Buying an apartment or chalet: where to invest in the Alps?

Before taking the plunge, it's a good idea to be aware of the essential criteria to consider, such as location, surface area, type of property, etc.

Date posted: 28 August 2023, 4:00pm

Article length: 10 minutes

Buying an apartment in the mountains, whether for skiing in winter or hiking in summer, is an idea that appeals to many people. It's a fun investment, but also a profitable one in high season. However, before taking the plunge, it's a good idea to be aware of the essential criteria to consider, such as location, surface area, type of property, etc. Here's what we will cover in this article:

  1. Why invest in property in the mountains?

  2. Where can I invest in property in the Alps?

  3. What criteria should I take into account when looking for a property?

  4. Should I buy new or old?

  5. How can I claim VAT back?

  6. What is the average cost of an apartment or chalet in the mountains?

Where to invest in the Alps | Emerald Stay

Chalet Moulin I in Les Gets | Emerald Stay

Why invest in property in the mountains?

As the French saying goes: "the mountains win you over"! And this famous saying also applies to buying a flat or chalet in the Alps. It's a wise investment. Focus on the opportunities available.

A booming market

The confinement and the summer of 2020 have revealed a new interest in mountain living. While tourism used to be the main reason for visiting the Alps, the trend seems to be changing. Today, the need for fresh air and the opportunity to work remotely in the great outdoors are driving the market. So now is the ideal time to invest in rental property in the Alps, and there are plenty of opportunities!

Buying a property in the mountains is a great way to enjoy a unique lifestyle, and if it's rented out, you'll be able to earn extra income.

Great opportunities to be seized

While prices can be very high in some resorts, there are some that offer great advantages. Property at Les Carroz d'Araches, Peisey-Vallandry, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Samoëns, for example, is still affordable. 

The resort of Les Arcs, in the heart of the Alps, also offers attractive prices per sqm and is well located. It's part of the Paradiski ski area, with 425 km of pistes and five sites at different altitudes. This makes it an ideal location for a rental investment.

Where to invest in the Alps by Emerald Stay


A popular destination all year round

The mountains are a popular destination all year round. Spring and summer are perfect for hiking and outdoor activities for all ages. When the first snowflakes fall, winter sports attract large numbers of tourists. With so many visitors, there's an opportunity to finance part of your apartment purchase in the Alps. What's more, you can be sure of an attractive return, particularly in the high season.

To help you make the right choice, here is a non-exhaustive list of the destinations with the highest occupancy rates throughout the year:

  • Saint Gervais

  • Les Contamines

  • La Plagne

  • Val Thorens

  • Tignes

  • Les Menuires 

Generally speaking, buying a second home in the Alps is a wise idea in terms of rental investment. You'll spend some fantastic family holidays there, and you'll earn extra income by renting out your property when you're away!

Where can I invest in property in the Alps?

When it comes to investing in property in the mountains, location is a very important criterion. With global warming, melting glaciers and reduced snow cover, it's best to opt for high-altitude resorts. With this in mind, Courchevel, Meribel, Les Arcs, Tignes and Val d'Isere seem to be the best places to buy a property in the mountains

To help you choose the location for your future property, here are the resorts in the Alps that are more than 2,000 metres above sea level and where it hardly ever rains: 

Resort Altitude
Val d’Isere 2 653 m
Alpe d'Huez 2 580 m
Tignes 2 500 m
Peisey-Vallandry 2 450 m
La Plagne 2 250 m
Chamonix 2 159 m
Saint-Martin-de-Belleville 2 150 m
Meribel 2 026 m

Moreover, even if the smaller resorts are more authentic and have a certain charm, choosing a well-known ski resort allows you to invest more precisely. It will probably be easier to sell your property at the right price if it is located in the Rhône-Alpes region, and more particularly in Savoie, such as Chamonix, Meribel or Courchevel. These resorts attract large numbers of tourists and offer a huge range of services. Demand for accommodation is therefore very high. And on top of that, the integration of the resort into its environment and the richness of its natural heritage are also assets that holidaymakers are looking for.

Where to invest in the Alps? | Emerald Stay

Apartment Le Gui in Chamonix | Emerald Stay

Another important point when buying a flat in the mountains: choose resorts with large, interconnected ski areas. If possible, you should also opt for ski-in/ski-out access to the property. According to mountain property experts, this option offers an increase in value of between 5% and 10% compared with a similar flat further away.

Finally, the proximity of the property to the services and shops at the heart of the resort remains an important criterion for your investment. Even if the most sought-after location is always at the foot of the ski slopes, many tourists choose to rent an apartment a little further back - where prices are often lower - but still expect a range of activities close to their place of residence. 

Would you like to rent out your home to earn extra income? At Emerald Stay we take care of everything! Our expertise is based on the experience of our managers in the property, hotel and technology sectors. 

Taking full advantage of these activities, we have been able to develop an innovative concept in seasonal rental and management of tourist accommodation. We manage your property like a new-generation hotel. It's a simple, yet cutting-edge idea that gives you the chance to monetise your top-of-the-range property securely and efficiently, without you having to get involved!

Discover our properties in the French Alps:

What criteria should I take into account when looking for a property?

When looking for a property in the mountains, you need to focus on a number of criteria:

  • Location, which, as we have just emphasised, is an essential point.

  • The surface area of the property.

  • Accessibility.

  • The presence of a terrace or balcony.

  • The services on offer.

  • And so on.

The size of the flat

These days, tourists want to enjoy the same level of comfort as they do at home when they're on holiday. Demand is therefore turning towards properties with a good surface area, furnished and equipped. 

Around 60% of searches on mountain flat websites are for properties of at least 60 square metres, with 3 or 4 areas, usually with several bedrooms and bathrooms. It is therefore preferable to opt for this type of surface area to ensure that you can rent your property more easily and on a regular basis, or to facilitate the resale of your rental investment.

A welcoming resort all year round

When we think of splendid mountain peaks, we usually imagine ourselves in ski suits, hurtling down the slopes. However, while snow remains an important factor for resorts in the Alps, it is no longer the only one. According to Atout France, around half of all overnight stays in mountain accommodation are between June and September.

Indeed, many tourists take advantage of their stay to discover the activities and services offered by their residence or by the resort. There are many alternatives to skiing, including spas and thermal baths, aquatic centres, ice rinks, etc. And in summer, there is a wide range of activities to choose from, including canyoning, hiking, paragliding, mountain biking, rail sledging and horse riding. 

In other words, when you're looking for a flat in the mountains, concentrate on properties in resorts with a good-sized, well-connected ski area and a full range of summer activities.

To help you in your search, here is a non-exhaustive list of resorts offering year-round activities: 

  • Meribel: This charming hamlet in the Three Valleys, situated between the Vanoise National Park and the Tueda Nature Reserve, has plenty to keep you busy during your holiday.  

  • Chamonix: The Argentiere glacier, the panoramic view of the Alps from the top of the Aiguille du Midi and the splendid view of the mythical Mont-Blanc from the Brevent are sure to attract tourists. What's more, this dynamic resort offers a multitude of possibilities for outings and activities. 

  • Tignes: With its ski area open in summer thanks to the Glacier de la Grande Motte, hiking, mountain biking, water sports and golf courses, this resort offers a wide range of activities all year round!

  • Samoëns: In Haute Savoie, in the heart of the Haut Giffre valley, this pedestrian-friendly resort offers a rich, unspoilt natural environment. With its "Ville d'Art & d'Histoire" (Town of Art and History) label, it's a great place to discover an incredible heritage. Fishing, paragliding, donkey trekking, canyoning, a visit to the famous botanical garden... Samoëns has it all.

  • Les Arcs: Climbing, trail running, mountain karting, horse riding, golf, archery, yoga... This resort has something for everyone in every season.

Where invest French Alps Emerald Stay

Meribel in the summer

Furnished rental

Now that you know the main criteria for your property purchase in the mountains, you can start looking for the property that's right for you. But before you do, let us explain one last important point to help you maximise the profitability of your property. LMNP status - Loueur en Meuble Non Professionnel - is probably the best solution, whether you choose to invest in a self-catering property or in a serviced tourist residence.

What is the difference between LMP and LMNP status?

When you buy a flat or chalet in the mountains to rent out to tourists, you can choose between two types of tax status to declare your income: LMP - Loueur en Meuble Professionnel - or LMNP - Loueur en Meuble Non Professionnel.

As a LMNP, your total annual rental income must not exceed €23,000 or represent less than 50% of the income of your tax household.

To become an LMP, you need to meet certain conditions. You must be registered with the Registre du Commerce et des Societes or liable for business tax as a trader. What's more, your rental activity must generate annual income in excess of €23,000 (including rent, charges, taxes and reimbursements of expenses), i.e. at least 50% of the income of your tax household.

Should I buy new or old?

When you think of the mountains, you think of a cosy old wooden chalet. However, even if an old property generally has more charm and is often sold at a lower price, it can quickly present major drawbacks in terms of insulation, particularly thermal insulation. This means that you need to set aside an extra budget for renovating the property, which can sometimes be very high.

On top of it, if work is needed, it can often be very complicated to find local tradesmen to carry it out, especially if the property in question is very isolated in the mountains. As a result, investing in new-build property is less risky and even offers a number of advantages, including lower notary fees. These costs are between 2 and 3% for new-build properties, compared with 8-9% for older properties.  

Where to invest in the Alps? | Emerald Stay

Chalet Arande, a brand-new chalet in Saint-Gervais

How can I claim VAT back?

Are you thinking of investing in property and have you heard of the VAT recovery scheme? Attractive though it may be, this mechanism is subject to a number of demanding criteria, linked to the tax regime for para-hotels. It's essential to be fully aware of these before embarking on an operation that will commit you for years to come. 

  • The property purchased is subject to VAT: this applies to property purchased from a professional, off-plan, new or completed less than 5 years ago or completely refurbished.

  • The property is rented out furnished on a regular basis for short stays for 20 years.

  • You provide at least three of the four hotel-related services listed by the tax authorities: breakfast, supply of household linen, reception service or regular cleaning of the premises during your stay.

  • You apply VAT to the rents received (10% VAT)

  • You comply with the requirements of the tax authorities regarding the processing of your personal stays.

To find out more, take a look at our article on VAT recovery, which explains the various conditions and how to benefit from them. You can also contact us at Emerald Stay for advice on your rental investment. 

What is the average cost of an apartment or chalet in the mountains?

Wondering what the average cost of a flat or chalet in the mountains is? To conclude, here's a summary with the price per sqm of an apartment and a chalet, respectively: 

Average price per m2 of an apartment Average price per m2 of a chalet
Alpe d’Huez 7 006 € 8 970 €
Chamonix 8 367 € 10 801 €
Chatel 5 269 € 6 402 €
Combloux 5 592 € 8 807 €
Courchevel 10 567 € 12 617 €
La Plagne 4 039 € 4 638 €
Les Arcs 4 344 € 4 932 €
Les Carroz d’Araches 4 625 € 5 938 €
Les Gets 7 528 € 8 920 €
Megeve 9 865 € 13 555 €
Morzine 6 652 € 8 419 €
Meribel 9 494 € 12 004 €
Peisey-Vallandry 4 625 € 5 224 €
Saint-Gervais-les-Bains 4 376 € 6 294 €
Tignes 6 634 € 9 469 €
Val d’Iseres 13 544 € 20 854 €
La Clusaz 7 973 € 11 145 €
Samoëns 4 748 € 5 709 €
Saint-Martin-de-Belleville 6 616 € 9 405 €

Why invest in property in the mountains, where and how to go about it, average costs and VAT: you now have all the information you need to successfully complete your investment project.

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