Diary of an estate agent: the French Alps

With ski season in full swing, custom-built home cinemas and indoor pools are the latest must-haves in these French alpine villages as holiday homes are snapped up on the slopes.

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This ski season I’m already averaging nearly 1,000 miles a week handling client visits and meeting developers, so it’s a good thing the new company car arrived this morning. Snow tyres, four-wheel drive and a panoramic sunroof are necessities when viewing properties around the Alps. 

First stop is to meet a developer in Val d’Isère. We have a chalet client with an £8 million budget being flown to the resort at the end of the week and the developer will pilot the helicopter. I will be praying for good weather. We need to discuss the floor plans because the client wants a pool and cinema in the basement — a fairly standard request these days. Before I start the next journey, to La Rosière, we have lunch in the new Fondue Factory underneath some flats we’re selling in the village centre.


Waking up in La Rosière, about three feet of fresh snow has fallen. It snowed just about everywhere in the Alps last night, enough to see most resorts through until Easter.  

The first job of a day is to rescue a colleague who has mistaken a narrow piste for a road. Fortunately for him he chose his hire car well, and we make it down the piste unscathed. Everyone is noticeably twitchy during the morning’s viewing. Deep snow and blazing sunshine beckon and after a few subtle nods to the developer we hit the slopes for some of the best off-piste we have ever skied.


Today I’m travelling to Châtel, a resort that has become extremely popular with British buyers. Châtel is one of just a few resorts in the Portes du Soleil where you still come across old farming chalets that have cows living downstairs and people living upstairs. Prices are still competitive here, too, at around £5,120 per square metre for ski-in ski-out property — Val d’Isère is £19,700 plus.

My appointment is with a client who wants to check on the progress of her penthouse, part of a new project adjacent to the slopes. The viewing is going well, when she slips in that she wants her grand piano to fit into the apartment. There’s enough space but the building is now watertight. When she sees the costs for removing part of the roof and the crane rental, she will probably decide to settle for an upright piano instead.


“I don’t want a new build,” says the wife of a client as we stand on the plot of a new apartment project in Chamonix. The husband reserved six months ago, but this is her first visit. I stand back and let him debate the subject for me. “Older properties require expensive renovations and the buying costs are double.” But his reasoning falls on deaf ears. He apologises and they leave. Just before I call head office in London to relay the bad news, I receive a text from the husband saying he will convince her, he just needs time. 

It’s not the first time this has happened. With mortgage rates so low and buyers acting quickly to secure their dream home in the Alps, it’s surprising how many people move forward with a purchase without giving their spouse the full picture. 


My prayers on Monday for good flying weather today have gone unanswered. “A bit choppy” is how the developer/pilot describes conditions. The client has already had a very bumpy ride into Chambéry and it takes around 30 minutes for the developer to convince her the helicopter transfer to Val d’Isère will be fine. I wonder how anyone could fly a kite in this, let alone a helicopter.

Flying by chopper cuts the transfer time from two hours to 25 minutes, but by the time we land the client is a gibbering wreck. Luckily, as we arrive on the plot and start discussing the plans the sun comes out, the view across the village does the legwork and the flight is quickly forgotten. An hour later a price is agreed and we all shake hands on the deal. A great end to the week.

  • Charles-Antoine Sialelli is the French Alps manager at Athena Advisers (020 7471 4500).

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