We bought an investment property in the French Alps
Vanessa Fisher talks to Steven and Sharon Saywell about why they chose to buy a holiday and investment property in the French Alps
Why did you choose to buy in the French Alps?
Back in 2004 we watched an episode of Grand Designs Abroad and saw a lady who had bought an old cow shed in Les Gets and converted it into the most incredible chalet -fresh, modern design and something very different to the traditional ski chalets of the Alps.
As soon as we saw that we knew investing in a ski chalet was something we wanted to do. We found a buyer’s agent who was based in France and she selected a few resorts and properties for us to look at.
What we immediately liked about La Clusaz was the fact that it was an all-year resort. Many ski resorts, particularly those at high altitude, are focused purely on the winter season. La Clusaz is as great in summer as it is in winter, which means we enjoy visiting year-round and our chalet attracts a lot more bookings. It’s also only about an hour from Geneva airport, meaning it’s much easier to access than many other Alpine resorts.
When did you buy your property?
We purchased Chalet Mousqueton in La Clusaz in the summer of 2016. It was a traditional Alpine chalet, dating back to the 1970s. It needed some work to modernise it, but we had a clear idea of what we wanted to create.
Was this your first property investment?
No, we started a family-run property development business in the UK several years ago and had already worked on a range of projects in London and the home counties.
Did you need to do much work to the chalet?
Yes, initially it was a bit dated and had a self-contained apartment in the basement. We wanted to create somewhere with a distinct, modern vibe -something very different to other chalets in the area.
Phase 1 involved an extensive refurbishment in 2017. We started to rent in 2018 and in the first winter season of 2018/19 we had occupancy of 82% of the available weeks, with the income more than covering our costs.
We then started on phase 2, which focused on enhancing the outdoor space to build its appeal for spring, summer and autumn. We built a large, split- level terrace and put in a heated pool with counter current and a hot tub.
How did you go about renting out your property?
A friend who already had a property in La Clusaz recommended OVO Network. We met up with the team and they gave us some great advice about the rental market and facilities that guests look for in an Alpine rental property.
Do you think the works have improved rental performance?
Undoubtedly. Through the winter season the chalet is pretty much booked out every year. Initially, the shoulder and summer seasons attracted some bookings but we could see there was a lot more potential. We spoke with the OVO Network team and took the decision to invest in the outdoor areas. Since the work was completed, the bookings have been unbelievable. The peak summer months of July and August have seen a huge improvement (bookings up 50% in summer 2020 compared to 2019, and a 41% increase in the number of nights booked) and we’ve had bookings through to October – which I don’t believe would have happened without the pool and sun terrace area.
How were your bookings impacted by the pandemic?
Nobody knew what to expect when the Covid pandemic started and we know it was a worrying time for so many people, both on a personal and a financial level. We were actually incredibly fortunate. While the travel restrictions meant that UK holidaymakers couldn’t travel for large parts of 2020/21, French holidaymakers could and OVO Network did a lot to target this market. The Alps became hugely popular because people wanted to get out of the cities, enjoy fresh mountain air and activities, and have their own space. Demand for private chalets, particularly those with facilities for all the family, was very strong and Chalet Mousqueton maintained its booking levels through 2020/21.
Is it a lot of work to run a chalet rental business abroad?
I can see how it could be if you’re trying to manage everything from the UK, communicate with guests, generate bookings, manage changeovers etc. We were lucky we found OVO Network and have great property managers -they take away all the hassle, meaning it has actually been a really lovely journey for us. From finding and falling in love with our house, doing the renovation works and now running a successful rental business, it’s been a great experience.
Do you have any more plans?
There is huge potential in the road cycling market and that is something we are keen to work with. The chalet’s location is ideal for famous climbs such as the Col des Aravis and the Col de la Croix Fry, which regularly feature in the Tour de France. The cycling market offers great potential for bookings in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn- there’s not the heat of the summer, and the scenery is spectacular.
For more Information about Chalet Le Mousqueton click here
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