Affordable and family-friendly, Austria has been a favourite with British skiers for 40 years.
Strict planning rules have preserved its traditional beauty while its clean air and emphasis on well-being attract outdoor types in search of healthy living.
Restrictive laws meant foreigners could not buy property there until relatively recently, and even now buying in some areas, such as Lech and the Tyrol, remains difficult.
But interestingly priced projects in the south-west, where skiing, spas and golf provide that important year-round life, should persuade even more buyers that Austria is a good investment.
Since the start of Easyjet flights from Gatwick to
Salzburg in December 2008, the profile of the Salzburgland region, where villages are free of the high-rise apartment blocks that dominate parts of the French and Italian Alps, has been raised. Salzburgland has medieval churches, turreted castles and picturesque farming villages straight out of The Sound of Music.
'Austria's main climate is an alpine one with cold but sunny winters and mild, temperate summers'
In Austria, property is about 30 per cent cheaper than comparable property in Switzerland and yields are reasonable. Savills Alpine Homes is selling three projects in Salzburgland, all within 70 minutes of Salzburg airport and all by UK-based developer Austrian Chalets. The first, in the former mining town of Rauris, opened this winter with 31 flats based around a clubhouse, spa and pool, with a golf course planned.
Austrian Chalets’ other two developments are in the popular ski resorts of Kaprun and Zell Am See in the Hohe Tauern National Park. Kitz Kristall Mountain Resort & Spa on the edge of the pretty farming town of Kaprun has one- to four-bedroom apartments divided between three interlinked, traditionally-styled chalet buildings.
The project, due for completion in December, is a 10-minute walk from the village centre with views up to the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. Prices were recently reduced by 10 per cent to counter the strength of the euro and start at £99,000 for two-bedroom flats.
Properties have to be made available to rent and Savills estimates returns of about five to seven per cent. Ten minutes away, in the lakeside town of Zell Am See, Alpine Homes will have 32 apartments with lake views.
This scheme will have a modern feel and the location will suit buyers who want a busier location. Prices start at £165,360 for two-bedroom flats.
“The ski areas of Kaprun and Zell Am See have better snow than Kitzbühel, while property is nearly half the price of St Anton,” says Michael Ellmer of Ellmer & Partner Immobilier. A new four-bedroom house near Kaprun would cost from £444,500. There are few resales in an area where residents tend to extend rather than trade up. “Austria has no real history of boom and bust,” says Ellmer.
Austria lies at the heart of Europe, bordering nine countries including Italy, Germany and Switzerland. With more than half the country dominated by the Alps, the main climate is an alpine one with cold but sunny winters and mild, temperate summers.
Tourism in Austria
Thirty million tourists visit Austria every year. Traditionally, most visitors have been skiers - 19 per cent of British skiers choose Austria, making it our second-favourite winter sports destination after France. British skiers to Zell Am See doubled in the eight years to 2007. Increasingly, Austria is seen as a summer destination with golf courses and impressive and affordable spas.
Forty per cent of Austria’s 32,383 square miles is forest or woodland. The main tourist cities are the capital Vienna and Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg. New low-cost flights there are introducing more visitors to the country.
'Few destinations are more glamorous than Kitzbühel, one of the Alps’ most famous resorts'
Skiers can choose between resorts such as Innsbruck in the Tyrol, the only major city in the Alps, or the Arlberg in western Austria, where five interlinked towns, including St Anton, provide a perfect picturesque backdrop to the mountains.
Few destinations are more glamorous than Kitzbühel, one of the Alps’ most famous resorts. It doesn’t have a perfect snow record but for sheer European style and old-school glamour, this Tyrolean resort is hard to fault.
Austria has not been a traditional hunting ground for British house-buyers thanks to historic restrictions on foreign property ownership and a lack of suitable developments. The past two years has seen several new-build projects with agents keen to stress Austria’s affordability.
“The Austrian market offers alpine property that is truly within everybody’s reach,” claims Jeremy Rollason of Savills Alpine Homes. Austria has been less affected by the global credit troubles than its neighbours Germany and Italy. “In Salzburg, property prices remain stable. Historically, it has been very hard to lose money in Austria,” says Michael Ellmer of Ellmer & Partner Immobilier.
In south-east Austria, AlpenParks, Austria’s largest ski resort developer, is selling chalets at Hagan Lodge on Loser Mountain with a guaranteed rental return of six per cent and two weeks’ personal use.
The three-bedroom chalets sleep up to nine, with indoor saunas and optional hot tubs, at prices from £324,500 including all legal fees. Salzburg airport is 90 minutes away.
Or in the Belle Epoque resort of Bad Gastein, Investors in Property is selling one- and two-bedroom apartments at the top of the waterfall that dominates this spa town. Wasserfall Apartments start at £171,500.
Savills Alpine Homes: 020 7016 3740; www.alpinehomesintl.com
Hagan Lodge: www.hagan-lodge.co.uk; www.alpenparks.co.uk
Investors in Property: 020 8905 5511; www.investorsinproperty.com
Ellmer & Partner Immobilier: www.ellmer.at/e_home
* Allow 6.5 per cent for buying costs in Austria.
* Completion of all projects is expected in December.
* Both projects have parking and storage rooms.
* Service charges will average £3 per 10sq ft a month.
* All property is freehold.
* If you own a property for 10 years in Austria there is no capital gains tax to pay. Otherwise, it is paid on a sliding scale between zero and 40 per cent depending on how long you have owned the property.