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Everything posted by France Direct<P>Best Wishes  ~  Ken Austin<P align=left><a target=_blank href="http:www.francedirect.net" target=_blank>www.francedirect.net<A><P>

  1. Dear Miki


    I think we’ve been down this road before. You obviously didn’t read my post. I ‘piped up’ because of your arrogance, not because of a vested interest. You had already steered the thread onto something else, which I’m afraid to say happens quite often in your posts.


    My point is that when people arrive in a strange country, they should be helped, not ridiculed. We were all new here once and I know that if it wasn’t for the help of a certain English Estate Agent, my family and I would have found things very difficult. My business brings me into contact with hundreds of people like those given in the analogy above. They all settle in eventually and become part of their community and contribute to it in which ever way they can. We can’t all be social workers and we’re not all sociable. If you are not proficient in a language, you are hardly likely to try and be sociable in it, no matter how much you might want to.

  2. I can’t believe the arrogance of some people on this Forum. Do they honestly believe that because they speak French, that gives them a god given right to live in France?


    There seems to be lot of generalising by the “last days of the Raj” set about people moving to France who don’t speak the language. You can’t judge everyone, by a few bad examples.

  3. I think some of the figures mentioned above would be for established businesses although I find 90 nights per room year a little hard to believe. I take it from your post that you are either new to the BnB business or are thinking of opening one. In either case it can take a very long time to establish yourself. I know a number of well established top quality Chambre d’Hôtes in the Dordogne region that are only just scraping a living, because of their regular clientele. A lot of factors come into play when starting a new BnB business: the location, the quality of your rooms, pricing, local competition etc, etc.

    I think everyone will agree that at the moment the French tourist industry is a depressed market. Supply far outstrips demand as more and more people move to France with the same idea as you. Advertising is a very important part of your business. Without doubt your best source for clients will be your local Office du Tourisme (depending on the area you are in). The problem with this is that if your French is not good, you may not do very well as the majority of people passing through their doors are French. There are many good BnB Guides that you should try and get into. The Karen Brown guide in the States, Alastair Sawday in the UK, France’s Guide du Charme to name a few. The problem is that these publications are very hard to get into and are getting more and more expensive, but, they do work.

    So to answer the second part of your question. By the time you have paid to renovate your property to an acceptable standard, paid to advertise your property, paid your “cotisations” (this will depend on the number of rooms you have and/or if you need to be covered by the French system), paid any Taxe de Sejour (if applicable in your area) there will be very little profit left on which to have a decent standard of living. You need to bear in mind that it could take up to five years to establish yourself. If you are reliant on your savings or a pension to sustain you, you may find it hard going. The heady days of 2000/2001 where properties showed high demand and turnovers are no more. We still live in hope that these days will return however!!

    I wish you the very best of luck with your project and every success for the future.

  4. Hi Robert


    I didn’t like your idea because I sell advertising, I didn’t like it because it wouldn’t be cheaper than the alternative. I could easily have said that “you would think that £3000 for a website wasn’t expensive because you’re a web designer!!



  5. Hi Robert


    If you think my website is only HTML then that is excellent and exactly the result I was trying to achieve. This means it is 100% search engine friendly. Actually it is 100% database driven; I thought the Advertiser log-in might have given you a clue to that. Everything, including the articles are operated from a mysql backend, then rendered to generate html pages.


    I agree that getting it done cheaply doesn’t always pay. But there are a lot of good PHP coders in India and Pakistan who do a very good job for not a lot of money. There is also a huge amount of talent in the emerging eastern block countries, where salaries aren’t as high as the U.K. for example. You should try putting a project on Rentacoder and see what prices you get back. You could probably get a site like mine, with availability calendars and all the database functionality etc, etc for around $600, don’t believe me, give it a try. I know a guy who owns one of the top gambling sites on the internet. Money isn’t a problem for him, yet all of his IT people are in Rumania and Russia. We shouldn’t put these guys down, just because there economy is not the same as ours. So I’m afraid to my eyes, £3000 is a rip off.


    I’m sorry, but I can’t accept that integrating a ready made script into your website is harder than coding it from scratch. It doesn’t make sense. Yes I have used off the shelf scripts from hotscripts and elsewhere. The PHPBB forum script is probably one of the most popular open source scripts on the internet.


    I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one. Your idea the way it is set out at the moment would cost more in the long run than advertising on a website that for instance only charged you a commission if they got you a booking. If they got you nothing it would cost you nothing.


    Best of luck with your property search. I hope you find something suitable soon.

  6. How would your project work?
    Ths message I posted was just an idea. Its a result of seeing so many people ripped off by worthless advertising on websites. I talk to 2-3 people a week who have paid to appear in directories, specialist websites etc and get no response to their adverts. Thinking aloud here..but many people I speak to pay £200/year + to appear in these. If people wishing to advertised their gites/B&B's pooled their resources then they could actually build their own professional website with online booking and admin facilities, availablity, tours etc etc. For example I would estimate such a website would cost in the region of £2000-£3000. Twenty accomodation owners paying £150 each would be able to have such a site developed. That would be a one off payment and they would own the website.

    I think we both know that £3,000 for a mysql/php website is extortionate. There are far too many web designers bandying around these ridiculous figures, which is a rip off and perhaps another topic for discussion on this forum! Most of the mods you mention above can be picked up at ‘hotscripts’ and other like websites free or for a small fee. I’m sure you will agree that building the website is the easy part.

    Who would promote the website?
    Website promtotion is not difficult if the site is developed correctly. For example I did a site for a client which was launched in Dec 04 and now attracts 100+ unique visitors / day and now growing by 20 unique visitors per week. I quote visitors here not hits as that is a worthless figure and gives no indication of popularity. People involved in the project also use the address on all correspondance which in turns helps.


    How many ‘uniques’ will you have in six months time if you don’t continue to promote it regularly? Once the developer has stepped back from this project how will the ‘uniques’ grow without regular stimulation from someone who knows what they are doing. Hard coding pages for search engine refreshes is one thing, but it has a very limited shelf life.

    How would you allocate disk space?
    Why do you need to allocate disk space ? Disk space costs nothing these days. Also an interactive website would need to have an underlying database which uses database data and templates to run. This means that pages do not physically exist but are generated when required. Disk space is not an issue


    Sorry my question was not clear. By disk space I meant actual quotas. In your example above you say  that 20 people will pay £150 each. Let’s just suppose we’re talking only about holiday rentals. So, one of your members has one Gîte with a very nice pool, so he/she will only require one description page for his business. Another member may have four Gîtes, so he/she will want four description pages. Surely this is unfair to the member with one page as he/she has paid the same amount as the member with four pages. I know this was only an idea and you probably haven’t worked out all the angles, but I’m only generating a discussion here.

    Yes the project would need a coordinator but this isnt a difficult job.


    So is this a paid job or is the co-ordinators time given freely?

    1. People agree to join the project
    2. Facilities are discussed, agreed and specified.
    3. The website is developed, tested
    4. Every owner contributing has their own login details to use the admin system. In the admin system they enter their accomodation details, photos and any bookings they may have. Details of accomodation are stored in a database so visitors to the website can search through all available accomodation quickly and easily.
    5. Each accomodation owner has their own virtual website within the main one. They would easily be able to modify this via the admin system. In addition they could point their own domain names at the site.


    Yes agreed, this a basic off the shelf package.

    You mention that everyone should have their own bit of cyberspace. Whilst I agree with you that its no bad thing the problem is that times are changing. Your website is now seen as a storefront to your business. Personally I have no confidence buying from any website that is poorly designed, unattractive,doesnt work etc. I strongly disagree with you that there are very few bad websites. 90% of websites out there either bad, poorly designed, dont work or amateurish. Whilst this doesnt matter for non commercial websites it certainly does for commercial ones !


    I’m sure if you asked those 90% of home made website owners, they would tell you that they’re website is functional. Also they’re skills increase the more they use HTML the better their websites become. As you say it doesn’t matter for non-commercial websites and sometimes the home made aspect can have a positive reaction for Gîte websites.

    Anyway what I am suggesting would mean that everyone would still have their own part of cyberspace but it would be a properly written and designed piece of cyberspace not one with red writing on a green background, flashing icons everywhere, photos that take 5 minutes to download on a broadband connection, links that dont work etc.


    In that case wouldn’t it be better to try an help those people who build these Day-Glo websites? Perhaps  a workshop for them with useful information would be a better idea. Perhaps lesson one could be “Never use a background wallpaper”!

    Also you have to remember not many people are capable of running their own website. Many people struggle with HTML so how can you expect them to write online availability and booking systems , credit card facilities etc ? You may argue that many people do not want these facilities but as i said earlier times are changing. People expect to be able to check things like availablilty onl

  7. Hi Yorks


    I was interested in your post as my own website tried to start out life as a co-operative about nine years ago, but very soon fell foul of apathy.


    I have a few questions and observations which I hope you’ll find constructive.


    How would your project work?

    Who would build the website?

    Who would promote the website?

    Who would own the website?

    How would you allocate disk space?


    I’m sure you are aware that promotion alone is a very costly business in both time and money. If you are not proposing to lead the project yourself, who would? It would need a co-ordinator to ensure that everything got done. Would this person have to be paid? The people you are talking about joining your ‘community’ are not, in the main, going to be knowledgeable about the internet and its workings; they will therefore have to employ someone who is. This will need to be paid for, presumably by the members of the ‘community’. This would leave them in exactly the same position that your idea is critical of, i.e. paying to advertise on a website. The only difference would be that this new website would not be established in search engines and directories for some time.


    In my humble opinion, if you have a business, be it holiday rentals, gardening services or whatever, I think you should have “your own little piece of cyberspace” as you put it. You should also learn how to run it and make changes to it yourself whenever you want to without relying on outside companies. There are thousands of good home made websites out there and a few bad ones, but that’s the beauty of the Internet, we can all have a voice and a place to be seen.

  8. We received this email from our good friends Neville and Elizabeth Gay and felt it important enough to reproduce here. Please be wary of property buyers who have not come from a reputable source.

    We have advertised our property on your web site (French Property News)and received a warning from your web master of a possible scam. This is to advise you that this scam is still ongoing and that we have been approached. Fortunately having been for warned by your webmaster we were prepared for it.

    It takes the form of a Monsieur Pirés phoning to say that he has an investment company and he may have a client interested in buying our property as an investment. Would we please send him some more photographs. This we did by e-mail suspecting it to be the scam. Some eight or so hours later he phones to say that his client is 90% interested and proposed to pay our price but with 10% going "under the table" some 20% or 30% in sterling and the rest in Swiss Francs. When pressed to pay the balance in Euros he readily agrees. We then said that the contract would have to be signed in front of our Notaire in Lalinde this he said would be entirely satisfactory but two weeks after we had met his client in Barcelona at a hotel where we would agree the final terms of the contract. Unfortunately his client could not leave Barcelona for six weeks where he was engaged in some bigger contracts than ours. Oh yes, by the way, there would be no problem with our staying in the property until July.

    The factors which made us suspicious at the beginning were that he wouldn't give us an address but asked to have the photos sent by e-mail to a Yahoo e-mail and he always operated from a French mobile phone number, he couldn't give us the number for a fixed phone. He spoke poor English with a Spanish accent, not French. We suspected that he was operating from the Franco/Spanish border using an 06 phone number.

    We remembered the warning from FPN that the next step is to arrange a meeting in Barcelona which this Monsieur Pirés suggested would be at a hotel but he made no mention of the deposit we would be asked to pay to secure the contract. I asked what security his client would have during the two week period before we met at the Notaire's but he side-stepped the question.

    This scam must be given the maximum of publicity to avoid anyone else falling into the possible trap. We are grateful that the French Property News at least gave us the tip-off that it could happen.

  9. I think it is a good system now. As I said they have changed drastically since becoming part of eBay and are more user friendly. They are certainly cheaper than Worldpay and 2 Checkout. But as you can see, if you only have a personal account with them, the fees are very good. I have a premier account with them and it works fine, but with all of these things, read the small print first.

  10. Hi Gay


    Sorry you are totally wrong there. When you sign up with PayPal you are given a credit limit, which is not very much, I think about €750 per month or something. You can verify your account by giving them permission to deduct $1.95 from your account which has a tracking number attached to the transaction. When you check your statement and feed back this tracking number to PayPal, they verify your account and credit you with the $1.95. Here are their fees.



     Personal Account

     Premier/Business Account

    Open an Account



    Send Money



    Withdraw Funds

    Free for €100,00 EUR or more, €1,00 EUR for €99,99 EUR or less to bank accounts in France
    Fees for other banks

    Free for €100,00 EUR or more, €1,00 EUR for €99,99 EUR or less to bank accounts in France
    Fees for other banks

    France Direct<P>Best Wishes  ~  Ken Austin<P align=left><a target=_blank href="http:www.francedirect.net" target=_blank>www.francedirect.net<A><P>

    I would suggest that you go along to your Mairie and ask them. They have all the information you will need. There are EEC laws which are being heavily enforced at the moment. If you try and do it on the cheap you could find yourself having to dig it all up and do it properly, which would cost you more than doing it properly the first time.


    Bon chance!!

  11. Hi Diane


    I don’t know many people nowadays who ask for a signed booking form. Since online bookings took off about six years ago and people started having ‘emailable’ booking forms on their websites, the practise stopped. I would think that nowadays, by the time you got the booking form to them by post and they send it back, they may have found something else. If you think about it, what are they signing for anyway? There is no law in the land that can force them to continue with the booking if they don’t want to. Once you have their deposit, it’s a different ballgame. Providing you state clearly where it can easily be seen, that deposits are non-refundable, they would have to have a very good reason to cancel their booking and if they did, you would probably be very sympathetic towards them. I’m not sure if French Connections offer an online Booking Form for it’s advertisers, but if they do, the norm is to make the client read your terms and conditions notice before they hit the submit button.


    I never thought I would say this, but I can highly recommend PayPal. They used to be a nightmare, but since they were bought out by eBay, they have become an amazingly user friendly payment system. Setting up an account is quick and easy, just go to www.paypal.com and register. Once your account is set up anyone can pay you anywhere in the world. They have a new invoice system where you can send an invoice to any email address and the recipient can pay in their own currency. It really is a useful tool for Gîte owners.


    Best of luck and I hope you get the booking!!

  12. Nelson, in reply to your question. Speedferies is a new discovery for us and will be featured on our travel website when it is refurbished.


    We have no connection what-so-ever to Speedferries and nothing to gain by recommending them.

  13. Hi


    I’m not sure if you are looking for a long term or holiday rental. Rental companies don’t usually charge visitors to book holiday properties as the property owner has paid to advertise. Holiday rental companies can also be a good source for long term rentals as their advertisers may accept these as well as the usual one or two week bookings.


    Immobiliers (Estate Agents) are another good source of long term rentals, but they may charge for this service or have their commission built into the rental price.


    Best of luck with your search.

  14. Hi Coco


    You’ve hit the nail right on the head. I’ve been involved in the holiday rentals business in France for 12 years in one capacity or another and I still couldn’t tell you why one property gets bookings, whilst a similar property in the same area gets none. It must be down to user preference. French Connections and Chez Nous have always been good media in general to advertise with, but they too have anomalies. There was a famous example a few years ago where two English neighbours had Gîte conversions by the same builder in similar styles. They both advertised in Chez Nous with the same pricing structure. One received 16 weeks bookings, the other didn’t get one enquiry.


    My advice to anyone advertising their holiday rentals property in whatever media, would be to take time and care on their descriptions, this is a very important part of their advertising and is second only to the quality of their photographs. Photographs are of prime importance, because this is what people see first. If they like the look of the property they will read the text, it’s as simple as that. Take time to dress the picture first. Remove any rubbish or unsightly items, if your external shot has an outside table and chairs, then put a bottle of wine or some flowers on it. It may sound over the top but I think you’ll find it’s worth it.


    I’m sorry if I’ve strayed off of the path of this post, but hope you find the information useful.

  15. Hi Quillan

    I am afraid to admit that you are absolutely correct. Here in the Dordogne there are apparently as many Brits as in the whole of France put together. Obviously they are not all Gîte owners, but the ones who are selling up aren’t having too much trouble in finding buyers.


    The thing that worries me is the age of Brits coming to settle in France. Like a lot of companies we get enquiries for long let’s while people look for properties. A few years ago the average age range was mid to late 50’s. People having taken early retirement looking for the usual house with barn to convert into a Gîte or BnB to supplement their pensions. Today the average age range is early to late 30’s usually with kids looking to make a life change. At the age of 30+ with a couple of kids, two Gîtes aren’t going to give you enough income to support yourself, unless you have another source of income. Unfortunately at this stage, it seems that every able bodied person moving her becomes a builder, working on the black. I know it isn’t really as

    black a picture as I’ve painted here, but I’ve seen it so many times in the 12 years that I’ve lived here.


    I’ve also seen the change in the attitude of locals here. What was once gratitude to ‘les étrangers’ for raising the property prices, is now turning to resentment because their children can’t afford a foothold on the property ladder.  The problem must lie with the country of origin of the émigrés who are coming here. It would seem that one of the major reasons for leaving is the amount of immigrants to those countries. And so the circle turns!!


  16. The changes at hotmail are part of Bill Gates promise to eliminate Spam emails within the next two years.

    For my money, it would be worth it to get rid of all this rubbish in my inbox!

  17. I agree with all that has been said above. You don’t have to register a Gîte business or pay cotisations. But beware the law is changing and this may not be the case for much longer. You do have to declare your income to the l’Impot however. My advice would be to go and see your Maire, they will be able to help you with everything you need to get you started. You may also have to pay Taxe de Sejour which not all Maire’s charge.


    Equally as important as registration is ensuring that you have adequate public liability insurance, especially since the new swimming pool laws came into force.

  18. I’m afraid the IP address idea isn’t really a good one, here’s why. France, unlike other European Countries doesn’t always use static IP numbers. This means that depending on your ISP you may not have the same IP number two days running. The other problem is that if you get an answer like Tiscali or freeserver, you won’t be any the wiser as Tiscali and Free.fr offer free dialup connections to thousands of people in France. You can of course sign up with bogus details and get an email address, so you will never be sure if your enquirer is legitimate or an employee of whatever journal you are advertising with. I don’t have any intimate knowledge of the journals mentioned above and do not suggest that this is part of their practice, but it does happen.


    The last two years have been something of a disaster for the French tourist industry, although there will always be the exception to disprove the rule. However, things are on the up and our American cousins are beginning to return to these shores. Barring another invasion of a Middle East country this year should see a return to the norm. The emergence of hundreds of new Gîte businesses in France is a major factor in the scarcity of bookings vis-à-vis enquiries (email me for a full list if you are interested or send an s.a.e ). Although this shouldn’t be a problem in July and August, it will certainly water down bookings out of season, which, as we all know, is the icing on the cake. We are in danger of falling into a situation where supply far out ways demand. When that happens people start to discount prices because they think they have to compete, and that, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster.

  19. There is only one way to maintain low ferry crossings and that is to break up the cartel that is running the channel ferries.

    Speed Ferries is trying to do just that. SpeedFerries offers amendable bookings from £25 one-way, for a standard car including up to 6 passengers, on the all year Dover-Boulogne fast ferry service.

    As you can see they only do Dover - Boulogne at the moment, but other routes are planned for the future. All the feedback I have seen has been good, so please give them your support if you can.


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