Property Abroad: The French Alps

The French Alps are ideal for buyers in search of peace
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The Independent Online

Over the past 10 years the demand for mountain homes has continued to climb to new peaks. Growth in the popularity of the French Alps, in particular, has led to the development of several purpose-built resorts, while towns such as Courchevel and Val d'Isère have become bigger and increasingly glitzy.

However, if you long for more peaceful locations where skiing is more important than partying, you might prefer the feel of the Haute-Savoie hamlet of Le Chinaillon where traditional farms and 100-year-old chalets sit alongside some of the very few newer properties that have crept in. The village is a few minutes from the pleasant town of Grand Bornand, which offers lifts linking to 90 kilometres of pistes within the Les Aravis region.

At the request of the local authority MGM, one of the largest Alpine developers, has created Le Village de Lessy, a traditional-style residential community on a hillside overlooking the slopes. The intention was to bring more life and tourism to this sleepy place without having too much of an impact on the local environment.

"I believe properties such as ours will create an upward spiral for these small towns," says David Giraud, president of MGM. "They bring in more tourists who will use the local shops, services and restaurants. A rental programme means homes won't stand empty for much of the year either."

Of 139 apartments in Village de Lessy 108 have already sold at prices starting from £170,500 for two bedrooms. Recognising there is demand for non-resort properties, Giraud's company is now focussing on other low-key locations such as Les Carroz d'Araches, a charming village in the Grand Massif ski area. Closer to the popular resorts of Flaine and Les Gets, the small town of Samoens, is also attracting attention thanks to upgraded facilities. MGM: 020-7494 0706,; Alpine Angels: 01225 442128,

Ski chalets: Buyer's guide

* A new motorway has cut the journey from Geneva airport to Grand Massif to around 50 minutes.

* Many ski properties in France are leaseback, so owners receive guaranteed rental income but have a limited number of weeks use each year.

* Leaseback contracts typically last 11 years but buyers are exempt from the 19.6 per cent VAT levied on sales.

* Most developments have annual community charges, which average around £1,500 but depend on the development and facilities.