In the past twenty years or so, thousands of
Britain, the Netherlands, and many other countries - even Australia or
the USA - have taken the plunge, and moved to France - for retirement,
early retirement or to find a slower pace of life in a rural area. And
for many, either before coming, or once arrived, the idea of earning a
little money on the side - or even earning a living income - through
the opening of holiday accommodation, has seemed an exciting or
interesting challenge to be taken up.
Some have been successful, others less so; and for
the whole venture has quickly turned to disaster. As with
projects - specially those where a certain amount of serious investment
is required, opening and running a gite or a group of gites calls in
varying degrees for resources, a certain vision, an ability to work
with local contractors, a fair degree of self-sufficiency, and plenty
of determination to make things work.
Buying a gite
the person thinking of moving to France, there are two ways to acquire
a gite or potential gite; one is to acquire a rural property that is
big enough to divide into more than one unit of accommodation - and run
a gite that is essentially an extension of the owner's own
accommodaiton. The other is to acquire a group of cottages or houses
that can be used as multiple gites - the owner living in one of the
units, or close by. And in either case, there is the possibility of
buying an already-operating gites business, or starting from scratch.
Obviously the more units that are acquired or envisaged, the
greater the potential rewards when the project finally comes to
fruition, but the greater the investment. Establishing a small group of
gites has the advantage or reducing the renovation costs per unit,
notably by spreading the cost of such features as a swimming pool or
other facilities over more than one gite. The downside is that the
gites may not have the independence and privacy that many people are
looking for when they decide on a gite holiday. But there is another
big downside to running multiple gites – one that is often
overlooked when people are drawing up their plans – and that
"changeovers", the time
required for cleaning and preparing for the next visitors. Generally
speaking, gite changeover day is Saturday; and while it is not too hard
for gite-owners to clean, tidy and reorganise one or two gites between
time-out and time-in on a summer Saturday, any more may require the
hiring of domestic help or lead to serious logistical problems.
and equipping a property as a gite
can be done on the cheap; but it's not the best way to create a gite or
gites that bring in the visitors - unless the rental prices are very
cheap too. Gites come in all shapes and sizes, from the small and
rudimentary (less common these days) to the utterly luxurious; but by
far the majoirty lie in the middle – rural accommodation that
to match the expectations of holidaymakers.
Most visitors are looking for a certain degree of
even luxury – which means that gites are best renovated and
with a certain degree of good quality. Besides, quality equipment and
furniture tend to be more robust than the cheaper stuff, and so will
last longer and wear better. It means more
investment upfront, but normally better value for the owner in the long
run. It is vital not to underestimate the cost of renovating even a
"liveable" rural property as a gite, and equipping it to the
standard that visitors are going to expect for the price you ask.
Running a gite / gites as a profitable venture is
if the intention is to ensure a healthy return on the capital
investment – unless the gite is in the league of exclusive
the other hand, if the capital investment can be largely disregarded
which is something that individuals can do, but not companies - then
running a gite or gites as a means of ensuring a certain income is less
of a challenge.
are plenty of enterprising gite-owners in France who have done a lot of
the renovation work themselves; but renovating a gite can require a
good range of skills, not to mention a lot of time, and the complexity
and scope of the task should not be underestimated. Any major work will
almost certainly need to done by professionals, and their services may
be essential when it comes to making sure that renovation work complies
with today's building standards, and safety standards, notably with
regard to electric installations, swimming pools, ventilation, and so
The situation is far less complicated for
properties that are already in basic working order, but need a
superficial makeover to render them clean and attractive for potential
How long can
you rent your gite for?
This will depend largely on five factors:
are thousands of gites in France whose owners will be more than happy
if they can rent their property for more than eight or nine weeks in
the year. Outside of cities, skiing areas and the French
the holiday season lasts for two months, plus a couple of shorter less
active periods at Christmas and Easter. For the rest of the year, there
are a lot of gites chasing a relatively small number of holidaymakers.
The more of the above five points on which a gite scores well, the more
bookings it is liable to get, over a longer season.
- Where the gite is located,
- How much you charge relative to the local going
rate (value for money),
- Whether you have any special selling points
(like a spectacular view or location),
- How much you are prepared to spend on
- and once established, How many return visitors
you can acquire.
Though a word of caution: equipping gites for hire in the
months may well not be worth the effort. There is a point for most
gites at which the extra revenue gathered from off-season visitors will
be minimal - if not negative - compared to the cost of catering for
Heavy advertising can (but will not necessarily) produce a
considerable extension of the letting season, but the profits on
low-season rentals cannot be high, given the unfavourable balance
between supply and demand.
Listing with "Gites de France" or "Clévacances"
is not an
obligation, and there are very many gites that are not listed. On the
other hand, it will normally ensure good occupancy in the main holiday
season, plus a quality label that can be used in promotion: but both
come at a cost, for inspection and listing, as well as a sizeable
commission (in the range of 15% - 20%) on sales. And it should not be
forgotten that a 20% commission on sales is 20% of
not 20% of profit margin; in terms of percentage of actual
figure is considerably greater .
The most cost effective way of
advertising gites is almost certainly the Internet. There are hundreds
of gites directories to choose from, but among them probably no more
than a dozen that can guarantee results. Prices vary considerably, with
some directories charging over 300 € a year.
There are essentially three types of
sites for advertising gites on the Internet.
a) The commercial sites that charge in the region
of 300 € a year with no guarantee of performance. Many
of these now belong to a large Texas-based company called Home Away,
who now own - among others - Owners direct, Holiday-Rentals co. uk,
Abritel, Homelidays, TopRural, Bedandbreakfast .com and a dozen more
online directories - and whose first objective is obviously to make as
much money as possible for their shareholders and directors by signing
up as many advertisers as possible. Given their business model and
their high advertising rates, these directories must produce some
results for some advertisers - but feedback suggests that their results
are extremely variable, and not necessarily any better than smaller
b) Free online directories. These are almost
total waste of time, though there are some, particularly regional
sites, that generate a few clickthroughs.
c) Between the two, a small intermediate category
of independent directories, including Gitelink.com ; these sites make a
small charge and depend, for their continuing survival, on producing
that owners should list their properties with at least three or four
directories, as no directory on its own can guarantee
maximum results........ unless your gite/s have a remarkable
selling point in their own right. In which case, they should advertise
themselves by word of mouth alone. On one expat-targeted French
property information site, there is an article suggesting that owners
should reckon on spending 1500 € a year on advertising. This
way over the top ... or possibly an unintended admission of
the lack of effectiveness of some of the more expensive gites
advertising sites. A listing with Gitelink can cost as little
as £26 a year, and is guaranteed to produce results, given
favourable ratio of visitors to sites listed; but listing with just a
single directory is very unlikely to produce enough customers to fill a
gite for a whole season.
renovating and running a gite or gites can be fun, can be a source of
income, and an occupation; but neither the economics nor the risks of
the operation should be underestimated. Finally, it is important to
remember that running a gite / gites is a job, and in particular one
that will keep the owners busiest in the summer holiday
|Gite or B&B
your gite on Gitelink France: rates start at £25 or 30
€ for 2012
Gitelink is a successful online directory for the promotion of
independent gites, country cottages, holiday villas or
accommodation in France.
See our announcers
page for further information.
A directory of
gites by region
directory listings for 2012 from just
£26 or 30