August 2, 2021

In Gstaad, the value of chalets soars


5 min

The owners are rumbling: the canton of Bern has multiplied its tax assessments by 2.5. Both a peasant and president of Saanen, Toni von Grünigen cannot imagine the departure of the superriches.

The commune of Saanen has 50% of second homes.

Credits: Christoph Rueegg / Alamy

“When I opened the envelope with the Saanen coat of arms, I thought I had misread or that it was a mistake: my chalet had gone from 400,000 francs to just over a million” , confides an owner in Gstaad. President of the municipality of Saanen to which the upscale resort of the Bernese Oberland is attached, Toni von Grünigen confirms. It is indeed the Bernese authorities who have revised upwards the 2020 estimate of all real estate in the canton: “The amounts had not been reviewed for twenty years”, explains the president (58 years old) who is also an organic farmer. with fifteen cows and fifteen young cattle.

All the Bernese municipalities from north to south of the canton are thus subject to the same regime, but it is true that in the “golden town” the bill will be higher than elsewhere for the Ernesto Bertarelli or other Bernie Ecclestone. For the canton of Bern, the real value of a chalet of 10 million is estimated at 70%, or a tax value of 7 million. The municipality of Saanen (which also includes Gstaad, Saanenmöser and Schönried) has certainly lowered the property tax from 1.5 to 1% and the tax rate from 1.4 to 1.3%, but in the end the bill for the owner remains significantly higher than before.

Chairman of Saanen, Toni von Grünigen tried to make himself heard in Bern with the Director of Finance.  (Credits: Raphael Faux)

Will go, will not go?

Will the increase drive the super-rich from their haven of peace? Toni von Grünigen intervened in Bern with the Director of Finance, Beatrice Simon. But in these times of scarcity, the figures do not plead in its favor: the canton expects 34 million additional francs in property taxes, the municipalities 18 million, the Churches which also benefit from this earthly manna some 2 million. The additional income from property taxes for all Bernese municipalities is estimated at 64 million.

For Saanen alone, the property tax is expected to bring in 10 million, or 4 million more. But there is a flip side: Saanen should expect to pay 3 million more for financial equalization. Tacitly re-elected this summer, the president of Saanen is not afraid that his billionaire or multimillionaire administrators will go to settle under more lenient skies: “If they come to us, it is above all for clean air, beauty and tranquility of a village which has retained its authentic character thanks to our very strict construction standards. They can even fly from Los Angeles with their jet! ”

The reassessment could have negative consequences, fears the president of the professional real estate association of the district in the local press: “After the Weber initiative and the increase in the flat-rate taxation, this is another drastic measure that could frighten second home owners and flat rate taxpayers and encourage them to leave. ”

For foreigners subject to expenditure tax, the rental value constitutes the basis of taxable income. A multiple of seven is used to calculate it. Therefore, the question arises: pack your trunks or choose the real tax like a normal taxpayer? But Bern already has a very high tax burden.

Disgruntled owners have had thirty days to oppose the new values. How much did they resort to? We do not yet know the answer. Those who think the resale value is less than the new estimate will be better off doing so. In Saanen alone, thousands of properties are affected. Consolation for the peasants who are still numerous: agricultural properties are not concerned. With the revaluation, the official values ​​of all the real estate of the municipality amount to 10 billion francs. This makes this town of 7,500 inhabitants number 2 in the canton, just behind the city of Bern.

Chalet at 100 million?

Champion of the concentration of wealthy foreigners, Saanen has reached the 50% threshold for second homes, far above the fateful 20% bar which prohibits new residences. Some of the most luxurious chalets easily reach tens of millions. According to the media, the property of the Greek shipowner Peter Livanos would have exceeded 100 million. It is not known at what price Johnny’s chalet “Jade” was sold. UDC as he is, Toni von Grünigen likes this mix of genre between people of the land and people of the beautiful world. He, who has been a ski instructor and trained rich beginners, refutes the idea that the wealthy commune recruits billionaires abroad: “We do nothing to attract them. There may be promoters or agencies that do it, but not us. The rich come on their own, but they also cost us in infrastructure. We must be on top! ” ensures the one who manages a budget of 80 million.

“Gstaad was very scared this summer with the cancellation of its festivals (Menuhin, polo, tennis), but we remain confident for the coming winter season.” And to insist on the contribution of the Institut Le Rosey, known throughout the world. For a hundred years, this boarding school based in Rolle has moved its 400 students and 200 teachers and employees every winter for ten weeks to its chalets in Gstaad. The Tourist Office has calculated that more than 50% of holidaymakers have a link with the institute, whose schooling costs 100,000 francs per year. Many parents come here for vacation to visit their children. Many students will come back to it later with their offspring. Le Rosey has undertaken to build a new winter campus on 4 hectares of decommissioned agricultural land. One culture for another …