Podcast - Is buying ski real estate in France a good investment?

Investing in ski real estate in France can be a rewarding venture, both financially and lifestyle-wise. To delve deeper into this topic, we spoke with Steve Hamilton from David Lloyd Signature Homes, who shared his extensive experience and insights on the matter.

Experience and Background

Steve Hamilton has been a stalwart in the real estate industry for over 30 years. His journey began in Singapore, working with the company that franchised Hard Rock Cafes, before moving to Spain during its real estate boom. He later joined LSL Property Services in the UK, managing one of the largest estate agency groups. Now, Steve brings his expertise to the French Alps with David Lloyd Signature Homes.

Price Appreciation in French Ski Resorts

French ski resorts, especially those in blue-chip areas, have shown strong capital growth over the years. Steve notes that typical annual appreciation rates range from 2% to 5%. These areas, often situated close to ski lifts and town centres, offer stable and incremental value increases.

Investment Strategies

When it comes to investing in ski real estate, location is paramount. Properties near ski lifts and central amenities tend to yield better returns. Steve advocates for investing in apartments due to their convenience and rental potential. Additionally, opting for snow-sure resorts at higher altitudes ensures reliable skiing conditions throughout the season.

Market Liquidity and International Interest

The liquidity of the French ski real estate market is robust, making it relatively easy to sell properties. Post-Brexit, there's been a notable increase in interest from international buyers, particularly from the UAE and Asia. This influx has bolstered the market, making it an attractive option for investors.

Leaseback and Freehold Properties

Both leaseback and freehold properties present viable investment opportunities. Many clients prefer reclaiming VAT by renting out their properties. This approach not only provides a steady income stream but also maximizes the investment's financial benefits.

Choosing Between Blue-chip and Smaller Resorts

While well-known resorts like Three Valleys, Val d'Isère, and Chamonix remain popular, smaller satellite resorts linked to major ski areas are also promising. These smaller resorts offer the advantage of lower initial costs while still benefiting from the larger ski domains' infrastructure.

Altitude Considerations

High-altitude resorts are favoured for their snow reliability, making them a safer bet for ski enthusiasts. Furthermore, dual-season resorts that cater to summer activities add additional value, attracting a broader range of visitors year-round.

Client Considerations

Most clients are lifestyle buyers looking to enjoy their properties year-round. Investing in ski real estate is often part of a diversified portfolio, providing both financial returns and personal enjoyment.

In summary, investing in ski real estate in France is a wise decision. It offers a blend of financial returns and lifestyle benefits, making it an attractive proposition for both seasoned investors and lifestyle buyers. As Steve Hamilton aptly puts it, "Ski real estate in France is not just a good investment; it's a lifestyle choice that pays dividends in more ways than one."

Full transcript

Mark Lightfoot: Here we are with another SnowOnly podcast. Today, we are going to be discussing if ski real estate is a good investment. I'm delighted to have Steve Hamilton from David Lloyd Signature Homes. Steve, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience to give the listeners some confidence in what you're saying?

Steve Hamilton: Oh hi Mark, excited to be here, many thanks for the invite. I'm Steve Hamilton, and I've been in this industry for many, many years. About 30 years ago, it all started out in Singapore. We worked for the company that franchised the Hard Rock Cafes, and we were building office blocks and developing all sorts of wonderful projects. I went on after that to work in the Spanish business, which really was a baptism by fire—amazing boom times, looking after many deals. I ended up working for LSL, which is one of the largest estate agency groups in the UK, with over 400 branches. Now, I've landed the dream job for me, working in French real estate in the French Alps for David Lloyd Signature Homes. Lots of experience from me, and more importantly, lots and lots of experience from all my colleagues who are in the resort as well.

Mark Lightfoot: I bet. So, what we're going to discuss today, and I know it's a very big question, is if ski real estate is a good investment. There are so many parameters to this in terms of budget, ownership, and location, but we'll just try to have a general chat to see where we can get. I guess the first question is, which areas do you kind of do… Actually, let me go back. In terms of a price per annum appreciation for all the French ski resorts, have you seen that consistently over the last 10, 20 years? Have you kind of seen it and taken a feel for it in your experience?

Steve Hamilton: Yeah, we've seen some strong capital growth over the past four years since I entered the ski market. These have been interesting years, haven't they? With COVID, with the advent of clients actually buying online and buying over the internet, we've seen a steady rise. But if you look back over the past 20 years, these properties in these blue-chip areas tend to appreciate. What you find in a great ski resort is it doesn't necessarily get bigger. We certainly tend to build in areas where we're redeveloping an existing site, so you're right in the centre, in the best area. I can imagine if you buy a property a few miles down the road, it's in a village, and perhaps you have to take a bus, the ski bus, etc., it's not going to move much. But these assets do move, and they tend to move not at ridiculous rates because you're going into a mature market, a bit like investing in blue-chip Britain or Kensington or somewhere, but you're getting twos, threes, fours, maybe 5% a year, and this compounds throughout your ownership of the property.

Mark Lightfoot: That's interesting, Steve. What do you say to people that are very unsure of where they want to be in terms of ski resort? They don't really understand the market but are looking for a good investment. Is it always a good investment for everyone? What's your advice for them?

Steve Hamilton: It's interesting. We never sell it or market it as an investment, but it is. I'm obviously an advocate of property as an investment, but you're always looking for amortization, paying off this investment, getting it rented out, and holding on to it. Then it becomes something very valuable. One day, it just pays you; you don't owe it anything, you're not paying back any mortgage, you don't have any restrictions as far as VAT reclaim, and everything works perfectly for you. Saying that, you have to stay in the best areas. We get a lot of clients, Mark, who say, "I'm totally in love with Samoëns or La Clusaz," or "We always go to Val d'Isère," and they go there and have the most spectacular time and everything was perfect, so they go there again and again. But you know, you can imagine in our position, we get to see all these resorts, and it's interesting when you say, "Where would you put your own money?" Golly, you know, there are so many that you love and so many good places to go. We're seeing a lot of burgeoning summer markets now, health and wellness, and a lot of families that perhaps find the Mediterranean a bit too hot in the summer or too busy. There's a lot you can do in the mountains. You've got these beaches built onto the lakes, all the lifts are open for mountain bikes, and everything, so these areas, a lot of them in and around Geneva, like Morzine and Les Gets, are fantastic for the summer as well. Saying that, if you can travel a few miles further into the Alps, everything's open in the summer now, so it really is becoming quite a long season. Lots and lots of areas that I'd recommend, and it really just depends on the budget. There are other areas where people say, "Right, okay Steve, we want to be snow sure, we want to be in a higher altitude," and then we're looking at places like Tignes or Les Deux Alpes and areas where you're going to get a longer ski season.

Mark Lightfoot: Steve, because obviously you're advising all these people along the way, if you forget about lifestyle, which is obviously a big pull for people being in the French Alps, if you were looking at something that was... if you were trying to give advice to people as an investment, if we stay along those topics, would you typically advise the closer it is to the slopes, the better the investment? And the further it is, the worse the investment, as some sort of barometer. How would you answer that one?

Steve Hamilton: Yes, I think you have to be in the... it's location, location, location, isn't it? It's that old adage. If you think what you or your friends would want when you go skiing, that's exactly where you want to buy. We're developing in these areas, we're selling in these areas that are right near the ski lifts or right near the centre of town. They might have facilities like a pool or a spa, and if not, they'll be very close. Everything will be very accessible. So I'd always say, yeah, get as many square meters as you can in the best area, because that's exactly what you're going to want and enjoy. If you want a great property investment, you have to hold it. Amortization is key, so you want something you're going to be happy with and not grow out of. Very importantly, if you want it as an investment, you want your clients to be going there and enjoying it. They don't want something that's a bit of a trek to get into the bars, restaurants, shops, and ski lifts.

Mark Lightfoot: Actually, it's funny. I used to work for a ski company that sold ski holidays, and I always remember no one ever rang up and said, "We'd like a chalet a 10-minute walk away with no facilities." People just don't ask that question, do they? People always ask the question, "We want to be right on the slopes," whether it's young people, older people, or families. I have a family, and typically, your son would want to carry his skis, so even for that sense, you want to be close to the slopes to be able to transition everything over straight away. So, just to reiterate, from an investment point of view, regardless of whether it's an apartment, because obviously typically you get more apartments that are close to the slopes and chalets maybe further away because of the land cost, even from an investment point of view, you would advise people to go into an apartment that is closer to the slopes rather than a chalet that was maybe slightly bigger and you get slightly bigger land that's slightly further away?

Steve Hamilton: Yeah, I'm a huge fan of apartments. Our clients who are investing in these sorts of properties, Mark, are busy people. When they lock the door, they want to forget about it, they want it rented, they don't want to be worrying about it, they want it in a secure environment. These apartments now... it's funny, years and years ago, people used to ask more for the luxuries, maybe the tub. Nowadays, they ask me for the view and the parking. Parking is very important now. It's amazing, we can sort of have a little graph of every car and how many square meters it is. They're saying, "I'm driving this, that, and the other, can I get this in?" Pretty much every development we build, you could stick a Range Rover in there, but you've got to be good at parking. You can stick a Range Rover in there, you know. I mentioned the view; so often now people are saying, "Steve, I'm going to be working down there, and the dream was to be on the laptop and when I look out the window, I'm looking at snow-covered mountains and then I'm back to work." A lot of people are saying, "I want a great terrace, I want a great view," and for that, I say, "Right, get into an apartment development and get in there as early as possible so you can pick the best orientation, the best view, and quite often at the early stage of a project, you get a better price as well."

Mark Lightfoot: That's a really interesting one. I knew there'd be lots of tangents and places to go once we started speaking. In terms of the investment, as we stick to it, you're obviously advising people to get into investments early to get the best prices. Is there a case of an investment where people have tried to flip it before the investment has been built and then sell it on? Or do people tend to hold it a little bit longer?

Steve Hamilton: Well, the whole point of the investment is to hold it. We certainly have had people that have sold developments after delivery very early. We've had projects that have been a phenomenal success or we've had projects where perhaps clients have had a change of circumstance and they've sold them. We have a market of people that are absolute ski connoisseurs. This is a dream of theirs as well as an investment. We can finance these with the big French banks even as they're being built, so people are holding on to them for many years. Certainly, as I keep banging on about, amortization is the way you make money out of property. You've got to hold it, pay it off, and then it looks after you. You've looked after it for many years, and it will look after you in perpetuity. We can set you up, depending on how you want to structure this, how you want to buy this, whether it be in a company, you're splitting it with your family, it's in a family trust. There's all sorts of things that we can chat about and assist with and see if it works well for our clients.

Mark Lightfoot: Yeah, there's a really interesting point. As I explained before, I've been in real estate generally as a broker for the last 25 years or so. One of the things that really interests me in terms of everyone talking about an investment property, I always kind of feel like the investment is only as good as it is a liquid asset, right? So, in terms of people buying the properties and let's say getting in early for a development, when they go to sell it, I assume the market you're working in, the French Alps, everything is relatively liquid. You don't get a situation generally where properties are on the market for five, six, seven years or whatever it is, where they sometimes have to drop the asking price and the investment isn't so good. Do you feel like these markets are pretty strong in terms of if someone goes to sell it, it's reasonably sellable?

Steve Hamilton: Incredibly so, yeah. France is a great place with a benign tax regime. We've seen post-Brexit a lot of money that used to flow in from other parts of the world, perhaps into the UK, perhaps into London real estate, is now moving to France. It's moving to Paris, it's moving to the Côte d'Azur, and it's moving to the French Alps. We'll get clients now from the UAE, we'll get lots of clients from the Far East. I chat to people from all over the world, not just Europe. What I found over the last stretch as well is the US currency has been strong. You look at a ski pass in the Portes du Soleil, and it's half the price of the equivalent in the US, half the price. Skiing's become prohibitive in some parts of the United States. People are saying, "Actually, I can buy a great asset out in Europe, but more importantly, I've got something in Euros, it's a stable currency, and if I need to turn it back into money, that's very easy to do, and I can do that year in, year out."

Mark Lightfoot: There was something that you said earlier that I just wanted to pick up on. You were saying that a lot of people are now asking about having that dream of "I want to work on my laptop, I want to see the view," all the things that don't really have a price, the beautiful views and all that kind of stuff. Plus, you talked about the apartments. Is there a better investment in your head for buying an outright property in comparison to a leasehold property? It's the question that everyone seems to ask at some point. What's your take on the difference in terms of investment?

Steve Hamilton: Yeah, so they're all freehold. Leaseback—you buy it, and you give it back into the pool, and they lease the property out for you. Both can work very well. Our stock predominantly at the moment is freehold property that you can own, you can live in, you can do as you please, but you can enter it into a rental program and get the VAT back. Pretty much every client, Mark, at the moment, the last three years have been reclaiming the VAT and renting it out. Post-Brexit, we know where we stand now. We can stay 90 days every 180 days, so we can stay in three-month tranches in Europe. It works very well for us because we're not going to be there for six months of the year, so we might as well get this asset working for us and help us towards the cost and eventually owning it outright.

Mark Lightfoot: Again, I always go back to it in terms of the investment, and there's no problem if people wanted to exit that rental commitment that they've made in terms of reselling it. That's been quite easy to do?

Steve Hamilton: Very easy to do. If you buy a new-build property, you're paying your biggest chunk on VAT. We advertise some net of charges, a bit like you'd advertise property on Rightmove net of stamp duty. In France, you pay 20% VAT, which can be reclaimed if you rent it out. You have to rent it out, and you are in this program for the next 20 years. But as I said, you're only there for six months a year max. If you can have that many days, you might as well be renting it anyway, and you can get that huge amount of money back. Now, say you want to sell it, you can either pay back the VAT you've claimed pro-rata. If you're five years in, you can pay back the five years' worth that you've benefited from, or you can pass that on to the next owner, and they can keep using it. Either way, you can exit the program. People do it week in, week out. This program has been running for many years. It's incredibly successful, and it's just born out of the fact that France is the busiest tourist destination in the world. There's not enough quality properties for people to rent, so the French government came up with this great scheme. We want you to own a property in France, but we don't want it sitting there dormant, so we'll give you back a huge chunk of money if you rent it out. We lead you through the process, make sure you get the VAT back, which you get about six to eight weeks after completion. All very straightforward.

Mark Lightfoot: It's so important in these ski resorts to have a full resort, isn't it, and not like a ghost town. I've definitely seen some developments that have been purchased, and then no one lives in them, and they just die a death, don't they? They're just very much ghost towns. Just so we're kind of on the subject, typically if people are doing rentals, what is a typical ROI? As we mentioned before, a lot of people's expectations are usually my first question to people looking to buy ski real estate in terms of the ROI they're looking for. They have very high expectations. It's important to set those expectations to a normal rate. I assume we are going to dispel the myth of 7-8% net return on a ski resort from rentals. What is realistic?

Steve Hamilton: I'd be delighted to dispel that myth. We're very lucky here at David Lloyd Signature Homes. Our clients are pretty sophisticated when it comes to the numbers, and they're not—you'll see some property investments that offer you assured returns, amazing double-digit numbers. Fantastic, but that's not what we do. This is a great property in a blue-chip area. You're going to yield anywhere net from 2.5 to 5% max. You're not going to get anywhere near 9%. But what you're doing is buying a fantastic property in a blue-chip area, and you're chipping away at it, loving owning it. It's a fantastic investment that you can turn back into cash at any given time. It's not some spurious investment offering an incredible return that may or may not be realistic. I think there's just sometimes a lot of comparison. It's funny, I guess these aren't genuine buyers when people say, "I can get X amount on the stocks or whatever," and it's like, well, if you're looking for that, I'm sure there are better investments in terms of getting more value for your money. But that's not always what we're doing here. There is a lifestyle side to it, there are memories, being in the mountains, the fresh air—all those things you're not going to get with buying stocks. It's a different investment, but it's not to say that it's not a good investment. It just doesn't appreciate as much as something else.

Mark Lightfoot: Yes, yeah. Would you see this as augmenting other investments? If someone came to me and said, "Steve, I have X amount of money to invest," the first answer would be, "I'm not qualified to chat about this." But they've got the option to go the S&P, gold, FTSE, UK real estate, or invest in property via a REIT. There are all sorts of things they can do if they want exposure to real estate or other investments that might bring them a better return. This is always something a lot of people can use and enjoy. It's a tangible asset, they can touch it, use it, and liquidate it if they have to. Our clients have a myriad of other investments and may have other stocks, shares, bonds that may be low risk, high risk, bringing them a higher percentage. I get that, but it's always good to have something like this. It's a huge investment in your life, in seeing your family. Eventually, the family gets to use it, and it doesn't owe anyone any money. It's good fun. Some investments are incredible fun but prohibitive to run. You may love having a racing yacht, but you're never going to end up in profit, are you?

Mark Lightfoot: No, yeah. I've lived in quite a few marinas, and there are a few disgruntled boat owners, that's for sure. Just one thing that I keep on coming back to, or you keep on mentioning, in terms of the blue-chip resorts. I'm quite interested in this because as an investment point of view, as we're sticking to, when you're talking about blue-chip resorts, are you talking about the more well-known ones like the Three Valleys, Val d'Isère, Courchevel, Méribel, Tignes, or Chamonix? And the second question is, would you still advise someone to invest in these resorts, or would you consider investing in a smaller satellite resort that hasn't materialized as much but is starting to build links towards a bigger resort? For example, the Arlberg in Austria was kind of sectioned up, and now it's all one thing. I'm sure people would find appreciation. Even in London, my friend bought in one place, and then they started the Elizabeth Line, and now suddenly it's worth so much money. Is there an opportunity in ski real estate where you can maybe say a smaller satellite versus a more well-known resort where you would get the better investment?

Steve Hamilton: I think that's a splendid place to put your money. A satellite, a smaller village part of a great ski domain, like Portes du Soleil, Three Valleys, some of the biggest ski domains on the planet. You may be in Paradiski in La Plagne. An example would be Montchavin-La Plagne, at 1350 meters. They put in a new lift several years ago, so now you can link up to the fun in La Plagne proper. You've got this winter wonderland but can also take the lift back down. You can invest in a ski-in, ski-out property in a smaller village with a few wonderful restaurants and a big supermarket and great links down to the town with the medical centre, tennis, golf—everything you want. I think these things are great. You don't want to be in the middle of nowhere on a street leading to a ski resort in a few kilometres. That's not going to change in value in real terms ever. But if it's linked up, like you said, the Elizabeth Line is the French equivalent, they're putting in these telecabins and high-speed lifts. If you look at the projects over these great ski domains over the past 10, 20 years, there's something being planned all the time. They're always linking up some great area, some great village, and just making it more accessible. You get to live there and get to know it. It's a bit like snakes and ladders; you get to know, "Well, actually, during this season, I can beat the crowds by going this way. During the less busy times, I can go into the village and have coffee and maybe breakfast and go up that way." It's all sorts of fun once you get to know the areas. I'm a huge fan. I mentioned Montchavin-La Plagne because it's where I put my own money.

Mark Lightfoot: That’s where I had my first-ever ski holiday. No, actually, that was Verbier. My second ski holiday with my friends was in Montchavin-La Plagne, a long time ago.

Steve Hamilton: Yeah, well, you drive there, and there's so much skiing above 2,000 meters. To me, it's all about the skiing, and in the summer, I just rent it out but want to take as many weeks now as possible. You look at the snow cams, and people are skiing today. It's a fabulous long season there.

Mark Lightfoot: So, I guess the question is, if you had to invest in one, just to kind of put you on the spot, would you prefer to invest in a smaller satellite resort compared to, if you had an unlimited budget, to maybe invest as an investment, not as a lifestyle, into the centre of Méribel or the centre of Courchevel? You'd prefer to go to Montchavin-La Plagne; you think it's got a little bit more chance to appreciate?

Steve Hamilton: That worked well for me, but it's a longer drive. You're flying into Geneva, and the lovely thing about Geneva is it's not going anywhere. You can get a cheap flight there 365 days a year. It's easy to get into France, but a lot of these resorts in the Portes du Soleil are fabulous, where you ski, and next thing you know, you're skiing in Switzerland or France. There are wonderful villages in and around Morzine, Les Gets, and I think they are fantastic places to invest as well. If you look at the Grand Massif, again, very accessible from Geneva. Samoëns, a pretty village, surrounded by mountains. There are many places I would have stuck my money, but I quite like driving and chatting to clients in the car. So, to me, that two and a half hour drive from Geneva to Montchavin-La Plagne is never downtime. By the time I get there, the way I work it out in my head, I've done a bit of work, and I can go off skiing for a couple of hours.

Mark Lightfoot: That’s a good way to look at things. It does make me ask a question on this. We can see it through SnowOnly as well. There are a lot of people looking to buy properties in France from Singapore, Hong Kong, the Middle East, definitely further afield. We just had one guy fly from Australia and buy property in Italy, which is crazy. Do you think an investment specifically for France would be better to invest in properties that are reasonably close to Geneva? We always have these things about Chambery, the plane landing, etc. Do you think there's better appreciation in the likes of Morzine and Samoëns because of the accessibility from Geneva, or do you not think it makes too much difference?

Steve Hamilton: Geneva is a huge pull, and it's a delightful airport. It's always easy to get in and out of Geneva. More importantly, you've got your EasyJet and cheap flights for us, but you've got flights coming in from all over the globe. It's a global destination. It's designed to look after people, get them through it quickly. We'll have flights from Hong Kong every day, flights from New York every day. It really is a fabulous place to go and invest for people anywhere in the world. We're finding a lot of people, expats working out in the UAE, don't necessarily want a place back in England but want a place in Europe, and they're looking at ski properties as well. It's a lovely time to come when it's baking hot in Dubai. You're in the mountains, it's wonderful, great climate during the day, you can swim in the lakes and beaches, but in the evenings, it's just a wonderful temperature. You don't need air conditioning blasting away all the time.

Mark Lightfoot: There's just one more question I want to ask. I told you this would happen; we've been speaking for half an hour already. In terms of altitude, because we always have to cover it, it's always an interesting one for me. I've spoken to a lot of agents recently, and there seems to be a lot more demand because people are talking about climate change. They want to get something at least over 1600 meters. There's demand for Tignes, Val Thorens at 2100, 2400 meters, but then that all gets dispelled when you look at the likes of Chamonix, which always has people there and is about 900 meters, I think. The town is around there. In terms of investment, would you advise people to go a little bit higher in terms of a snow-sure resort, or is something dual-season gazumping that kind of theory? Do you want something that's somewhere in the middle? What's your thought?

Steve Hamilton: It's interesting when you actually live there. Our team lives there, works there, skis all the time. If you look at mid-level resorts and up, that's where people are investing, nothing lower. If you look at Louisa, who runs our operation in the Portes du Soleil, because you live there, if there's ever a week where there's not brilliant snow, there are going to be weeks where you're just basking in snow up to your knees. It's a much different prospect when you live there and own it yourself. There are amazing snowmaking facilities in all these resorts now, but yeah, as far as the snow-sure resorts are concerned, Tignes and Val d'Isère are very popular with people like myself, where it's all about skiing. But mid-level and above is where we go, so I'd go into the Portes du Soleil and some of the higher resorts if you're just like me, obsessed with skiing for as many hours as possible.

Mark Lightfoot: Just to cover it, Steve, before we go, what areas do you and David Lloyd Signature Homes specialize in? Where are you, in case someone's listening and wants to chat with you about a certain area? What's your parameter of where you work?

Steve Hamilton: We cover the whole French Alps. We have places in Méribel, Paradiski, Grand Massif, Three Valleys, and Portes du Soleil. We cover a fantastic scope of properties and opportunities. We don't take orders when a client says, "I want particularly this and this village." We pick the developments first from the bespoke top-notch developers selling in the best areas with the best quality products. You have these new thermo-insulated properties, and they clad them with old materials so they blend in with the village, but you're getting a great property in a splendid area. We've always picked the best resorts and developments we can in each resort, but we can look after our clients in all sorts of resorts. What we would do, and what my office does here in the UK, is we're never selling anything. We're just listening to what our clients enjoy, how they're going to use it, if they're going to rent it, how the family works, whether they're going to work there, what may be best for them, financing this, or if it should be a family trust, a straight mortgage, or equity release from the UK. We're looking at all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that work for these families, and then we could suggest a few places and be delighted to meet them as they go down to these places. If it's a very broad scope of properties people are looking at, we tend to kick it off with a few Zoom meetings, show you the views, get a feeling for it. It's wonderful, very easy nowadays, isn't it? I can talk about Samoëns, take you down there, walk you around the village, show you the views, take you up on a ski lift. People can quickly feel if they think they're going to enjoy a destination or not. Then we work further, meet you in the resort, show you a few different areas, and take it from there. It really is a massive domain, the French Alps. It's a great place to buy, you're buying in euros, it's easy to buy, easy to sell. Notaries work for clients, they don't work for us, so everyone's very safe and looked after.

Mark Lightfoot: It's a bit like if you buy somewhere in the UK because of your job, your family, or historical ties. If we came to the UK, you might say, "Oh, I love Cheltenham, Bath, Edinburgh, Kensington, Brighton," there are so many great places to live. The Alps is like that. You're spoiled for choice. You almost have to pick one that works best for you. Quite often, it may be the proximity to Geneva, the accessibility to cheap flights to get there easily all the time.

Steve Hamilton: Yes, I do like that concept of a real estate agent of picking the best developments, and when people say, "I want to go here, here, and here," you say, "I've already picked the best ones. If you want to go somewhere else, fair enough, but these are the ones we've done the research on beforehand." Do a lot of people ask for an investment, or is it still the lifestyle thing? Are people saying, "We just want an investment," or is it, "We just want a ski property and not worried about the investment"?

Steve Hamilton: Predominantly a ski property lifestyle. People are very active, want to be busy in summer and winter. They want great activities, more than skiing. They want swimming, white-water rafting, tennis, mountain biking—a plethora of opportunities in the mountains. Very much lifestyle and enjoying their lives and the dream of owning in the mountains. A lot of people need to justify it as a business case, and rightfully so. They may have investments in stocks, shares, bonds, gold, and want to see this work for them as well. They want to see the business case, and we're happy to chat about that and show them the numbers. Initially, people say, "I want 9%, 10%," and they respect the fact that we say, "No, it doesn't exist." If you're being offered those returns or assured returns, that's not what we deal with. We can talk about what we know, what these values are, and where we see them growing. If you hold an asset for 20 years, will it double? Yes, it could. More likely, it's gone up by about 50%. Along the road, you've paid for it, so it looks after you in years to come or looks after your family. From that, and wonderful lifestyle, enjoying the mountains, it really is a blue-chip investment.

Mark Lightfoot: I think that's a good way to leave it there, Steve. I guess in answer to the question we asked: is real estate a good investment? Absolutely, plus you get the lifestyle that comes with it.

Steve Hamilton: I agree.

Mark Lightfoot: Great, Steve, thank you so much for your time today. We've been on for 40 minutes already. I'll put in all the links and contact details for Steve if you have any questions for him. Thanks very much, really appreciate it.

Steve Hamilton: Mark, thank you, and delighted to chat with anyone. Many thanks.

Mark Lightfoot: No worries, cheers buddy.

Steve Hamilton: Cheerio, bye-bye.