Many people move to France with plans to start a business. With millions of tourists visiting France yearly, running a holiday rental business is an obvious and enjoyable way forward.
Having run a gîte business myself, I can, with that marvellous gift of hindsight, offer some of my own pearls of wisdom to anyone considering taking the plunge:
Your “real” profit:
It’s easy to guess the revenue from your holiday unit by multiplying the rate by the expected occupancy.
What is not as easy to anticipate are the costs. For example, it never crossed my mind that our water bill would be so expensive. We had 100 or so tubs of flowers that needed watering daily throughout the season. The pool needed topping up frequently as guests splashed in and out. With multiple guests showering at least daily and washing machines and dishwashers continually running, the water bill was extortionate.
Unexpected costs should not be underestimated; for example, people not showering before bed meant several sets of sheets had to be replaced due to yellow sun cream stains. Boilers refusing to work led to emergency call-outs.
Property and pool maintenance (especially expensive for some old French houses), advertising, utility bills, cleaning materials, welcome packs, not to mention business and property charges and taxes mean that your “real” profit will be nothing like your revenue figure. If the estate agent tells you that you will earn €x amount a year from your holiday unit, take that figure and rub a very large pinch of salt into it.
Are you sociable enough?
Your guests, like ours, will probably be delightful in the main. However, if you live on site, like it or not, you are part of the package, which means being bright and friendly at all moments and being prepared to stop and chat, even though you may be busy or tired.
So when you have been up since dawn, cleaning for 8 hours in wilting heat, your arrivals that day will still expect you to be on sparkling form. It’s their holiday! It’s not that they don’t care, they are just unaware that by this stage in the day you are on your knees!
Just make sure that your personality and energy levels are up for it or the holiday season will seem very long indeed.
What to do about freeloaders:
Now this can be awkward if you don’t think it through. Most of your friends and family will respect that you have a business to run and that your earning potential is limited to high season.
But there will always be one who will ask you for mates’ rates (or even no rates) in July!
Before you get caught short on the phone, trying to think of a polite but firm way out of it, it helps to have your answer pre-prepared.
“We’d absolutely love to see you. Of course, in high season we have to leave the unit open to paying guests as we only have a limited opportunity to cover our costs here. However, why don’t you come out in May? The weather is usually wonderful then and we’ll have much more free time to enjoy with you.”
…is a handy response to have! Also, if you have a partner, make sure they are similarly versed. I once watched aghast as my husband told a room full of people in the UK, “We want you all to come out! You are all welcome!”
Although I have met some amazing people and have some very happy (and a couple of ghastly, but good for a story!) memories, running a holiday home business wasn’t for me. It may well be for you though, and so if you do decide to go for it, I wish you every success and don’t say I didn’t warn you about the sun cream!