3 years ago I wrote what I had hoped would be the first part of a blog on how to start a chalet business in the Alps. It was in response to an upturn in enquiries for that type of property. As usual I got sidetracked and never wrote pt 2. I never felt the need. My blogs are always written in reaction to something and the enquiries tailed off. It turned out that the upturn in interest was short lived.
The image above is Ferme Hauts Choseaux, 7 bedrooms, 595,000€
The subject came up again last week as I was contacted by a researcher from ITV . She is doing a feasibility study for doing a program that will follow a "life changer" that wants to run a chalet. She needed to know how many of these enquiries we get, per year. To give them an idea of how long they will have to wait for a suitable person to become available.
I explained that we now get a more diverse range of life changers. People wanting to work from home, work from Geneva, people offering services to the local community. It's more than just people wanting to run a chalet. It's funny because that is exactly what I was advising in part 1! This new wave are looking for a family home, generally a more modest property than the traditional catered chalet and almost certainly in one of the cheaper outlying villages. The centre of the resorts are too costly for anyone other than those looking for a business opportunity.
I sent the question out to some of our agents. One of them pointed out that there are some brakes on the whole business plan. The ski client is more demanding than 10 years ago. Their accommodation has to be in the right place, the standard they demand has gone up, home cooking isn't the thing anymore, it's all chefs, sauna's and luxury. Put all this together and you need a lot more money available to buy something that is up to the standard. This is the first thing that has made the process much harder.
I'm not saying that there is less demand. There isn't, there is still plenty of demand for catered holidays. It's just that the demographic of the skier on a catered chalet holiday has changed. They are no longer the ones that want to run a small chalet business. Those skiers are now staying in self-catering properties and from their point of view a rental business somehow seems less accessible.
I did a straw poll amongst our agents, here are some quotes.
"I can think of one or two this year, but none that have actually taken the plunge, it seems like that those thinking about it were considering the catered chalet option as one of a variety of "career" options. I think plenty of people still have the desire to come and live here, just that not many of them want to run catered chalets (or they realise there isn't the market). And people are (trying) to be a bit more original! Working from home, sports coaching, life coaching, transport, tradesmen, property development and even "professional" jobs like doctors, architects etc."
"Many of the catered chalet owners in my area are actually trying to sell. My experience with clients is very similar to the other agents."
"I agree, and actually all the 'life-changers' I know are also moving out of the chalet business....."
If after reading this you are still looking for something that might work as a catered chalet option then take a look at our website. The "sweet spot" for this type of enquiry is a chalet with 5 or more bedrooms, priced between 450,000 and 700,000 euros. We currently have 10 for sale, 3 of which are on a ski bus route.