Coastal properties within easy reach of a ski resort are proving popular with adventurous second-home buyers.
With roughly one in ten UK breaks now an activity holiday, adventurous Brits are searching for a second home that combines beach time with easy access to the mountains. Those shopping for the best of summer and winter have one eye on their own entertainment — many are activity-keen families — and the other on their investment, figuring that the property will have year-round rental appeal and good resale prospects. We look at a selection of coastal spots that put you within two hours of decent skiing.
With its blend of sun, coastal glamour and proximity to the Alps, the Côte d’Azur is hard to beat for the dual-function holiday home. Cannes and Nice provide easy access to the Alps, with Isola 2000 the nearest resort of note. Its 2,000m elevation — the highest lift deposits adventurous skiers above 2,600m — means a good chance of skiing, even if snow has been scarce in the Alps. The drive won’t exhaust you either; Isola is about 90 minutes’ drive from Cannes and Nice.
Cannes offers a plum coastal location, easy access — 30 minutes from Nice airport — and the glamour conferred by its annual summer film festival. The town is also hard to beat when it comes to rental yields, says Henry Sherwood, of the Buying Agents. Nine out of ten homes that he finds for British customers are there.
Rental prospects come in part from the town’s popularity as a conference venue — the large Palais des Festivals hosts tens of thousands of professionals at regular industry conventions, all of whom need somewhere to stay near by. Buy something within a ten-minute walk of the venue and in the week of a conference you can earn the same as in a month of regular letting, says Sherwood — handy if you want to leave the apartment free for an impromptu visit yourself. Knight Frank is selling a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for €945,000 (£814,615).
For those who enjoy the buzz of a coastal city and a shorter journey to the airport, neighbouring Nice is a bankable spot with a good supply of apartments. Savills is selling a pied-à-terre, two-bedroom flat in the heart of the city for €295,000 and a larger refurbished home with a generous terrace for €750,000.
Another big draw for seaside city lovers is Barcelona. The Catalan capital is two hours from skiing in La Molina — a modest-sized Pyrenees resort sitting at 1,700m, with the highest lift reaching about 2,500m. For a bigger spread of pistes, travel another 45 minutes by car to Soldeu, in Andorra, part of the Grandvalira skiing area, the country’s largest.
Barcelona’s appeal as a weekend city-break destination makes it another reliable spot for renting. City breaks are the UK’s favourite holidays — more than half of us took one in 2016 — and Barcelona also attracts a steady stream of visitors from elsewhere in Europe. However, check the rules before you buy, advises Sherwood.
“Loud parties and bad guest behaviour has led to a backlash against Airbnb-type rentals in the city, with many banning short lets,” he says. Sphere Estates has flats and houses in the city starting from €630,000.
For a warmer spot and longer summers, head south to Andalusia and the Sierra Nevada ski resort, roughly 45 minutes by car from Granada airport. The skiing may be more modest than that in the Pyrenees, but prices on Spain’s southern coast are still well down on their pre-crisis levels. Only 90 minutes from the mountains is La Herradura, popular with those from Granada, but which has fewer foreign tourists, according to Gemma Bruce, of the Viewing, an online marketplace for homeowners (the-viewing.com). You can buy a two-bedroom apartment on the Las Palomas estate, which has a shared pool and tennis courts, for €219,000.
In the northwest corner of Tuscany, the coastal town of Forte dei Marmi and the city of Lucca, 20 minutes inland, let you combine a dose of Tuscan arcadia with skiing at the quiet mountain resort of Abetone.
Forte dei Marmi is just under two hours from Abetone and 30 minutes from the airport at Pisa. Many of the sea-view apartments that pepper the town were built in the 1960s and 1970s as Italian country dwellers headed for work in coastal towns, says Rupert Fawcett, of Knight Frank. Despite the scarcity of old buildings, the area is popular among smart Italians and affluent Europeans, including many Russians, whose excitable buying in the early 2000s sent prices skywards.
“Prices are just starting to come back down, and there is a good number of properties on the market,” says Fawcett.
For somewhere half an hour closer to the mountains, head for the hills around Lucca. Alternatively, try a grander historical villa in the ancient town itself, which has impressive tree-lined walks along vast Renaissance-era city walls. Though popular with well-heeled Italians, the spot is relatively untrodden by foreign holidaymakers, says Bruce. You can buy a nine-bedroom villa in the hills overlooking Lucca on 30 acres for €4.25 million with the-viewing.com.