Hugging the mountains tight

Hugging the mountains tight

Steiger & Cie

Claude Hervé-Bazin
Steiger & Cie
Winter 2020-2021

Everyone’s dreaming of living in the mountains. Now more than ever. The global pandemic has reinforced many people’s wish to pack up and move to a ski resort. Florian Steiger, Oliver Herweg and Nicolas Koch - the three team leads at Steiger & Cie, an alpine luxury real estate agency with offices in Zermatt, Crans-Montana and Verbier - share their thoughts on this rising trend.

In the early 2000s, high-end luxury real estate development in Switzerland’s mountains had just begun to erupt, with a lust for large, open floor plans and upcycled patina wood. Steiger & Cie accompanied the movement and was sometimes ahead of times when building a powerfully interconnected company ecosystem to meet every single one of their clients’ needs, both during and after real estate pruchases. Brokering, development, management, coordination with architects and construction teams, even legal guidance, their range of services covers the whole spectrum, making them the perfect go-to for expert advice about current market trends.

A renewed love for the mountains
The entire world froze this spring with the arrival of the Covid pandemic. Few specialists dared to bet, at first, whether the real estate market would slip, sink, or maintain pace. Very few companies, even amongst the best, were able to anticipate what would happen just a few weeks later: demand held steady. More so, demand grew and has continued to grow ever since.
Some people wanted to flee an unpleasant lockdown in the city. Some with busy lives simply found themselves (finally) with enough time to think about what matters most to them. Concepts of family and a happy home took on a whole new importance. Many people didn’t have access to an outdoor space or garden. As Swiss federal authorities sought to balance health safety with the (relative) preservation of freedom, the summer months saw numerous foreigners finally take the leap. Some started by booking apartment or chalet rentals for a month or even for the whole winter season, regardless of cost. Epidemiologists were predicting multiple waves of outbreaks; they had to act quickly.
In Zermatt, Oliver Herweg witnessed a 30% increase in demand. Prospective clients had to be more committed than ever, carrying out visits with masks on and hands freshly disinfected, and tended to decide (and buy) more quickly than usual. Swiss clients also flocked to the mountains in large numbers over the summer months. And although the Zermatt market is hyper selective with few properties on offer, real estate sales in Verbier and Crans-Montana exploded - in Crans-Montana especially, where prices are lower and options more plentiful.

A changing paradigm
The global health crisis has been a catalyst that has helped reinforce Switzerland’s reputation for high quality of life and secure property investments. Whether buying or investing in developing properties, privacy is more than ever the key word here — Steiger & Cie’s focus from the start. Giant open floor plans, spas and personal elevators have never made more sense for those who can afford it. The desire to upgrade to larger spaces is on trend, as are rising prices.
Other factors surely played a role. The ecological crisis has shamed most everyone’s weekend plans to visit Barcelona or Moscow — too much CO2 spewed in too little time. And while low altitude cities were sweltering in the rising heat over the last couple of summers, the mountains kept their cool… Second residencies at higher altitudes never made so much sense.
Second homes for some, but many people are looking to make a permanent move. The Lex Weber restricts construction of new second homes in communes where more than 20% of properties are already being used as holiday homes. So, as remote work continues to expand and telecommunication options improve, many people are asking themselves whether it wouldn’t make more sense to move to a place where they can spend time outdoors and send their children to smaller safer schools, with the slopes just around the corner. One could venture to say a new postmodern world is taking shape here. A world with no more rural flights that, once again, places high value on small communities and being close to nature.