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Alpine apartments could be cheaper than you think

cheap ski propertyDo you ever get piste off with your skiing accommodation? As half-term approaches, you may well be headed for a hotel or chalet on the slopes but wouldn’t it be nice to have your own place? It could be more affordable than you think.

Away from the high-altitude, high-price resorts such as Courchevel, there are plenty of far cheaper lower or mid-altitude – typically family-friendly – places. Here you can buy a more reasonable property outright or investigate an alternative ownership structure – the leaseback freehold.

Essentially leaseback means that you help fund the purchase of the property by letting it out most of the year. Although it seems to be too little time for personal use, it does avoid problems associated with the place standing empty for months in a row, especially when you may only be using it for several weeks a year anyway.

Here’s the legal bit. The leaseback scheme was set up by the French government in the 1980s. A leaseback freehold provides 100% freehold ownership of a new build with the trade-off of a VAT-free purchase for limited annual use (often less than two months). Buyers are locked in for 20 years with a typical initial contract of 11 years. Properties are always fully furnished.

For example, in the village of Le Grand-Bornand Chinaillon, an hour’s drive southeast from Geneva airport, there is the new-build Le Roc des Tours (pictured) where 44 leaseback properties range from €195,833 (£171,389) for a one-bedroom apartment up to €525,000 (£459,434) for a three-bed duplex. There’s an in-house swimming pool complex and a ski school for kids nearby.

All well and good but let’s look at the finances. The rental income for a one-bed Le Roc property with six weeks’ owner use is estimated at €3,500 (£3,062) a year while the three-bed could earn up to €10,500 (£9,187). A management company looks after your property when you’re not there. You can sell the freehold with the existing rental arrangement anytime.

Something to think about over the vin chaud? Leaseback isn't appropriate for everyone. The alternative is an outright purchase but they do cost more. For example, in the family friendly resort of Champagny-en-Vanoise 2.5 hours from Geneva airport, you can buy a new two-bed Les Balcons Etoiles chalet apartment for €325,000 (£284,104). At mid-altitude in the family-style village of Vallandry, connected to 425 kilometres of Paridiski, a 67-sqm two-bed is €425,000 (£371,689). These properties are available through MGM.

If you’re looking (or even just dreaming), Knight Frank and Savills have a wide selection of Alpine retreats. Other local agents include Athena Advisers, Erna Low or Sphere Estates.

Saundra Satterlee is the SMM international property guru. Find out if buying property abroad is right for you with our guide here. Or check out mortgages abroad with Offshore Online here.

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Saturday, 20 April 2019