Demand for ski property in the French Alps is climbing back up, according to new figures.
Brits account for over one-third of prime real estate purchasers in the French Alps, reveals Knight Frank's inaugural Ski Resort Property Index, but are finding they have to compete with more buyers from the eurozone as the ski resort market starts to recover from recession.
Indeed, European investors remained prominent throughout the 2010/2011 ski season because they were unaffected by the currency fluctuations. The result is a steadily increasing level of interest that has helped the market to stabilise and, in some cases, bounce back strongly.
Prices in the resort MegÃÂ¨ve, for example, recovered and jumped by 4.3 per cent in the year to June 2011, says Knight Frank.
Demand for property in the Alps is also starting to expand beyond the traditional seasonal months, adds Bailey. "Summer tourism, often involving hiking and climbing, has helped to increase rental incomes for many second home owners. The Alps are now host to a number of summer festivals, concerts and sporting events attracting visitors all year round."
That is precisely what NadÃÂ¨ge has found with her five-bedroom cottage in the Alpes-Maritimes.
"We do rent it out all year round," she tells me. "It's great for people who like trekking through the hills, even in the non-summer months."
It is almost a wonder that visitors can spot it: hidden between the mountain and the sky, the property blends in seamlessly with the landscape around it; a natural piece of camouflage that continues to boggle the mind even after you have been inside.
Look at it from the North and you can see a small sliverof the roof and the cosily converted attic. It is only when your reach theSouth face that the whole imposing structure is revealed: a stone, rock, woodand lime creation spread across three floors, almost as if the builder had hewnit out of the rock face.
"Years ago, men who were practically self-sufficient, were able to shape this architecture and its earth with their hands," she says, in awe. "I always loved its character, full of past history, so I decided to buyit and fully restore it into a warm and welcoming home."
It is certainly both. Two staircases wind their way from the ground floor entrance past the lounge and kitchen to the bedrooms upstairs. The vaulted entrance hall, complete with fireplace and terracotta floor, is a grand way to start, while every floor offers a bay window or balcony from which to appreciate the view. Even the cellar is accessed by a terrace.
And what a view. Nestled against a corner of the mountain, the estate has a panoramic vista of the surrounding valley. The French Riviera coast feels a long way away, although of course Nice is just a short bus rise away.
"It's like a beautiful natural painting that's alive, changing colour with each hour," she gushes.
It is hard to disagree.
But what stays with you the most is the noise: there is none. As you might expect from a nearly-invisible house, silence hangs in the air.
Throughout my visit, I can only hear the breeze and the odd cricket or bird.
A peaceful getaway is all well and good, but does it not get lonely up in the mountains?
"Oh, we have visitors," she says. Of course, I say, remembering Knight Frank's report. It is the perfect bed and breakfast property.
"We even have deer come to stay!" she laughs. "Our evenings are livened up by their surprise visits. Sometimes stoats too!"
She continues: "During October, you can actually hear the call of the deer, which echoes through the bottom of the valley..."
I nod. If you could understand the deer, they would probably be saying to each other: where on earth did that house come from?
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