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Alpine Property Investments

Alpine Properties in France, Switzerland and Canada.

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Frequently asked questions

Welcome to the Alpine Property Investments Help area. You can browse through some of the most popular questions below or read our detailed Buying Guides for the relevant country in our Advice section. If we have not covered your question below, or in not enough detail, please take a look at our Advice section for more information on the relevant country, or please feel free to contact us with the question you have and we’ll be happy to answer.

What restrictions are there on foreigners purchasing and owning property for sale in Switzerland?

Anyone can buy a property in Switzerland, but when purchasing a Swiss Property there are several restrictions that you need to take into consideration:

  1. The Federal Government of Switzerland currently restrict the size of the apartments and chalets that non Swiss can buy to 200m2 (net liveable internal space) and to plots of 1000m2.
  2. Only one property per family (husband or wife) may be purchased in Switzerland by non Swiss Residents. If you have children over 20 who can prove their own financial independence, they may also purchase one property in their name.
  3. You can only buy in certain resorts in Switzerland; these are classified as “touristic”. All the resorts we list property in, non Swiss can purchase.
  4. You can occupy your Swiss apartment or chalet for up to 6 months per year without requiring a residency Permit.
  5. Your Swiss property cannot be rented for more than 11 months and 1 week as you, your family and friends are supposed to use the property for at least 3 weeks of the year.
  6. You cannot buy your Swiss property in the name of a company or through a Trust Fund.
  7. In some Cantons there are restrictions on re-selling your chalet or apartment until after a certain period. In Canton Valais (4 Valleys, Crans Montana, Portes du Soleil) this is 5 years on purchases pre November 2007 and ten years thereafter, while in Canton Vaud (Villars, Barboleusaz, Leysin), the period is after 5 years.
Do I have to pay tax on any rental income if I buy a ski chalet or apartment in the French Alps?

Yes you do. All rental income in France is subject to tax and you must declare this to the French Tax Office by 30th April each year. For amounts under 75,000 Euro’s, per annum, you can simply pay tax on 30% of the gross income, the other 70% being allowed to cover your expenses.

For amounts greater than 75,000 Euro’s, all your business expenses including running costs, mortgage interest payments, insurance and depreciation are included, with your final net income taxed at a minimum level of 25%.

Am I liable to pay Capital Gains Tax on reselling, if I buy a property for sale in the French Alps?


Yes you are. All owners of French property, be they residing in France or not, are liable to Capital Gains Tax when they come to sell.

Your Capital Gains Tax is calculated as the difference between purchase price (plus any renovation work completed) and the sale price. The gain is then taxable at a set rate of 16% for European’s (extra 10% Social tax for French Residents) or flat 33% for non Europeans. The new rules state, renovation work is that completed by a French artisan, having produced an invoice for the work.

There are however deductions based on how long you own the property. There is no deduction for the first 5 years of ownership, but every year from then on allows you to deduct 10% off your Capital Gain.

If you own your property for more than 15 years, you are free of Capital Gains Tax, but you will still be liable for tax in the UK.

What are the costs for buying a Swiss ski Chalet in Canton Valais or Canton Vaud?

Purchase costs to buy a Swiss Property in the French speaking Cantons of Valais and Vaud vary between 2.6—5% of your total purchase price. This includes all taxes, notary and land registration fees.

In Canton Valais this is approximately 2.6%, and Canton Vaud 5%. You don’t pay notary fees when you sell.

If you opt to buy in Canton Vaud, when you sign the Deed of Sale on an off plan property which has not yet begun construction, your purchase fees are only paid on the land cost (total if a detached chalet or part of, if an apartment).

If you decide to take a mortgage as part of your purchase, in Switzerland there is a Mortgage Registration Fee which you are required to pay and this varies by Canton. If you are buying in Canton Valais such as in one of the Four Valleys resorts (Haute Nendaz, Les Collons, Veysonnaz, La Tzoumaz or Verbier), this fee is 1.6%, while in Canton Vaud (Les Diablerets, Villars), it’s based on a sliding scale ranging from 0.6% for a loan of 100,000 to 0.44% for loans up to 500,000.

What are the annual running costs and taxes of owning property in the French Alps?

For your taxes, there are two local property taxes in France levied towards the end of each year and are based on the administrative value of your property, calculated by the Public Administrator at the beginning of each year (“Cadastral value”)

  • “taxe fonciere” (exempt for the first 2 years in a new build)
  • “taxe d’habitation”

If you plan to buy a re-sale property, these tax figures are readily available and can be obtained for you when you decide on the property you wish to purchase.

It is very difficult to calculate and provide an estimated general “rule of thumb” figure for the annual service charges, as this depends on the size of the apartment/chalet you purchase, as well as extraneous costs such as lift, any shared swimming pool, caretaker and need for a grounds man (snow clearing / grass cutting).

We would be happy to provide an estimate of these costs on the specific French property you are interested in, to assist you with your decision making process.

Can you rent a property you purchase in Canada to help with the annual running costs & taxes?

Yes you can, there are no restrictions on renting a property in Canada.

Tourism and travel remains a top industry of the country and in particular the mountain resorts, where an ever growing number of individuals and families are heading for holiday and vacation purposes.

The subsequent demand for holiday rental ski property has seen a steady increase over the last 25 years in these areas and renting your mountain property is a very lucrative avenue of real estate ownership.

Your rentals can be done either on a 'short-term' or long term basis. If you opt for the short term, this is usually weekend(s) and/or a week at a time, especially holiday weeks. Long term would be for the entire season (such as ski season, summer or fall).

Generally rentals are based on how many 'beds'/ number of people that can sleep at your property as well as any amenity that the property has...like woodstove, fireplace, hot tub, convenience to a resort, or snowmobile trail etc.

It is important however to remember that both Canadian and non Canadian residents must pay income tax on rental income annually.

What are the taxes I have to take into consideration when buying and owning a property in Canada as a non resident?

There are several annual taxes you need to take into consideration when buying and owing a Canadian property. These would include:

  • Annual Local Tax – Residential properties are subject to annual local taxes of between 0.5 – 2.5% of the property value dependant on the Province.
  • Rental Tax – As a non Canadian resident, you pay income tax on any rental income you gain from renting your property.

Should you elect to pay Income Tax through the Section 216 Income Tax Act and file your own tax return, as a non resident you are taxed on the net rental income according to the Federal Tax Rates.

You can offset expenses such as Capital Cost Allowance (CCA), advertising, insurance, interest, maintenance and repair costs, management, administration and legal fees, office expenses, annual property taxes, travel and utilities amongst others against this.

The CCA is otherwise known as the depreciation allowance, where 50% of the property is depreciable for the year of acquisition. The maximum CCA is that, which takes the tax owing to zero. Rental buildings may belong to different classes depending on structure and purchase date. Many of the buildings post 1987 are identified as class 1 and are depreciated at 4% with furniture and equipment depreciated at 20%.

If electing to take the 216 Income Tax Act route, you are also liable to pay a 48% tax on the federal tax liability but are not liable for to pay provincial taxes.

Payment of Rental Tax can also be paid by your tenant (long term), or property manager / rental agency and this “withholding tax” is considered your final obligation to Canada. This however is paid on the “gross” rental income.

Canada’s very comprehensive double taxation treaty with the UK, may allow reduced UK liability.

  • Inheritance Tax – You are not liable for Inheritance or Estate Tax in Canada. However there maybe tax to pay in your Country of Residence.
  • Capital Gains Tax – Only 50% is liable to tax at your marginal tax rate in the year of the gain. It is possible to deduct your selling and purchase costs, capital expenditures and costs incurred during improvements and renovations.

Annual Taxes in Canada as in any country are complex and vary dependant on where you purchase and whether you are a resident or not. It is essential for you to thus consult a tax expert when purchasing the property you decide on and the Agents / Realtors we work with can assist you with this during your visit.

Can a non Swiss resident get a mortgage to buy a Swiss apartment or chalet?

Yes it is possible for you as a non Swiss resident to obtain a mortgage through one of the many banks in Switzerland. Interest rates have historically been lower in Switzerland than the UK, making it actually good sense as part of your purchase process.

Normal LTV’s range between 60 – 65%, however thanks to our good working relationship with a number of different banks, mortgages with a LTV of up to 70% are possible to you, depending on your financial circumstances.

Loans of 100%, while rare are also possible using other securities you may have and this can be discussed with the Bank directly where applicable.

A Swiss Mortgage (both variable and fixed options available) is effectively an overdraft secured against your property, with you paying interest on the capital every 3—6 months (depending on the bank you go with).

Capital repayments on loans can be taken for up to 50 years. You are however required by Swiss Banks to reduce the debt of the Capital by 20% of the mortgage within 25 years.

If you do decide to take a mortgage to assist in your purchase, in Switzerland there is a Mortgage Registration Fee which you are required to pay and this varies by Canton. If you are buying in Canton Valais, such as in one of the 4 Valleys resorts (Haute Nendaz, Les Collons, Veysonnaz, La Tzoumaz or Verbier), this fee is 1.6%, while in Canton Vaud (Les Diablerets, Villars), it’s based on a sliding scale ranging from 0.6% for a loan of 100,000 to 0.44% for loans up to 500,000.

Are there construction guarantees like in the UK, for new build apartments and chalets in the Swiss and French Alps?

Yes there are. If you buy a new build off plan apartment or chalet in the Swiss Alps, there are federal construction guarantees which protect you. These take the form of 5 years for construction defects and 10 years for any hidden defects.

All new build construction in France must also have a 10 year guarantee against defects. This has to be supported by an insurance policy to protect you, should the constructor cease trading.

What is the purchase procedure for buying a property for sale in Switzerland?

Once you have found the Swiss property for sale you wish to purchase and you’ve paid a deposit (where applicable), you appoint a Swiss Public Notary who acts on behalf of both yourself and the seller.

He or she will draw up all the legal documents needed for the purchase / sale including the application for the authorisation to purchase, the Deed of Sale and applying for your Resident B permit if this is your preferred route.

In Valais, post November 23rd 2007, unless you are buying as a Resident B/C Permit, purchasing a re-sale property with a Foreigner Permit or buying a project of “Special Cantonal Interest” (Mer de Glace - Haute Nendaz, Thermes Parc - Val d’Illiez), the Notary cannot actually have you sign the Deed of Sale, until such time as they have received an authorisation from the appropriate Canton where you plan to purchase your property.

Authorisations are allocated a couple of times per year, usually at the beginning and the middle of the year and are applied for through “The Letter of Intention to Purchase” (Valais) and “Letter of Promise” (Vaud). These documents are sent to the Canton for approval.

Once the notary receives the notification of an authorisation being granted, you have 30 days to sign the Deed of Sale prepared by the Notary or your authorisation is terminated. On signing the Deed of Sale, the appropriate payments are made dependant on what you are buying. This will all be laid out in your Deed of Sale.
If you are purchasing a re-sale property in Switzerland that has a “foreigner permit”, you are able to sign the Deed of Sale as soon as is convenient for you. Transfer of ownership of these properties usually takes from 12 - 16 weeks.

If you are applying for your Residents B Permit to buy a “Swiss Resident” property, you will not be able to sign the Deed of Sale until you receive your B permit. Any reservation deposit paid, is fully refundable should your Residency application be unsuccessful and is noted in your reservation form.

Should you not be able to return easily to sign the Deed of Sale and wish to sign by proxy, you can either complete the necessary paperwork in either your own country of origin or when visiting Switzerland at the time of looking for property.

If arranging a Proxy in the UK, you will need to go to your local Notary Public (not a Lawyer) with the relevant documents (these will be sent to you) and sign in their presence, as well as providing copies of passport(s). In the UK, the Foreign Office is legally required to counter stamp these documents, validating the Notary Public.

If creating a proxy in Switzerland, the notary handling your purchase can arrange this, or as in most circumstances, our partner in Switzerland, whom you meet to view properties during your visit, would be happy to sign on your behalf.

In Europe, measurements of property are in m², while in the Canada its Sq ft. How do I convert one to the other?

This is very easy to do. For quick conversions, switching from Sq ft to m², you simply divide by 10 and from m² to Sq Ft multiply by 10. For more accurate conversions, you can use the formula 1m² = 10.76ft².

What information do I need to provide to help with my search for a mountain home?

To ensure any time you spend reading property details and any subsequent inspection visit you make is worthwhile, you need to ensure you provide as detailed a profile as possible of what you are looking for. Questions that you should have answers to include:

  • How much do you want to spend?
  • Any specific resorts you are interested in?
  • How far you want the resort to be from an airport?
  • Location and proximity in the resort (ski in and out/drive to the lifts or base of mountain)?
  • Do you want a family orientated resort?
  • Do you need single, dual or a four season resort (depends on when you think you will use it)?
  • Ski terrain required (high altitude skiing, large ski domain, beginner/advanced slopes)?
  • Type of property you want (studio, condominium/apartment, town house, chalet, cabin, custom home)?
  • Number of bedrooms/bathrooms you require?
  • Size of the property you desire?
  • Do you want to rent when not using it?

These answers then allow us to provide you only with properties that are right for your search requirements in the correct locations.

 

Disclaimer
Please note these questions / answers have been documented as a guide only. Each Country, State, Province, Canton and Region applies different rules and regulations pertaining to the purchase of property. It is not possible to cover every single circumstance in these pages.

We recommend you take further advice with the Lawyer / Notary handling your purchase, as well as the relevant Accountant, Tax Specialist or Rental Agency on anything you wish clarified, before signing any contract of sale as we cannot be held legally responsible.

For more information on our properties for sale in Switzerland, France, USA and Canada please visit our properties for sale.