Rob Stewart

14 Dec 20

Is it Time to Buy in the French Alps?

Rob Stewart

14 Dec 20

Living the dream – investing in a ski property is something that could play out well in the long term and offer a place to work in the mountains too. But would it turn out to be all play and no work?

We caught up with James Ross from property developer and management company Terrésens as they open a brand new dedicated UK office to help buyers navigate the sometimes complex world of buying a home in the Alps.

James provides some invaluable advice for anyone considering this kind of major investment and also answers the question that despite there being lots of French ski property for sale, why speak to Terrésens?

“It’s natural for people to have some trepidation when it comes to large purchases abroad” says James, “but that’s where we come in as a developer and a property manager. Terrésens look after both UK and international clients from the very beginning, right from the initial phone call, through to purchasing the property, and then helping the owners to rent the properties when they are not using them”.

This is one of the key differences with the kind of one-stop-shop service that a company like Terrésens offers. Established in 2008, they have helped buyers through the whole process for 12 years and have a number of existing properties as well as on-going and new developments with prices starting at around €200,000.

The chance to for anyone dreaming of owning a home in the Alps is very much alive and both Brexit and Covid have if anything, only accelerated the interested from buyers who are looking for the kind of security that type of investment can buy.

James explains: “There’s never really a bad time to buy property, but we have seen a lot of people waiting for Brexit and now after four and a half years of waiting, people are now more confident in where it’s all going. This is a ten, twenty or thirty year program for them. This year, Covid has played a role too, people increasingly want that bolt hole in the mountains where they can stay and work or spend time with their families in their own place. It has definitely made people re-think and this kind of long term investment is seen as a really safe and stable one”.

“People increasingly want that bolt hole in the mountains where they can stay and work or spend time with their families in their own place.”

Some of the properties available even have their own dedicated offices spaces and of course good broadband connections are essential.

But what about the actual purchasing process? Where to start when you first see that sign saying, ‘property for sale French Alps’ to making the first step to buying. Again, James, having been in the ski business for a number of years, takes care of all the detail: “We are working with tried and tested mortgage brokers and legal representatives, all of them fully vetted who work closely with us, we are there the whole way, buyers are not alone in this process. It’s no secret that there are horror stories out there, even in Europe, where people have been burnt but we don’t work with 3rd parties, we do everything all the way, and that’s the difference”.

Many buyers finance their properties with a mortgage, and rates in France are generally very good and they can be locked in.

James says that one of the most important factors for people is the location: “Choosing where you want to be is crucial and increasingly it seems more important for buyers to be close to an airport, if you’re looking for a property as an investment which people often do, we choose locations that work for them. Combloux is lovely spot linked to the Megeve ski area and is just an hour from Geneva Airport by car. It’s also close to Chamonix, and offers a lot for families especially, in both summer and winter, with spectacular views of Mont Blanc”.

Taking families on ski holidays can be very expensive, but a long term property investment could help in the long term. In France, a government scheme offers the 20% VAT on property back to buyers who are planning to rent their property out when they are not there. James explains further: “With the VAT back scheme you are essentially commercialising the property. You’re putting it up for rental and management, the French government like that, because you’re getting rid of what’s known as cold beds, or empty properties, they reward you with that 20% VAT back.”

Terrésens have recently branched out into Switzerland, with two new developments in the skiing region capital of the country, the Valais, it’s a new string to their bow.

James says: “In terms of aspiration, owning a property in a Swiss ski resort is right at the top of the list.”

So if tempted to get that dream bolt hole in the Alps and perhaps start, ‘working from home’, perhaps now is the time to go for it. The only downside can possibly be the danger of not getting any work done at all. Let’s face it, with a snowy Alp on your doorstep, working is going to be the last thing on your mind.


James Ross spoke to InTheSnow Magazine in December 2020. He is the Managing Director of Terrésens UK, a French property developer with a dedicated UK office.



[email protected], 020 7101 4279, 25 Eccleston Place, London, SW1W 9NF