Adebate on the subject could potentially rage on and on, but ultimately few among us would argue against the idea that Switzerland is the world’s most glamorous ski destination. The country is one of superlatives: Its banks, watches, chocolate, schools, standard of living, environment and politics (it’s the birthplace of the Red Cross) are regularly ranked among the best in the world.
Like perennial favourites the United States (Colorado and Wyoming) and Canada (British Columbia and Alberta) Switzerland boasts a fundamentally strong property market underpinned by stable and transparent political and financial infrastructure in addition to a high quality of life and low unemployment. It adds up to an appealing ski investment location. Prices have been on the rise in recent years — largely due to a regular influx of skilled labour from Europe and Asia. The population growth should have a positive influence on property prices for the foreseeable future, and Switzerland’s tourist arrivals have been steady (with modest increases) since 2006, recording over eight million in 2010.
It’s into this ring that The Chedi Andermatt is throwing its hat. Managed by the Singapore-based GHM Group, The Chedi Andermatt is a five-star hotel and residence development located amid the Swiss Alps in Urseren Valley, 1,400 metres above sea level. The town of Andermatt, home to 1,300 residents, is well connected to Zurich, Basel, Milan, Lucerne and Locarno — which are all under two hours away. A total of 119 fully furnished residences (including seven lofts and six penthouses) will range from just under 1,200 square feet to just over 6,100. So aside from the obvious, what’s the attraction?
“The Chedi Andermatt is a combination of a lifestyle investment and a pure investment return,” begins Olivier Croonenberghs, a Swiss Finance & Property partner. “The Andermatt development is especially interesting as it is part of the development of a new village and one can expect the value of the resort to increase over time to reach the prices of other exclusive alpine destinations in Switzerland, such as St Moritz, Gstaad, Zermatt and Verbier.” Croonenberghs is projecting 2 percent net yields and capital gains in the range of 3 to 5 percent over seven years once the entire resort is complete.
That’s all well and good, but it is Switzerland — and Swiss investments are purely the purview of the super-rich. Not so fast argues Croonenberghs. “The Chedi Andermatt is the first landmark of the new Andermatt Swiss Alps Resort,” he begins. The resort will ultimately feature six four- and five-star hotels, 500 apartments, 25 luxury villas, a shopping and dining promenade and a rash of sport and event facilities as a sample. “The five star Chedi Andermatt resort will be the first of the six hotels due to open in December 2013. Purchase prices of the Residences start from US$2 million [HK$15 million]. However apartments can be purchased from US$600,000 [HK$4.6 million] in stand-alone apartment buildings and targets more of a middle market.” The Chedi Andermatt properties are freehold purchases with no restrictions, flying in the face of Swiss federal law that demands foreign purchases have a permit for residential property. The Chedi was granted an exemption in 2007, giving overseas buyers equivalent rights and obligations.
The designers behind the project are Kuala Lumpur-based Denniston International Architects and Planners, the brain trust behind properties by luxury heavyweights such as Aman Resorts, Banyan Tree and the Hyatt, so its design pedigree is assured. But unlike many of the resort investments in Thailand that Hong Kong investors are so familiar with, the Chedi Andermatt’s rental programme for owners is optional. “Buyers of residences have the option to add their residence to the rental programme provided that the interior design and furniture of their unit will be according to the layout options and design proposed by The Chedi Andermatt hotel,” explains Croonenberghs.
A Good Year
Croonenberghs believes foreign buyers will be seeking a combination of lifestyle property and safe haven for wealth that offers a minimum return as well. Also like many ski resorts now, Andermatt isn’t solely a winter destination. “Andermatt is an all-season resort, especially since the completion of the 18-hole championship golf course,” reasons Croonenberghs. “In the summer Andermatt is the perfect location for hiking, climbing and mountain biking. Aficionados of fishing, windsurfing, kite surfing and sailing will find ideal conditions in this exceptional water rich environment.”
Thailand could well be the world’s resort investment leader, but as Croonenberghs sees it, there’s more to resorts than just sun and sand. “Thailand and Switzerland are very different countries with different vacation experiences. Switzerland offers winter sports whereas Thailand offers one of the best beach vacations in the world. Increasingly wealthy Asians like their children to experience snow vacations and Switzerland is an ideal country offering in addition to natural beauty, safety, high quality of life, top notch health care, and the best infrastructure in the world.” And there’s something glamorous about it. Beat that Vail.