Okay…so this is our situation.
We are mid 40s with no kids. We are very fortunate enough to be financially comfortable but need something to do over the next 10 years until we can retire early.
We’re also fed up with UK politics and think Brexit is a monumentally stupid idea. Not going to lie either, fed up with the weather in Blighty but are by no means sun seekers.
Maybe we’ve seen too many ‘New Life in the Sun’ episodes (or similar) but we are very seriously considering the well trodden path of running a gite / chambres d’hotes business. We would be able to buy in SW France without a mortgage and still have a property in the UK that would provide regular rental income.
So our questions to current or former / chambres d’hotes owners are:
Realistically, how much business do you get outside of the peak season of mid-July and August?
Do you still feel that your property is still your ‘home’ rather than a place of work?
Would you have to sell your property when you retire because it’s too big and costly unless you use it as a gite / chambres d’hotes?
Do you enjoy it or is it simply something that you need to do in order to be able to live in France?
Your thoughts / advice much appreciated - thank you in advance!!
These are very tying businesses.
We have a gite, but it is not our main source of income.
We are rural, in the Clunysois of Southern Burgundy.
We get about ten weeks a year on average and only rent out by the week.
If you do Chambres D’Hotes you can increase your footfall if you are open for a longer season.
Have a look at Lay My Hat whch is a forum for gites and Chambres d’Hotes owners.
Hello Ray and welcome to the Forum
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Hi Stella - yes just done that now. Thx.
Thanks Jane. When you say ‘tying’ do you mean that you are tied to the property in that you have to be on call during the season?
Good suggestion re Lay my Hat. Thanks.
Afternoon Ray, have you been watching A new life in the sun “where are they now”? just watch any of the French gite episode currently running and you will get all the answers you want. Good luck
Yes, we’ve watched those and it looks like a risky option if you are relying on 2-3 bedrooms in a CdH or just 1 gite in order to earn enough to live off. Only one couple have had to return to the UK though?
We’re lucky enough that we’d have a separate income and running a gite / CdH during peak season would top up that income.
We’re more interested in how long the season realistically lasts and whether your house still feels like your home.
Thanks Stella - yes been doing some research in the ‘Gite’ category.
The main season is a week either side of the UK school holiday so realistically about 8-9 weeks. Wednesdays episode from Couhe summed up the English run gite business perfectly, you come from a 3 bed semi with small garden and move in to a huge house with gites and 4 acres of land and the owners realise they have bitten off more than they can chew. The really successful gites diversify to extend the season even longer and stand out from the crowd.
Yes, saw that episode and yes ‘biting off more you can chew’ is certainly a concern of ours.
But even that couple still stayed in France, they just downsized and bought a separate property to renovate in order to rent it out as a summer rental.
I would do what they did 2nd time or the guys that ran the Bouncy castle company they just ran small B&B. If its just to supplement your income then just be sensible in the size of property and grounds, don’t go crazy and buy a campsite:crazy_face:
Agreed, but I guess then its hoping that the right 2nd or 3rd property comes available nearby.
Gites are full-on from March to October regardless if you only have 6/8 weeks of bookings in the summer.
In terms of maintenance / redecoration and marketing?
Hi Ray - we have 2 gites which we let by the week in peak season, and also sometimes do B&B in them at quieter times. We could let them many times over in July and August, and they generally let most weeks May-September, and occasionally in April and October too. Lets November-March are very rare.
We have a specialism - families with young children - and are adapted to that - and we also have a swimming pool which is popular. I believe we could let the gites more than we do, but to be honest the above is all we want at the moment. We (family of 5) can just about live off the gites income - which is principally my wife’s business - and we had to for several years (during my recent long illness) - but I usually have my own work too, which gives us a little extra money for travel etc.
I think we are successful compared with many other gites businesses around, and I put that down to 2 main factors: (1) having a specialism, and (2) having a good agent.
Generally, I do feel the place is our home rather than place of work - but of course it has its moments - family time interrupted for an urgent repair, etc. And I generally do enjoy it - most of our guest are really nice people - though again of course you get the odd difficult customer.
We’ve been here 7 years, and we will definitely sell up sometime in the next 10 years, not so much because we anticipate retiring, or are at all dissatisfied, but because as we get older our place will simply become too big to manage - we certainly won’t be ruling out carrying on a gites business, but one with less land/facilities.
Thanks Geof - really appreciate the detailed response and plenty to consider.
It sounds like you have quite a sizeable property. How much land do you have and how many rooms does each of your gite have?
Maintenance/repairs, gardening etc will start in March (or earlier) and continue until the grass stops growing, allow at least a month before the season to get the pool ready in case of problems.
We have about 2 acres - but as Timothy has just indicated it’s not so much the land area - it’s the sheer volume of buildings - effectively 3 houses (ours - 4 bed - and the gites - 3 and 2 bed), a number of barns/shed/pool-house, the swimming pool, the polytunnel, outdoor play equipment, the fully fenced pool and gite gardens, other boundary fences, about 40 huge old trees along with many ornamental/fruit, etc… there are always maintenance jobs to do - which I enjoy at present but won’t (probably) when I am 70!