Many international real estate markets have been deeply affected by the global pandemic. In these times of increased isolation, demand for certain types of homes has increased. Properties in many of the most sought-after mountain resorts, for example, are outperforming sales from previous years. Here, some of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®’ s member firms in ski markets around the world share what trends they are seeing.
“When the lockdown came in March 2020, we too were unable to make forecasts about how the market might change. It is now clear that many of the existing trends have accelerated: tangible assets have become even more attractive, home-office solutions have become possible virtually overnight and have increased the demands on the home, the home in the countryside has become even more desirable, and those who can, will prefer to buy a vacation property in the mountains today rather than tomorrow,” says Sascha Ginesta, head of brokerage for Ginesta Immobilien in Küsnacht, Switzerland, whose service areas include the mountain recreation areas of Davos and St. Moritz.
Antonin Allard, CEO and founder of ANTONIN real estate brokerage in Megève in the French Alps, also reports a dramatic rise in activity since the beginning of the year. “We have seen a significant increase in requests for secondary homes as buyers look to escape the crowded cities of Paris and Geneva,” says Allard. “Many visitors who came to enjoy mountain air away from the busy cities during the pandemic are now considering investing in a property here. Some clients have decided to switch their primary residence to Megève while keeping a pied-à-terre in the city.”
Patrick Kelly, president of The Whistler Real Estate Company in Canada, reported the highest levels of sales activity since 2016, with average sales prices increasing by 20 percent since the start of the year.
Joffray Vallat, CEO of VALLAT in the French Alps, has been “positively surprised” by the surge in demand post-lockdown, particularly for the most established resorts such as Courchevel, Megève, Méribel, Tignes and Val d’Isère.
However, not all worldwide ski locations have experienced a price lift. According to Diego Loy of Alto Andes Real Estate in Chile’s Valle Nevado, “COVID-19 caused the demand curve to shift, reducing sales volumes across the Andes. The pandemic has impacted income and job security, so many purchasing decisions have been postponed until the situation stabilizes.”
Interestingly, the types of properties buyers look for in ski locations has also evolved. Allard cites a greater emphasis on size and space rather than location. “It used to be all about access to the ski slopes and the village,” he says. “Now, having an apartment with a terrace or a garden is key for buyers. The market for the largest chalets with the best amenities has been particularly buoyant. Families plan to spend more time in the mountains and seek refuge and comfort.”
“In our ski destinations, what is sought first is the ski-in, ski-out location,” notes Vallat. “Then, it is the ‘art of living’ that is highly demanded—walking access to the village, good restaurants nearby and the lifestyle of the resort.”
Kelly has seen a 200-percent increase in demand for large, detached homes with outdoor space. “COVID-19 has seen remote working increase, which has resulted in renewed focus on chalets offering space and privacy, as people spend more time in the mountains,” notes Kelly. “Previously overlooked outer areas are receiving greater attention and, consequently, the values of these homes have increased. As more people turn Whistler into their main residence location, we have received more inquiries about the quality of schools, healthcare and everyday shopping needs.”
“People who buy a property in a mountain center are looking to live a unique experience, where the mountain plays a very important role,” explains Loy. “In the summer, it is cycling and hiking, and in the winter, it is skiing. That has not changed in the history of Valle Nevado—pandemic or not. When you buy an apartment here, you become part of Valle Nevado and its full experience, on top of being a solid long-term investment,” he says.
When it comes to lifestyle, the trend for wellness and sustainable homes is also strong, according to Vallat, who explains that they have always sought to be as forward-thinking as possible with new ski-resort constructions. “Our chalets are 100-percent airtight and guarantee no heat loss, so clients can be sure they are buying an eco-friendly property,” he explains.
“New constructions are nearly all sustainable with environmentally efficient heating, as well as the usual electronic gadgetry and smart systems,” adds Kelly. “We have seen a shift toward modern, horizontal massing with increased glass, rather than the more traditional cabin-style of the past.”
It’s clear that demand for real estate in many ski resorts has seen a rise as buyers seek safety in isolation away from urban hubs.
“There has been a global change in buyer attitudes,” concludes Allard. “Mountain resorts are now seen as year-round locations, not just vacation properties. We expect demand to stay strong in 2021 as investors realize the lifestyle benefits of a residence with an abundance of privacy, space and fresh mountain air.”