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SWISS RIVIERA: THE NEW EL DORADO FOR REAL ESTATE INVESTORS

HEIDI MALSTREM, Business mir #16 - 2010-05 MAIL PRINT 
Nowadays, more and more people are concerned about the advantages of comfort, health and security. Due to poor environmental conditions, air pollution and unreliable sources of fresh water, people are frequently tending to look for a more favorable places to live, like the Swiss Riviera.
The media is increasingly referring to a topic which concerns humanity in general – possible climatic changes, which may lead to environmental catastrophes. Many scientists have put forward hypotheses about possible geographic changes due to environmental disasters. The popular Hollywood blockbuster film "2012" exemplifies The Deluge – one of the possible consequences of climate change.
It's very likely that a significant number of potential investors have been influenced by “2012” and are focusing on acquiring real estate located in high-altitude land and naturally, in the Swiss Alps. The movie's main character, who was trying to save not only his loved ones, but also his property and expensive cars manufactured by the world’s leading auto manufacturers from disaster, may have led many people to come to the conclusion that it is more reliable and efficient to invest in plots of land and real estate located far from high-risk zones, rather than spending money on expensive cars and yachts. This obviously includes areas which are high above sea level.
Eyjafjallajökull Volcano's eruption in southern Iceland once again drew public attention to environmental instability. The impressive after-effects of volcanic activity from Iceland to Sakhalin Island have turned investors' interests away from business jets and private helicopters and towards channeling funds into real estate. Mr. Steven Alexander, owner and founder of the Alexander Immobilier real estate company, explains that, “The most attractive location from this perspective is the Swiss Riviera; the area extending along the coast of Lake Geneva including Montreux, Vevey and Lavaux”. These resort towns are well known throughout the world and are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Fund.
Its fantastic location and mild climate coupled with magnificent views have long made the Swiss Riviera a favoured place for leading a bohemian lifestyle. A great number of famous people from all over the world have lived in the area. Montreux was Nikolai Gogol and Vladimir Nabokov's favourite town and Jean-Jacques Rousseau lived there as well as Tchaikovsky, Byron and Hemingway. Another example is Vevey, which is known as the place where Charlie Chaplin spent the last years of his life.
These places are inextricably linked with Russian history. Grigory Orlov, a Russian count forced into exile, and his pretty wife, who died at age of 24 due to serious illness, were buried in Lausanne. The 25-year-old heir to the famous Russian Bestuzhevs-Ryumins clan died during a trip from Lausanne to Constantinople, and his vast fortune went to the Lausanne municipality.
This inheritance was used to construct a huge building in downtown Lausanne. It was long occupied by a university and now houses museums devoted to history, geology and paleontology. The names of certain places on the Swiss Riviera are associated with both young Russian noblemen sent by Peter the Great to study in Europe and all sorts of Russian revolutionaries, who consistently received asylum, professional and educational opportunities in Switzerland.
Today the Swiss Riviera features a variety of famous educational centres and specialised colleges, such as the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS), Montreux and others. The number of young Russians who come to study here is increasing annually by 20%–25%.
According to Steven Alexander, the cost of real estate on the Swiss Riviera is increasing annually by 10%–15%. “It is interesting to note that it is one of the few regions in Europe where real estate prices are sky-rocketing, while the real estate market in the French territory adjacent to the Swiss border is practically frozen”, Mr. Alexander adds. Over there, everyone is trying to sell plots while just a few kilometers away, in Switzerland, everyone is eager to buy.
One might say that something like a new “Roublyovka” (a prestigious residential area outside Moscow), is currently being established on the Swiss Riviera. Many Russian businessmen who live in Switzerland are gradually moving from what previously were traditionally Russian neighbourhoods (like Cologny in Geneva) to the Swiss Riviera. An important motivating factor is that this area is one of the few in Switzerland where it is possible to purchase residential property without having a permanent resident permit. Therefore, Russians and other foreigners can obtain permission to acquire a so-called holiday accommodation, a house located in a special resort area determined by the cantons. Such a building can be purchased if it has floor space of less than 200 sq m and the plot doesn’t exceed 1000 sq m. The canton of Vaud annually fixes quotas for foreigners who wish to purchase such housing and they now make up 38% of the permanent local residents.
Lausanne hosts the International Olympic Committee's headquarters and is a place where various sports experts and officials go for advanced professional training. Nestle, the world's largest food company which is actively participating in developing Olympic projects in Sochi, is headquartered in Vevey.
The Swiss Riviera also features a variety of cultural events, which are regularly attended by audiences from all over the world. The famous Montreux Jazz Festival attracts more than half a million visitors every year.
HEIDI MALSTREM, Business mir #16 - 2010-05  MAIL PRINT 
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