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As I always do, I have reread the summer update to see how things have changed. Back in the spring of this year, we definitely felt there might be a “wobble” in the property market. Winter 2022/23 started off with the energy crisis, thanks to the war in Ukraine. Then we had the further issue of a lack of mortgages due to quickly rising interest rates (remember Kwasi’s kamikaze budget?). This was then followed up with very little snow at Christmas. Altogether, it felt a bit like a perfect storm.
In January, the snow came, and we had a long period of cold, stable weather. The energy issues stabilised and mortgages reappeared slowly. There was indeed a stutter, but it did not last long. Summer started, and it was mostly a scorcher. Thanks to the efforts of our local Tourist Office’s we had lots of big-name events. So often the fortunes of the property market here are tied to the weather, much like the fortunes of the holiday industry in general. Sometimes I think this is what it must feel like to be a farmer.
The summer was busy again, but still with two underlying issues: the difficulty of obtaining a mortgage and a general lack of available properties. I have looked at our numbers for the last few months. The number of people looking was slightly higher in the “Covid years” of 20/21, today’s numbers are up from last year (2022), and up from the pre-COVID year of 2019. HOWEVER, the number of properties available is down compared to all those years, so there is pressure that is keeping the prices up. The number of sales is down compared to these last few years due to a lack of “stock.” If you are selling, don’t be tempted to overprice your property, because if you do, it will linger on the market. And if you are looking, secure financing first if you need it, and don’t be surprised if you have to offer at the asking price.
Political pressures are building in our ski areas due to two issues. One is environmental. Continual growth just feels wrong when we are trying to preserve our planet for future generations, and the other is available and affordable housing for residents. People see the new developments going up in the center of our towns and rail against the local council to do something about it. Unfortunately, local councils are mostly overruled by national planning guidelines. Change is slow, but it is happening.
You may have heard talk of higher taxation on second homes. This is part of the slow change mentioned above. Despite what some UK papers will tell you, this is not something aimed at the British. It’s a blanket change that affects everyone. Second homes and vacant premises will be subject to higher taxes, and the money raised will help build affordable housing. All in all, a good thing in our book.
Other changes that are slowly having an effect are our energy performance certificates (DPEs). They have been around for more than 15 years now, and their importance is starting to have an impact. Eventually, the French government is aiming to have all dwellings as a D or better. From this year, properties with an F or G certificate are considered a “fail” and further costly surveys are required before a property can be advertised for sale. This is to educate a buyer about the work required to improve the energy efficiency of the property. Properties in this failed category are known as “passoires thermiques” or thermal sieves. If they are rated G, then they can’t be let out long-term from 2025; this regulation will eventually affect E and F properties as well.
Seasons seem to be extending, this is another slow change, but bit by bit, the local amenities are staying open a touch longer. Not that many years ago, the summer season was very much limited to July and August, but in areas like the Portes du Soleil it now feels more like June through September. Chamonix has always had longer seasons, nowadays there is almost no down time.. Add to this that more people are enjoying our mountains “out of season,” such as in Spring and Autumn, something the people that live here have always appreciated. We’ve just had family to stay during the November holidays, and there has been plenty to do during some pretty inclement weather. Mountain walks between the rain, the ice rink, and swimming pool have been open, and the new “luge d’été” in Les Gets too. Beyond that, a showstopper of a trip up the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix was a real hit and should be on everyone’s bucket list.