Courchevel ski slopes remained calm during Covid. Its real estate market was anything but.

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After a year of closures due to the pandemic, the ski season will finally begin on December 4 in Courchevel, an exclusive enclave high in the French Alps. And although snow sports were suspended last winter, Courchevel’s real estate market continued to climb. Prices have risen 10% during the pandemic, according to the latest research, despite the almost total absence of international buyers who have been largely entrenched by travel restrictions.

Roddy Aris, partner of estate agent Knight Frank and head of its Alpine division, said affluent skiers are drawn to the size of Courchevel, which sits in Les Trois Vallées, the largest linked ski area in the world, with 373 miles of trails and about the same amount of off trail terrain. “You won’t be bored,” he said.

Add to that the sky-high real estate values, Michelin-starred restaurants and upscale hotels. “It’s like Saint-Tropez or Monaco. It’s very specific, ”said Jean-Thomas Olano, owner of the Courchevel office of real estate agent Barnes International Realty.

Courchevel is a grouping of five villages in the Tarentaise valley. They are classified by height above sea level, starting with Saint Bon, Le Praz, at 1,300 meters. Courchevel 1850 is the highest, in every sense of the word.

Due to the pandemic, the ski lifts in the villages were closed last winter, few hotels opened, and restaurants were only able to offer take-out service, according to Jérôme Lagoutte, head of the real estate agent. from the French Alps department of Savills. Some die-hard skiers have been reduced to taking taxis to the top of the slopes, he added.

Despite this, Savills’ annual report on the world’s leading seaside resorts found that the average asking price per square foot in Courchevel 1,850 during the winter of 2020/2021 was $ 2,744, up 10 % compared to winter 2019/2020. Aspen, Colorado, placed second, at $ 2,397 per square foot, and Val d’Isère, about 25 miles west of Courchevel, third at $ 2,246.

Courchevel’s annual price growth has been achieved almost entirely in the absence of foreign buyers who typically dominate sales. Mr Aris said French buyers stepped in to fill the void. With the experience of locking fresh in their minds, many are looking for a retreat in the mountains rather than a vacation home that they could visit for just a few weeks each year.

“They want a home they can escape to,” said Aris, who notes a growing interest in homes with high-speed, security and energy-efficient features such as triple glazing and heating. geothermal.

Mr. Lagoutte agrees that the pandemic has changed the market. “I’ve seen that some customers who have come to hotels or maybe rented out now want to buy something because maybe it’s safer,” he said.

Until World War II, Courchevel was a quiet rural village, surrounded by pastures and forests. Its first hotel, the Hôtel Lac Bleu, opened in Courchevel 1650 (a step below Courchevel 1850) in 1908. Then the French authorities decided to create a modern ski resort in Les Trois Vallées and the fortunes of the villages has changed.

Work began in 1946 on virgin land just above Courchevel 1650, which was named Courchevel 1850. Today, according to the Courchevel tourist office, the five villages have a total of 55 ski lifts and 102 ski slopes. serving the Three Valleys.

An aerial view of the Residences Six Senses Courchevel.


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Residences Six Senses Courchevel

Regarding après-ski, Mr. Aris said that the nightlife of the 1850s can be summed up in one word: expensive. But it is not a party town.

“It’s not as wild as you might find in St. Anton, Switzerland, or Chamonix, France,” Mr. Aris said. “There are bars and restaurants which are all very nice but tend to be a bit more sober.”

Under normal circumstances, around half of the buyers who are drawn to Courchevel come from France, Mr Olano said. The rest come mainly from the UK and Western and Eastern Europe, with some from North and South America.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in the French Alps, but buying in Courchevel 1850 (or its lower-ranking neighbors) requires deep pockets. Mr. Aris estimates that homes in his most desirable location, which he sees as the cabins adjacent to the main Bellecôte runway, can cost $ 4,340 per square foot or more. Right next to Bellecôte, Leggett Prestige sells an eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom chalet measuring 5,328 square feet and priced at $ 18.69 million (or about $ 3,505 per square foot). The ski-in ski-out property is in a private gated community with 24/7 security. It has a panoramic terrace and interior facilities including a jacuzzi, ski storage and an open-plan living-dining room with a bar and an open fireplace.

Another key location, Mr Lagoutte said, is the Jardin Alpin, slightly off the main street and popular for its peaceful atmosphere and proximity to the most prestigious hotels in Courchevel 1850. Les Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas opened 53 independent residences as well as a spa and a restaurant in 2016. All but three residences were sold to buyers around the world, notably in the United States and United Kingdom, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine , Lebanon and Brazil. according to a spokesperson for the company. The remaining residences are priced at $ 5.26 million for a 1,422 square foot home.

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The further down the mountain you go, the more affordable the prices become. A house in 1650 would cost, on average, $ 1,736 to $ 2,061 per square foot, Mr. Aris estimated, while in 1350 they would drop to $ 1,194 to $ 1,628 per square foot. Purchase costs add about 7.5% to the cost of the property, Mr. Aris said, including government taxes and legal fees. This drops to around 1.8% for those buying new homes.

To offset these costs, many owners rent out their properties part of the year, and Knight Frank’s 2021 Ski Properties Report estimates that an apartment for six people would fetch up to $ 14,000 per week.

Rental income for luxury chalets is even higher. Savills estimates that owners could expect to earn up to about $ 93,500 per week for staffed accommodation plus breakfast and evening meals.

Buying a house in 1850, however, involved negotiating with the magnates. Supply is limited by strict planning laws restricting new development on open sites and owners tend to hold onto their properties for the long term.

“It’s a very discretionary market, not a place where people are forced to sell,” Aris said.

For those who sell, there is a capital gains tax and social tax, charged from 19% of the increase in the value of the property during possession to just over 42% depending on the increase. value. Real estate agent fees add about 5%, Aris said.

The Six Senses Résidences Courchevel complex


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Residences Six Senses Courchevel

A longer term concern is global warming. The size of the Alpine glacial zone fell from around 3,350 square kilometers in 1900 to less than 1,900 square kilometers in 2012, according to a study from the University of Friborg, Switzerland, with a sharp acceleration in glacier retreat since. the 1980s.

At the moment, Mr. Lagoutte is just impatiently waiting for the station to reopen. He said he was “completely confident” that Courchevel will be up and running this year, albeit with some social distancing in place for security. When that happens, Mr. Aris expects to be busy with international buyers.

“The pent-up demand will overflow,” he said. “It will be a very difficult market for buyers.”

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Barnes International Realty

$ 15.07 million

A five bedroom, five bathroom chalet with hot tub and hammam to soothe tired muscles after a day on the slopes. The chalet has open plan, wood-clad living spaces and measures 3,229 square feet. Agent: Barnes International Realty


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Knight Frank

$ 5.26 million

A four bedroom, four bathroom chalet in Courchevel 1550. The chalet has 2,583 square feet of living space, an open concept kitchen and dining room, living room and terrace. Agent: Chevalier Frank


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Savills

$ 3.04 million

A four bedroom, three bathroom apartment in a small building. The apartment measures 1,615 square feet and its large living room has wooden beams and a fireplace, leading to a heated outdoor terrace. Agent: Savills

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