Buying barns - legal process


Newbie here! We have had an offer accepted on a property consisting of several delapidated barns. Our aim is to convert one for us and the others as gites. Are there any permissions required and if so, who from, to convert to gites? Are we ok to use just the notary, or should we have a solicitor too? Any help gratefully received about the whole process!


Thank you all for taking the time to reply. It has been made a condition that the permission is in place and covers all the buildings. With regard to gites this is a longer term possibility and the main aim is to have somewhere for ourselves. We were never going to rely on gites for main income. I forgot to mention that my husband is a builder!
Good to know there are supportive people out there willing to share experiences and knowledge.

Gloomy but true Brian. One might be better considering an existing "business" there are still some places lodged twenty years ago. The sort of places that advertise for "furniture suitable for a gite" on various Anglo sites. But pay close attention to the chiffres d'affaires, the occupancy rate and the overall profit. What people look for now is a degree of comfort; They want a pool , rooms with ensuite showers/bains, climatisation, a dish washer etc etc etc. When me and my wife first came to the South West thirty years ago we were quite happy for the rent to be twenty pounds a week payable to our UK resident hosts (on the black no doubt). No more I fear. Why go to all the hassle of buying investing in a wreck when there are loads of Anglos dying to off-load their businesses so called. Sorry to be so negative but that's the way it is.

I think David and Simon are saying a lot that is true and painful. We, for example, are in a hamlet which has a plan for which bits can be built on or converted. We have just bought part of a plot, our neighbour the largest part of it. That is to stop it being built on. That happens often, so find out about that. However, as David says the PLUs are tightening up to given existing settlements priority, that is to say villages and hamlets of half a dozen houses up. They prefer to see agricultural buildings remaining that and are also reluctant to see projects that oblige them to install fire hydrants (we have recently had one installed for this hamlet because we ceased to be only six people resident here), improve roads and so on.

My wife is selling houses. She has been asked to take quite a few properties with gîtes on. She has so far shifted two over the last two years I believe and is now reluctant to take any more on. She regularly says how miserable people with them are because they are not letting as they imagined. Some are spiralling into debt. Even some of the people with attractive, sophisticated websites for letting along with providing local information to seduce people in are not doing well. There are, of course, exceptions that do very well but they are declining in number in some areas. Six to eight weeks is good going and some people get nobody at all. The regime is getting strict as well, so if you want to convert from scratch once you have permission to build you go into the inspection business and if new installed gîtes are not absolutely up to scratch then time (and money) is lost getting it all done properly. Because of having more than one it would be a business, so no using a Brit builder or local who works cash in hand because all of the quotes (devis) and bills for the work can be demanded if you are going after any grants.

Barn conversion is also often several times the price of the barn itself.

Sorry, that is all on the negative and grim side, but I hear about it often enough and think the truth is better than building up somebody's hopes. Despite what you sometimes see, grumble-grumble, living in France is great. However, one of the downsides is driving between towns in rural areas. Droves of slow moving campers delay you everywhere. They are also taking the trade from gîtes along with the likes of airbnb who cater for the rest of the folk who like to drive from place to place. Things have very much changed since Peter Mayle's 'A year in Provence'. 25 years is a long time ago and what was left until recently is vanishing.

PUT A CLAUSE SUSPENSIVE IN THE COMPROMIS DE VENTE STIPULATING THAT YOU CAN PULL OUT OF THE PURCHASE IF YOU DON'T GET PLANNING FOR WHAT YOU WANT. A bit forceful in capitals but it it really is very important if you don't want to risk getting stuck with barns you can't convert into what you want ;-)

Don't forget to check that the water supply is up to it (and the electricity supply too).

I came a cross a case where conversion of barns/outbuildings to gites was denied due to insufficient capacity/adverse affect on neighbours.

wast of money, time and effort, gite business is dieing a slow death, there are thousands covering all regions and all tastes. you will not make any money as the business is very tough. having several will mean more costs as they will be classed as a business for tax purposes. high period is about 8weeks and that is in a good season.

if you have money to spend on setting up several gites i would say your best option is to down size run one gite and see what happens with the world economy.

which region your planned development is in will make a huge difference as well.

I would have thought it a matter of urgency to determine whether or not the CU can be renewed. Planning regulations have tightened in the last five years with the completion of PLU's Plans local d'urbanisme. You need to be sure that the existing barns are /remain susceptible to change of use and are in a zone which can continue to be developed. In our community of communes the emphasis is on developing within the existing village /hamlet's envelope.

Thanks for replying. We are in England so maybe a trip over to discuss with Mairie would be helpful.

Yes but it’s expired so needs reinstating.

The Mairie should be able to give you all the advice you need and the forms that you will need to complete

I presume they have a CU (certificate d'urbanisme) already?