Around 55 million people visit the French Alps and the surrounding beautiful lakes for holidays every year. Aside from offering stunning views, the French Alps sees good snowfall and a long ski season, so property owners are able to make the most out of their second homes for several months of the year.
Also, with plenty to do during the spring and summer, the French Alps is a year-round destination. On top of some of the world’s most famous ski resorts, the area also has a number of outdoor adventure opportunities, like hiking, mountain biking and watersports.
The French Alps are in the Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions. While some of the massifs and ranges of the French Alps are only in France, others are shared with Italy or Switzerland.
You can easily get to the French Alps via an international flight from the Geneva or Lyon airports, which are serviced by top-tier airlines. The closest airports to the French Alps are Chambéry Airport and Alpes–Isère Airport.
For an alternative to flying, some people opt to drive to the French Alps. Train travel is also an option.
Why Buy Property in the French Alps?
The French Alps are well-known for being a top destination for skiers and snowboarders, but the area holds appeal even if wintertime sports don’t interest you. With plenty to do year-round, including outdoor activities, fine dining and a lively après-ski scene, the recreation and entertainment available in the area is a major draw for property buyers.
If you don’t expect to move to the French Alps full-time or even visit regularly, property here makes for a profitable investment. As a major tourist destination, the French Alps gets visitors all year long, and you could easily rent out your home when it’s not in use.
Understanding the French Alps Property Market
The current forecast for the real estate market in the French Alps is positive, especially since the area continues to be a strong tourism destination.
In general, there’s limited land availability in the French Alps, which puts properties in higher demand because there aren’t a lot of new builds being constructed.
The demand for renting property in the French Alps is notably higher during the ski season, which is when homeowners can see the highest rental yields.
The main property types in the French Alps are chalets, luxury apartments and new builds.
Chalets are a traditional style of home, typically made of stone and wood. They’re large and spacious, and they usually offer the most privacy of the three main property types. Also, chalets tend to have outdoor spaces like wrap-around terraces that are perfect for enjoying the scenery. For homebuyers who are after a traditional experience, consider a chalet in Chamonix, Courchevel or Megève.
There are all sorts of styles and sizes of apartments in the French Alps, and they’re typically more affordable than chalets. Apartments are also ideal for second-home buyers who won’t be there for weeks at a time and need a maintenance team available in the interim. Méribel, Morzine and Val-d’Isère often have many luxury apartments for sale.
Since land is limited in the French Alps, new-build properties are all the more in demand because they can be hard to come by. New builds tend to be luxurious, combining traditional architecture with modern amenities for ultimate comfort. It’s possible to find a new-build apartment or chalet in the French Alps, and the search is made easier if you work with an agent who knows which properties are about to hit the market.
What are the Legal Considerations You Need to Consider?
There are many legal considerations to be aware of when purchasing French Alps property. Knowing what to expect can help the process run better so you can start enjoying your new home.
There are two types of property ownership in France:
- Freehold: The owner has complete ownership of the property and its land.
- Leasehold: The owner is allowed to use the property for a certain amount of time; they don’t own the land it’s on.
It’s important to understand the different types of ownership so you know exactly what you’re purchasing.
French property taxes can be difficult to understand, especially if this is your first time owning a home there. You’ll have to learn about local property tax, residence tax (paid by the occupant) and wealth tax that some non-residents are subject to.
When determining your budget for buying French Alps property, make sure to include legal fees. The complexity of the purchase and the services the lawyer provides will determine how much you’ll pay in legal fees. Make sure that you choose a reputable lawyer with experience in French property law.
It’s always a good idea to work with a notaire who understands the legal and tax issues of buying property in the French Alps. The notaire will oversee your real estate transaction and make sure that it’s legally binding. You’ll pay a notaire’s fee, so make sure to add that to your budget.
What are the Financial Considerations When Buying a Property in the French Alps?
On top of the price of the property, there are other considerations when buying a home in France, such as taxes and fees.
Usually, the notaire’s fee is about 7% of the purchase price. The fee covers costs for drafting the sales contract and registering it and for the notaire’s handling of other legal documents.
Property tax in France is paid yearly, and it’s based on the property’s value.
Homeowners with assets over a predetermined threshold are charged a wealth tax. The tax percentage is different every year.
Capital Gains Tax
This type of tax is payable on the profit made when a property is sold. The tax rate is based on how long the property was owned.
What to Consider When Choosing a Property in the French Alps
Knowing how you’re going to use your property will make it easier to choose the type of property to buy and the location.
For example, if you’re going to live there full-time, you may not want to be located in the heart of a busy ski resort. But if you’ll only be visiting from time to time, accessibility may be more important to you as this will reduce the amount of time you spend on traveling.
Here are the key things you need to consider when choosing a property in the French Alps.
The location of the property and the terrain will play a role in the home you choose. Low-lying villages make it more difficult to access the slopes, but you’ll be closer to amenities. On the other hand, high-altitude resorts include ski-in/ski-out properties, so you won’t have to wait to get on the mountainside.
For families with varied skiing abilities or if you plan to rent out your home, look for a property that’s on terrain that can suit all skiing levels. In general, the more terrain in a ski resort, the more variety and options there will be.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the higher the ski resort, the more dependable snowfall will be.
Also, decide if you want to rent out your property when you’re not there. The home’s amenities and style will impact its rental potential. You’ll also want to arrange for professional real estate photos to be taken, and you may want to hire a management company that can take care of the property for you when you’re away.
Unless you’re only going to be in the French Alps during the winter, you’ll want to choose a ski resort that offers a lot during the off-season. Summer activities can include biking, canoeing, fishing, golfing, hiking and white water rafting. (Chamonix is known for having lots to do, no matter the season.) Also, note that in some high-altitude ski resorts, there’s still sometimes enough snow during the summer to ski.
Where To Buy a Property in the French Alps?
At Home Hunts, we’ve seen high demand for French Alps property in the following areas.
Morzine is part of the Portes du Soleil area, which includes 13 resorts. With excellent facilities and skiing opportunities, Morzine is the largest town in its vicinity and a prime prospect for property buyers who are looking for more value than they may find in Chamonix and similar resorts. It’s also particularly popular with families.
- Closest Airport: Geneva Airport (1 hr 15 min)
- Nearby Resorts: Le Pléney, Avoriaz 1800
- Best for: Families
Les Gets is known for having good snow cover, with pistes that converge at the valley centre from both sides. When it’s no longer ski season, Les Gets also has excellent mountain biking trails, a lake, and an 18-hole, high-altitude golf course. Plus, you’ll be just half an hour from Lake Geneva if you want to go sailing.
- Closest Airport: Geneva Airport (1 hr 20 min)
- Nearby Resorts: Montriond, Morzine
- Best for: Summertime biking
Chamonix has one of the French Alps’ longest ski seasons thanks to its altitude of more than 2,000 metres. This is also where you can take a ride on the Aiguille du Midi cable car and take in the 360-degree view of Mont Blanc from the glass skybox called the Skywalk.
- Closest Airport: Geneva Airport (1 hr)
- Nearby Resorts: Les Contamines, Megève
- Best for: High-end shopping
In the 1920s, Megève was built specifically to rival the ski resorts of Switzerland. It also has a lift system that can compete with the likes of Courchevel 1850, which attracted more skiers and home buyers to the area when it was installed. In addition to its 230 square miles of ski terrain, Megève also has a number of prestigious ski schools.
- Closest Airport: Geneva Airport (1 hr 15 min)
- Nearby Resorts: Rochebrune, Mont d’Arbois, Le Jaillet
- Best for: Gorgeous architecture
Set on the shores of Lake Geneva, Évian-les-Bains is a popular resort and spa town. Since Portes du Soleil can be reached in approximately 40 minutes, this is an ideal location to purchase year-round property. In general, properties near Lake Geneva are sought-after because they’re peaceful while still being close to ski areas.
- Closest Airport: Geneva Airport (1 hr 5 min)
- Nearby Resorts: Bernex and Thollon-les-Mémises
- Best for: Year-round sports
As one of the French Alps’ most iconic resorts, Val d’Isère draws skiers as well as those seeking gourmet dining and exciting nightlife. With a young crowd, there are even bars on the pistes, and the resort is known to get loud and buzzing. You don’t have to head to bed early here — plenty of people stay up so late they see skiers start out in the early morning.
- Closest Airport: Chambéry Airport (2 hr)
- Nearby Resorts: Tignes
- Best for: Après-ski scene
Set in Les 3 Vallées ski area, Courchevel is known for its luxury and sophistication. You’ll find boutiques, Michelin-star restaurants and stylish bars here. Property buyers who are after the finest things in life should consider investing in a home in Courchevel. The area also appeals to couples looking for a romantic holiday.
- Closest Airport: Geneva Airport (1 hr 15 min)
- Nearby Resorts: 1550, 1650, 1850
- Best for: Indulgent experiences
Méribel, which is made up of three villages, is one of the best-known areas of the French Alps. It offers a bit of everything for everyone, from outdoor activities to a vibrant après-ski scene. It also sees reliable snowfall, and it’s easy to access when the conditions are perfect for skiing. There’s also a bit of a British feel here, which is most noticeable in the area’s architecture.
- Closest Airport: Chambéry Airport (1 hr 20 min)
- Nearby Resorts: Altiport, Belvedere, Méribel village
- Best for: World-class skiing
Find Your Dream Home in the French Alps
HOMEHUNTS property agents are able to find you beautiful, luxury French Alps properties based on your specific search criteria. Whether you want to live in the middle of a busy town or in a more tranquil setting, there is property in the French Alps to fit your wants and needs. Search the HomeHunts and browse our selection of luxury homes. You can also speak directly to one of our consultants by calling +33 (0)970 44 66 43.