Why is it that whenever I go away, even for just a few days, my tenants call with a problem? Happens every time. I hadn’t heard from the folk in one rental flat for weeks and then the very morning I set off for a sneaky post-Christmas ski, one of them called to say the bathroom pull-cord light switch had broken, leaving them groping around in the dark.
He caught me just as I was about to board the plane for Zurich so I promised to call an electrician as soon as I landed, and I would have done if I hadn’t stuffed my BlackBerry in a bag which contained, unbeknown to me and to the security chaps at Heathrow, a leaking bottle of water.
By the time I got off the plane my BlackBerry was drenched - and lifeless. All attempts to resuscitate it (pulling it apart, drying the battery, wiping the SIM card, and yelling “work, damn you”) failed. As all my contacts, including the tenant’s and the electrician’s numbers, were stored on the phone there was nothing I could do except enjoy the skiing and hope that the tenants didn’t mind being left in the dark for a few more days. It was hard at first to enjoy myself knowing I’d let them down, but hey, the snow was fantastic and the sun was shining.
I was skiing in LAAX, a Swiss resort that must have decided a few years ago that if it spelt its name with capital letters it would start to get noticed. Seems to be working as it’s now pulling in more British skiers, but what really caught my eye over there was the recently built rocksresort village (rocksresort.com), which consists of 122 super-stylish, fully furnished, slope-side apartments available to foreign investors (with no restrictions on ownership) on a buy-to-use-and-let basis.
Situated next to the main lift station, they struck me as the perfect, hassle-free investment, especially for those who like to ski. The owners get to use the apartments for three weeks during the peak winter season and for an unlimited period during the summer, and the rest of the time they’re let out. The management company handles the bookings and maintenance and the income from all the properties is pooled and shared among the owners, so even if your apartment isn’t let, you still receive rent.
These have got to be the swishest apartments in the Alps, too. I loved the minimalist décor (no gingham curtains and cow bells here), sleek kitchens and bathrooms that turn into steam rooms at the flick of a switch.
I liked the massive windows, too, but when I swished open the curtains expecting to see the mountains, I found myself staring into someone’s bedroom. I’d recommend one with a better view.
The guaranteed rental yield of 4.7 per cent is not exciting (my London flats do much better at seven per cent), but when you consider that three weeks personal use is worth up to £6,000 a year (and owners get a free family lift pass for the first five years) it looks a more attractive investment. Plus, property prices in Swiss ski resorts have gone up 25 per cent to 50 per cent in five years, while my London properties have lost value, so the capital growth is potentially much better.
Remember you won’t have to deal with any niggly maintenance issues, such as faulty light switches. If you’ve got £400,000 to invest, these apartments might be worth considering. Unfortunately I haven’t, so I’ll need to dig out the number for an electrician.