Austria is the birthplace of Alpine skiing but for two decades it lost its British skiers to the giant resorts of France, bedazzled by the purpose-built convenience, high-altitude and guaranteed snow.
Now, with value for money at the top of everybody’s agenda, those same skiers are returning to Austria, realising that Alpine charm, friendly service and homes can be enjoyed for well under half the price of comparable property in some French resorts.
In Austria everything from a week’s lift pass to the on-piste gluhwein is more affordable than the French behemoths and that includes property. Salzburgland in the southwest is Austria’s second most popular tourist area after the Tyrol with off-plan apartments starting from £158,250.
Wagrain is a village with true character, a large population of 3,500, a traditional steepled church and cosy bars and restaurants in the Pongau Valley, connecting Flachau to Alpendorf. The valley is dotted with small farms while pine trees cover the slopes stretching up from the three gondolas. Wagrain is part of Ski Amadé, Austria’s largest ski region with 25 resorts and 530 miles of runs 45 minutes from Salzburg airport. In the past decade £250 million has been invested on infrastructure.
Grafenberg Resort is an off-plan development of 57 one- and two-bedroom apartments of 518 to 721sq ft being built on a slope next to the Grafenberg lift. Residents will have a communal pool, sauna, bar and restaurant. Prices start from £158,250 through Savills Alpine Homes with completion due in autumn 2012.
Under Austrian law second-home owners have four weeks use of their apartment each year and otherwise have to make it available to rent. An onsite management company will organise rentals, paying owners £11,900 annually.
Developer Per Rölle has completed six projects in Austria and owns three hotels locally. "Most of Wagrain’s 6,000 tourist beds are in small guesthouses," says Rölle. "Germans are the main visitors. Wagrain has a good winter snow record. Summer activities include trekking, rafting and mountain biking with eight golf courses within one hour’s drive."
Family holiday specialists Mark Warner has launched a property company focusing on small resorts in Austria. In Alpendorf, overlooking Wagrain, three-bedroom off-plan apartments on the piste start from €266,000 (£227,500) and in the centre of popular Zell Am See, overlooking the lake, two-bedroom apartments start from €249,000 (£213,000).
"Austria is easily accessible, has great skiing and a thriving summer market that mean rental returns are significantly higher than comparable French or Swiss resorts," says Giles Gale of Mark Warner Property.
The Alpine peaks are steeper and more dramatic around Bad Gastein, an established spa town at 1000 metres in the Hohe Tauern National Park with a casino, golf course and impressive Belle Époque architecture. There is excellent cross country skiing, 125 miles of downhill pistes and ten minutes away, Alpentherme is one of Austria’s largest and most modern spas. The town has its own train station connecting to Salzburg.
Savills Alpine Homes are selling 29 off-plan apartments above the resort at Graukogel with excellent views and easy access to the pistes. One- to four-bedroom contemporary-style apartments from 322 to 1614 square feet range from €138,583 to €715,424 (£118,550 - £612,000) with a restaurant, wellness centre and parking.
Completed two and three-bedroom apartments at Chalet Gastein in the centre of the town start from €179,000 (£153,120) including furniture through Investors in Property. Both these properties must be rented out for part of the year.
Two-bedroom resale apartments in the same National Park at Schonblick Mountain Resort costs €198,000 (£167,180). The property, built two years ago, comes with parking and a wellness centre through Cluttons Resorts.
Contacts and factfile
Savills Alpine Homes (020 7016 3740; alpinehomesintl.com)
Investors in Property (020 8905 5511; investorsinproperty.com)
Mark Warner Property (020 7692 0786; markwarnerproperty.com)
Cluttons Resorts (020 7584 3050; cluttonsresorts.com)
* Allow between 6.5 per cent and 7.5 per cent for purchase costs including stamp duty of 3.5 per cent.
* Prices are all net of VAT at 20 per cent which is not payable if property is rented.