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Coronavirus & the Alpine Property Market

15 Jul, 2020 by Investors In Property

In this article we discuss the current situation regarding travel to and from the Alps, what’s open, property viewings and the overall impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the Alpine property market.

These are some of the questions we are being asked most frequently at the moment, if you have any further questions or would like to know more then do not hesitate to contact us.


Can I travel to the Alps at the moment?

The short answer is yes. The borders of France, Switzerland & Austria are open for visitors, however, the rules and requirements vary slightly depending on where you have travelled from, what passport you hold and where your final destination of stay will be. For UK travellers, trips to France & Switzerland are largely free from restrictions, trips to Austria currently require the presentation of a medical certificate. More details below.
Travellers arriving in France from the United Kingdom, the European Area, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay are able to visit without any need to demonstrate their travel is essential and without needing to self-isolate on arrival. Arrivals from outside these regions will need to prove that travel is essential and present an international travel certificate confirming you are disease free.
Switzerland is currently open to selected visitors from the UK, EU & EFTA (with the exception of Sweden) and visitors do not need prove their travel is essential and do not need to self-isolate on arrival. Since 6th July, travellers arriving in Switzerland from certain high-risk countries are able to travel to Switzerland but will be required to self-isolate for 10 days, providing details to the local authorities etc.

At present the entry requirements dictate that entry in to Switzerland from the United Kingdom is permitted for British nationals and nationals of EU and EFTA countries. Family members of UK/EU/EFTA nationals are also permitted – regardless of nationality. Travellers from the UK who do not have a UK/EU/EFTA nationality will not be permitted unless they hold a Swiss resident permit, are travelling onwards from Switzerland or are cross-border workers.

Entry to Austria is possible for residents of Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain or Switzerland, without the need for a medical certificate or quarantine (provided they have spent the preceding 14 days in those countries).
If you are arriving in Austria from, or are resident in, any country for which the Austrian Foreign Ministry has issued a travel warning then you must be able to present a medical certificate no more than 4 days old on arrival in Austria. If you arrive in Austria from one of these countries without a medical certificate you will be required to enter self-isolation for 14 days (or until you can provide a negative coronavirus test result). Tests are available at Vienna airport for 190 euros.
At the time of writing Austria has travel warnings in place for the following countries: Albania, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kosovo, Mexico, Montenegro, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States & the United Kingdom
As of 10th July it is possible for UK visitors to France, Switzerland and Austria are no longer required to self-isolate for two weeks on their return to the UK.
With regards to flights, Swiss have regular flights while BA & EasyJet are offering a reduced timetable.

Where can I stay? Are hotels and B&Bs open?

Hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and shops are all open again after President Macron declared all of mainland France a “green zone” on June 14th. As you would expect social distancing measures are in place, with restaurant tables spread out and table service in place. In addition masks are required on some forms of transport and in some shops, at the shopkeeper’s discretion.
Hotels, B&Bs and restaurants are all open provided they can adhere to the latest coronavirus guidelines. To reassure visitors Switzerland Tourism has developed a new “Clean & Safe” label which hotels and restaurants have been designated where adherence to the new codes is in place. You may be asked to leave contact details at a bar if you are in a group of 4 or more and social distancing measures will be in place. Overall though, after a recent visit, we found things were as close to “normal” as you could hope for.
Hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs were permitted to re-open to guests at the end of May, provided social distancing measures are in place (1m distance) and face masks are worn in certain enclosed environments. As in France & Switzerland, hotels have introduced a number of features and rules to limit the threat of coronavirus. For example staggered check in/out times, disinfectant and sanitiser stations, expanded outdoor areas, protective glass screens, one-way systems and careful control of the number of people in certain areas at any given time.
Many providers also introduced features such as extended check in and check out times, newly installed disinfectant dispensers, protective glass screens, one-way systems, expanded outside areas and limits to the number of persons permitted in spa and swimming areas at any one time. Similarly, rules were put in place for chairlifts and gondolas.

What else is open?

Some resorts including Val d’Isere & Tignes have been able to reopen recently for summer skiing and snowboarding on high-altitude glaciers, while others have opened lifts for hikers and cyclists. There are limits in place on the number of passengers on ski lifts, and masks are compulsory in areas, but the general picture is one of lifts opening and the summer season getting underway.
The Swiss government have now ended their “extraordinary situation” in response to the coronavirus pandemic and as a result hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, markets and shops are all open again. All contact with other individuals should take place at a distance of 1.5m and masks should be worn on public transport, including mountain cableways, as well shops in some Cantons. Throughout the course of June & July resorts across Switzerland have been reopening for the summer season providing access to glacial ski slopes and mountain hiking and biking trails. Among those to have re-opened are Andermatt, Crans-Montana, Saas-Fee, Verbier & Zermatt.
A number of resorts, such as Hintertux & Zell am See, have already welcomed skiers and snowboarders back onto snow-sure glacier slopes with other summer resorts also open for hiking, biking and other summers pursuits. Careful controls are in place with regards to the number of people on gondolas at any given time and hours are reduced at some bars and restaurants but generally speaking the infrastructure is all up and running.

Is it possible to view properties at the moment?

Absolutely. In fact, for clients based in the Alps property viewings property viewings have been possible – with social distancing in place – for a few months now.
Since the easing of travel restrictions last month, we have seen a surge in the number of property viewings in France & Switzerland in particular, so it is very much possible for us to support you in arranging property viewings.
In the present climate, a bit of time in the mountains, away from towns and cities, is a welcome relief from the lockdown and isolation we have experienced in the first half of this year. As a result many of those who have come to the Alps for property viewings have spent a few extra days enjoying the natural environment and the freedom to explore.

Are property prices falling as a result of the pandemic? Are there any bargains?

This is probably the question we have been asked the most by clients over the past few months. The answer is a resounding “no”.
Property prices in the Alps have held firm and it is quite easy to see why. The lockdowns which have been in place across the planet over recent months have kept many of us confined to our homes. Those of us living in cities have had limited access to outdoor space. Where once the social and cultural dynamism of cities and towns have been a huge attraction for property buyers, the pandemic has reversed these urges (for the time being at least) and many people are feeling much stronger urges to escape to the countryside, to nature and to find some space. The Alps offer space, nature, freedom and escape in abundance so the level of interest in Alpine property has increased.
In June 2020, we received a higher number of client registrations and contact than we have received in June at any time over the last 10 years. This surge in interest has invigorated the property market and as a result there has been no need for vendors or developers to drop prices and no “bargains”.
We have overseen sales of properties in the Alps throughout the pandemic, in particular in the Swiss Alps, with the stability of the Swiss Franc remaining attractive to investors throughout this tricky period. We wrote about the Swiss Franc as a Safe Haven earlier this year, and in our view the relative steadiness of the Swiss Franc and the Swiss property market through this period just goes to underpin the Safe Haven status.

Are there still new properties coming onto the market? Any new stock?

Yes and no. There was a definite decrease in the number of new releases during the worst months of the pandemic in Europe. Understandably property wasn’t the top of anyone’s priority list at this time.
However, as the situation has somewhat steadied and travel restrictions have been lifted, we are seeing a steady trickle of properties coming to market across the Alpine region.
In fact, the release of the latest apartment building in Andermatt – House Frame – proved to be one of their most successful launches yet with so much interest that the pre-launch waiting list was entirely sold out. The remaining apartments are now available on a first come, first serve basis. Studios are priced from 360,000 CHF. 1 bedrooms are priced from 750,000 CHF.

Have you noticed any changes in demand/interest from property buyers?

As mentioned above we have seen a huge increase on the average number of property enquiries in June & July this year versus the usual numbers. After an understandably quiet end to the season, with the pandemic reaching it peak in Europe, levels of interest have recovered quickly and we are now seeing above average levels of interest in ski properties in the Alps. In particular in Switzerland where the Swiss Franc presents an especially stable asset for these uncertain times.
With remote working one of the main changes to the way we live over the last few months, we are frequently asked about the standard of internet in the regions we sell now, which is a new quirk (Switzerland has one of the fastest broadband penetration rates in Europe). In addition, we are seeing an increase in interest in dual season resorts – with the benefit of being a summer and winter escape – with a relative cooling of interest in the high altitude, high density purpose built stations.
If you have any other questions you would like to ask, you are interested in latest properties on the market to would like to arrange a visit, please don’t hesitate to contact us. One of our team will be happy to follow up by email, phone or Zoom to discuss further and to deliver a personal response. All the information here is provided based on our own research and current guidance. Obviously the guidance above is subject to change and restrictions may be eased or return as the situation develops.