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Thinking about buying a rental property in SW France?

503Most of us reach a point in our lives where we welcome new experiences, excitement, challenges and adventures. And this can happen at any age. Buying a gite rental property in a tourism magnet like the beautiful Dordogne region of SW France and beginning a whole new chapter in your life is one intriguing way of scratching that itch. So it has proved for us.

Written by Jim Byrne who is the owner of a gîte complex near Les Eyzies.

You can see their property for sale – ref 503 

The rental income from our gites has allowed us to live somewhere far more beautiful than would otherwise have been possible. And, when the season ends, we have another glorious six months to enjoy other pursuits.

It's interesting, too, that the present dire economic recession has had less impact on the holiday rental business than on many other commercial enterprises. This, we believe, is because the annual holiday has become a sacred institution - like Christmas – a rare and precious opportunity for extended families and friends old and new to be together, far away from the tumult of their busy lives.

Buy in the right location

503Most holiday-makers decide where they'd like to be and what type of vacation they want before choosing their accommodation. So, unless you're located somewhere that tourists regularly visit, you're likely to struggle for bookings. We chose a property in an UNESCO World Heritage Site in a tourism hot-spot in the Dordogne because we knew that millions of visitors come here each year to see the many attractions. We also bought in a 'protected zone' that precluded local development, so that our beautiful views would always remain beautiful.

Buy a going concern with an established record

It's less of a risk buying a going concern. What you save in the purchase price could easily be exceeded in converting, equipping and publicising from scratch – and with a less than certain outcome. With an established business, you will inherit a rental record, fully equipped gites and swimming pool, and professional quality machinery to maintain your grounds and pool. You should also be able to benefit, if you wish, from the previous owner's website, goodwill with regular guests and a list of local contacts.

Buy a rental property with the 'WOW' factor

When we were buying, we saw many properties with lovely owner's houses and beautiful gardens but dismal quality gites – often poorly constructed or converted, or packed too closely together and lacking adequate privacy or gardens (all our gites have private gardens). The quality of your gites will have considerable impact on your rental prices and your property's attractiveness.

Give thought to location

Not too close to busy roads, or neighbouring farms with unpleasant smells and dangerous machinery. Choose somewhere that children can safely have fun without close supervision – remember that parents are on holiday too. Not cheek by jowl with neighbours who might complain about this and that. If you're remote, is there good access to the property along a decent road or track, preferably regularly maintained by the local commune? And, do you have adequate secure off-road parking for guests with expensive cars, often loaded with trailers, boats and bicycles.

Give thought to transportation links

Remember that your guests will arrive from around the world. Can they reach you easily? Is there an international airport within a reasonable distance? Is there a budget airport with car hire facilities within an hour's drive? Do motorways and main roads come close to your property? Is there a railway station in your local towns? Positive answers can make a huge difference to your property's viability.

Always have a swimming pool

Without a doubt, the most popular aspect of our property is the heated swimming pool and the social life engendered around it. The pool is in use from early morning to late evening. If you intend to attract families with children, a good-sized pool is absolutely essential.

Enjoy your guests

Guests are the life-blood of your business and their comfort and happiness is paramount. We've enjoyed welcoming guests and their families from all around the world, bringing their stories, friendship and colour, and we love observing their reactions when they see the property for the first time. Some return (several have returned five times!) and you have the pleasure of seeing their children grow each year

But privacy is important, too, for both guests and owners and, if the owner lives on site, it's wise to design your property to ensure that keeping a little distance is possible when required.

Like the idea but you're too old

Don't you believe such nonsense! We were 57 and 63 when we embarked on our gite adventure in 2005. Since then, we've successfully run our gite business (plus another business), maintained our four large properties and a 12 x 6m swimming pool, kept our sixteen acres of gardens and grounds under control – and still had plenty of time for exploration, fun and relaxation.

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