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05.03.20

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, the way in which UK nationals can buy property in Alpine countries as non-EU residents may change. David Bhagat from Alpine Property Intelligence (API), looks into how Brexit may affect those planning on investing in France, Switzerland and Austria

France

One of the most open property markets in Europe, generations of international buyers have invested in property in France for that very reason. According to Pierre-Yves Cottet Puinel of Agence Olivier in Morzine, British buyers have traditionally represented around 60% of core business, although this volume has recently declined to 35-40%. He comments: “The exchange rate is a contributory factor to the shift and has led to more UK owners selling. However, there are no obstacles for non-EU property buyers in France. Morzine in particular, has a loyal following, with pent up demand from many investors waiting to see the outcome of Brexit, before committing to a purchase.”

Another favourite with British investors, Sainte Foy has also witnessed a shift in buyer profile of late. Says Marie-Agnès Gaden of Sainte-Foy Agence: “In the past, 70% of buyers have been from the UK. Now it’s around 40%. Making up this shortfall, we’ve has been a surge of interest from French, Belgian and Spanish buyers with good budgets. Property options are nevertheless varied and price negotiations are not uncommon.”

Switzerland

British interest in Swiss Alpine resorts dates back to the 19th century, even before skiing became a popular pastime. Fast forward to today and property investment is now on a truly international scale, a growth in uptake which has led to regulations to limit foreign ownership (Lex Koller) and overbuilding (Lex Weber). Says local agent, Henry Pryor: “UK owners represent a large share of the market, and this quota has been sustained and has even increased in recent years. As Switzerland is not in the EU and was one of the first countries to sign bilateral agreements with the UK early in 2019, the rights of buyers post Brexit are safeguarded under the Free Movement of Persons Agreement (FMOP).”

He adds: “Lex Koller will continue to require UK buyers to apply for a permit to purchase a holiday home of no more than 200m2. However, if a UK citizen is resident in Switzerland before the UK leaves the EU, their rights to acquire Swiss property will be grandfathered under the FMOP. Once Brexit takes effect, UK citizens who take Swiss residency will be considered non-Swiss residents and will be subject to the Lex Koller restrictions. This rule however, does not apply to UK citizens with permanent Swiss residency (C-permit).”

One of the most international ski resorts in Switzerland with excellent ski credentials, a vibrant social scene and buoyant property market to match, Verbier has also been one of the most progressive resorts, by continually pushing its quota for non-Swiss buyers. According to Michael Fellay of VFP Immobilier, UK buyers have traditionally made up 30-35% of the market, although this has dropped slightly. He comments: “This has more to do with the strong Swiss Franc. Property owners are rarely under pressure to sell in Verbier, so the market has remained broadly stable. The luxury end is especially solid.”

Another popular resort with foreign buyers, prices in Andermatt in the scenic canton of Uri, continue to increase as the major infrastructure developments are established and the resort widens its investment reach. Theresa Maria Puchner, Business Development Manager at Andermatt Swiss Alps, estimates around 20% of their buyers are from the UK. “Our British clients just love Andermatt and Switzerland has particular appeal in light of the uncertainty in the UK. One aspect that makes Andermatt so special is the exemption from Lex Koller. Anyone of any nationality can buy here, and of course benefit from the security of Switzerland,” she explains.

Austria

Almost 10 years after signing up for EU membership, Austria adopted EU guidelines on ownership of property by non-residents. EU citizens can buy a ski property in any of Austria’s nine provinces, which are self-governing and rules can therefore vary significantly. Generally speaking, ownership needs to be holiday home categorised, so that the property is available for let. While non-EU citizens cannot directly own a holiday property in Tyrol, Salzburg or Vorarlberg provinces, some areas are more willing to accept non-EU purchase applications than others.

The relevance of UK property buyers and owners can vary greatly by region. In the Kitzbühel region for example, a very high proportion of buyers are from Germany. According to Thomas Neuner of Aurum Immobilien in Kirchberg, UK buyers make up just 5% of their client base.

He adds: “UK buyers are more significant in Zell am See, which like Kitzbühel has a vibrant property market. Higher value properties in particular, are attracting considerable interest at present and will likely continue to do so post Brexit.”

Antarès 1707, a star is born

Méribel’s largest ski property project in over a decade, is underway.
This ambitious and innovative development, is tipped to be an excellent investment opportunity.

  • Arranged over seven con-joined chalet-style buildings, the 70 generously proportioned apartments range in size from 100 to 382 m², with 3 to 8 bedrooms. The interiors will be crafted from traditional materials, such as reclaimed wood and leather set alongside the latest appliances and technology.
  • Amenities include a 25m indoor pool, an 800 m² spa area with steam rooms, saunas, Jacuzzis and a gym.
  • The resort will also house the largest ski room in Europe with 400m² of floor space and services including ski hire and an equipment shop with easy access to the Rhodos gondola, or it’s an easy blue slope down to La Chaudanne and the whole of the Trois Vallées.
  • Antarès 1707 offers a concierge service, maids, ski instructors, chefs, drivers, a shuttle service and nannies as well as a bar, restaurant and lounge areas.
  • Ownership options are varied; buyers can purchase outright and rent it out via the management company, (if required) or use a leaseback option (saving on the TVA). The whole purchase process is managed by a single representative who can ensure the legal/tax options are arranged and they will manage the rental throughout the year, and keep on top of any maintenance issues.

All properties featured can be viewed on Alpine Property intelligence www.alpinepropintel.com

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