5 things you need to consider before you let out your French property to holidaymakers
Many owners rush headlong into the letting market believing their ‘piece of French paradise’ will result in bookings flooding in. While it may be an ideal escape for the owner, demanding holidaymakers may have other ideas, particularly when there is no reliable wifi!
Owners often look on web portals at similar properties in the area and base their pricing on these listings. This is usually without any real knowledge of how many weeks these properties are actually let for and little understanding of what the facilities are like.
1) Seasonal appeal
Different areas have different letting seasons. In the Alps the ski season is a fixed and busy period but for the rest of France the main summer holiday season spans July, August and part of September.
Outside of high season there is less opportunity to let successfully unless the property is coastal or in a tourist city. In the north and other parts of France, the weather is often wet and cold in winter so it is essential to have good heating – owners must take into account the cost of holidaymakers using all the radiators and logs!
2) Size matters
A common mistake is to try and cram in as many people as possible into the property, often using sofa-beds in the living area. A listing can show a property that sleeps 10 people in three bedrooms but only has one bathroom! Determining the optimum capacity for a property is simply a matter of common sense.
Beds and mattresses are one of the most contentious issues in holiday homes. Mattresses and protectors, pillows and duvets should be of good quality and must be replaced if they become stained. If you provide bed linen and towels, don’t use any old linen you have brought over from home in the UK. Invest in good quality products and replace them on average every two or three years.
If you provide a BBQ for guest use, it should be of good quality along with the outdoor furniture. The number of chairs, parasols etc should reflect the maximum potential number of guests. These may have to be replaced each season.
It is essential nowadays to provide wifi, and UK TV is an added bonus.
3) Access all areas
Does your property have wheelchair access and is it suitable for guests with impaired mobility? If you have an accessible ground-floor bedroom and bathroom, it can be a real plus point for your advertising.
Pet-friendly properties are popular as it’s now so easy to bring dogs (and cats) to France. If you allow pets, specify how many, and maybe the breed and size. It is quite common to levy a pet cleaning fee, in the region of £10 per pet, per week. Guests will want to know if the garden is secure (fence or gate). Note that a property close to farmland and livestock may not be suitable for dogs.
How suitable is the property for children? A lot of older homes have steep uncarpeted staircases where it is impossible to install a stairgate; in this case you should only accept babies (i.e. non walkers!) and older children. If you have a swimming pool it is particularly important that it complies with French safety regulations and also that you remind your guests to supervise young children at all times.
Local amenities are important. Guests often want to be in a peaceful location but close enough to walk or drive a short distance to a bar, boulangerie or shops. If your property is near any amenities or tourist attractions then describe them in detail on your advert.
4) Property managers
As an absent owner it is essential that you appoint someone trustworthy to clean the property between guests, launder the bed linen, manage the garden/outdoor area and be available for guests’ problems during their holiday. In France it is illegal to employ someone ‘on the black’ and the penalties can be severe for both the owner and the individual carrying out the work.
Good property managers who are properly registered and appropriately insured can be difficult to find, particularly if you are set on a traditional Saturday changeover day, as they will likely already have a full ‘order book’ for Saturdays. Adopting a Friday or Sunday changeover may open up more travel options and potentially cheaper ones for guests.
Of course, good property managers come at a price. Furthermore, they may live some distance from you, resulting in travel costs being added to your bill. If your managers are called out by guests they may either bill you or the guests, depending upon the reason for the callout. Yet another cost to be aware of!
5) Deposits, insurance and tax
Most owners take a damage deposit along with payment for the holiday. Depending on the size and contents of the property, this will generally range from £100-£500. Statistically, there is a very small chance of needing to retain any or all of this deposit as a result of damage.
Note that your house insurer in France will need to know that you are renting out to holidaymakers and may increase your annual premium accordingly.
In France the collection of tourist tax (taxe de séjour) may now apply to stays in self-catering accommodation. This was historically applied only to hotels, campsites and B&Bs, but in recent years, many towns and cities now require gîte owners to pay this too. Check with your local town hall (mairie) if you’re not sure. The amounts can be as little as 50 centimes per night per adult.
Sue O’Grady is the Reservations Director for Prestige Property Services – Europe