Buying Property in Chamonix
So why Chamonix? Access to a huge skiing area, beautiful alpine views, plenty of outdoor sports in summer, the chance to earn a good rental income and investment in a popular destination, are all great reasons to buy here.
Add to that the proximity to freshly baked diet-defying croissants, delicious cheeses, market fresh produce, sprawling vineyards and French men in stripy t-shirts with berets and onions are all loveable clichés that attract millions of visitors to France each year. Sounds perfect doesn't it?!
France’s relatively low property prices have more recently also become a major attraction for many visitors looking to continue their fond holiday memories abroad. As such, Chamonix has experienced a surge in the number of Britons taking the plunge across the channel and buying a property here.
Low-cost airlines that fly to smaller, local French airports combined with rising UK property prices are contributing factors for the surge in interest in the French property market. For some, the chance to own a second home or holiday villa in France is no longer a dream or a right that’s reserved for the rich and famous. As property in France has become more accessible and affordable, many people have looked to invest.
Historically, areas such as the Cote d'Azur and the Dordogne were popular with those looking to step on to the French property ladder. Now people are buying all over the French continent depending on their individual requirements. Whereas people may have traditionally purchased holiday homes, overseas retirement havens or sound investments in France, it is not so unusual to find the once career hungry individuals who have had enough of the city lifestyle opting for ‘the good life’ and buying perhaps a charming rustic chalet in a bustling French ski resort or running it as a successful business on the south coast of France. There are also some who are fortunate to run a web-based business that is not location-dependent so that they can experience the benefits of living and working in France.
Start buying property
In Chamonix there are many options when purchasing your property:
- Private Sale
- Using the services of a Solicitor ('Notaire')
- Through a local Estate Agent
- At auction
Private sales are a direct way of purchasing your property in France. Estate agency fees are typically paid by the seller of a property and are reasonably significant, so in buying direct you will not have these charges and the savings can be shared. You may find websites that offer details on private sales but generally property will also be advertised in local free papers. It's not uncommon in France to see a hand written 'for sale' sign in the actual window of the property for sale.
A small amount of property in Chamonix is sold through the local Notary (Notaires), often in the case of an inheritance. A Notary is an impartial government official that acts for the state during the buying and selling process in all transactions and is usually chosen by the seller. Having a single notaire can make some British buyers feel uneasy about their property purchase, but as a buyer, you have the right to appoint a different notaire to act on your behalf. This doesn't increase the fees, so it is a wise choice particularly if the purchase is complicated or off-plan. Some buyers have employed a UK-based solicitor to check the paperwork, but this is not generally advised as it will add to the fees and they are not familiar with the local market.
Estate Agents (‘Agents Immobiliers’)
For those who don’t speak fluent French but still wish to buy property in Chamonix, the option of using an estate agent is generally preferred . You may even find that popular areas of France you can find estate agents with English speaking services that will assist you.
‘Agents Immobiliers’ are French estate agents - bringing both buyers and sellers together. It is good to check all estate agents in the area you are buying as it’s not uncommon for a property to be on the market with a number of estate agencies, sometimes at a different price. All Estate Agents must be properly registered and carry the appropriate ‘Carte Professionnelle’ – professional card. Some will charge for this service, others will do it for no charge as they can share fees with the selling agent.
At Auction ('Ventes aux Enchères')
As a risky alternative those with a fluency in French could bag a real bargain at auction! French property auctions are quite common because of inheritance disputes, repossessions and debt defaults so often it’s a corporation hoping to salvage some form of financial return from the sale instead of a family looking to sell to the highest bidder. Auction properties usually come onto the market via 'notaires' but they can also be advertised on websites and in local papers. It is an interesting but complex process to purchasing a home in this way as bids are apparently placed as candles burn ('a la bougie')!
If you are interested in purchasing in France we heard about the ‘Coeur de France language school’ in the centre of Sancerre where a potential English speaking property hunter can enrol for a weeks intensive French course that will teach you sufficient French to see you through the acquisition, purchase and renovation of your dream French property!
Whichever of the routes you decide to take, you should still always make sure you understand all legal consequences of your actions and any documentation you are asked to sign.
Leaseback property is an ideal, hassle free option for the pure investor to purchase their property in France. Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in people opting to purchase their development in this manner. But what is leaseback?
The concept of ‘leaseback’ properties is mainly relevant to new developments. You purchase the property off plan on a freehold basis then immediately lease it back to the property developer for a specified number of years (e.g. 11 years). During your lease period, your property is rented out to holiday makers on your behalf where in return, you’ll receive a rental income. As the owner of the property, you are still able to make use of the property for a certain number of weeks during the year which will more than likely be specified by the developer.
The only costs you will need to pay are the local French taxes and a co-propriety charge for the building. As an additional bonus, those investing in a leaseback scheme can potentially also recover all VAT (or TVA as it’s called in France) paid on your property providing it is not classified as your primary residence. At present, the rate of TVA in France is 20% so it’s quite a significant proportion of your property price back and the contract could be for 20 years. Rental returns have fallen in recent years and if you sell your property before the end of the 20 year contract you will have to pay back some of the TVA. f you sell within 5 years you'll have to pay all of the TVA. Speak to a local Estate Agent to get more advice.