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Running French Gites

The long term trends look poor. There are 500,000 English owned properties in France - that's half a million families that will no longer be renting holiday cottages in France.

We have to say that it doesn't quite feel like that for us. Every year we seem to manage sufficient "fullness" to be happy with the outcome. Even this year when summer was rained off and we had to pay French taxes for the first time.

As inveterate holiday cottage renters in earlier times we decided upon several things when we started on the venture:-

1) A holiday cottage does not have to be big enough to live in - just big enough to be enjoyable for a fortnight. Small really is beautiful.

2) The things that go wrong or are missing are the things you would notice yourself, so at the start we made a list of all things we'd ever wanted in a holiday cottage and provided them all. Next we decided to live in our gites from time to time so that we knew their failings. Sometimes we have been aghast that people have not complained about something or another that we've realized is wrong.

3) The holiday cottages had to be sufficiently comfortable and welcoming to be a place to live in - even for a fortnight - rather than just a dormitory. We had stayed in dormitories (too uncomfortable to stay in, other than when we were asleep) and didn't want to inflict one on our locataires (=renters).

4) As a holiday is a time to relax we try to make it so. It helps if everything is included in the price, so no worries about electricity, gas or wood fuel bills. French gite owners (god bless 'em) read the meter before and after your holiday.

5) If possible we thought each gite or holiday cottage should have its own garden. Quite unimportant if you're off sightseeing every day, but as gardeners we knew we would enjoy providing them.

6) Finally we decided fairly early on to accept any bookings over three days in length. Changeover days are a pain in the neck for the gite owner (you write off every single Saturday in your life) and inconvenient for holidaymakers who want to have cheap ferry crossings. The odd wasted days are when our gites have their own mini-holiday

On the whole we may be dinosaurs - throws back to the past when low property prices made financing all this quite straightforward.

The supply of cottages to rent for holiday in the UK is tending to decline because "buy to let" schemes, and realising the capital value of the cottages is more attractive than the rather labour intensive activity of providing people with holidays.

In France the many gite owners have dropped out because of insufficient bookings. In the past perhaps letting out holiday cottages could be done for a bit of "pin money" but it only works now if taken seriously.

But France has as well become infected with high property values and may be the same will happen here as in England.

About The Author Chas and Daff run three holiday cottages in Brittany near la Roche Bernard. Their web site contains details of thier Brittany Cottages near La Roche Bernard . The same site has maps of France, its airports, wines etc.
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