania, Méribel and St-Martin-de-Belleville. In fact some of the resorts are so high and cover such a wide area that you can ski all year around.
Don't feel you have to go with the crowd though because you can also find plenty of great skiing in the Jura, the Pyrénées, the Vosges and the Massif-Central - and spend more time on the slopes and less time in queues.
The Jura department in Franche-Comte close to the Swiss border offers skiing in the Monts-Jura at Mijoux-La Faucille and Lélex-Crozet. Other resorts include La Pesse, Lajoux, Les Moussières, Prenovel, Premanon, Longchaumois, Lamoura, Morbier, Bellefontaine and Les Rousses. The latter is one of the best-equipped resorts complete with snow guns in case the snow is not falling thickly enough.
The gentle slopes of the Pyrénées make this the perfect destination for beginners and those who enjoy ski mountaineering and cross-country skiing. The avalanche risk is less than that in the Alps, and the chance of falling into a crevasse is minimal. However, snow cover can be less reliable and rarely reaches the high quality powder found in the Alps - later on in the season it can get extremely slushy and thin. Snowboarding is particularly popular in the Pyrénées, and boarders are well catered for. The French-owned part of the Pyrénées mountain range runs along the southern borders of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in Aquitaine, the Hautes-Pyrénées, the Haute-Garonne and the Ariège departments in the Midi-Pyrénées region and the Pyrénées-Orientales department in Languedoc-Roussillon. The main resort towns in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques are Issarbe, La Pierre Saint Martin, Gourette, Artouste and Iraty. Those in Midi-Pyrénées include Saint Lary Soulan, Bareges La Mongie, Ax-Bonascre, Piau Engaly, Cauterets, Gavernie Gedre, Luchon Superbagneres and Val d'Azun. The Pyrénées-Orientales is home to one of Europe's oldest ski resorts - Font-Romeu as well as the relatively well-known resorts of Cambre d'Aze, Puigmal 2600, Pyrénées 2000, Porte Puymorens, Les Angles, Formigueres and Puyvalador. The Principality of Andorra is nestled high in the mountains between France and Spain. It has five extensive ski resorts, of which Ordino-Arcalis is widely considered to be the most spectacular.
The Vosges mountain range in the Vosges department in southern Lorraine is renowned for its excellent cross-country skiing. However, it still offers downhill skiers over 1000km of pistes that wind their way through its wooded hillsides. The principal resorts are Gérardmer and la Bresse both of which offer floodlit night skiing.
The Massif-Central, which has 1300km of pistes to explore, is found in Auvergne in central France. Skiing here takes place on the side of the many extinct volcanoes that litter the region. There are a handful of large resorts, two of which are Besse-Superbesse and Le Mont-Dore near Clermont-Ferrand, and many micro resorts including some within easy reach of the towns of Vichy, St Flour, St Etienne and Mende.
Prices vary greatly depending on where you've bought your property. However, they are generally highest in the Alps. The more snow the area is predicted to receive each year, the higher you can expect to pay. There are still a number of bargains to be found, so keep your eye out. You can lower the cost by looking for a property further away from the slopes or one needing renovation. Many villages away from slopes have great transport links, such as cable car connections or funicular railways.
The leaseback scheme has been instrumental in helping many British buyers afford their dream property in France. It was introduced by the French government as a way of providing quality accommodation in popular tourist areas. After buying your property, you rent it out to a holiday company for a minimum of 9 years during which time you can stay in your property for a set period each year. In effect, this enables owners to rent out their property and generate a rental income without the hassle of upkeep or maintenance. This scheme is not to be confused with time-share, as you only actually own a timeshare property for a set period every year where as with leaseback you are the outright freehold owners of the property.
We are considering the possibility of moving to a ski resort and running a catered ski chalet. We have two children aged five and two and I wondered if you have any information on what towns we should be looking at with regards to schools, communities etc. Any other information that may assist us would be gratefully received, thank you.
Where you buy does depend on many factors eg: what your budget is, level of skiing sought, how much income you need etc. For instance, the
Pyrénées are great if you are happy to accept generally shorter runs and less swish apres ski, for lower cost and shorter queues. Les Angles is one
such resort with very good skiing, though not on a par with somewhere like Val d'Isere of course. It is pretty, not too pricey and not too busy, though
busy enough for many people to make a good living there.
But then if you are living there for much of the time, you may want to live somewhere much bigger, with more facilities and more going on. Though this will no doubt increase the cost of your property, if you were to buy in such a town.
We have 44 pages of ski property on our site (don't worry -you can narrow down your search by using the drop-down boxes towards the top of the page, the price range box possibly being the most useful), and information on many of the towns these properties are in or near (which you can access by clicking the relevant links on the right of the property details). It is then a matter of reading and researching which area/town may be the best for you.
I do hope that this information has been of help. Good luck with your search!
My daughter sold her French chalet in February and has been told that she is responsible for the local tax for this year on the grounds that under French law whoever owns the property in January is responsible for the whole year's tax. Is this correct? It seems dreadful.
Thanks for contacting us. I'm afraid what you have been told is correct, and has been the case for many years. Perhaps reading our article "Taxe Foncière and Taxe d'Habitation - property tax in France"""
( http://www.frenchpropertylinks.com/essential/taxe-fonciere.html), in particular the "your questions" section at the end, may be of interest.
What has been said here is that in most cases where a property is sold, it is up to the Notaire to arrange for new owners to agree to pay for the portion of the year that they will own the house. This should be sorted out when signing all the papers (I think in the final conveyance deed - acte de vente). If this wasn't included in the papers signed by your daughter and this wasn't discussed or agreed between the buyers and her, I understand she would have to pay the bill. (Unless of course she can persuade the new owners to pay or reimburse her, which I think might be difficult.)
Thank you very much for the quick reply and the answer. I must say it was what I expected. The French firm dealing with the sale have been an absolute disgrace throughout the proceedings. Amongst other things no mention was made of any possibility of negotiating the tax for a part of the year. And in fact the firm withheld a part of the sale price until (they said!) all possible debts had been paid. They then forwarded the balance. Now my daughter has been sent the additional bill. There is a word for this sort of thing but I wont print it! They will just have to pay up and put it down to experience which they dont intend to repeat. Many thanks.
I have just returned from a week skiing in the small resort of Chalmazel, which is 25 mins from our house in the Livradois-Foret. It was the most enjoyable week I have spent on the slopes. No queing, no crowds, fabulous snow and very friendly people. Is this one of France's best kept secrets? I am looking forward to next year!
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