We did just that, well in broad terms in that we bought a house with a derelict annex which we have renovated and turned into a gîte. And we started well before we moved over permanantly, but were spending a lot of time here, maybe 5 months a year.
So some of our lessons learnt. These are sweeping generalisations, and specific areas can be different, but things to think about.
First off, property might be cheap but renovation work isn’t. Building materials and artisans are expensive, so depends whether this is a DIY project or not. (and many pitfalls with DIY if not skilled and knowledgeable about french systems). And many people bring over materials and workers from UK, but if you are not in an area that accepts that then this will cause resentment. And you can’t set off UK invoices against future capital gains. Round here (there are no English) the Dutch are disliked for not using local services. It really depends on whether your long term plan is to integrate or not.
It is also slow. For example we wanted to use a specific local firm for the roof, as our researches had identified them as the best within a 50km radius. We had to wait over a year for a slot in their programme. Even getting estimates can take a while. So double your time estimates.
Our experience is also that the french builders believe they know best. We would spend half an hour carefully agreeing the way we wanted something to be done, only to pop back an hour later and find that they had started on an alternative approach. When questioned about whether they understood what we wanted, they would commonly say ‘yes, but this way is better’! If we hadn’t been here I have no idea what would have ended up with. So doing it from a distance has pitfalls.
And also gîte rénovation and management will not make you rich. Again it depends on how legitimate you plan to be. But take a hard look at your business plan, and think about taxes, social charges, taxe de séjour, cotisation foncière d’entreprise, management charges, maintenance, replacement équipement, initial furnishings, marketing, etc etc etc - the list is very long. Obviously it depends what level & size of gîte you are aiming for, and what the local market is in terms of price, but I would say that it is rare for a single gîte to create a liveable income. For us it’s an acceptable return on our investment, but we are not paying others to do the cleaning, gardening or changeovers, didn’t need to borrow any money and don’t pay commissions to lettings agents.
I could go on, but in summary I would only do it if you are prepared to put time and effort into it, otherwise you won’t be happy with the result and it will just be very stressful.