Running a Gite Business in France
Holiday rentals, gites, chambre d’hotes – self-catering holidays have long been an extremely popular way to visit France, offering both freedom and flexibility. If you already own, or are considering buying a property in France and would like it to generate some income, renting it out during the holiday season can be both lucrative and fulfilling as a Gite business. You’ve obviously chosen to buy in an area you love, so why not share it with others?
So how to go about opening and running your holiday rental, and what does it all involve?
First, let’s establish what exactly you have to offer:
- A gite, by definition, is a furnished holiday cottage, typically in a rural district, which is separate from that of the owner’s.
- A chambre d’hote is a bed and breakfast, where guests are welcomed into a private home on a nightly basis, with breakfast included. Owners are restricted to letting out up to five rooms only, with no more than 15 guests at a time. The additional Table d’Hôte classification means that meals may also be served, but on a private basis – this is not the same as a restaurant.
If your property doesn’t fall into either of these categories, don’t worry – thanks to numerous international holiday letting websites, you can still make your beautiful beach front villa or chic city apartment available to holiday-makers to rent – providing you follow some basic guidelines.
- You must expect to pay taxes on any earned income. The simplest method is to sign up for the French Micro-Bic tax regime, where no accounts are required. Providing your annual rental income is less than €32,900, only 50% of your income is taxable, at 20%. Social charges may also be imposed. Speak to your financial advisor before making any decisions.
- To establish your chambre d’hote, or B&B, you’ll need to make a declaration of registration at your local Mairie. This requires proof of identity and address, the number of rooms available, the maximum number of guests that can be accommodated at any time, and your intended periods of operation, be they year round or seasonal.
- In addition, you are expected to ensure that any balconies, terraces, stairways, electrical installations and swimming pools meet legal requirements. Your property must also be fully insured, and any income generated must be declared to the French tax authorities. For a chambre d’hote, your expected annual income needs to be less than €23,000, which should represent less than 50% of your total income.
- For swimming pool owners, below-ground swimming pools must comply with France’s ‘Raffarin Law‘ to avoid drownings, meaning that one of four approved safety measures must be installed: an alarm system, a barrier, safety cover or a shelter. Breaking this law will result in a fine of €45,000.
HOW TO SET UP YOUR HOLIDAY HOME
Most French gite owners belong to the government-sponsored organisation Gites de France, now the largest guest-house network in Europe, offering both gites and chambre d’hotes. To become a member and be awarded the prestigious label, you’ll need to satisfy certain standards – and these vary from department to department. In general, however, all accommodation is regularly inspected by Gites de France representatives and rated from one to five by ears of corns, or épis, according to its setting, amenities, comfort and services. This rating is reviewed at least once every five years.
If you’re confident enough in your language skills, this is certainly a worthwhile option. If, however, this all seems a little daunting, the Internet has made marketing your property easy, with sites such as Trip Advisor, Home Away, France specialists Chez Nous and French Connections, and Airbnb. They operate on either an annual fee basis for registering on their websites, or a commission per booking basis. All are popular with British and international markets, and you may do all your business in English.
HOW TO MARKET YOUR HOLIDAY HOME
It’s easy to register with any of these holiday rental websites – once you’ve written your description and have a selection of photos, you can be up and running within a couple of hours.
Good photography is hugely important – you are selling your property and its lifestyle, enticing guests to choose your home over a wide selection of others. You want it to stand out. A good digital camera with a wide-angle lens is a must, as is good software to process your photos – if these are beyond you, then paying a professional is a worthwhile, one-off investment.
If you’re taking your own photos, then dress the rooms up as you would expect to rent them, with your beds made up, towels arranged, and a vase of flowers in the living room. Make sure your rooms are well lit with no shadows, and that you take all your exterior shots on a sunny day, preferably with a cloudless sky. Images of sun loungers by the pool, a bottle of wine and two glasses on a side table, will be sure to help entice holiday-makers during the gloomy winter months!
You’ll also need to provide a detailed description of your property and its location, with an outline of all the interesting attractions nearby. What are your selling points?
WHAT’S YOUR GITE USP?
You only have to take a look at these rental sites to see how many properties are available. You want yours to stand out – so what makes it special? What local attractions might your guests be interested in? Think about what your property really has to offer and how you can make the most of it and if possible have a unique proposition (USP) :
- Is it near a popular hiking trail?
- Is it in a good cycling region – can you provide storage space for bikes or organise bike rental?
- What about horse-riding – are there schools nearby?
- If you’re located in a wine-producing region, could you include vineyard visits in your marketing information?
- Are you a keen cook with a fabulous kitchen? Could you offer cookery lessons?
- Could you arrange art classes?
- Could you arrange yoga, meditation or massage services?
If you can arrange a network of people and activities to offer, you’ll be providing a personal service that will be greatly appreciated.
GITE GUEST BASICS
There are certain expectations your Gite guests are going to have – you’ll need to invest in some basics from the outset, but for the most part this will be the biggest outlay you have.
Your Gite guest basics should include:
- Wi-fi – not offering it will seriously reduce your number of guests.
- Plenty of crockery, cutlery, glasses and kitchen utensils. This is not a time to get rid of your old bits of spare crockery either – it should match and be tasteful! Allow for twice as many items as guests, so if your home sleeps four, make sure you have at least eight plates, bowls, mugs, etc.
- A dishwasher and washing machine – your guests are on holiday after all.
- Decent bed linen and towels, but to make your life easy, keep them all the same, and preferably white.
- A cot and highchair.
- Activities – board games or outdoorsy games, and some books and DVDs.
- A printed sheet with local tips and recommendations – from restaurants and places of interest to public transport and shopping ideas. Giving your guests some local, insider knowledge will make their holiday all the more memorable .
- A small welcome pack, including wine and fresh, local produce and/or fresh flowers.
- If you know your guests are celebrating a special occasion, why not leave them some flowers, champagne and a card – it’s touches like these that will be remembered.
Don’t forget, all the holiday rentals companies allow for reviews, and any negative comments will be detrimental to your Gite business. Make sure your guests leave your home happy and relaxed, hoping to come again next year, and keen to give you an all-important five star review.
Renting out your holiday home is a fun way of making money, meeting new people and inviting people into your very own corner of France. It can be hard work at times, but it’s very rewarding. Why not give it a go?