Author Archives: Gareth Jefferies

Col du Corbier, montagne douce

The Col du Corbier is situated on the pass between the Morzine and Chatel valleys. If you are planning to drive between the two passing over the col is the quickest route, despite what many visitors think the col is kept open throughout the winter. Apart from the fact it is the quickest route between these two busy valleys it has to be kept open because there is loads of accommodation on the col itself, about 750 apartments/chalets with 4,000 beds. It is an old ski resort that used to go by the name of Drouzin le Mont, it has a rather tortuous history.

Probably the best place to get the background is from Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Col_du_Corbier This English version is not bad

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Col_du_Corbier but the French version is better.

Montagne Douce.

Since the ski area ceased operation the local commune of Le Biot has made huge efforts to support the community and maintain a life on the col. They have overseen the dismantling of the ski lifts, something that is often overlooked. In addition they have constructed a large restaurant and bar that is the current focus of all the activities. I’ve been there a few times recently and can attest to its popularity! Unsurprisingly because of the history the property prices have fallen considerably which has increased the interest in the area, despite this there are still plenty of activities to do and the skiing is not far away.

# St Jean d’Aulps (Espace Roc d’Enfer)- 18min
# La Chapelle d’Abondance – 22min
# Morzine – 26 min
# Chatel – 30 min
# Avoriaz (Ardent) –  30 min

You don’t even need a car in the holidays. There is a bus that runs 4 times a day to and from the Espace Roc d’Enfer.

I had read about the various activities that are being promoted at the col so decided to go up to look. It was on a freezing cold grey day and I was amazed by what I saw. Plenty of people having a great time, all for free. A great opportunity in the holidays.

Activities

# Electric powered Fat biking, guided and with bikes provided.
# Snowshoeing, guided by the well known local guide Michel Robin.
# Ski-joering and pony riding organised by Samuel et Catherine Bailly from the Ranch in St Jean d’Aulps.
# AND…Archery, blow pipe target shooting! Sledging and some food.

These activities don’t run everyday so you’ll have to keep an eye on the “animations” page of the Vallée d’Aulps Tourist Office https://www.valleedaulps.com/animations.html or their Facebook page.

I rode as far as Drouzin on the pisted track

The commune is still grooming one of the tracks after each snowfall, it is not too steep and suitable for a fatbike trip or an easy ski randonnee that will give access to the old pistes. A great introduction to the sport. I’ve included a map here of the groomed track track. You should call the Mairie if you need to check if it is open (04 50 72 12 06)

The Mairie has mentioned developing the activities in the summer and possibly putting in an “espace loisirs” by the lake. Watch this space.

Our property that is gaining all the attention is Chalet Snowy, 3 bedrooms, 237,000€, click on the picture for more information.

 

 

Why borrow in France?

 Why borrow in France?

By Nathalie Hilton @ International Private Finance,
London based French mortgage broker

 

Mitigate the volatile exchange rate and reduce sterling cost

The Sterling cost of purchasing a property in France is only fixed when you actually transfer your GBPs into Euros.

Part financing your purchase with Euros will allow you to delay this transfer until the exchange rate has recovered in your favour.

This has proven a popular strategy with cash rich buyers since Brexit, the subsequent fall of the Sterling and the very volatile evolution of the exchange rate.

You basically match the currency exposure of the asset you are buying (the French property) and the funds you are using to finance the purchase (Euros borrowed from the bank rather than Sterling savings you have).

Once the exchange rate moves in your favour, you are in a position to repay all or part of the French mortgage thereby not only reducing the debt against the property, but also the sterling cost of purchasing your second home in France.

A large majority of mortgages in France feature no or very low early redemption penalties, so it is important you select the most adequate product from the outset through an experienced broker.

Secure finance on the French property rather than your main residence

A large majority of second home buyers feel more comfortable to raise finance on the new French property as opposed to taking new or additional liability on their main residence at home.

When you borrow in France, the lenders will always take a first rank charge of the French property; this will be registered against the asset by the notaire who looks after the conveyancing process.

Borrowing in France means access to high Loan to Values and longer fixed terms

French mortgage rates are very close to historic lows, and long term fixed rate mortgages are very popular in the domestic French market.

At the time of writing, you can typically borrow for 20 years at rates as little as 1.40% (with a 20% side investment) or 2.15% (with no side investment), and you have the reassurance that your monthly repayments will never increase.

Loan to values (LTVs) for non-resident buyers are also very high in France and depending on your circumstances, you can typically borrow up to 85-90% of the purchase price net of agents or notaires’ fees. This is however only available on a repayment basis.

Some of the banks will also offer interest only options or “in-fine” as it is called in France, though they have much stricter criteria and it is more difficult to qualify for this type of loans. The best LTVs available on interest only tend to be around 70-75% of the net purchase price.

Create a debt on the French property, as mortgage interest can currently be offset against some of the French taxes

In a number of cases, it is possible to offset the interest of your French mortgage against tax on the rental income that you may generate with the French property.
For purchases of €1,300,000 and over, the French Wealth tax becomes applicable on the net value of the property, as per the rates below.

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This is one of the reasons why many investors choose to take out a mortgage on those more expensive properties.

We always recommend that you take independent advice from an accountant about tax implications for any property purchase in France.

To discuss the above in further details, contact Enquiries@internationalprivatefinance.com

 

French Capital Gains Tax

Just like in the UK, if you sell property in France for more than you paid for it there is tax to pay. If the property is your main home then there is a 100% exemption (so you’ll have no French Capital Gains Tax to pay). If the property is a second home then things get more complicated.

I’ve been collecting some articles on the subject from the web. A good place to start would be the French Notaires website.

https://www.notaires.fr/en/capital-gains-tax-property-0

More from the French government here. Dealing with the specific case of what happens when there is a delay in selling what was a principal residence.

http://droit-finances.commentcamarche.net/faq/2342-delai-de-revente-de-la-residence-principale

also

https://www.frenchentree.com/french-property/french-tax/capital-gains-on-a-property-sale/

and some Brexit related comment here

https://www.frenchentree.com/brexit/what-happens-to-capital-gains-tax-after-brexit/

Alpine weather forecast

We often get asked what the weather is like in the Alps. And where we get our forecast from. There are loads of resources available. I rarely use just one, I get used to putting them together to get an overview of the situation.

Our favourite forecast is from an amateur forecaster in Chamonix, it’s good for most of the Haute Savoie. We find it works fine in St Gervais, Samoens and Morzine too.

http://chamonix-meteo.com/bul/metPreMatFr.php taken from the http://chamonix-meteo.com/ website.

We often use Snow-Forecast for long term trends, it’s free up until 6 days however don’t get too hung up on the actual numbers. It should be renamed rain-forecast in the summer.

http://www.snow-forecast.com/

And then MeteoBlue, this goes into more depth and forecasts further into the future.

https://www.meteoblue.com/en/weather/forecast/meteogramfive/morzine_france_2991630

If you want to get back to basics then there is always the pressure charts. The best are probably from the Met Office

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/surface-pressure/

For a more micro idea of the current rain/snow there is a real time radar, this is great for picking dry periods between showers.

http://www.landi.ch/fra/0804_niederschlagsradar.asp

Webcams in the Haute Savoie.

When things are a bit grey in the valleys, we use the webcams to see what is happening on the mountain!

The Lindarets Webcam http://m.webcam-hd.com/vallee-d-aulps/les-lindarets

The plateau at La Grande Terche http://m.webcam-hd.com/vallee-d-aulps/plateau-st-jean-d-aulps/

The summit (Sommet des Tetes) at La Grande Terche http://m.webcam-hd.com/vallee-d-aulps/roc-d-enfer

Various webcams at Avoriaz http://www.avoriaz.com/en/discovering/interactive-tour/webcams

All the webcams in Chamonix http://www.chamonix.com/webcam,12,en.html

And these ones at the end of a high valley on the Italian side of Mt Blanc. http://www.comune.valsavarenche.ao.it/it/web-cam

When there is a thunderstorm it can be fun seeing where the lightning is striking. This site shows the real-time strikes and is very accurate.

https://www.lightningmaps.org/

 

 

 

Rainy day activities in the Alps

The weather in the French Alps is generally good. When compared to many other mountain ranges in the world you can expect less rain in the French Alps! It can be miserable though and when a rainy period hits your week’s holiday thinking of things to do can be a challenge. I’ve lived in the Portes du Soleil for 18 years, run a holiday business for 10 of them and brought up 3 children for 15 of them. So far this week the Haute Savoie has received a months worth of rain. And now there is snow falling at 2000m!

Here are my ideas for wet weather activities.

Canyoning

You are going to get soaked anyway, and whatever the weather you will need to wear a wet suit, if for no other reason than it offers a bit of protection from the knocks that you will inevitably get! Wearing a wet suit on a hot day can be a bit much so take advantage of the weather and go canyoning in the rain! It’s quite an expensive option (55€ for an adult) but well worth it.

Rafting

Ditto the comments on Canyoning. A less expensive option at 38€ for an adult. Once you have tried rafting your can always go back for Hydrospeed.

Ice-Skating

Chamonix, Morzine and Megève all have Olympic sized covered ice-rinks (Patinoire in French), the children will love it, for you it might bring back some bad memories!

Swimming pool

There are plenty of open air pools across the Alps. On a rainy day they are still open but will be deserted. If you want to swim some lengths a rainy day is the perfect time to do this. If this sounds a bit too hardy then almost all of the alpine resorts now have covered swimming pools too.

Cinema

Most of the main alpine towns have cinemas. Cinéma Vox in Chamonix, Cinéma Rex in Morzine, Cinéma Le Criou in Samoens, Rochebrune in Megève, Ciné Mont-Blanc in Sallanches, Le Danay in La Clusaz and Le Choucas in Les Carroz, to name most but not all of them. Allocine is the website that tell you what is on and when. I know that the cinema in Morzine puts on an extra matinée show when it’s raining.

The Mechanical Music Museum in Les Gets

It’s a bit of a standing joke in our family, and admittedly we have only been once. Despite this it should not be missed! The Musée de la Musique Mécanique is open in the afternoon almost all the year. It has 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor 2/16 for things to do in Les Gets (the first is skiing).

Gorges du Pont du Diable, Vallée d’Aulps

One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Haute Savoie. A guided walk in a deep, narrow limestone gorge. Long opening hours, and a long season. The Gorges du Pont du Diable doesn’t cost the earth either (22€ for a family of 4), it is accessible from Morzine, Les Gets and St Jean d’Aulps via the Balad’aulps bus. It’s dark and damp in the gorge so a bit of rain makes no difference. There is a café and a geology visit by the parking too.

The following activities will require a car.

Olympic Museum in Lausanne

You can either drive around Lac Léman or take a ferry (good fun but not cheap), to visit this suburb museum, don’t take my word for it, it is #1/87 things to do in Lausanne on Trip Advisor. It’s also quite good value which is hard to find in Switzerland at the moment. Just 40CHF for a family ticket. More information is on this link.

Chillon Castle

Again, this gets a top rating on Trip Advisor. At the eastern end of Lac Léman, the Château de Chillon is a really hands on exploration of a fairy tail castle. Perfectly preserved thanks to the fact it has never been attacked! They do a great value family ticket for 29 CHF.

 

Salt Mines at Bex

This is only open in the height of the summer, it’s an underground visit so the weather conditions are not important! Not too expensive either. There is more information on their website. Sel des Alpes.

Thermal Spas

The French Alps are full of thermal springs that have been turned into thermal spas and swimming areas. They all have inside and outside pools but considering these pools are often at the temperature of your bath it does not matter what the weather is like.  I’ve been to Les Bains de Val-d’Illiez  and Lavey les Bains‘ as they have big pool complexes with them. I’ve never been to the spars in Evian-les-Bains, Thonon Les Bains or St Gervais-les-Bains, but the clue is in their names.

Go for a walk or bike ride

It’s always hard heading out into the rain but you know you’ll enjoy it afterwards. Stay low though, heading up the lifts or onto the mountain tops doesn’t make much sense. Keep it short too.  Use some tactics. It rarely rains all day. Use the alpine weather forecast and rain radar to pick the best time of day to go outside. When I worked as a walking and biking guide we had a plan on a rainy day. We would only ever manage half a day in the rain. So if it is raining in the morning, chill out until later in the day, then go for a ride in the rain, or if you are lucky it will have stopped which will be a bonus! There is nothing worse than going out in the morning, giving up at lunch and then watching the sun come out in the afternoon! If you want an objective then search out a waterfall to look at, they look their best in the rain, there are plenty and they are generally marked on the maps.

Board games

You never have an afternoon spare to play board games with your family at home, so revel in the opportunity whilst sheltering in your cabin on holiday. Reach for the Monopoly or Scrabble and make the most of the “down time” forced upon you. Nice and cheap too!

Temperature of Lake Geneva

The temperature of Lake Geneva (in French “le lac Léman”) reaches it peak during a heatwave like the one we are experiencing at the moment. In the right spot it will be 24C at “swimming depth”, if you tread water or dive down a metre or 2 then you’ll find the temperature of the water dips considerably. In fact if you dive down below 40m the temperature hovers around 5C for the entire year!

I’m quite keen on following the temperature from afar, it means I can plan my lake swims to coincide with the best conditions. I’ve written about my last swim across lac leman on this blog in 2015.

The Lausanne University website has recently been updated and it shows some very interesting effects. I had no idea how much the temperature varies across the lake surface, especially towards the outflow in Geneva. There are even currents and eddies created by the shape of the lake and the flow from West to East.

The daily variations in temperature are most easily seen at the Buchillon measuring station.

The Meteolakes website also has the following cross-sections.

Lake Geneva facts

#Lake Geneva is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe, 3rd after some massive lakes in the Netherlands (IJsselmeer, Markermeer).
#Surface area: 580.03 km2
#Max depth 310m
#Time from a drop of water entering upstream to leaving downstream in this lake: 11 years!
#60% Swiss, 40% French
#14km at it’s widest point and 73km at the longest.
#Apparently in the 70’s is suffered from pollution. That problem is now solved. It is clean and safe to swim in throughout now.  Which considering the fact it is surrounded by large cities is incredible. More info on the water quality down the Swiss end here. And a newspaper article on the fact that all the beaches are safe to swim from, 86% are rated “excellent or very good” for water quality.

There are other resources for the surrounding lakes, this one for the temperature of Lake Annecy and the temperatures of various lakes along the Alpine chain.

An apartment for all budgets in Morzine !

As the summer continues to sizzle in Morzine with plenty of sporting and other activities in town, and thoughts turn to the possibility of being able to re-live the mountain dream every summer and winter in your own holiday home, we are lucky enough to be able to offer a selection of delightful apartments with something to suit every pocket……

If you are thinking of taking the plunge and buying a property in our great little town, take a look at some of the apartments that are currently available, and get in touch for further details or to set up a visit or two!

Appt Le Ressachaux, 295,000€
Only about 15 minutes walk from the Tourist Office, with a ski bus stop right outside, this apartment represents very good value indeed in Morzine. There are two good-sized bedrooms, a separate kitchen and a large living room with a cosy fireplace. It is a sunny property and the living area and master bedroom both open onto a super, long balcony/terrace to enable you to make the most of the summer. Storage is not a problem as the apartment comes with private loft-space of 19m2, and of course there is a ski locker at ground level. Excellent rental potential too from this super town property!
https://alpine-property.com/morzine/appt-le-ressachaux/2974

Appt La Plagne, 345,000€
A very pretty apartment in a well-looked after residence in a tranquil setting but right on the ski bus route. This apartment has two good-sized bedrooms, a lovely sunny living room and a separate kitchen. Carefully renovated, it feels very spacious, helped by the long balcony and super mountain views. On a practical note, there is covered parking, separate guest parking and cave storage at street level. A delightful gem of a holiday home-from-home!
https://alpine-property.com/morzine/appt-la-plagne/3081

Appt Mignon, 370,000€
Nowhere could be more central than this apartment! Right in the heart of Morzine’s rue du Bourg, everything is on the doorstep, from skibus to bakery, bars and restaurants. The apartment is light and airy with two double bedrooms, a pretty kitchen, and a modern bathroom. The huge living area has plenty of space for relaxed dining, lounging after a long day on the mountain, and even space to tuck in a sofa bed without disturbing the flow of the room. There is separate cave storage at street level. A very rentable property, and absolutely worth a look for its flexible accommodation and fantastic position in the town!
https://alpine-property.com/morzine/appt-mignon/2816

Appt Slalom 12, 525,000€
In one of the most ‘sought-after’ residences in Morzine, bang in the centre of town next to the Tourist Office, this apartment offers two double bedrooms and a pleasant open-plan living area with a super sunny balcony over-looking the town square. Very convenient for the town and the slopes, this property would make an excellent holiday base winter or summer, is an ideal rental potential, and a solid investment in terms of resale prospects!
https://alpine-property.com/morzine/appt-slalom-12/3012

Appt Creve Coeur, 735,000€
On a quiet side street in an elevated position (so with great views!), Creve Coeur is only a 5 minute walk from all the action on the rue du Bourg, and is barely 100m from the nearest ski bus stop. The apartment is very spacious with 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, a roomy dining/living area with balcony access, and an open fire for a bit of ambience in the winter! With street level cave storage, and dedicated parking, this property is an ideal holiday home and also has fantastic rental potential!
https://alpine-property.com/morzine/appt-creve-coeur/3131

Our agents in Morzine, Ailsa and Marie-Anne, will be happy to answer all your questions about these and other apartments that we currently have on our books, as well as to organise visits if you plan to be in town – drop us a line or give us a call !

All the properties we have for sale in Morzine.

 

Spartan Race Morzine 2

What is the Spartan Race?

An assault course or “obstacle race”, from 4km to 42km. It started 10 years ago in the US and is now franchised to 14 countries. France and the UK have half a dozen races each a year. But of course across Europe the number of accessible races is huge, there is one or two running every weekend throughout the spring and summer. In the US there is even a spin-off TV show!

 

 

In Morzine this year around 8000 are taking part, on the Spartan Sprint, Super Spartan, Spartan Beast and Ultra Beast. The 42km Ultra has 60 obstacles and the winners will cover this in 7 hrs, I guess the last people to cross the line will take 12hrs or so!

 

 

The obstacles seem to involve plenty of rivers, slippery walls, steep slopes, spear throws, monkey bars, ropes, more ropes and if you fail any obstacles the penalty is 30 burpees. From what I saw some of the harder obstacles are almost impossible to complete when tired so that will mean a lot of burpees! The last obstacle to cross is a fire jump!

 

 

Running each event is a huge undertaking, permanent staff and volunteers have to muck it to build the 60 obstacles and manage the event across the weekend. Entry fees for the competitors range from 40€ to 240€ depending on the length of course.

 

 

New Ski Lift News in Morzine and the Portes du Soleil

Back in April 2009 I first wrote about the proposed lift linking Morzine to Prodains (and then Avoriaz)…AKA “l’Express Morzine-Avoriaz”. It was part of a clutch of integrated projects the Mairie was proposing. The Department’s application for the Winter Olympics failed and it was suggested the l’Express Morzine-Avoriaz would fall by the wayside with that.

In that earlier blog I listed the projects.

1. The current Prodains lift is due to be replaced, it is old, inefficient and some say it is condemned thanks to the fact it sits (just) within a rockfall zone. NOW DONE.

2. The whole of the Prodains area need redeveloping, it was too busy for the current infrastructure. SOME OF THIS WAS DONE AS PART OF #1.

3. The county (Haute Savoie) has just won the opportunity to bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. WE LOST OUT TO PYEONGCHANG..it’s next year!

4. Avoriaz is just starting a fairly major expansion and remodelling. We have some of the new apartments for sale. NOW DONE.

However despite this the Morzine to Prodains project continued to chug along. In 2013 they produced a video presentation.

 

There have been various local objections but the Mairie and most everyone else I speak to is still behind it, last month a question and answer article appeared in one of the local papers.

http://www.lemessager.fr/chablais/a-morzine-la-creation-d-un-telepherique

In short the article says.

1 . The Express Morzine-Avoriaz will form part of a massive redevelopment on the parking area between the Post Office and the Rue du Bourg. This will include a new bus station, parking and social housing.

2 . The link will cut down on the 320 bus movements and speed up getting from Morzine to Avoriaz. It’s planned for 2020/21 and is projected to cost €50 million.

3 . The operating company for Avoriaz will pay for it.

4 . There are plans to extend Avoriaz beyond what was done in 2010, another 2,000 beds, thanks to Club Med and Pierre et Vacances.

So it is obviously still on the cards. Locally the Mairie is pushing the environmental and the business case. Both these arguments hold a lot of water with the local Regional government. In addition the Mayor is making the point that Morzine is in fact a business. Last year’s poor snow season is helping further this argument. For a skier staying in Morzine the quicker they can get to Avoriaz the better!

In other news.

The Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil reports 107 million CHF of planned investment over the next 10 years. More information here.

https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/forums/Les Portes du Soleil pg 58

Les Gets Mairie has approved almost €9m of work for their area. The bulk of which is the replacement of the main Ranfolly chair.

https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/forums/Les Portes du Soleil pg 54

The liaison from St Jean d’Aulps to Les Gets is still being discussed in the face of considerable environmental opposition.

http://www.lemessager.fr/chablais/liaison-les-gets-saint-jean-d-aulps-necessite-ou-heresie

 

 

 

E-bikes in the Alps

E-bikes (Electric Bikes!) are big news in the Alps. In fact they are big news across the bike industry. For a start it is a growing sector and industry always craves growth. The latest figures I can find from bike-eu.com make it look like 23% of the 325,000 bikes sold last year in Switzerland were e-bikes, bringing the total number of e-bikes in the country to 400,000. It seems that these e-bike sales are in addition to the regular bike sales.

I’ve been a two-wheel fanatic since my youth and I find this pretty logical. E-bikes are democratising cycling, making it available to all, not just the fit. That is especially the case in the mountains. I’ve just spent 6 days cycling across the Alps to Nice and kept thinking that with an e-bike this trip would be open to everyone who is willing to ride a bike. Unsurprisingly I saw plenty of people doing just that, the IGN map I had was adapted for e-bikes too.

The Portes du Soleil is working hard to promote e-bikes, they have been for a few years, 20+ shops have them for rent, most of the information you need including a map is on this webpage

http://en.portesdusoleil.com/summer/electric-mtb.html

And this year an e-bike festival.

http://www.morzine-avoriaz.com/agenda-bikelec-salon-international-du-velo-electrique.html

My usual advice stands in this area. Unless you are a confident bike rider heading off the road onto the trails comes with some dangers. I recommend hiring a guide to start with. For the intepid I have highlighted some of the easier trails in the Portes du Soleil area here:

http://blog.alpine-property.com/2016/05/24/family-friendly-mountain-biking-morzine/ 

Each year the Portes du Soleil hosts a huge MTB event called the “Pass’Portes du Soleil” I’ve always taken the opportunity to have a free go on the Lapierre e-bikes that are available for demonstration. This year for the first time there is an e-Pass’Portes route. In fact they have taken one of my favourite routes and added in a couple of lifts for good measure. It’ll be a great day out if you get a chance!

Some people don’t see the point of e-bikes, here is my take on the pro’s and cons.

Pro’s

  1. They mean you can MTB in the mountains without lifts, so out of season, late in the evening or out of the area. That can save you 27€ a day on a lift pass!
  2. They can bring a disparate group of abilities together. The fit ones won’t have to wait for 20 min at the top of the climb….and then announce they are ready to go 10 seconds after the less fit have arrived!
  3. As above for couples that want to ride together. They no longer have to use a tandem!
  4. Biking is a wonderful sport that some people shy away from because of lack of fitness. The e-bike can solve the problem.

Con’s

  1. E-bikes are expensive
  2. They are heavy
  3. E-bikes are almost a motor vehicle…and with that in mind could cause issues with other users of our wild spaces.
  4. Once you have ridden one, getting back on a normal bike seems like hard work!
  5. They are a rapidly changing technology, next year’s e-bike will be better and cheaper than this year’s!*

* I have hired a bike each year for the last few years and each time I have thought…they are “nearly” there. This year I used a 2017 bike and I think the manufactures have nailed it. Beyond the weight of the bike (which you don’t notice when riding) and the range (I rode 30km and ascended 700m), I could not think how it could be improved.

*I have just seen that Bosch (one of the main manufacturers of e-bike motors) is adding ABS…http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/e-bike-abs-braking-50226/ …it looks like you can always make something better!