Valais in Switzerland is a true Mecca for ski enthusiasts. Its 2,000km of slopes in world-class locations like Verbier have some of the best snow conditions in all of the Alps. Not only that, but its picturesque towns and villages are truly enchanting places to spend a winter or even the whole year. So, if you’re buying a home in this charming canton, what should you be looking out for?
Many homes in Valais, particularly outside the main city of Sion, have an instantly recognisable ‘chalet style’. If this is the kind of home you’re looking for, keep an eye out for typical features. These include the wooden facades of upper storeys, intricate carvings around gables and traditional deep-coloured shutters. Here in the Valais, a very typical finish is to have a deeply overhanging ridge roof.
Looking for something more contemporary? You can find plenty of modern, ‘architect-designed’ properties scattered around Valais. Many feature large, tall windows, flooding the home with light. Open-plan living spaces and double-storey living rooms lend a sense of expansiveness to these houses.
Many of us buying in Valais have a love of the outdoors, whether it’s the winter skiing or summer cycling and hiking. Fortunately, many properties are built with this in mind – so keep an eye out for places specially adapted for this lifestyle. If you’re a skiier, having a separate ski entrance can save plenty of cleaning up on the nice rugs! A boot room is ideal for storing outdoor gear, while a ski locker will keep all your equipment safe without cluttering up the hallway.
More generally, if you’re buying an apartment, double-check the number of internal parking spaces. For anyone largely wintering in Valais, having an outdoor-parked car can be a bit of a pain (you’ll become very familiar with a scraper). If the number’s low, see if there’s the possibility to rent further spaces from the complex.
Some usually private facilities may also be communal, such as laundry facilities. Again, these are worth double-checking in advance.
Setting and location
Naturally, if you’re a keen skiier, having a ski on-off location – where you can almost directly access the slopes – is a huge plus. All around the mountainous region, you’re almost guaranteed of good views.
However, one thing to consider in this kind of terrain is the level of sunshine. Particular slopes, usually south facing, will naturally get the sun more during the day. If you purchase in a valley or on the low slopes of a mountain, make sure it’s not extremely shaded during the day. Even if you’re out during daytime hours, being in the shade can make a significant difference to everything from the ambient temp to what you can grow in the garden (we speak from experience!).
Private or community?
If you buy privately, then, as with anywhere else in Switzerland, then the property is yours to maintain. However, a more convenient option for anyone buying a second home – or even a main one – could be to buy as part of a development. This will get you access to plenty of facilities, without the need to maintain them (or pay out the extra price). You’ll find a lot of top-class developments have a sauna or kind of spa – fantastic for unwinding after a ski. Many will have landscaped gardens and some will be able to offer bars, religious facilities and swimming pools.
The downside is that you can feel like you’re living in an ‘expat bubble’. Really experiencing the local Swiss lifestyle is one of the big advantages of buying a stand-alone property. You’ll likely meet more locals, giving you the chance to practise your language skills and really integrate into the country. This is, of course, an excellent benefit if you’re looking for a year-round, permanent residence.
Wherever you choose to buy you’ll have a few financial matters to sort out : Download the Trader’s Guide to Currency
If you find the home of your dreams but it’s beyond your budget, effective negotiation could make the vital difference. Download the How to Negotiate Abroad Guide.
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