Though Austria has many beautiful areas, one of the prettiest is the Tyrol. The region’s soaring Alpine scenery, quaint villages and glamorous resorts, such as Kitzbühel and St Anton, offer a fabulous package. It’s not surprising, therefore, that this is where many foreign buyers want to own property. However, until recently, it has also been one of the hardest places to find a second home. “Most clients want the Tyrol,” says Jessica Delaney, of the Austria specialist Investors in Property, “but homes there are like gold dust. There just isn’t enough supply to meet demand.”
Previously, the Tyrol’s stringent ownership regulations prevented foreign investors from buying second properties purely for personal use. The idea was to stop resorts becoming ghost towns full of empty holiday flats, so owners were required to rent them for up to five months each year. But change is in the air; not only has buying a second home been made easier but developers are earmarking forgotten resorts for an overhaul.
One of these is Brand, a small, attractive village, deep in the Brandnertal Valley, which is quiet enough to have allowed Keira Knightley to ski there undisturbed last winter. Here, one of the biggest construction firms in Austria, Jäger, is building quality properties and also funding the installation of new gondolas and the refurbishment of ski stations and trails.
In the village centre, pretty, wood-clad apartments with views to the slopes start at £236,000 for two bedrooms. Further up the mountain is the site of Ferienpark, another Jäger project. This self-contained leisure resort with direct access to the pistes and stunning views has properties for sale from £147,000. Birgit Jäger, who is overseeing the design of both developments, says: “The homes are reasonably priced when compared to similar resorts in France or Italy, even though this area of Austria tends to be more expensive because it is so near to the Swiss border.”
For hardcore skiers and hikers, Kühtai, near Innsbruck, offers a taste of what Jäger calls “real Alpine” terrain. One of the highest resorts in the country, the small village sits at an altitude of 2,020m, so winter snow is pretty much guaranteed. Further development is planned but, if you can’t wait, there are opportunities to buy into the Alpin Resort, a stylish “village” of traditional chalets housing well-designed and spacious apartments.
Properties here are pricier than at Brand, starting at £392,200 for two bedrooms, though the development is one of only two in the area currently available for outright ownership. Should you want to rent, there is an efficient on-site management service and current returns range between £195 and £350 a night in peak season. Another rare opportunity to buy lies in nearby Oetz, a picturesque town with a wealth of historic buildings. One of these is being restored into seven chic apartments, again for outright purchase and starting at £234,200. Interested parties should get their skates on though. Tyrol is so popular that such opportunities don’t hang around.
Investors in Property: 020-8905 5511; www.investorsinproperty.com
Austria: Buyer’s guide
* Most second homes in Austria are required by law to be rented out for between 130 and 150 days per year.
* Second-home sales incur capital gains tax of 34 per cent, unless held for at least 10 years.
* Allow about 8 to 10 per cent of the purchase price for fees, commissions and taxes.
* The nearest airport to Kühtai and Oetz is Innsbruck, about 35 minutes away. Brand is accessible from Friedrichshafen, Zurich and Innsbruck.