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The Financial Times: Switzerland’s Crans-Montana

08 Oct, 2015 by Investors In Property

Last weekend The Financial Times published an article about Crans Montana written by journalist Laura Latham who interviewed ski property expert, Simon Malster and asked him what makes this Swiss Alpine resort so special.

Crans-Montana or ‘The Alpine Resort yet to Peak’ is both a high-end resort and one that offers good value for foreign buyers. This article highlights that and many other special features Crans-Montana has to offer. Read on for the full article…  

Switzerland’s Crans-Montana: the Alpine resort yet to peak

Two years ago, British entrepreneur Mike Cooper was asked why he chose the Swiss ski resort of Crans-Montana for his chic chalet complex Chalet Seven. Because Crans-Montana was “unfashionable”, he said.

His sentiment sums up the attraction for many visitors and residents of this popular and well-serviced but distinctly unhip resort in the canton of Valais, two hours’ drive from Geneva. “CransMontana is high-end but not ostentatious,” says Angela Turnbull, owner of local property agency Angela Immobilier. “It’s easy to live in and has a very international mix of residents.”

Don’t let the town’s unassuming nature fool you, though. There is ambition here that may turn Crans-Montana into one of the most well-rounded destinations in the Swiss Alps. A SFr1bn ($1.02bn) investment programme of infrastructure improvements and redevelopment is bringing with it a buzz — and an influx of wealthy international buyers looking for good value, quality amenities and a social scene that is wellheeled, rather than wild.

Property in Crans-Montana is also up to 30 per cent cheaper than its rivals, particularly Verbier and Gstaad — the most expensive Swiss resorts in which to buy homes. “Clients who have struggled to find what they want in Verbier, even with a budget of several million Swiss francs, have more flexibility if they look in CransMontana,” says Swiss property specialist Simon Malster, owner of London-based agency Investors in Property. “Prime residential here costs on average SFr15,000 to SFr20,000 a sq metre; in Verbier the starting point would be around SFr25,000.”

Crans-Montana is formed of the neighbouring towns of Crans-Sur-Sierre and Montana, with the former considered more upmarket. At a height of 1,500 metres, there is access to 140km of pistes, plus glacier skiing at Plaine Morte, at almost 3,000 metres.

The resort rarely draws the same attention as Verbier, Zermatt or St Moritz, however, partly because its large centre, developed predominantly in the 1970s and 1980s, has plenty of designer shops and nice cafés but less Alpine charm than other resorts. In addition, as a south-facing ski destination, it can suffer from snow melt earlier in the season.

In a country with tight restrictions on foreign ownership, the resort has always been what Malster calls “foreigner-friendly”. Of the roughly 1,500 permits given to nonnationals to buy property in all of Switzerland every year, typically more than 300 are allocated to the canton of Valais.

In Crans-Montana, apartments start at about SFr1.3m for a resale with two to three bedrooms and from about SFr1.5m for a new one-bedroom apartment. For a threebedroom property, however, with ski-in-ski-out access, the entry level is closer to SFr3m.

New projects selling off-plan near the ski lifts in Crans include the Sport Club Résidence, listed with Angela Immobilier, which will have a mix of two- to fourbedroom apartments ranging from SFr14,255 to SFr23,365 a sq metre. There is also Les Rois Mages, a project of 36 chic new apartments selling from SFr1.33m through Knight Frank.

In Montana, new schemes include Residences Iris and Lotus, two adjoining chaletstyle developments with 30 units, from studios to four-bedroom apartments. Listed with Investors in Property, prices start from SFr504,000. The most sought-after residential area, however, is Plans-Mayens situated just above the main resort, with good road and pedestrian access. It is often referred to as the Beverly Hills of CransMontana, and the recently opened five-star LeCrans hotel has been a hit.

In Plans-Mayens, Investors in Property is listing an apartment scheme, Symphonie, which has four three and four-bedroom apartments, priced from SFr2.95m.

Malster says the relative abundance of properties available for non-Swiss buyers means the resort now has a broad range of nationalities among its homeowners, including from the Middle East, China, the US, France and Italy.

One of the biggest draws for overseas buyers has been the opening last month of a branch of the well-regarded international school Le Régent College, which from next year will accept children aged five to 18. “Demand for good schools in this region is high,” says Didier Boutroux, the school’s head. “Crans-Montana has a growing international base, a lot of families are attracted to buy here and grandparents who own homes in the resort like the idea that their grandchildren are studying or boarding locally.”

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