Buy into glorious weekends on the Austrian lakes

Zell am See has it all for those who love the great outdoors. Cathy Hawker discovers why this Alpine town is attracting UK buyers
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Lakeside Chalets at Hallstatt
From £202,185: Lakeside Chalets at Hallstatt - 60 minutes from Salzburg airport, with two- to four-bedroom lakeside chalets
The spirit-lifting combination of lakes, mountains and fresh air is what brings visitors to Austria year-round, and Zell am See has it all in abundance.

The town, which has a population 10,000, sits on slopes between Lake Zell and the Schmittenhöhe mountains, in Salzburgland, a favourite holiday area of Austria.

Zell am See has been a go-to summer destination for wealthy Salzburg residents since the 1880s and when ski lifts opened in the Sixties it became a smart winter resort, too. Today it takes 90 minutes on a direct train from Salzburg — costing a bargain £10 — making a weekend from London perfectly possible for skiers flying from Luton or Gatwick.

Rental potential

"Zell am See is one of Salzburgland's most popular towns," says Giles Gale of Mark Warner Property (020 7692 0786). "It's an established, upmarket and family-friendly holiday town and also a working town. The Kaprun glacier makes this one of the few places in Europe where in summer you can go skiing in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and mess about on the lake in the evening."

Mark Warner is an established middle-market holiday company — its first resort opened in Verbier in 1975 — and Zell am See is its first location to offer property for sale.

Mark Warner apartments
£78,200: the first hotel apartments in Zell am See have been launched, with one- and two-bedroom options, close to the lake and ski lifts (020 7692 0786)
The development is in the centre of town, close to bars and restaurants, and five minutes from the lake and ski lifts. It will have 30 apartments, a restaurant, bar, spa and a sauna spread over two buildings, one a restored listed property and one new-build. Owners will have free access to the extensive crèches and childcare.

Prices start from £78,200 for a 290sq ft studio, and £231,800 for 720sq ft and two bedrooms. Car parking is an additional £12,410 and annual maintenance charges average £1,655. Owners can use their property as often as they like, but under Austrian laws designed to keep resorts busy all year they must make it available for rent when they are not there. Mark Warner manages rentals, giving 75 per cent of income to owners.

"Selling property is a logical development for Mark Warner," says founder Mark Chitty. "Zell am See has a strong winter and summer season and when the hotel opens in summer 2013 we expect it to be popular with clients. Overall our ski hotels run at 95 per cent occupancy."

A sound investmant

Zell am See hasn't really been hit by the economic downturn, says Inga-Lill Hockwimmer from Absolut Immobilier. "Austria hasn't experienced any boom-and-bust and prices in Zell have risen by five per cent each year," she says. "There is little space to build on and when property comes up it sells quickly." Two- and three-bedroom apartments cost from £198,590 to £579,215, with smart, contemporary properties in Sonnberg Apartments from £192,700 for 670sq ft including parking, also through Mark Warner.

new apartments at Lake Zell
£280,000: twenty-four new apartments on the banks of Lake Zell with two to four bedrooms (020 8455 0505)

Village life

Small traditional Austrian villages nearby also offer good-value dual-season property. Bramberg, 30 minutes away, is a charming 10th-century village where two-bedroom apartments at Schloss Residences start from £279,680 through Alpine Marketing (020 8455 0505).

In the spa town of Bad Gastein, Alpine Homes (020 7016 3740) have 32 one- to four-bedroom apartments on the piste from £107,570 and in Wagrain, 40 minutes from Salzburg, one- and two-bedroom flats start from £149,770 through Mark Warner.

As for rents: "A good apartment will rent continuously from mid-December to March and for two months in the summer," claims Lisa Quas of Alpen Apartments (00 43 (0) 664 88 51 71 90), which manages rental property in Zell and Kaprun. "Typical rents are £256 a night in high season for a three-bedroom flat next to the ski lifts."


* One-week ski pass covering Zell am See and Kaprun is £157.
* Skiing is available up to 9,940ft on the Kaprun glacier.
* There are six golf courses within 30 minutes of Zell am See.
* BA and easyJet fly from Gatwick or Luton to Salzburg and Munich.
* Allow seven per cent for purchasing costs including 3.5 per cent stamp duty.

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