Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps is No Secret to Ski Enthusiasts
The area is lesser known than the French and Swiss Alps, but offers beautiful vistas and impressive slopes
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s principal ski resort, may lack an extensive ski area and the wide appeal of other resorts in the Alps, but it’s not overlooked by ski enthusiasts in the know.
Lying in the shadow of Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain, and known for its cross-country skiing trails and Olympic ski jumping hill, the town has long drawn crowds from across Germany and beyond.
On the border with Austria and Germany, and only an hour from Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is in the state of Bavaria, renowned for its natural beauty. Located in the south-eastern corner of Germany, its dense forests, mountains, clear natural lakes and clean air are a nature lover’s paradise.
It is easily accessible. Its mountain trails, limestone peaks and viewpoints attract visitors throughout the year, and it has cachet in Germany because of its surroundings, which makes it a popular spot with second home owners.
Buying a Home
The market for second homes is big and growing each year, said Sebastian von Hunoltstein, of Engel & Völkers Garmisch-Partenkirchen. “Between 60% to 80% of homes sold each year are to second homeowners,” he said.
Buyers include those who have vacationed in the town as children and can now afford to buy a home there, and Germans living abroad who want a foothold in the country, said Michael Reiss of Sotheby’s International Realty in Munich.
He said most buyers are German, but he has seen an increase in the investment from individuals from the Middle East and Russia. “They like the Munich area and the natural beauty of Bavaria,” Mr. Reiss said.
The area is made up of two towns, which merged to create one community when it hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics. Partenkirchen is quiet and has an attractive historic center with Bavarian-style architecture, while Garmisch is livelier, with après-ski bars and restaurants, which attract a more youthful crowd. There are cozy inns, historic houses featuring frescoes and shops selling traditional Bavarian clothing as well as designer boutiques.
Garmisch has higher-priced areas, and it attracts more interest from younger buyers. Prices across Garmisch-Partenkirchen have increased 2% to 5% every year from 2011 to 2017, Mr. von Hunoltstein said. He said the rate of price growth is sustainable and will provide strong capital growth over the long term. “Investors who have bought there recently can expect to see the value of their home increase by 10% to 20% over the next 10 years,” he said.
Lying in the flat valley beneath Zugspitze, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the center for winter sports in Germany, hosting a range of sporting events throughout the year. Yet despite all the activity, it has a low-key, family-friendly vibe and an authentic, all-year-round Bavarian village feel.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen appeals to outdoorsy types throughout the year and is getting increasingly busier—this year was its best for summer visitors, according to Mr. von Hunoltstein. It has recently benefited from a new aerial cable car which transports passengers from the foot of Zugspitze at the nearby Eibsee lake to its summit in 10 minutes, while the launch of a new boutique hotel, called Werdenfelserei, has given the town a new upscale offering and a much-needed boost in the number of hotel rooms—it is one of only eight hotels in the town.
Housing Stock and Prices
Most second-home owners buying houses are typically going to use them as holiday homes and as future primary residences, and they are unlikely to rent them out, according to Mr. von Hunoltstein. “Investors looking to rent their property would buy apartments rather than houses,” he said.
Prices for houses vary depending on the plot size but they typically start from €1 million (US$1.17 million), he said. “Top-end homes sell for €8 million to €10 million, but good-quality houses with four or five bedrooms usually cost from between €2 million and €4 million. Apartments typically sell for between €5,000 per square meter to €6,000 per square meter.”
There is a good range of housing styles, including historic mansions, built in traditional Bavarian style with stone flooring, rustic farmhouses and villas dating from the 1960s and 1970s, that need renovating but offer large open living spaces
As there is a lack of undeveloped land, people mostly buy existing homes and renovate them, according to agents. Renovated homes in loft-style with natural light and open spaces are what people want now, Mr. Reiss said.
Apart from in April and November, when the weather is unpredictable, visitors say hotel rooms get booked up many months in advance. As a result, rental homes are popular accommodation option. There is a good level of demand for rental properties and prices are stable, Mr. Reiss said.
Rental property prices are growing, but not as much as in Munich, added Mr. von Hunoltstein. He said that apartments typically rent for between €14 per square meter and €15 per square meter.
Though they are rare, new-build apartment schemes offer a good investment rental home optin or a lock-up-and-leave holiday home. One such development is Alpspitze, a new development of one-bedroom apartments in upper Garmisch-Partenkirchen that Engel & Volkers is currently marketing. Designed in modern Bavarian style, with prices starting at €630,000, the building is clad in wood with attractive wooden balconies, while the apartments have modern conveniences, including underfloor heating, oak flooring, underground parking and private outdoor spaces.