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Alpine Property market report, July COVID edition!

This is my third market report since the start of the COVID crisis. Right now we have returned to some sort of normality. The mountains and lakes were the first to have restrictions lifted (May 11th) then cafe’s, bars, restaurants and hotels opened. Now pools, ski lifts and shops are open too. The border with Switzerland has been open since June 15th.

There are restrictions in place. You have to book to go to the pool, all shops have to provide a sanitising station on the way in. Most are asking that you wear a mask. Some insist some don’t. It’s a 50/50 thing around here. I’ve eaten out a few times but always sat outside. You are generally required to wear a mask as you move around a premises but it’s not required at a table. It’s always table service too. Order and pay whilst seated. As I write this some of the protocols are being adapted. One of the local pools has given up with the booking system because so few people came. So now it’s first come first served.

We’ve been keeping an eye on the flights in and out of Geneva airport. At the worst point, there was literally only a handful of passengers coming in and out. By the beginning of July that was up in the hundreds. As I write this there are about 100 flights a day coming in and out. However, that is still only a third of what they are used to.

The number of tourists in our Alpine villages has shot up this weekend. This is the week of the “quatorze Juillet“, traditionally the start of the holidays in France, and the French are making the most of a “Staycation” (it’s the same word in French), many British second homeowners are arriving by car, far fewer by aeroplane. Self-catering bookings are good. Most of the British tourists have cancelled but their place has been taken by the French.

I wrote the first report back in mid-April, you can read it here. Coronavirus COVID-19 and your Property in the Alps. Back then everything had come to a halt, the Gendarmerie were on patrol and we could only leave our homes briefly and with the correct paperwork. We carried on working from home (no change there for Alpine Property) but we could only guess what the future held.

I wrote the second report at the end of May. How is COVID affecting property prices in the Alps? At this point, we were caught between two realities. Many of the sales we had “in process” so pre-COVID sales were struggling because the buyers feared for their future and didn’t want to take on extra risk. They were either trying to reduce the price of the property they had already agreed or were looking for a way out. On the other hand, we were feeling a very significant pressure from new post-COVID buyers. New enquiries were back to normal. I wrote this market report to try and provide some facts and figures to attempt to shore up some of our crumbling sales.

This third report that I am writing (July/12) is more of the same. We have just seen a record-breaking number of enquiries in June and we are heading the same direction in July. I reported 16 agreed sales at the end of May, that number has now doubled. The average sale price and average offer prices remain the same. The only slight change is that the Francophone buyer is in the ascendancy. I say Francophone because some of them live in the UK! We have seen about 30% of our “pre-COVID” sales fall through which obviously leads to all sorts of heartache for all involved, however many of these failed sales are being quickly rescued with new post-COVID customers. It would be great to think that this is only the experience of Alpine Property. However it never works like that, I have heard similar reports from many other agents in our area.

It’s not just in the Alps either. There is a similar effect being reported in the UK, I also heard an off-the-record report from a very good source that new enquiries in June in one UK sector are easily 50% higher than usual. And that was before the announcement of a higher stamp duty ceiling!

So what of the future? We can’t be complacent. I for one appreciate the strong “confinement”, it has really brought the numbers right down in France. Of course, the numbers will go up. That is inevitable. We just hope the current measures are sufficient to keep enough of a lid on it. As far as our property market goes, the bottom line is, the French Alps is a fantastic place to live or take a holiday and that won’t change. We can’t imagine going back to another country-wide confinement. But then again, we could never have imagined being confined in the first place! I’d never have guessed we’d have carried on doing the same levels of business as usual. With that in mind, I don’t think I can make any predictions for the future!

How is COVID affecting property prices in the Alps?

Contrary to the received wisdom in the media we are not seeing a drop in demand or a reduction in prices for property in the Alps.

The popular press is predicting a drop in prices. We won’t list the articles on this subject. They certainly play well to our assumptions. And if you are in the market for a property, it plays well to your hopes! However, it is not our experience on the ground.

If you don’t have time to read on, then I will summarise our findings here. These are based on our historical record that goes back 20 years. We have increased activity on our website, and so far this month we have almost record numbers of enquiries. I say “almost” because as I write this, the month is not finished. But on the performance so far, enquiries for May 2020 could break our record. And since the beginning of our confinement, we have agreed 16 sales. Our prediction during this confinement would have been zero sales! The ratio of agreed prices to asking prices is minus 3.7%. Based on previous experience that is completely normal. Unless the property is new to the market and there seems to be other interest people will often make a lower offer than the asking price.

I’ll breakdown our 16 agreed sales here.

  • Average property price 422,750€
  • Agreed offer on average 3.7% lower than asking price.
  • Ranging from 62.000€ to 1.595m€
  • 8 Anglophone buyers (based in the UK or elsewhere)
  • 7 Francophone (mostly based in France)
  • 1 Finn

There are 2 distinguishing features of these buyers

  • 80% of them are new to us this year. Normally that would be about 50%, many of our customers spend some time looking for a property.
  • Most of them don’t need a mortgage, and therefore don’t need rental to help pay for the purchase. In fact, less than half of them see a rental return as important.

At the moment we are experiencing two types of buyers

  • Buyers in the middle of a purchase. Something they might have started last year, a long term project, they have signed the first contract and would normally be finalising the purchase at this point. COVID has destabilised these sales. The world they knew before they made the decision to buy has changed, and they are not sure about the future. Many of them are having second thoughts. Sometimes forced upon them by financial worries. Inevitably some of our sales agreed before COVID will falter and the properties will return to the market.
  • New buyers, buyers who have had the dream of an Alpine home for a while and have made the decision to take the plunge during this crisis. These sales may well be more secure. As far as these purchasers go, the world situation can only improve (and seems to be doing so).

So what is the main motivation of these new buyers? Some have suggested that they are looking for a lock-down bolthole. We don’t think that is the case. Travelling during the lockdown to a second home has been outlawed. Most (but not all!) have remained at their principal residence. We get the feeling that these “new” customers are reevaluating their lives and priorities. They are taking the opportunity to follow a dream. When you think of your own situation you might be able to emphasise with a reset of what your own aims and objectives are!

If you are interested you can see the list of properties we have recently sold on our “SOLD” property page. This is somewhat old news though. Contact us if you would like a more detailed breakdown of our sales.

Coronavirus COVID-19 and your Property in the Alps

Are people still looking to buy?

For the first few weeks of the COVID crisis, demand for property in the Alps really did stop dead. One month into the confinement, and that is not the case now. Enquiries are down, but only by about 30%; activity on our website did drop by 40% for a couple of weeks, but now it is up on the same period as last year.

Pageviews on the Alpine Property website, March/April 2020 compared to 2019.

Do we expect a drop in prices?

We went through something similar in 2008, similar but smaller. Many people will wait to see if prices drop. If you are looking for a bargain then you need to act now. During the hiatus. And people are doing just that – we have agreed 4 sales over the last week. And two of them were at the full asking price. We can feel there is plenty of demand. If you wait until everything is stable again then you might have to wait for a while.

Do we expect a rise in prices?

It is possible (but arguable) that prices will rise in the medium to long term. The various governments may print money to try to deal with COVID and the recession that follows. In the past, this has led to inflation and property prices go up when this happens. If there is an imbalance between how countries react then you will see changes in the exchange rate. If the UK prints more money than the EU then the value of sterling could fall. All this also has to be weighed against the performance of the economy.

What is Alpine-Property doing during the Pandemic?

Up until 11th May, we are in “confinement”. This means that we are all encouraged to work from home, save for essential activities that cannot be done remotely. So, for Alpine-Property, there is no change. We don’t have bricks and mortar branches. All our agents are available as usual and working from their homes. We are on hand to answer your questions and discuss your plans.

How can you view a property?

On the whole, we can’t meet anyone in person at a property. And, even if we could, it is very unlikely that anyone could travel into the area legally for this purpose. However, we do have virtual tours for the majority of our properties. And assuming a property is empty we can make a virtual tour if one is missing. Obviously you can view these tours on our website in your own time. However, we encourage appointments with our agents so that they can accompany you on a virtual walkthrough, explaining about the property as they go. Our agents are doing this every day. You can see the properties we have for sale here.

Can you start the buying process?

You can, and some people have. Most of our customers are using this time to do their research, find out what is available. Decide which ski village suits their requirements. If you would like to borrow against this purchase, speak to the mortgage companies and find out what they can offer. Discuss the areas with our agents. We have 16 agents spread across the Haute Savoie. Each one would love to talk you through why their area is the best!

Will COVID prevent a current sale from completing?

Unlikely. Though it might delay it. During the first few weeks, we had to deal with various jams at the notaires’, the banks, and with more mundane issues like arranging energy reports! All these jams are beginning to become free now. All deadlines have been extended too. Contracts aren’t going to immediately fall apart because a deadline has been breached. So this means that a sale is more likely to be delayed than stopped.

Valmorel in the Tarentaise

Valmorel is a little gem of a ski resort in the Tarentaise valley, in the Savoie department which was created in 1976. It sits at an altitude of 1,400m with skiing from 1,270m to 2,550m, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, including Mont Blanc and the valley.
The centre is pedestrianised, giving it an authentic charm. In 2018, TripAdvisor awarded it a certificate of ‘excellence’.

Credit photos : OTVVA/Scalp

It links to Saint-François-Longchamp via the Col de la Madeleine, a well known challenge of a climb for cyclists, and, along with the resort of Doucy-Combelouvière, makes up the “Grand Domaine” which consists of 165km of downhill skiing (31 lifts), 40 kms of cross country skiing and 15kms of snowshoe tracks.

But, there is more than just skiing and snowboarding to enjoy! There is snake-gliss, a series of toboggans joined together that wiggle down the mountain, headed up by an experienced ski school instructor; fat bikes, ie. Bikes with very thick tyres that grip the snow; biathlon, why not try out this exhilarating sport and appreciate how hard it is to ski then breath in a controlled manner whilst shooting at a target; 100% electric snow mobiles for 7-12 year olds; airboarding, lie on an inflatable airbed that glides you down the mountain! So much to enjoy!

Credit photos : OTVVA/Scalp

There is an impressive line up of events during the winter season including:-

  • The Grande Odyssée (16th edition) which is THE yearly husky sledging event in Europe. This year will be its first in Valmorel. The mushers race and demonstrate their expertise. There is also the possibility of learning how to drive a sledge and trips in the sledge for kids.
  • The 5th edition of the Winter Spartan Race which is over 10 kms with 25 obstacles to be conquered – any obstacle missed = 30 burpees!!
  • 3rd edition of La Valmo-Belle, a nighttime ski touring race with 490m and 560m height differences, with a welcome buffet in a mountain restaurant at the end!
  • 6th National Paragliding (Fly & Ski) Challenge, where paragliders have to complete a number of technical challenges such as touch and fly. This is all to raise money for orphaned children of the fire service.
  • E-Wax Music Festival at the end of the season, when Valmorel becomes one giant dancefloor with multiple stages all over the resort, even at 2,000m!!

There are plenty of activities to enjoy in the summer too. There are 185kms of mountain bike trails, a 25m outdoor pool, archery, leisure park, along with many other sports such as pump track, via ferrata, canyoning, rafting, airboating, paragliding and treetop adventure course, to name but a few.

Credit photos : OTVVA/Scalp

Valmorel is a 15 minute drive from Moutiers, 2 hours from Geneva and Lyon airports and 4h15 from Paris by TGV.

We have various properties and new build programs outside of the Haute Savoie. To see the properties we have for sale in Valmorel, click on this link.

Chalet Building in the Alpes

We are often asked how much it would cost to build your own chalet. In 2014 I wrote that it would cost about 2,500 €/m² HT. Now in 2019, we quote 3000 €/m² HT (before TVA) as a benchmark. Normally we qualify this with “of course it depends on so many, factors”, such as the floor area, quality of materials and fixtures and fittings, easy of building on the site, proximity of services and things like that. And you will most likely have to pay the TVA so in the end 3600€/ m² TTC (including TVA) is a good place to start. So if you were building a 4 bedroom 140 m² chalet then a starting point would be about 500,000 € to build the chalet after you have bought the land.

Chalet du Cret near Morzine. A SIP built property

When I mention these figures to UK-based buyers that know about these things they take a sharp intake of breath. Currently, you can build houses in the UK for much less than that. Closer to 1600 €/m² and without VAT to pay either. And sometimes even less. So why the big difference? Some of my opinions follow:

  • Everything costs more in the Alps. In particular materials and more importantly labour. In fact, everything costs more in France.
  • We are not comparing like with like. The “average” chalet in the Alps is higher quality than a cheap house in the UK.
  • The build methods in the Alps are more expensive. In general the properties have concrete basements and first floors. This makes a very solid property, sometimes due to earthquake and avalanche risks it’s mandatory to build this way. It’s also just “the way it’s done”, much like in the UK houses have traditionally been built from brick or block. Plots are often sloping and require heavily engineered foundations.

There are various things you can do to reduce these costs. Taking each point one by one.

  • I’m not going to suggest importing your materials from afar or even you labour (though both these things are possible and may save money).
  • Building a cheap quality chalet is not a good idea, it would be a real shame to waste the worlds resources on building a house that won’t last.
  • Build methods, there could be money saved here. It may also bring in points one and two. I’m referring to kit chalets.

My neighbour is a carpenter and he has just built a chalet using mostly traditional techniques. The basement is concrete as are some of the first floor walls. The main frame was a kit though, the walls arrived on a lorry and ready built. He’s obviously building on a budget but doesn’t want to live in a cardboard box. His build costs will be well under 2500€/m².

Chalet Neuf Bechigne in Chatel, a traditional construction.

ECSUS Design have built a few of the chalets we have sold recently. These guys either design your property or adapt an existing design and fabricate using Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) that are engineered and pre-cut to size to ensure an exceptionally quick method of building a highly thermally efficient chalet. The main weather-tight structure can be erected in as little as 3-4 weeks and can be easily finished by an adventurous self-builder or they can do the entire job for you. The average costs of the SIPS structure is about 450€/ m² which represents about 30% of the overall costs of a new chalet and means that a fully managed build can come in at under 3000€/m² .

I recently came across this website for what look like low cost A-frame houses. https://avrame.com/

I have listed some of my previous blogs on this subject below.

https://blog.alpine-property.com/2017/01/02/eco-building-alps/

https://blog.alpine-property.com/2014/03/18/an-eco-chalet-in-the-alps/

https://blog.alpine-property.com/2018/07/26/land-for-sale-in-the-alps/

French Mortgage

So you’d like to obtain a mortgage to help buy your French property? That seems reasonable, especially as rates are so low. You might have heard that the lenders have tightened up their criteria since the 2010 banking crisis. It’s true they have, though things are more reasonable now. I’ve put together a little checklist on the mortgages available as of April 2015.

chaletcrestvole_2

Mortgage types.

  • Repayment (most common)
  • Interest Only (rare and fairly short term, so no more than about 14 yrs)
  • A 50/50 combination of Interest Only and Repayment (new to the market!)
  • Mortgages periods up to 25 years and LTV (Loan to Value) 85%

Interest rates. 2.5 to 3.6%

  • 2.6-3.6% fixed
  • 2.5-3% variable
  • 2.65% interest only​

Other Mortgage requirements

You are tax resident in one of the following countries.

  • UK
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Germany
  • France
  • You have an “expatriate / international” contract for an international company.
  • You work on a Superyacht.

Are you mortgageable? Points in your favour.

  • The property is residential (ie non-commercial).
  • The property is habitable.
  • If you are moving to France will you earning situation remain the same?
  • Do you have a regular salaried income, on a permanent contract and are out of any trial period?
  • If you are self employed or are a owner/director, do you have at least 3 years of accounts?
  • Do you have cash that will cover the 15% deposit and the Notaires Fees and Stamp duty (so about 8%), so total cash of 23% of the purchase price.
  • Is the mortgage for more than 50,000€

Points that counts against you.

Don’t despair, these don’t always make the process impossible. Just harder!

  • Renovation properties.
  • Businesses and small hotels (catered chalets).

So f you are after a mortgage and you think you will qualify drop us a line here.

Alpine Property join FNAIM

Alpine Property is now a member of the France’s Estate Agency Confederation, La Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier or FNAIM as it is generally known. Its logo, a yellow diamond, is often seen on the doors of the traditional French high street Agence Immobiliere. You can now see the logo on the welcome page of our website.
So, why have we, an international internet based Estate Agency taken this step and why is our membership relevant to our clients?

FNAIM-Logo small

Estate Agency in France is a highly regulated and scrutinised profession. You can’t operate in France as an Estate Agen​t without the relevant licence. Once you have the relevant licence you must abide by a series of regulations or risk losing your licence, being fined or​,​ in rare cases​,​ sent to jail.

Over the last 12 months the French government has passed a new law (the Loi Alur) which extends and strengthens these regulations. This new law has been passed to increase consumer​ protection against the actions of over zealous Estate Agents. As an example, when you sign a contract agreeing to sell your house through a particular Estate Agent you now have a 14 day period in which you can change your mind.
Another example is that all properties must now be advertised inclusive of agency fees. In the past some unscrupulous agencies have advertised properties net of their fees.

And just to complete the picture, a little more context but this time about the Estate Agencies themselves. Since the advent of the internet many new agencies are now starting up on​-line, just like Alpine Property. No bricks and mortar office, just a website. In itself this poses no problem for the consumer if the operation on the ground is professional and trustworthy. However, many of these new agencies have been using their virtual existence​,​ and loopholes in the old legislation​,​ to avoid its full impact and operate unprofessionally, to the detriment of clients, both buyers and sellers. We, at Alpine Property, have become increasingly aware of this issue through our clients and have been looking to support any initiative to curb the activities of such unscrupulous agencies.

These new laws have been brought in to close the loopholes and prevent the rogue agencies from operating. They have been designed in collaboration with the FNAIM. This has been our first reason for joining the FNAIM​ – to support ​its work to make our profession more professional!

The second reason we have joined this organisation is that as members of the FNAIM we receive information and training on changes in the law which ensures that our agents are fully ​up to date on of all aspects of the law covering property transactions.

We hope that our membership of the FNAIM will assure our clients, both buyers and sellers​, of the continuing professionalism of Alpine Property​.

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

alpine-property.com/index.php?page=prop_3_aptcomtesse5

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

alpine-property.com/index.php?page=prop_3_aptcomtesse2

alpine-property.com/index.php?page=prop_3_aptcomtesse1

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

alpine-property.com/index.php?page=prop_3_aptcomtesse3

How to buy your Alpine Property

So you have decided to make the move? You want to buy your first property in the French Alps but you are not really sure where to start. Buying a property anywhere, even in your home country can be a daunting prospect but then added to that, you want to buy in France. This creates additional work and research to make sure you get it right first time. Here are our top three tips for making the process as painless as possible.

IMG_0294

Get your mortgage agreed in principle

The first thing to do is talk to a good mortgage provider (if like most mortals you need a mortgage) so that they can confirm how much you can afford to borrow. They should give you an in principle decision to lend. We work with the biggest provider of mortgages to non-French residents, just ask Alpine Property to put you in touch. Don’t forget to add in the Notaires fees and Stamp Duty (called Frais  de Notaire), budget on 8% for everything except off plan properties in which case it is 2.5%.

Find an Estate Agent to work with

If you don’t speak French then seek out a good local English-speaking agency. They will be on hand to go through everything with you in a language you can understand. The property and the area in which it is located can be fully explained to and you can be guided through the French property buying process, without fear that you have misunderstood something. If you are looking in the Haute Savoie then you obviously should contact Alpine Property!

Get to know the agents. Once you have made contact then arrange to meet to view some properties in person. From our website we have a Google map with all the properties marked. It would be tempting to visit using just this information! With your telephone in hand you could drive right to the door. It would be better not to do this! You’ll miss out on the nuggets of information like “this owner really needs to sell, the asking price is xx thousand euros but I spoke to him yesterday and he’ll accept a lot less”. OR “I’d like to show you this property, it’s not on the website yet but the owner has told me they want to sell”.

One of the main differences when buying in France compared to the UK is the speed at which you’ll be asked to sign the first contract. Once your offer has been accepted the next stage is to draw up a Compromis de Vente (a preliminary contract between buyer and seller) it is then difficult for the seller to sell to someone else, this stops gazumping.  At this point you’ll need to lodge a 10% deposit with the Notaire. You will also be tied into the sale so you would be well advised to add “clause suspensives” that would allow you to withdraw from the process if you fail to obtain a mortgage or if your planning permission is refused. If the buyer fails to fulfil the contract they risk losing this deposit.

Only consider buying for the longer term

Buying a property in the French Alps should be considered a long-term commitment. It is recommended that you buy only when you plan to retain the property for at least five years.  Transaction costs are high so “churning” properties is rarely cost-effective. You may need to undertake additional research if you intend to live in the area full-time or perhaps rent out your holiday home for part of the year. The cost of living in France is comparable to the UK, though some things will seem expensive (professionals fees) and some things will seem cheaper (diesel which is 20% less expensive according to my calculation in March 2014).

View lots of property in the Alps to make sure you find the chalet that is right for you and your needs and is within the location that you want it. If you want to rent it out, make sure it has all the attributes needed to be rented out easily. I’ve written on the subject of renting here. If you plan to live in it full-time, think about the lifestyle you want to lead once here in the Alps. Do you really want to be above that noisy bar in the centre of town in winter? Or in that “high-altitude” purpose built resort during the summer season?

An Eco-Chalet in the Alps

Now we have to obtain energy ratings (DPE or Diagnostic de performance énergétique) for all the properties we sell we are shown the stark reality of the amount of energy homes in the Alps use. We know it’s not a cheap place to live but of course we have to heat our homes over the long winter and that is going to cost! Take a look at the following chart for the distribution of energy ratings across our properties.

 

chartgo

 

So most of our properties are D, E or F. I’m not sure that I’d buy a car or a fridge with a rating that bad, and of course our houses cost more to run than either of those! When I see a property with an A or B rating I’m generally sceptical, I always ask our agent how they managed a rating like that and I’ve had replies like “it’s unoccupied and they convinced the assessor that it doesn’t use any energy” or try this one, “it was an E but they got the assessor back and told him to do it again and it came back as a B!” so you can see why I am a sceptic.

We’ve recently taken on a pretty little place in the Vallee Verte which has a “C” rating. As you can see even a “C” is hard to get. To give you an idea what you need to do to get a “C” we have asked the owner some fairly searching questions. He was happy to respond, not a big surprise as reducing his energy bill has been a labour of love. For comparisons sake, it houses a family of 3 in a fairly large house (4 bedrooms/168m2), is detached and at 1000m of altitude and is situated in the bottom of a valley that runs from North to South.

 

Water (not part of the DPE rating but it ought to be in this context, it’s still a resource)

Rain water and snow melt is collected from the roof in a 10,000 ltr tank. It is then filtered and used for everything. This is almost sufficient for the needs of a family of 3.  The additional costs amount to 50€ but this is mainly the standing charge.

Heating

The house is heated by two methods. An air-source heat pump and an 18kw wood burning stove. Air-source heat pumps are gaining ground on the ground-source systems (often referred to as geothermal heating) as they are less costly to fit and don’t require a large surface area of garden to bury the pipes. These air-source heating systems are a very efficient form of electric heating, you can in fact see the unit on the wall of the photo above.

The house has Solar Panels fitted which supply energy to the grid. At current prices they provide about 1100 € of income. The domestic electricity bill (heating the house, hot water, lighting) comes to 1,500€ a year, so the net cost is 400€/year.

Apparently the main wood burner is only used in really cold weather or for “effect”! Total wood usage is about 3/4 stere (a stere is 1m3 of stacked wood) which at today’s rates will cost 240/320€. I’ll take an average figure for my calculations. So total net resource costs come to about 730€/yr

As a comparison I’ll use my house, it’s not new, it’s a hotch-potch of renovations. I guess it will be an “F” on the DPE scale. The most important insulation (in the roof) was put in over 20 years ago and is not up to current norms. Only half the house has double glazing. We are a family of 5 and the property is semi-detached (4 bedrooms/150m2) at 830m altitude and faces south. Our electricity bill is 2,800€/yr, water 500€ and wood 240€. Total 3540€/yr

So a saving of 2,800€ a year is certainly worth having! Probably 10% of the average family income around here.  Even if you take the real consummation figure (so you’ll have to take off the income the Solar Panel provide) the savings are still huge (real consummation figure = 1830, so a saving over my house of 1710€).