Author Archives: gareth

Right in the middle of St Gervais

La Comtesse development in St Gervais is, in our opinion a pretty good option for property hunters looking for something in and among it all. Set behind the church, right in the centre, owners will have a quiet location surrounded by trees and views of Mont Joly, yet with all amenities on their doorstep. In fact next door is the Sérac, a gastro restaurant that has recently obtained its first Michelin star, and very proud of them we are.

la comtesse

Within a 100 paces of La Comtesse there’s a number of banks for all your international transfers, a few locals’ bars – La Grange where you’ll meet the lifties and ski instructors or the more recent Brasserie that offer a pool table and covers sporting events; the Serac’s gourmet bistort and deli; the Mairie for all your French admin or marrying needs and the little police station where the local ‘Policiers’, who get all excited if a car breaks down in the centre of the village and who double up for lollypop duty for the school kids, reside. Ahhh, sweet rural living.

There’s also the choice of 3 supermarkets, the office de tourisme, the potters shop and the historic Haute Tour – which are fortified buildings dating back to the 13th century that can be visited and where cultural and artistic events take place. If you buy in La Comtesse, you can literally holiday in your slippers!

La Comtesse is nearing completion and the other day, they had planted the trees which will give privacy and help landscape the newly implanted building.

Only 6 apartments were ever available and there are currently only 4 left. We have just taken pictures of the insides of the apartments, which until now didn’t have bathrooms and kitchens. Yes, they still need their final clean, so you’ll spot dust on mirrors and floors and the odd ladder in the images, but have a look at the new mountain interiors with a modern twist.

For those wanting a large spacious apartment, then La Comtesse 5 is your best option

If a ground floor apartment with some outside space is your desire then No 1, 2 are still available

and finally a popular 2 bedroom arrangement (no.3) but with a private terrace can be purchased here

St Gervais market report

Sarah Watts covers Les Contamines for us but knows St Gervais well. She has just written this market report for a customer. Prices have been broadly stable in St Gervais since 2008. Currently the price advertised is rarely the price paid so, if you see something that seems much too high, it’s likely to be due to an unrealistic valuation or vendor who is not willing to accept the current market conditions, and it is unlikely to be selling.

St Gervais in winter

According to meilleursagents the average price of an apartment in St Gervais is between 2317€ to 4742€ per metre squared, with the average sale being around €3 493 per m2. These figures seem out of touch with reality to me. For a property close to the ski lift that is new or in good condition this price could easily be closer to 4,900€/m2 and good quality new build properties can be more than that.

A chalet would be around the 5500-6000E per m2 for something nice. The prices are very dependant on the quality of finish, there is plenty of property on the market that is feeling quite “tired” by today’s standards.

We have 3 sales going though at the moment in St Gervais. The agreed prices were between 2% and 10% below the asking price. We have just had an offer accepted this week on a 4th property at asking price.

Should you be looking for a 3/ 4 bedroom apartment, you are looking at somewhere around 350-450K. For a chalet in good condition – 650-750K, and a chalet that needs refreshing around 500K.

Property prices vary enormously depending on how close it is to the skiing or at the very least the bus route, the amount of sun, views, outside space and condition. People are often concerned about buying outside of the very centre of the town in case it is “unrentable”. As I often point out, unless you are walking distance in ski boots from the lift (probably a 300m max, you’ll end up taking the car and parking at the free lift car park there for the day. Consequently, if you drive 3 minutes or 6 minutes at the end of the day, it won’t much difference.

I have also personally rented for many years in the past and the fact the property was 3km from town and the skiing, was not an issue. What did make a difference was the garden space. If you get a traditional ski apartment, then it will rent well in the winter, but not in summer if there is no outside space. Some people want to be close to the centre of the village (again more useful in the summer),  Bettex for example is favoured by the skiers because of it’s proximity to the slopes in winter.

Train St Gervais

Nearly all people renting will cover their running costs of the apartment and maybe even make a little profit. You can rent comfortably 8-10 wks in winter and, with an outside space, about 4 weeks in summer.

If you would like to get an idea of rental values  take a look at this website for some ideas of what rents and for how much. As a guide, for a 5 bedroom high-end chalet this could earn upwards of 35K€ per year gross income. A more modest 3 bedroom ski apartment would be around 15K€ per year.

In terms of suggestions for 3+ bedrooms, I would recommend

Apartment Lumen

Apartment Crespin

We have also extensively written about the area on our area guide here, scroll down for St Gervais info on each of the pages:

Finally, remember that on all property a notaire (stamp duty + solicitor fee) is due. This is 7% for older property and 2.5% for new build from a developer (the first figure will increase slightly Q2 2014).

The general feeling is that the market has turned a corner and the prices will not fall from here.

We have just launched the La Comtesse apartments on our website. They are located in the very centre of St Gervais village and will benefit from 2.5% fees.

Appt. La Comtesse, #1, 1 bedroom and 189 000€

Appt. La Comtesse, #2, 3 bedrooms and 395 000€ 

Appt. La Comtesse, #4, 3 bedrooms and 415 000€

Appt. La Comtesse, #6, 5 bedrooms and 650 000€


New Alpine Property kit

Skiing Evasion all kitted up. By Sarah Watts

Yesterday was one of those days that captured so many of the reasons why I have chosen the Alps and more specifically St Gervais, as my home. It was a crisp, blue-sky, January day, with no one on the pistes, not a single lift queue and perfect snow.

It would have been rude not to, so I headed out to Cote 2000, part of the Megève-St Gervais area for a ski. Cote 2000 is linked into the Evasion domain and shares a ridge with Les Contamines ski domain, though the latter for now, is not linked into the area. It is however on the same ski pass. Views of the Mont Blanc and Chamonix massif were as dramatic as ever, the mountain restaurants as cosy as you could wish for, and I got to try out my new branded alpine-property jacket.

Skiing in St Gervais

It was a good day!

In fact, this year if you’re heading out for a winter holiday to one of the many resorts we cover, you might just spot an alpine-property agent in their branded jackets. We’ve just had these technical mountain shells, labelled with out name and logo. They’re light-weight and comfortable yet tough enough to withstand harsh conditions and are made by directalpine. Many of the Chamonix high mountain guides choose this manufacture as their preferred kit supplier, therefore we know they’re a top product.

Alpine Property Logos

So, if you see us about on the mountain in our red, black or lime jackets, don’t hesitate to come and say a “hello” and introduce yourself. And, we’ll be easier to spot when we meet buyers for a visit too!

Finally, a friendly word of advice this year on snow conditions. Yesterday was perfect, but living here I get to witness the conditions over a long period of time, a luxury you don’t have if you’re just heading out for a ski holiday. Consequently, I know that the snowpack this season is very unstable, in fact one of the most unstable in decades. This is leading to an uncharacteristically high number of avalanches and with that, sadly more victims too. Of course on the piste, you’re fine but what might look like a innocuous, pristine powder run on your week’s holiday, could prove to be deadly. Know your stuff before heading off piste this winter and if you’re in any way unsure, don’t take the risk.

A couple of articles on this year’s unstable conditions can be found here:

And the daily avalanche report is found here.

Alpine Property Logoed Jackets

The Chamonix Trail Running Jamboree

If you fancy stretching your legs this week, then look no further than the North Face races.

A now yearly occasion, the 4 events are taking place in and around the Mont Blanc area, departing and finishing in Chamonix.

Today, 28th August the TDS and PTL races are currently happening and on Friday 30th, it is the turn of the UTMB and CCC.

In summary the races are:

UTMB- Ultra trail du Mont Blanc – 168km ,9600m of ascent

CCC-  Courmayeur Champex Chamonix – 100km , 5950m of ascent

TDS- Traces des ducs de Savoie  – 119km, 7250m of ascent

PTL – Petite trotte à Leon  – 300km, 24,000m of ascent – done in teams.

the fountian

The UTMB, starts in Chamonix, passes through Les Houches, St Gervais, Les Contamines before going over the col Croix de bonhomme to descend into Italy and Courmayeur and then on to Switzerland. It largely follows the Tour du Mont blanc route, one of Europe’s most popular long walks that takes an average of 7-11 days to complete.

Runners of the UTMB will however, be attempting to do this well within 46 hours. The quickest of them will finish in about 21.30 hours.

Starting this Friday at 4.30pm in Chamonix, the runners are expected to pass through St Gervais from about 6-8pm and then in Les Contamines from 7-10.30pm. There’s usually a very emotional and electric atmosphere in the village when spectators witness the 2,300 contestants coming down from the ridge that separate St Gervais from the Chamonix valley. Supporters line the streets to cheer and offer encouragement knowing that these incredibly fit participants are going to run through the night, the next day and the following night to finish no later than 2.30pm Sunday afternoon.

I will be watching the event on Friday so will post some images from the feed station in St Gervais.

In the meantime if you want more information then see or to follow the events in real time here

We currently have Chalet Fontaine, smack bang on the Tour de Mont Blanc route and close to the UTMB trail. I live 2 doors down from this property and watch from my decking the hikers with backpacks and sticks walk in the direction of Les Contamines through out the summer months. Almost everyone stops at the fountain to fill their water bottles and take pictures of the lovely hamlet. The picture above is of the fountain in winter. Chalet Fontaine is just out of sight.

Chalet Fontaine can be viewed here:

St Gervais is centre stage

Acclaimed French director, Claude Lelouch is starring the little town of St Gervais in his latest film.

Lelouch is well known in France , winning Palmes D’Ors at Cannes and Oscars for some of his 50 films.

His current creation Salaud on t’aime, loosely translated as We love you, you bastard (excuse my French, as they say!) has made use of a couple of our lovely Mont Blanc locations. Last winter, scenes were filmed at the cemetery in Combloux along with locations in Praz-sur-Arly.

A few days ago, the last 4 of the 40-day-long film schedule, has been centred around a number of places in St Gervais; The Tramway du Mont Blanc station, France’s highest rack and pinion tram; the Col de Voza to which the tramway passes through before reaching the Nid D’aigle -the Eagle’s nest, and which forms part of the ridge that separates St Gervais/Les Contamines from the Chamonix valley; and finally, the centre of St Gervais and the church.

The film itself is a story is about a war reporter/photographer, Jacques Kaminsky, played by none other than the French star – Johnny Hallyday.

Kaminsky has retired to the mountains following a lifelong career to which he had dedicated himself to, and this, to the detriment of his relationship with his four daughters, amusingly named Printemps, Eté, Automne, Hiver. The focus on his work is something he now regrets and the story concentrates on his friendship with a Doctor from Médecins sans frontiers, played by Eddy Mitchell. Other than this, details about the story are few and a closely guarded secret, but all we know for sure is that some of the final scenes will be filmed around the St Gervais church.

On the last day, I was in St Gervais and took a look at what was happening. Billboards with Jonny Hallyday’s image were plastered around the church (don’t worry guys about drilling into the 17th century building to fix them mind!) and large TV trucks of kits were parked outside. Initially, when I got there, they were filming inside the church, but once completed, people spilled out to make the most of the aperitifs that were laid on in the square along with a live band. A ‘thank you’ dinner was also prepared for the extra’s who were recruited from St Gervais to star as walkers, alpinists or tourist at the various locations.

We’ll have to wait for 2014 for the release of the film itself, but in the meantime, if Johnny has taken a shine to St Gervais, we will be expecting house prices to sore imminently!

Here are a few pictures from the event.

TF1’s news coverage can be seen here.

Like the look of St Gervais? Check out our latest gem; a stunning property which has been completely renovated on a quiet road, in the heart of the village.

A short stroll brings you to the square and church featured in this article. We think this one is a great find!

More photos of the town and area, Click here.

Renting Property in the Alps, advice and tips

Virtually all the properties we sell are sold freehold and there will not be any restrictions on renting, in fact gaining a rental return is an essential part of many peoples requirements.

As far as renting via an agency is concerned there are many to choose from. It really depends on which town you are considering. Much of what I have written below is Portes du Soleil biased, this is where I work!

There are a number rental options, each with advantages and disadvantages. They are not all available to all properties! I will list them as I see them. The first offers lowest risk for least return, the balance moves from return to risk as you descend the list!

Renting Options

OPTION 1a. You can choose to rent your apartment on a yearly basis, for a fixed fee to a company that specialises in self-catering holidays. You can negotiate some weeks for yourself or you can negotiate a discount for weeks you want to rent.

Example: Alptitude, a specialist in Morzine


  • Most secure form of rental return
  • If you choose the tenant carefully they will look after the property well, dealing with maintenance issues, taxes, Internet etc.
  • Minimum input from the owner


  • Offers the lowest returns
  • Property will need to be in a good location, this type of company will see that as a priority.

OPTION 1b. Similar to the option above but with a little more risk. There are some companies that specialise in finding long term lets aimed at “saisonniers”, so people who rent for the whole season. You will need to check the tenants in at the start of the season and out at the end but beyond that it should be hassle free.

Example: Live The Season,


  • Full Seasons income paid before the season starts.
  • Higher return than 1a (annual lets)
  • Minimum input from the owner
  • Location of the property is less critical than the option 1a.


  • Higher returns are available with the options below.
  • No time in the winter for the owner to use the property.
  • Unless there is a provision to periodically check on the state of the rental there is a risk the tenants might not look after the property.
    apartment for sale in Les Gets

OPTION 2. You can use one of the independent chalet operators in the area, these companies often have one chalet that they run catered holidays from and then up to a dozen they arrange as self-catering. This type of company will often try to negotiate a percentage fee (up to 30%), for this they will arrange the booking, key holding and the cleaning etc.


The Great Escape
Example: Mountain Highs
Example: Ski Fusion (based in Les Carroz)


  • There may be the occasional unbooked week that could be used by the owner for a cheap holiday at the last-minute.
  • More flexibility for booking in friends etc.
  • If there are good bookings this can offer better returns than choice 1


  • Riskier for the owner as they don’t offer any rental guarantees, this risk can be reduced by choosing an established company.

OPTION 3. You can use an Internet based agent who will handle all the booking and cleaning, in theory for a lower percentage fee (20%-35%)

Example: White Peak a specialist in Chatel.
Example: Alps Accommodation a specialist in Samoens.
Example: Holiday in the Alps a specialist in renting properties in St Gervais


  • There may be the occasional unbooked week that could be used by the owner for a cheap holiday at the last-minute.
  • More flexibility for booking in friends etc.
  • If there are good bookings this can offer better returns than choice 2
  • Internet based administration can be convenient


  • Riskier for the owner as they don’t offer any rental guarantees, this risk can be reduced by choosing an established company.
  • If the agency does not care about your property the wear and tear can be quite high. This can depend on their clientèle too.
  • Choose your Internet based agent carefully, they can be excellent but there is more room here for cowboys.

OPTION 4. You could use an Internet based “Bulletin Board”, these businesses charge a fee for you to advertise, you handle the booking and arrange cleaning and key holding via a local person or agency. My Mum uses Owners Direct for a property on the outskirts of Morzine, it costs about £200/an to advertise, she does very well and uses a local girl for the cleaning etc. This method is a lot of work for the my Mum and offers no guaranteed income but it can offer the best returns. In addition the renter can’t book with a credit card and they are not booking with a recognised “agent” or “bonded holiday company” so they don’t have much backup if the holiday goes wrong in some way (for instance in the case of a double-booking).



  • There may be the occasional unbooked week that could be used by the owner for a cheap holiday at the last minute.
  • More flexibility for booking in friends etc.
  • If there are good bookings this can offer better returns than choice 3
  • More “hands on” can be more fun and it may give the owner the chance to “vet” the occupiers.


  • Riskier for the owner as there are no rental guarantees.
  • The owner will have to find local people to deal with the changeovers / cleaning and any problems.
  • If there are problems or damage the owner might be called upon to arbitrate, this can be difficult on the phone!

OPTION 5. The traditional method, use one of the local French estate agents or the local Tourist Information Bureau , they will take a fee (about 25%) and handle the bookings and cleaning for you. This should probably be put between 2 and 3 in the income VS risk list.


  • An established system, will probably be entirely legal.
  • Local agents normally have very good contacts with local tradesmen.
  • You may find that a particular agent will have an affiliation with a particular apartment block, this can help.


  • No guarantees though, the owner will take all the risk. You will do better in the best locations. You might get nothing in a bad location!
  • Just because the agent has good contacts with local tradesmen it does not mean any maintenance work will come cheap.
  • Choose wisely, not all agents are fully Internet or email aware yet, this can come as a shock.

Confused about renting? You shouldn’t be. I am just illustrating how this is a very mature market and that there are a lot of options open to you.

French Capital Gains Tax changes announced

The last update I published on Capital Gains Tax in France was last summer, you can see what I said here “FRENCH CGT” , François Hollande has recently been interviewed on the French TV channel M6 and one of the subjects he spoke about was some upcoming changes to these tax rules. He said that the French government intended to reduce the time taken for this tax liability to reduce to zero from the current 30 years to 22 years.  In fact 22 years was the “old” length of time that was in place before the rules were changed last year. This is in response to the fact that property transactions declined significantly across France in 2012 and they look to be down in 2013 too. Here is a link to the story in French at Le Figaro

This is good news and will reduce the tax liability for people selling their French properties.

In other news….we’ve just taken on a lovely new chalet in Beaufort near Albertville.

Chalet for sale in Beaufort

I first mentioned this village at the end of last summer after making a visit with my family. I wrote about it here. It’s a lovely place and I’m pleased we are spreading in that direction. This property is 1km from the centre of town, has 3 bedrooms and is good value at 395 000 €. Click on the picture above for more information. Some more pictures below:

Police patrols above Chamonix

Europe’s highest peak Mont Blanc, towering over the valleys of Chamonix, St Gervais and Les Contamines in France and that of Aosta on the Italian side, stands at 4,810m2 high. Though visually very much part of the Chamonix mountain range, the administration of the mountain is shared with the town of Saint Gervais and Courmayeur in Italy, with St Gervais having the largest share of the area. It is therefore the Maire of St Gervais, currently Jean-Marc Peillex who decides on matters of safety and access of the mountain (and, not Chamonix as many people think).

Since it was first climbed by 1786 by Paccard and Balmat, whose names you will see gracing the streets in both Chamonix and St Gervais (Place Balmat, Avenue Paccard), it has seen the likes of US president Roosevelt in 1886 and countless others, make attempts to the summit. Today, 20,000 people ascend on average each year during the summer months.

Many consider it a reasonably easy mountain to climb, with some routes being long , but not technically difficult for fit, acclimatised people. Despite this, the rescue service flies an average of 12 times during peak weekends in summer to assist people who are often ill equipped or ill prepared and there are many fatalities.

For 10 years, St Gervais’ Maire has campaigned for better monitoring of the situation. Finally, the Prefet of Haute Savoie- the region in which Mont Blanc is located, has just announced that the 2 mains routes up to the summit via the Gouter and Three Monts will be manned by the Gendarmes (PGHM) during this June through to September.

Whilst putting police on high mountains could be considered extreme, much of their intent is to inform and educate climbers on best practice, mountain safety, ecology and to prevent problems. This will be achieved by reviewing people’s kit, fitness and advising on the weather for summit ascents. They will also play a part in protecting the site from an environmental perspective by keeping an eye out for illegal bivouacking which is only authorised at Tete Rousse.

In addition to this, St Gervais is providing 4 “ambassadors” who will offer tourists information. They will be stationed at the Tramway du Mont Blanc that passes through St Gervais town on the way up to Nid D’aigle and at the Tete Rousse hut. These measures are hoped to reduce accidents and manage an increasingly busy area.

The announcement of police on the mountain has been met with mixed reactions; Some are concerned about preserving what should be a pure sport and wonder whether the future holds a ‘copper behind every rock’ as one internet commentary read; Others, consider that the sheer number of people visiting the area demands some management for the good of all.

Some of our properties with the best view of Mont Blanc include: Chalet Tagues, Chalet Grepon, Chalet Champoutant, Chalet Mont Blanc, Chalet Bossons, Chalet Joux and Chalet Chouette, and check out our “Views to cry for” here on pinterest from past and present places.

French Mortgage rates

We’ve just had an update for the French mortgages rates with the bank we work with. The last update we received was 6 months ago in January, the rates have been coming down steadily over the last couple of years and these figures are no exception.

The new French mortgage rates we have are:

Standard variable 2.65% to 2.85%
Standard variable rates from 2.65% to 3.00% with a +1% cap
Fixed rates from 3.10% to 3.90%.

Compared to the old rates of:

Standard variable rates in capital repayment from 2,90% to 3,10%
Capped rates in capital repayment from 2,80% to 3,45%
Fixed rates from 3,80% to 4,45%

If you are interested in more information just contact us at Alpine Property and we’ll arrange for a quote.

This might be a good time to mention a couple of the new properties we have for sale. From the “high end”

Chalet Lanos near St GervaisChalet Lanos, 1.390.000€, 5 bedrooms and situated between St Gervais and Les Contaimes, click on the image above for more info.

To the more modestly priced:


Apartment Diamant Blanc near the skiing at St Jean d’Aulps, 2 bedrooms and 203.000€

This is the time of year where we experience peak property availability. This is combined with the cheapest time to fly into Geneva too. So if you wondered when the best time to look was- this could be it!

400 Properties for Sale

400 Properties for Sale

Alpine Property is approaching its 14th anniversary, every year at around this time I do a review of the number of properties for sale we have displayed on our website. I also update the history of the company and who does what.

It’s possible 400 doesn’t sound like a lot of properties for a web based agent. The fact is we operate like a traditional agent. We know each individual property and for each one we visit, take the photos and arrange a contract with the owner. We do not just “re-advertise” the properties for other agents. You might consider our “areas” as different branches of a regional chain. If you think of it like that then it would be like having 8 branches of the same company.

Alexa (Amazon) provide a tool that archives a website throughout it’s life. This means you can see Alpine Property evolve throughout time!*/

This is also an interesting place to browse if you want to see what a property might have been worth 10 years ago!

So here is the data for number of properties visible on the website.  I’ve also added initials by the year each team member joined.

Spring 2000 – goes online with 15 properties SN/CB which overed St Jean d’AulpsMorzineLes Gets and the Chatel Valley – AKA The Portes du Soleil

Spring 2001 – 24 properties GJ/JN

Spring 2002 – 28 properties – website mk 2

Spring 2003 – 32 properties

Spring 2004 – 37 properties  JD helping GJ

Spring 2005 – 109 properties – website mk 3 DB/JC, adding SamoensChamonixMegeve

Spring 2006 – 96 properties VM, helping DB (the counting changed this year to exclude “under offer properties”

Spring 2007 – 95 properties LM, helping CB,

Spring 2008 – 152 properties – website mk 3.5 RO, adding Les Carroz

Spring 2009 – 195 properties – SW helping JC

Spring 2010 – 234 properties VA adding the Espace Diamant and EO starts out with Claudia developing Chatel and AB with Claudia

Spring 2011 – 330 properties JG developing Le Petit Bornand

Spring 2012 – 385 properties

Spring 2013 – 404 properties – AA adding the Vallée Verte, DM helping EO, and CH starting out in Annecy

The initials stand for

  1. SN = Steve Norris
  2. CB = Claudia Buttet
  3. GJ = Gareth Jefferies
  4. JN = James Norris
  5. JD = Jo Davison
  6. DB = Denis Barbier
  7. JC = JC Skiera
  8. VL = Valérie Maes
  9. LM = Lee Massey
  10. RO = Richard Owens
  11. SW = Sarah Watts
  12. VA = Val Ainaud
  13. LO = Liz Owens
  14. EO = Ed Ockleton
  15. AB = Ailsa Bishop
  16. JG = Jackie Gay
  17. PK = Pernille Kjaer
  18. SE = Steve Elsdon
  19. AA = Anna Allen
  20. DM = Debs Mairie
  21. CH = Carol Harrison