New report: French Alpine property market stable

The Chamber of Notaries of Savoie and Haute-Savoie recently published a summary of the situation of the French Alps real estate market. First observation: the French property market in the Alps is holding up relatively well in a difficult wider market context. Remember that recently the Chamber of Notaries of Ile-de-France announced a decline in the French real estate market of 1.1% for the third quarter of 2012.

The Alpine market is also going well in terms of volume. The overall decline in transaction numbers is very low (-2%) and prices remain steady. However, the study from the database used by Notaries of France, Perval, does not provide any overview of the market for Savoie and Haute-Savoie. It only offers a simple focus by mountain range Aravis, Mont Blanc, 3 Valleys, Haute-Tarentaise, Chablais and Maurienne. The report distinguishes existing flats, from new build and existing chalets. In fact establishing an average over the entire region would be unreliable as the difference is too big between mountains ranges.

Wealthy buyers

The relatively healthy market in the northern French Alps reflects the high-end properties available and the increased presence of foreign buyers. This is a rather affluent clientele that come from around the world, not only from Europe according the study for the period from September 2011 to August 2012.

Note that Winter tourism now accounts for more than 6 billion euros in the Rhône-Alpes ski resorts. 85% of this amount is concentrated in Savoie and Haute-Savoie.

 

656,000 euros for a chalet in the Trois Vallées

The average price per square metre for existing apartments is between 2,617 euros in La Maurienne and more than 10,000 euros in the best resorts. New build prices jump, it costs an average of 5,544 euros per square metre in La Maurienne up to 7185 euros in Le Mont Blanc. Average price for an existing chalet reaches 656,490 euros in Les Trois Vallées. La Maurienne is comparatively three times cheaper.

For instance in Morzine, the average price per square metre increased by 12.8% year on year, reaching 4,711 euros. On average, Le Chablais has seen existing flats decreased by 8.7% but existing chalets have increased by 5.7% on the same period, to reach an average of 300,000 euros.

Popular buys are one bedroom apartments and chalets around 320,000 euros which quickly find buyers.

Another trend is to see sellers gathering several studios into one larger flat. This recent phenomenon allows owners to better sell their property. For example in Avoriaz, a developer has done more than 200 million euros of renovation work in small studios aka “rabbit hutches”.

 

13% are foreign buyers

In “Les Trois Vallées”, the situation changes depending on the ski resort. In Courchevel 1850, average price of apartments fell by 4.9% this year to 11,170 euros per square metre. But Meribel increased by 15.1% over the same period to 7.239 euros per square metre.

Usually buyers are between 30 and 59 years old and live outside of Paris. Over the study period, foreigners represented 13% of buyers. They were 21% between September 2006 and August 2007. They come mainly from Great Britain and Switzerland. If the share of English has declined compared to the situation before the subprime crisis, they eventually return, especially in Le Chablais and Les Trois Vallées. Russians are now famously some of the biggest buyers of property in the French Alps.


China is investing the Parisian property market

It is now the turn of the Chinese government to invest in the high end Parisian property market. The China Investment Corporation is currently looking for investment opportunities in the heart of Paris and the $410 billion sovereign fund is attracted by the higher yields provided by the French estate market. Starting from zero, China has become the second foreign investor in Parisian real estate. The Chinese Corporation now accounts for 15% of the total amount invested by sovereign funds just after Qatar which represents 30% of the French market.

China has made the biggest property deal by buying a property portfolio of 508 million euros earlier this year, partly composed by offices and luxurious properties located in the heart of the French capital. The expected yield for prime property market now stands at about 4.75%, a little higher than mainstream financial assets.

 

The China Investment Corporation has chosen to focus a larger part of its investment strategy in Europe, after a 4.3% loss to its global portfolio in 2011, investing in prime properties in both Paris and London. Of course the Asian and Middle Eastern investments will remain the largest part of the portfolio. This trend is a good indicator of stability and profitability for those who want to invest in France as private money often follows sovereign wealth money which is a good indicator of stability in the market. For those with more modest budgets than the CIC, French mortgages allow you to buy a property at rates below 4% with a minimum deposit of 15% + stamp duty and mortgage registration tax.