Words by Carla Passino

As the skiing season gets into full swing in Italy, the market for mountain properties picks up momentum. And, according to the latest report by Italian estate agents Tecnocasa, buyers can expect to find marginally lower prices than last year.

In the first six months of 2008, Italian mountain homes saw a marginal price decline of 0.1%. Demand actually went up after the summer months, but values didn’t follow suit because “purchasers are ever more careful and price-conscious, and examine all the market has to offer before buying,” according to Tecnocasa.

However, price movements varied hugely from region to region. While they dropped markedly in Emilia Romagna and Abruzzo, which saw a 3.6% and 1.6% decline respectively, they were steady in Trentino Alto Adige and even went up in Valle d’Aosta.

Among the most dynamic locations are Morgex, La Salle and Courmayeur, all in the Aosta valley. In the first two villages, demand shifted away from lower-cost second homes towards quality properties. Buyers are chiefly looking for one or two bedroom flats between 45 and 80 square metres, set in sunny, preferably panoramic locations. Both in Morgex and in La Salle, these needs are met by a number of prestige stone and wood new builds in vernacular style, with reclaimed wood panelling, high quality finishings, private gardens and, in many cases, full view over the vast, snow-topped expanse of the Mont Blanc. These can cost up to €4,500-5,000 per square metre.

Courmayeur is also showing a lively market, although it is not growing to the same extent. Prices went up by 4.2% in the first half of 2008, and have stabilised now, putting the border village on the map of Italy’s most expensive mountain locations, together with Madonna di Campiglio and Cortina d’Ampezzo. Prices can reach €10,000-11,000 for fully renovated homes and €7,000 for those in need of work—there are no new builds available at the moment and, in any case, the local council has adopted a plan which, if approved by the regional authority, will severely limit new builds in the future.

Buyers are particularly interested in village centre properties, where the offer spans from century-old chalets to houses built in the 50s and 60s, and hillside ones where, however, supply is small.

Even more expensive than Courmayeur is Madonna di Campiglio, in Trentino Alto Adige. Here, village centre properties can fetch up to €14,000 per square metre. Despite this staggering figure, demand remains very healthy both for larger, quality homes in the centre and for smaller ones in outer areas, particularly for properties close to the lifts.

But then values are likely to hold or grow in Madonna di Campiglio as supply is limited for the foreseeable future—the local plan allows for no new residential development sites, and a local law strictly regulates the second home market in the village.