Feb 20, 2023 / BUYING PROCESS

Property viewing trip know how

Although some intrepid buyers agree to purchase a ski property without seeing it in the flesh, for most of us the viewing trip is the single most essential step in purchasing. After all, it requires more planning than buying a home in your own country. Here are our tips and tricks to having a successful viewing trip abroad.

Buying a home in the mountains is not as simple as driving (or perhaps even walking) to a new property in your usual neighbourhood, having a nosy and then being about to pop back if you want to double-check something.

Another factor that makes buying overseas more complicated is that your potential ski home will be at the mercy of fluctuations in the currency market – but don’t worry, you can prepare for this.

Be ruthless in narrowing your search

Firstly, you need to narrow your search geographically. Getting around in the mountains, especially in winter, is not as easy as around cities and suburbs. You’re going to need to be quite focused on where you look on each trip and perhaps limit yourself to one resort or ski area. Your estate agent will of course be your guide on what is doable each trip, but consider closer to three or four properties in a day than 10.

Our property portal is full of tempting ski chalets, just waiting to be fallen in love with. But rather than just get lost staring at beautiful homes, knuckle down to the practicalities.

Exterior of home in  Valtournenche, Aosta, Italy

How long does it take to get there? If you only have time for shorter visits, then you don’t want to waste valuable holiday time in the air.

What exactly would you like to use your skiing home for? Just snow sports, or are you already dreaming of mountain biking down those hillsides or paragliding for a birds’ eye view? Check out our recommended spots for four-season appeal.

Budget is, of course, all important. Don’t be tempted to look at properties outside your reach and then hope to haggle the price down. Indeed, it is best to go under your budget as you will need to account for buying costs of – depending on the country – maybe 5 to 15% on top. On our property portal, you will be able to use our “max price” filter to define your search and see what you can get for how much.

There is little more pointless than trekking up a mountain to see a property which you can instantly reject. So, furnish the estate agent with a list of “must have” features and “like to have” features. You might want a ski chalet with a hot tub but what you really need is a home with two bedrooms. If it’s between a one-bed with a hot tub and a two-bed without, you know what decision you must make. This is a good opportunity to seriously discuss with your significant other. Why not each look though the site separately and pick out what you love, then compare notes and hope you’re not too shocked at what the other has picked out!

Find a good estate agent 

Interior of a ski property in Tignes, France

A good estate agent will be not just sell you the property, but help you with the paperwork and many of the particular foibles of buying in another country. They will come armed with knowledge about what you can buy at what price – possibly, they will be able to show you properties that are not yet featured on the property portal.

Before booking your viewing trip, bear in mind that many agents won’t work weekends or public holidays. Also, that high summer and winter holiday periods the properties may be full. Be guided by the agent on when is the best time to go.

Explore the area as much as you can

If you’re looking at ski properties in an area you’ve skied in frequently, it could be interesting to time your viewing trip in summer.

There are plenty of things that matter in the day-to-day that aren’t a priority when we’re on holiday. How close are the supermarkets? Are there good public transport options nearby? How far is the airport? How effective is the internet?

If you are planning to move there full-time, then you will likely have additional questions about healthcare and schooling in the area. 

If you can, have a chat with a neighbour to get a real feel for the place, as more than a tourist.

Be ready to buy

Outside seating area in Saint Gervais, France

So, you’ve just seen the most gorgeous ski chalet and you are already fantasising about how you are going to arrange the furniture and what photographs you are going to hang on the walls – should you make an offer? If you have done all your prep and research, then there’s no reason to let the opportunity slip away.

Purchasing a property overseas is a big financial decision and fluctuations in the currency market can make it all the more nerve-racking. Agreeing on a price on your viewing trip, for payment maybe several months down the line leaves you open to the exchange rate moving against you in the meantime.

The best way to avoid this is to contact Smart Currency Exchange. You can, as soon as you decide to buy, lock in your exchange rate using a Forward Contract. You will then know precisely how much you will pay when it comes to purchasing your ski home.