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The Truth About Buying a Gite in France


It’s the dream of many to own a house in France and run a gite. Perhaps you want to supplement your income, are fundamentally entrepreneurial at heart or just see it as a way of owning your own little piece of the wonderful patchwork that makes up this beautifully diverse country.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about buying a gite in France

I could start by telling you all the stuff everyone will tell you, like do your research, choose your area carefully and plan your budget generously but I’d rather not. Instead I’ll start with the other stuff, the stuff that people don’t warn you about:

The best bit of advice we got was to visit your dream property in the winter, preferably on a really wet horrid day, before you buy. Apart from giving you the chance to check out where the leaks are that they haven’t told you about, if you still love it in the rain and mud, the chances are it is the one.

Decide whether you are ready to fall in love. That’s what happened with us, we fell hook, line and sinker for our mill which means we still want to spend as much time as possible there, especially in the summer. That not only has a knock on effect on the amount of rental income we can generate but it also makes it very hard to rent it out. Letting strangers into your home isn’t always easy and don’t be fooled into thinking you will rent it out in the off peak season so that you can afford to be there in the holidays. Out of season bookings are very hard to get even in the summer and boy have I tried.

If you are going to rent it out you’ll probably start looking around at the many holiday home rental portals. But a note of caution here too as there are a whole load out there which are either a scam or simply don’t deliver what they promise. Be particularly aware if they contact you by phone and remember the old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, then it is and that goes for bookings and not just portals.

We visit out mill at least 4 times a year and I’m lucky enough to spend 3 or 4 weeks there every summer. But wonderful as that is, I always spend the last day or two there working like a dog giving the place a deep clean and a good proportion of our time in France is spent strimming, cleaning and preening. Yes we have a caretaker and housekeeper for when we’re not around but there’s only so much they can do (or we can afford to pay them to do) so a fair amount of our time there is spent working. There’s always a shutter to paint, a cupboard to fix or a leak to sort out, especially after the long winter. And while all those holidays sound idyllic, you won’t find us on a plane to somewhere exotic for a spontaneous or far flung break. Our resources are needed in France and that’s where we always go.

But that’s not the full story, the benefits are enormous as far as I’m concerned…

If I haven’t put you off yet then what about a quick taste of the more mundane side of things that a gîte owner enjoys at this time of year. I’m desperate to be sitting on our terrace right now but this weekend will be spent sorting out a man with a mini digger to dig up the overflow for our drains, reroute it and get it back in order before our first guests arrive. Meanwhile the local tax bills have come in and my job is to translate them and figure how I pay who, what, all from a distance and while trying to balance the books. Oh and I mustn’t forget that when we do get down there, the local Marie expects a visit.

And that’s the upside. Because we will be there for August. It’s sunny, sleepy and serene. And we will sit back in our little corner of France with a chilled glass of wine and enjoy. Just for a while.

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