A real estate report by the bank UBS, which looks at 25 top resorts in Switzerland, Austria, France and Italy, shows vacation home price drops across Switzerland. These price falls contrast with price rises in resorts in Austria, France and Italy.
With more than 10,000 second homes, Crans-Montana is Switzerland’s biggest market in the Alpine region. Next is Davos/Klosters with just under 10,000 apartments. Third is Engadin/St. Moritz (8,500), followed by Verbier (6,000), Adelboden/Lenk (5,000), Jungfrau region (5,000), Zermatt (4,500) and Gstaad (just under 4,000).
The report says that residential property prices in Switzerland’s alpine tourist destinations have stagnated since 2011, citing as causes, the strong franc and the success of the second home initiative, which led to an alpine building boom.
Prices in the three most expensive vacation apartment markets in the Alps, St. Moritz, Gstaad and Verbier, are all lower than in 2012.
St. Moritz is still the price leader with an average price of CHF 14,300 per square metre, despite a one-year drop of 3.4%. Gstaad, where one square metre costs CHF 14,000, sits in second place after prices rose 4.5% over the last 12 months. Verbier, a resort popular with Brits came in at number three, with an average price of CHF 12,700 per square metre, after the average price fell by 6.1% over the year. The combination of a strong Swiss franc combined with a weak pound might have contributed to Verbier’s price decline.
The average vacancy rate in top Swiss mountain resorts has almost doubled in recent years. The success of the second home initiative has led to a building boom in the Swiss Alps, pushing the vacancy rate to 1.9%. St. Moritz, Verbier and Laax have been hit the hardest.
The five worst performing Swiss resorts over the year were: Lenzerheide (-9.1%), Laax (-7.3%), Scuol (-6.5%), Verbier (-6.1%) and Crans-Montana (-6.1%). The five best performers were: Arosa (+4.9%), Gstaad (+4.5%), Jungfrau region (+2.2%), Andermatt (+1.6%) and Zermatt (+0.4%). Zermatt, with its views of the iconic Matterhorn, was the 8th most expensive resort in the study.
By contrast all of the foreign resorts covered, except one, were up on the year. St. Anton am Arlberg led (+8.2%), followed by Val d’Isère (+3.8%), Chamonix (+3.2%), Méribel (+2.7%), Courcheval (+2.3%), Courmayeur (+2.0%), Megève (1.8%) and Cortina d’Ampezzo (1.4%). The only foreign exception was Kitzbühel (-0.9%).
The report’s authors expect further price falls in Switzerland. They think the demand for vacation apartments might flag in the coming years. Changing habits, such as a rise in the number of people arranging short lets online, could reduce the desire to own. The most important group of buyers, those aged between 50 and 55, will shrink in the next few years. This comes at a time when original purchasers are reaching an age when they tend to sell or bequeath their properties, raising the availability of apartments on the market.
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At the same time the authors’ predictions vary by region. They reckon vacation apartments in Gstaad, Scuol, Saas-Fee, Lenzerheide, Anniviers and Engelberg could hold up relatively well. Relatively low vacancies and low building activity promise above average price growth in Anniviers and Saas-Fee. On the other hand, they say the market data give little reason for optimism in Davos, Crans-Montana and Zermatt.
Less snow and shorter ski seasons probably won’t help either.
UBS alpine property report (in English)