This post is also available in: Français (French)
The pandemic has clearly caused an unprecedented surge in demand for second homes in many parts of the world. At Alpine Property, we have seen this influx of buyers manifest itself in the primary home market as well, as people seek to leave the suburbs and move to the mountains to take advantage of remote working opportunities. We have also observed a gradual deflation of this market, however, raising the question of whether the bubble has burst, or just decreased slightly. Nevertheless, the market is still strong and the demand for holiday homes remains high.
The French property market has been booming for two years, making it increasingly difficult to find a new home that meets any size of budget. This has been a factor in the recent slowdown of the market. Moreover, heightened interest rates set by the government have led to a lack of profitability for banks offering mortgages, making them difficult and often impossible for individuals to acquire. This was especially true during the Winter of 2022-2023, when mortgages were virtually unavailable.
As of mid-June, there are signs of the mortgage situation beginning to improve in France. However, it remains a bumpy road, especially in the UK where the interest rate hikes are making it difficult for buyers to secure financing for their UK homes. The biggest problem remains the lack of properties coming onto the market. Cash buyers, who are unaffected by the mortgage situation, are facing stiff competition for each new listing and our advice is to make an offer at the asking price to secure the property they are interested in. Thankfully, the trend of price inflation appears to have subsided, this means the properties that are significantly overpriced will be slow to sell.
It is often a question that our agents are asked – what is the internet access like in the area? For those looking to change their pace of life and seek out a better work-life balance, this question is incredibly important. Opting to work from home has become increasingly common, and access to reliable internet is key for many professions. Luckily, our villages are in the process of being connected to fibre, and for those that are still waiting we have Starlink, Elon Musk’s revolutionary satellite internet service. More and more we are using our bikes for transport, not just for pleasure. It would be beneficial to have improved cycle infrastructure to make the everyday tasks of daily life easier to do without a car – something that Alpine Property strongly advocates for!
We are not new-build specialists here at Alpine Property; we do have some new-build properties for sale on our website, but we generally concentrate on resale properties, renovation projects, etc. As everyone can see, there have been a lot of new apartment developments built in our villages in recent years, and they’ll continue to pop up all across our valley in the coming years. This was mainly down to central government encouraging more house building. Quite often we hear people blaming the local councils, the town halls, the mayors for this change, which is often perceived as the overdevelopment of our authentic mountain villages. It’s important to understand however, that there’s not a lot that our elected officials can do about this situation. In the last year we’ve seen the local planning rules tighten, so there should be fewer building sites in the coming years.
Despite all of these considerations – supply, demand, interest rates, internet speeds – the general situation in the local property market remains the same. People of many different nationalities still want to spend more time than the average holiday affords them in the mountains and when they play the long game, they usually win. Recently I’ve started to notice a few other considerations for buyers however; let’s talk about the weather. To the joy of many, we have four distinct seasons in the alps, punctuating our progress through the year, yet winter is still the main attraction. Earlier this year it looked like the ski season might have been an issue, with record festive season temperatures across Europe resulting in a shortage of snow. It was OK in the end. I’d noticed that in last few years, the season seemed to finish slightly earlier than usual. Not this year however; in the end the skiing higher up carried on until the final days of winter.
Rather than focus on snow depths however, I’d suggest future mountain property owners consider a year-round view on how they’ll use their home. We have three massive cycling events taking place in our region this summer; the Etape du Tour and Le Tour de France in July, both of which will bring in tens of thousands of road cyclists with images beamed across the world. UCI Mountain Bike World Series Festival takes place across Morzine, Les Gets and Chatel at the beginning of September, which will attract as many fat-tyre enthusiasts. It’s my view that these global events will continue to promote our region to future property buyers, picking up any slack that comes from a less-snowier-than-average winter season, and therefore not seeing an end to demand for property in the Alps for years to come.