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Advice sought from experienced gite ownder


Loopy Lou
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Dear All,

I dearly want to escape the rat race in the UK now that my last child will be going to university in September.  I have long held the dream of running gites in France and humbly ask for the benefit of your experience.  This would be my sole income and I need to know if it is a viable proposition.  Could I do this by myself (lone woman, 50+, speak reasonable French)?  How many units would I need to make a living?  How much income would I need to live and to maintain the property?  What facilities do you recommend?  Above all, where in France should I look?

I would have to sell up here in the UK and settle all my debts, but I should clear in excess of £300K which would have to pay moving costs, purchase price, fees and any refurbishment costs, etc, with some over for living.  I would love an up-and-running business with the opportunity to renovate a barn - I have seen just such a business based in Poitou Charentes on the web through an agent and within my means, owned by Brits who want to retire, although I will not take anything on face value.

Please don't tell me my dream isn't realisable - I might go into a steep decline! 

Je vous remercie mille fois de votre gentillesse.

Lou

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Well, you've got 300k to spend, or thereabouts.

First thing you have to reckon up is what do you want to live on - by which I mean how much to you want to earn a year.

Second thing is to look at various Gite Complexes for sale (there are a stack at www.gitecomplexes.co.uk) and see their layouts, then figure out roughly what you can charge for them, and how often they will be occupied.

For example :-

2 Gites, averaging £400 and £300 per week.

16 week season is 16 x (400+300) = £12,800 per annum.

Then, of course, there are costs to be deducted from this.

Of course, this may give you some cash left over which you can then invest as you deem appropriate. Which might get you a bit extra.

It's not impossible, but IMO the reality is that there have been umpteen people looking to move abroad to buy/set up/renovate "Gite Complexes" - that haven't actually done this very simple calculation.

We stayed in one last year, a family that simply hadn't done the maths and were basically living in a barn (I suspect they moved into the Gite when there weren't any customers !).

They may well say "ah, mine will be different because of xxxx" and this may be true, but places are literally swamped ; have a look at the *size* of the French Country Cottages and Chez Nous brochures (both free over the net). This will give you some idea of occupancy as well ; and of coverage.

The reality is if there are hundreds of Gites for rent then people will make the initial subselection on quick and dirty things - location, cost, size and not necessarily the "extras".

It's a buyers market in Gite rentals. IMO this will lead to a buyers market in Gite Complexes, when people start to fail and sell up.

Nobody pushes the failure line. I don't know if you've been watching George Clarke's C5 Series "A Dream Home Abroad", but it had what I recall as the first clear total failure - i.e. giving up and going home having wasted all your money.

Poitou-Charente is IMO a bit of a boom area - in sales ; a while back there were a lot of cheap properties there and this has caused a bit of a boom in GCs. People selling out in the UK at the top of the property market and heading for sunnier lives.

In the above website there are 8 pages of GCs (at 20 per page). 3 of these pages are Poitou-Charente, more even than in the Dordogne (notoriously flooded out with Gite Complexes to the extent that Chez Nous won't take any more, it is rumoured).

I think Poitou-Charente is a bit caught between two stools ; it's not so far south as to be guaranteed good weather, but it's not so far north as to be convenient. (A bit like Burgundy down the other side).

It's a nice place, doubtless - but floods of tourists ? Possibly near the coast and Futuroscope, but what else ?

So, can you, on 300k, buy a Gite Complex and live off the income ? Yes, it is possible, but it's not a cakewalk, and you won't make a lot.

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Wow!What a comprehensive reply "Annoyed".I do endorse it wholeheartedly.I don't think gite complexes are the way to go .A few good individual houses-not a complex-maybe,but they cost much more to buy and equip and of course each need their own satellite,pool etc. There always seems to be demand for good quality individual properties,they must be of a high standard though 'cos that's what people expect now.

 

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To purchase & renovate our house, now very comfortable, convert farm buildings into 1 large, 2 medium & 1 small gite, and to purchase and fit out a seaside house as another medium size unit cost us alittle over two-thirds of your budget.

It is not particularly hard work but you can forget social engagements on Saturdays, and washing and ironing take up another whole day each week.

The net income, after all costs, is 3 to 4 times better than building society or bank interest and the property value is probably worth somewhat more than the original investment and growing (though don't count on it - the market in France is not yet as driven as in UK).

We both find it a lot of fun, much more so than our previous careers, even if we do have to spend a certain amount of time with our heads down loos, etc.

Whether or not it pays enough in the long term to live reasonably comfortably - the jury's still out.

One way of hedging your bet would be to retain a property in UK that you can let out. If the pound goes up - good. If the euro does - equally good. It also spreads your portfolio so that poor growth or a static market in UK may be compensated for by more dynamic growth in France - or vice versa.

Best of luck whatever you decide
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[quote]Dear All, I dearly want to escape the rat race in the UK now that my last child will be going to university in September. I have long held the dream of running gites in France and humbly ask for the...[/quote]

My neighbour has one gite sleeping 6 with swimming pool finished to a very high standard.Its in the Charente.So far this year  8 weeks booked at 900 euros per week = 7200 euros

Probably will get another 4 or 6 weeks at 600 euros =3200 euros total 10400 euros

Take off electricity tax fonciere tax d,habitation swimming pool maintainance probably left with 8400 euros.

Everyone who has booked so far has asked if it is part of a gite complex  because they do not want to be sharing a pool of 10mtrs by 5 mtrs with other families.

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Boiling Frog,(Everyone who has booked so far has asked if it is part of a gite complex  because they do not want to be sharing a pool of 10mtrs by 5 mtrs with other families.)

those comments are true but also many families want to go to complexes for the opposite reason, company for their kids, many families that use our gites end up arranging to meet the other guests at the beach to spend the day together and then all BBQ together in the evenings.

we have an 11x5 pool shared between 18-20 people, I know of a place that has a pool the same size but larger gites shared between 50, i think thats a bit too much.

for anyone wanting to do gites these days i'd tell them not to bother, or find an up a running place in a good location.   

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Loopy Lou, Have a read of http://forums.livingfrance.com/shwmessage.aspx?ForumID=296&MessageID=170547. It sheds some light on your question. I can't help but agree with everything that has been said so far although I would err on the pessimistic side when it comes to the number of weeks let.

Liz (29)
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IMO 16 weeks occupancy in 16&17 is pretty good going.

This is what baffles me ; even in the best case scenario, high occupancy and zero costs (okay ) you're income is still only about £13k ; and yet people do it.

Very sad about the people on the other thread. Maybe TV should talk to them.

With the exception of the last show, the most recent one on Channel 5 showed what seemed to be a series of fairly clueless financially illiterate people (the guys cutting the tree down next to their house still makes me wince) who seem to "manage all right".
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[quote]Boiling Frog,(Everyone who has booked so far has asked if it is part of a gite complex because they do not want to be sharing a pool of 10mtrs by 5 mtrs with other families.) those comments are true...[/quote]

I'd advise them to be very careful about location and hammer down a distressed seller.

Not very nice I know, but I'm being realistic.

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I forgot to add that it helps to have a pension - however small. And/or income from any other source, like UK rent, share dividends, gambling winnings, etc. Or a job in France, full or part time, most likely the latter as full time is hard to come by unless you are completely bi-lingual and with suitable qualifications.

With any of these and your gite earnings combined you might live happily and comfortably - or it might still all go belly up.

In conclusion, do it for the adventure, the hell of it, the pleasure and the excitement, and the occasional misery, but don't do it to get rich.

Patrick
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Lou,

Life is for living not just exsisting so go for and I`m sure you will suceed!

good luck!

 

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Dear Friends,

Thank you all for your replies, both public and private.  I appreciate all your comments.  I have read KDs posting in the Post Bag and others in this strand and will ponder further.  I have no thought of making my fortune - not at all - simply of trying to ensure that I can make a reasonable living and not lose everything in the gamble.

Life is short and getting shorter.  I don't want to spend my remaining days being miserable and bored, nor do I want to spend them in penury.  Perhaps having 4 children will ensure that that won't happen - I've already told them that they will have to keep me in my dotage (a very expensive Home will do fine!) as I have devoted myself alone to them for the past 16 years.  On the whole they are encouraging me to go for it, but they have even less idea than I have!

The thought of a new project, running gites and renovating a barn, is exciting and scary.  I don't want to spend any more years thinking "what if", leaving it too late and then being an even more miserably depressive old crone as I bemoan my way to my grave.

Any more thoughts on a reasonable living income in France would be helpful - I have no idea how much I would need day to day and month to month.

Merci a vous tous.

Bisous,

Louise

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Loopy Lou,

Have you thought about how long it would take for you to complete construction (if necessary) at whatever property you buy? You'd have to live without rental income during that season.

There are threads available here that discuss how long these things take, but I think the general idea is that it takes far longer than you expect.

As to your other questions, I'm not really qualified to talk about that, since we don't depend on our rental income to live. For your own statistics, though, last year we rented 18 weeks (we're in 21, Burgundy) and this year we're at 15 weeks so far. If we did depend on the income, I don't think it would be enough given our costs.

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This is my first year as a gite owner in the Aspet area 31. I converted one house into four, put a pool in. I have been turning people away, I am fully booked most of june all of july, august and half of september and christmas. I am delighted with the response so far. All I can say is Location, Location, Location. If you need help let us know.   
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I think you are dead right Paul. I'd certainly advise caution to anybody like Louise (and in fact the particular gite complex she had seen for sale didn't grab me at all). But if you have something well situated and pretty, built and equipped to a good standard, that is well marketed and looks good in the brochures, and (importantly) you don't get greedy with rental fees, either undercutting the opposition or offering extra for the same money, there's no reason why you shouldn't get the bookings. Then, if you look after your guests well, there will be repeat bookings and recommendations. Reckon on 10-12 weeks booked per year in the current climate, then any more will be a bonus.
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Hi Loopy Lou,

I wouldn't write off the Poitou-Charentes as not a good place to buy a gite complex. We live in the Deux Sevres and have found that our research has paid off. We wanted somewhere that is no further thAN 4.5hrs drive from a ferry terminal and was no more than 1 hr from a cheap airline airport. Poitiers has Ryanair and La Rochelle have Flybe and Ryanair. Limoges airport is also nearby. Bordeaux airport is 2hours away. We also looked at the TGV route from Paris to see if rail connections could be made. As a result we have had people for long weekends as well as for longer holidays. The key to getting a full season is to chose an area with a mixture of rural/sea and city within easy driving distance. Advertising is key and you will find that many people return if your facilities are top rate as well as by word of mouth. A swimming pool has been the major factor in getting bookings. The weather is fantastic with long summers. The winters are short but can be very cold so ensure that your guests have central heating or a good log burner for out of season lets. it's hard work but good luck with your dream.

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Hello all,

Well, at least the postings are getting a little more positive, so I won't give up on my dream just yet.  Don't worry, Bill, I'm not about to buy that particular gite complex!

I still have a question or two:

How much income should I be looking at to be able to live above the breadline in France?  I appreciate that this would depend on outgoings, but we know roughly what a reasonable income is in the UK, so what is the least I could survive on?  What is the minimum number of weeks letting that would mean keeping your head above water?

What are the realities of running gites?  How much hands on work is required on a daily basis with regard to the guests?  I presume it isn't as little as doing the cleaning and changeovers once a week, and of course there is the paperwork.

Can I realistically do this all by myself - toute seule - alone?

Thank you again, everyone for your time and trouble.  I will bear your pearls of wisdom in mind.

A bientot,

Loooooo

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You ask about how much you need to keep your head above water financially. In other threads an income of £15000 pa was quoted for a couple. This figure only includes minimal diy expenses. If you have gites there would be other expenses eg wear and tear etc. Others might not agree with this. Pat.
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  • 1 month later...

I recently spent a week-end in France with a friend (lone woman) who is running her 3 bed gite and 3 bed house as gite/b&b and offers an evening meal as required to her guests.  I helped her with the change-over on the Saturday which I enjoyed.  My hostess cleaned upstairs and I did downstairs as well as the garden furniture.  She's not rolling in money, but the lifestyle is so much better than 09:00 to 5:30 with a commute of 3/4 hour each end every day, as well as running my house, garden, dog and goldfish toute seule, not to mention the last remaining teenager (18 on Friday) who will soon be leaving for university.  Getting up at 06:00a.m. to walk the dog every morning and not getting home till about 6:30p.m. (knackered!) makes for a very long day for me.  And I'm bored!

Being one's own boss, master (or mistress) of one's own daily life/fate must be better than the rat race.  I'm still researching, but definitely leaning much more heavily towards going for it!

A bientot,

Lou 

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As someone who worked in advertising for twenty years before moving to France, I can let you in on a secret - advertising really works! If you have a decent product and you can manage to put it in front of enough people you WILL sell it, no matter how saturated the market is. Don't be mean with your advertisng and marketing budget, try out lots of different routes in the first few years and spend a good few thousand euros getting your gites out there. It's a hit and miss experience but with a good ad spend you should easily achieve 16-24 weeks occupation which will give you an income of (aprox) €12000-20000 before expenses which will go a long way towards ensuring your continued stay in France. And, as others have said, it's a great way to make a living. Best of luck with your project.
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