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Buying a ski property in The French Alps

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If you’re into your skiing then the French Alpine resort of Morzine probably needs little introduction. With access to The Port du Soleil, ranked as one of the two largest ski areas in the world, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy hundreds of miles of pistes serviced by over 200 lifts. Perhaps what makes this resort so popular is that some of the lifts are open through the summer making it a popular choice both with hikers but also mountain bikers who enjoy a dedicated season with some world class competitions held each year. Of course all of this comes at a price with a 3 bedrooms chalet in town setting you back a cool €1,000,000.  On  a recent assignment however, I was able to research the wider area and found some excellent villages nearby where prices are a fraction of the price of Morzine itself. I met up with a local agent in a breath- taking location to find out more...

Video transcript

Jonnie: I'm here with Jo McGovern. Now, the name of your estate agents is... actually, you'd better pronounce it properly for me.

Jo McGovern: Geranium Immobilier.

Jonnie: Perfect, well done. Now, you're based just down there, aren't you?

Jo McGovern: Yeah, that's right, yeah. Saint-Jean-d'Aulps.

Jonnie: Now, Saint-Jean-d'Aulps, ... it's quite a well known area, is it not?

Jo McGovern: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, this whole area is a whole skiing area for the Portes du Soleil with big ski resorts known as Mozine, Les Gets, Chatel.

Jonnie: And they get all the headlines, don't they?

Jo McGovern: They do.

Jonnie: The top the three really. But real estate there, I was in Mozine earlier this morning. And three bedroom chalets were going for a million pounds. But we're 15 minutes out, and we're just outside one of your instructions, a two to three bed chalet with obviously lots of other space for, well, just over a third of that.

Jo McGovern: Yeah, absolutely.

Jonnie: That's amazing.

Jo McGovern: Yeah, yeah.

Jonnie: Now, you're nearest skiing to where we are here in Saint-Jean-d'Aulps is... Saint-Jean-d'Aulps, right?

Jo McGovern: It's Saint-Jean-d'Aulps, yeah, it's got a super little ski resort, great for families, great place to learn, it's really cheap in comparison to the big resorts. So yeah, it's perfect. My son learned to ski there.

Jonnie: Brilliant.

Jo McGovern: It's just fabulous place to ski, yeah.

Jonnie: So who's buying here at the moment? Because I see an awful lot of British number plates for some reason.

Jo McGovern: Yeah, yeah, I've been an agent here 15 years, and British buyers have always been very, very predominant in the area because it's so easy to get to from London, from any of the airports in the UK. There's direct flights from Birmingham and Manchester and London obviously. So yeah, it's a really easy place to come for weekends or long weekends. And then, British buyers just love the whole sort of hidey mountain kind of... it's such a pretty, pretty area too.

Jonnie: It's... it's almost cliched itself, isn't it?

Jo McGovern: Yeah, it's totally cliched, yeah.

Jonnie: We talk about British buyers. The British buyers that are coming here, I imagine that's kind of tapered off a little bit, what, with Brexit and what have you. Are they second-home purchases, or are they maybe full-timers?

Jo McGovern: Currently, there are more second-home owners. But historically, as I said, been here a long time, and we've had a lot of people moving over here permanently. Yeah, absolutely, because it's a beautiful place to live. It's a fantastic place to bring up children.

Jonnie: Are there apartments available in Saint-Jean-d'Aulps, for example, or even out in the sticks a bit?

Jo McGovern: Saint-Jean-d'Aulp's fantastic value. In the ski resort itself, which is ski-in ski-out, you can get a studio apartment, 20 square meters, for 50 000 Euros.

Jonnie: Get off.

Jo McGovern: Yeah.

Jonnie: Can you?

Jo McGovern: It's great value. Ski-in ski-out-

Jonnie: Wow.

Jo McGovern: ... yeah, it's fantastic. And then, one bedroom for 90 000 and so on. So yeah, you can get some fantastic value properties. And that's why British buyers really, really like it here. Because you can get a great value property. You don't even have to rent out at that value.

Jonnie: No.

Jo McGovern: And then, 10 minutes away, you can drive into the huge sort of ski domain of the Port du Soleil and-

Jonnie: Would you be able to rent it out? Say you went for a one, two bedroom apartment, could you rent that out, do you think?

Jo McGovern: You can rent it out for the peak weeks. So because it's ski-in ski-out, you're in a ski resort, you can rent it out Christmas, New Year, February half term and the Easter weeks.

Jonnie: And summer, the lifts that are open, you probably have to go back into Mozine and Les Gets, would you?

Jo McGovern: In Saint-Jean-d'Aulps itself, the lift's open on Sundays so people can go up hiking, mountain biking, to the restaurant, et cetera. But yeah, in the actual lifts open every day, you have to go to Mozine or Les Gets, which is 10 minutes away.

Jonnie: Which is nothing, is it?

Jo McGovern: No.

Jonnie: Okay, so that's the British buyers. Anybody's seeing this is going to be thinking, "Hold on a minute, 50 grand for a little... a foothold and a ski resort?" But throughout really nice parts of Europe, I'm seeing so many Belgians coming... northern Europeans piling into the markets.

Jo McGovern: Yes.

Jonnie: Are you seeing that here as well?

Jo McGovern: Yeah, totally, yeah, absolutely. So there's a lot of Belgians buying in the area. They always have done. Dutch used to buy in the area, and then the economy in the Netherlands hasn't been so good recently, but they've come back now into the market at all sorts of levels. And they love all the old farm houses around here and the bigger chalets. They tend to buy the bigger properties. They're not so much buying the smaller apartments. There's obviously the French market as well. We-

Jonnie: Forget about them, don't we?

Jo McGovern: Yeah, I sell a huge amount of the apartments just to the French, the Parisians, the people from Leon. And we have... we're so close to Geneva, we also have the Swiss.

Jonnie: And how long... The drive from Geneva takes-

Jo McGovern: Hour and 15 minutes.

Jonnie: Yeah, and that's why it's so popular with anybody that's flying into the area. Geneva airport, it's pretty... It's easy to navigate, got all the hired cars setup there.

Jo McGovern: Exactly.

Jonnie: And then, suddenly, bam, you're here.

Jo McGovern: Yeah.

Jonnie: And you probably do need a car if you're coming out here, don't you?

Jo McGovern: You do need a car, yes, certainly if you're in the Saint Jean area, because yeah, although it is ski-in ski-out in some the... your apartments, you would want to go and benefit from the fantastic sort of skiing in Mozine and Les Gets. And then, we've got the high-level skiing at Avoriaz as well, which is over 2000. So you've got this snow-sure area all the time.

Jonnie: Which you need, don't you?

Jo McGovern: Yeah.

Jonnie: That helps it compete with the other big hitters of Europe.

Jo McGovern: Exactly.

Jonnie: The alps.

Jo McGovern: Exactly. And the other thing about this area is... we're here on just a fantastic day, it's got an amazing summer season. So you're not... you can buy a holiday home and come here not just in the winter skiing buy in the summer too. We're only 30 minutes from Lake Geneva, which is a bit like the mediterranean. You've got these beautiful beaches and ports and restaurants where you literally eat right on the lake. And you can swim there. It's just stunning. It's absolutely beautiful. And that's only half an hour away. So you get this fantastic sort of mountain hiking one day and swimming in the lake another day. So it's beautiful.

Jonnie: I'd describe this as a playground. But what you're telling me, it really is a year-round playground-

Jo McGovern: Totally, yeah.

Jonnie: ... as well. The summer season is long and really, really enjoyable.

Jo McGovern: Yeah, yeah, and it's become... I know lots of clients that have bought a ski apartment and then just become passionate at road biking or hiking in the summer. Because they come back in the summer and they realize that they've just got all this fabulous area. They can just kind of explore on a road bike or a mountain bike or hike. So yeah, it's absolutely.

Jonnie: You've sold it to me so much so that... can you take me and show me one of these places in Saint Jean

Jo McGovern: Yeah, yeah.

Jonnie: Thank you so much.