Norway’s annual Easter exodus to the mountains for some late-season skiing is well underway, with hotels, less-luxurious lodges and cabins called hytter drawing hundreds of thousands up to the high country this week. Real estate brokers dealing in mountain properties are reporting booming business and rising prices, despite the country’s current economic downturn.
Local newspapers have been packed with ads lately for mountain cabins, most of which now offer all the comforts of home and sell for millions of kroner. Dagens Næringsliv (DN), the national business paper that has many relatively affluent readers, had 23 pages of ads for hytter just prior to the winter holiday week at the end of last month and 16 pages of ads just before the week containing Norway’s numerous Easter holidays began. Most of them were priced well over NOK 4 million (USD 480,000), with many in the NOK 6 million to 10 million bracket, and up.
They’re selling well, with bidding wars driving up prices and reversing a slight downturn in 2012. The real estate brokers’ national association Eiendom Norge has reported prices up 6 percent on average so far this season.
“There won’t be any ski trips for me,” broker Christian Haatuft at the Eiendomsmegler1 office in the ski resort town of Geilo told DN even before the winter holiday week began. His office alone had already sold 21 hytter for a total of NOK 80 million this winter, compared to 13 for NOK 50 million by late February last year.
In one memorable transaction, Haatuft’s office put a relatively modest cabin, mostly unchanged since it was built in 1987, on the market for NOK 2.25 million. It sold for NOK 2.85 million, fully NOK 600,000 over appraisal, after would-be buyers bid against east other. One main attraction was the hytte’s location within walking distance of the main train line between Oslo and Bergen.
That sale was also noteworthy because all the bidders involved were from Western Norway, the area currenly hit the hardest by cutbacks in the oil and offshore industry that some think has created an economic “crisis” in Norway. “They haven’t turned off the lights in Vestlandet yet,” Haatuft laughed, nothing that rising unemployment and economic uncertainty hasn’t, as expected, hit the market for holiday homes.
Real estate sales have also been brisk in such popular winter sports areas as Hemsedal and Trysil, where Norway’s much weaker krone is also attracting more buyers from abroad. The weaker krone may also be prompting more Norwegians to invest in holiday properties at home, and at a time when interest rates are at record lows, since it’s now more expensive for them to travel abroad, although economists don’t think exchange rates have much effect on Norwegians’ travel plans. One thing is sure, claimed one real estate agent: “I would have sold more if I had more to sell,” broker Gjermund Svendsen-Rosendal at Eiendomsmegler1’s Hemsedal office told DN.
In aother examples, a mountain hytte at Vaset in Valdres that was on the market for NOK 1.69 million sold for NOK 2.3 million. A property at Aurdalsåsen in Valdres advertised at NOK 3.39 million sold for NOK 3.93 million. The Valdres area is so popular that prospective buyers have put their names on lists for brokers to contact if and when cabins come on the market, according to the Privatmegleren office in Fagernes. Price records have also been broken at Vinje in Telemark. In some cases, cabins have sold above appraisal after just a week on the market.
DNT, the national organization that promotes the great outdoors and makes it both user-friendly and accessible through its own chain of cabins and lodges along with its system of trail-marking, can confirm the popularity of the mountains. It recently reported yet another jump in membership, to more than 270,000 last year, a new record. The number of overnight stays at DNT hytter and lodges rose to 412,427, up 2.7 percent, while more than 600,000 people participated in DNT’s organized hiking and skiing tours around the country.
“The Norwegian mountains offer everything from simple, easily accessible destinations to spectacular and challenging destinations, and more people are seeking the peace and options for physical activity,” Christine Thune of DNT told news bureau NTB recently. Lifestyle trends with an emphasis on health, environment and the nature are drawing ever more people outdoors, and DNT is enjoying more support than ever.
More commercial ventures in the hotel and tourism trade are also reporting brisk business, aided by the increased numbers of foreign tourists heading for Norway when prices are relatively low because of the weaker krone. Many locals are simply answering the call of the wild, and carrying on a long Norwegian tradition of Easter holidays in the mountains this week. Warm weather and sunshine was an added benefit, also for those staying home in Oslo and opting for city holidays, or time to prepare boats or open holiday homes along the coast for the upcoming summer season.