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It’s no secret that the ski industry on Europe has been under threat for some time. The most recent data available, from 2015, showed single-day skier visits down 2.5 percent in France and 5.2 percent in Switzerland, while overnight stays in these two destinations have been on a steady downhill slope since 2004.
Both cost (equipment hire, flight, accommodation and currency fluctuations) and climate change have been blamed for the crisis but developers are trying to find ways to reach new clients and keep them coming back.
Money has been spent on infrastructure and reviving existing resorts, which, according to The Spectator, has “created a more nuanced class of real-estate investment is emerging, capable of generating tidy returns for the careful buyer”.
Enness International, a specialist, high-end lending division of Enness, which caters for clients looking to acquire or refinance overseas property, specifically those located in Monaco, France, The Balearics and Switzerland, has reported an increase in demand for ski chalet finance.
Managing Director Hugh Wade-Jones commented: “With winter firmly upon us, many of our clients are taking to the mountains of Europe to enjoy another season on the slopes. From Courchevel to Klosters, winter resorts remain as popular as ever – but with the best lodges and hotels getting booked up early, we’ve seen an increased demand from clients looking to purchase a place to call their own.”
Mr Wade-Jones, who along with his business partner Islay Robinson opened a Monaco office earlier this year, added, “Typically, our clients want to truly make the properties their own by either refurbishing or securing construction finance in the Alps.”
There are several key considerations for those trying to arrange construction finance in the Alps, Mr Wade-Jones pointed out, starting with ensuring the money you plan to spend is actually adding to the value of the property. “The project cost needs to be in line with the gross development value, or GDV. It’s more challenging to secure a large sum for a purely aesthetic overhaul, for example, if it isn’t going to significantly change the value of the property.”
And while any keen skier knows, location is key, Enness has noted an interesting trend in which valuations have been strong in areas that haven’t been showing a recent history of good snow. “For skiing resorts, this seems worrying. Megève hasn’t seen good snow for several years, but valuations are still coming back as positive. This is a risky game. Spots such as Courchevel 1850 and Meribel are far better bets.”
Timelines should reflect securing the right permits and securing development finance, which in the Alps can be a challenge for clients from a range of nationalities. However, the process of purchasing ski property can move quickly with the right lender, who can, in some cases, arrange finance for 100 percent of both the purchase and construction.
Another potential pitfall, said Mr Wade-Joes, is Assets Under Management (AUM) requirements. “Generally, you’ll need to place at least 25 percent of the global loan amount – the gross loan – as assets under management – for the duration of the facility. The entirety of this amount typically needs to be transferred on day one of the loan.”
This is an expectation Enness feels is important to manage. “Clients from the UK and America are often less accustomed to placing AUM, so this can be a sticking point,” explained Mr Wade-Jones. “However, while we have managed to negotiate lower rates of AUM for clients in the past, this will be a requirement from European lenders most of the time.”
Article first published November 16, 2017.
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