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Gites for sale

A guide to gites - answering those frequently asked questions and more

French gites for sale

Everyone who loves France and has spent holidays there or considered buying property there will have heard of a gite or seen gites for sale. The word is bandied around in Francophile conversation constantly, but there are a few misconceptions out there regarding this favourite topic. Here we present the low-down on gites, dealing with the most frequently asked questions and hopefully clearing up a few misunderstandings along the way.

1. What is a gite?

The simple answer is that a gite is a holiday home in France that is available for rent. And the complicated answer? A gite differs from other holiday accommodation in that to be a true gite, it is supposed to be close enough to the owner's residence for help to be on hand. The small and friendly touch is important in the true spirit of gite accommodation, although the word is used more loosely these days and seems to be applied to any property offered for rent in France.

2. Traditionally, what was a gite?

Originally, a gite was a smaller residence close to or in the grounds of a larger residence. Situated in the countryside rather than in towns or at the seaside, these properties were usually farm labourers' cottages or converted farm buildings. Indeed you often you see farmhouses with gîtes for sale.

3. Where does the word "gite" originate?
Depending on where you look, there are several translations offered for the word "gite". Variously it means "shelter", "lodging" or even "little corner to cuddle". All of these, and in particular the last, add to the idea of small and friendly accommodation with a personal touch.

4. Too many gites for sale - is the gite market really saturated?

If you have been looking at French property with gîtes for sale and have been considering the possibility of running a gîte, then you will also have probably heard the prophets of doom saying that the gite market in France is saturated, and that there is no potential for gites any more. The truth? The doom and gloom merchants have a point, as there are now many more gites operating and competing for business then ever before. However, there is always room for a quality product that is well thought out and marketed. It is important to be realistic about your potential income, though.

5. Gite complex or gite for sale - can I make a living from it?

It is unlikely that you will make enough to keep you from one gite... especially if you have a family. There are certainly people here who make a good living from gites, but they usually operate them as a real business concern and own several gites, frequently in a complex. One gite is best considered a bonus income rather than a means of financing your life in France. (Owning Gîtes and Chambres D'Hotes (B&Bs) in France.)

6. How many weeks of the year can I expect my gite to be rented?

This question is a little like the "How long is a piece of string?" question, as there are a lot of factors that come into play that can change the answer. However, somewhere between six and ten weeks is the norm, with longer letting opportunities in the south, or in the mountains, or close to the main tourist attractions. (Letting property in France.)

7. Where are the best gites for sale - where is a good location for a gite?

France is a country of such diversity and has so many wonderful natural and cultural high spots that it is hard to find a place that wouldn't appeal to someone. However, in hard terms, the best locations for gites are close to the seaside (Property near Sailing Ports / Marinas in France), with the Mediterranean a big draw because of the weather, in the mountains close to skiing (Ski property, Ski Chalets for Sale in France, Alps property) or outdoor sports facilities, or perhaps close to the major cities such as Paris (Paris Property Guide), Toulouse (Toulouse Property Guide) and Bordeaux (Bordeaux Property Guide). Beautiful countryside is also a popular location, and France has no shortage of this!

8. Are there different types of French gites for sale?

According to Gites de France, there are five categories that can be identified as gites... although not all are gites in the original and strict sense of the word. They are as follows:

Gite rurale

This is self catering, self contained accommodation in country, seaside or mountainous areas of France. For the purposes of this article, this is the only category intended by the word "gite", but the others exist and are noted below.

Chambres d'Hôtes

These are bed and breakfast establishments, where a room is rented by the night in a private home. Breakfast is included, but the type of breakfast can vary from a hot breakfast designed to suit English guests and served in a dining room by the owner, to a self service croissant or piece of bread and coffee!

Gites d'Enfants

These are really lodgings offered to parties of schoolchildren (normally accompanied) and are usually connected with provision of outdoor or other activities or holiday courses.

Gites d'Etape

These are similar to youth hostels, and are excellent for walkers (Finding property in the best walking areas of France), cyclists (Cycling and motorcycling in France) and others who find themselves in need of budget accommodation deep in the French countryside.

Chalets-Loisirs

Chalets-Loisirs are a wooden chalet style accommodation usually found in mountain resorts or lakeside locations (French Properties with Lakes). Once more, there is often a connection with outdoor activities that are either laid on for guests or available close at hand.

9. What is Gites de France?

Gites de France is an organisation set up to promote tourism in France, and to establish and maintain a high standard of gite accommodation throughout the country. Gites can be advertised through Gites de France after being inspected and accepted into the scheme.

10. How should I market my gite?

Marketing is a key issue, and should be approached with great forethought. It can make the difference between success and failure. Certainly, a high profile organisation like Gites de France can help greatly if they advertise your gite. It is also a good idea to set up a website to market your gite, and to network with all your friends and acquaintances. Remember too, that word of mouth is the best advertising you can get, so make sure that your guests will always speak well of their holiday when they return home by providing a good service.

11. Can I target a specialist market?

As there are such a lot of gites competing for the ordinary holiday trade in France, it is a good idea to try to appeal to a niche market in order to make your gite stand out. Try to uncover a unique selling point. "The house is said to be haunted", for example, (as long as the legend exists and isn't something you have just made up) could bring in people interested in the supernatural... or perhaps, more prosaically, offer painting holidays if your property is set in a picturesque location. Then there are sporting holidays, such as skiing, climbing, walking or sailing, perhaps building on your own sporting interests and expertise (Sport in France). The key here is to be different from the masses, so that your property is the one that recommends itself.

12. How can I find gites for sale?

That's easy... look at our website where there are hundreds of properties advertised throughout France that either have gites for sale, are already gites, or are suitable for conversion to gites. The internet is probably your best search tool in the early stages, although you will need to arrange viewings for any properties in which you have a serious interest. (Internet Access in France.)

13. Does a gite have to be furnished?

A gite is usually furnished, as it caters for the short term holiday market rather than long term renters. When furnishing your gite, a good tip is to fit high quality but simple, unfussy furnishings, which are easier to maintain in a good condition and are more likely to appeal to a wide variety of guests.

14. What standard of accommodation is expected?

Originally, gites were pretty basic by definition, but these days the holidaying public is much more discerning and can afford to be choosy! Therefore expect to need to offer a high standard of accommodation, with good furnishings, decent linen, all mod cons and attractive surroundings.

15. Should I provide a welcome pack?

It is the personal touches like this that make all the difference. People often arrive at their holiday accommodation tired and late at night or early in the morning, and finding a pack of essentials like tea and coffee, milk, bread and eggs can really create a good first impression. If you want to remain in the spirit of traditional gite hospitality then a home baked cake would be a lovely touch!

16. Must a gite have a swimming pool?

You might get away without one, but most guests these days expect a gite to come with a pool, or at least to have access to one, especially in the south of the country where the summer temperatures can reach the forties. Small gites may find an above ground pool is sufficient, but to command a high rental fee, a gite needs to have a well landscaped "in ground" pool. (Installing a swimming pool in France.)

17. Are there any safety regulations regarding gites?

Yes there are regulations regarding safety issues that need to be adhered to, if you are going to run a gite. If you are going to affiliate to a group such as Gites de France, they will advise you what is necessary. If you have a swimming pool don't forget to check all the requirements for this are fulfilled, as prosecutions could ensue if they are not. Extra precautions and insurance policies may be required in specialist establishments, such as those catering for children, or offering sporting activities.

18. Is owning a gite hard work or easy money?

Ask any gite owner and they will tell you that it is much harder work than you probably imagined! Changeover days, almost invariably Saturdays... can be very hard work indeed as you have to change all the linen, wash windows and clean throughout to ensure a spotless and welcoming reception for your incoming guests. Then you have to shop for the welcome pack, tidy the garden if there is one, clean the pool, stock up on wood for the fires if necessary and be sure that all the electrics are working properly. Minor repairs are also commonly needed on changeover days, and you may have to replace broken items such as wine glasses. Throughout the year too you need to maintain the property, keeping it up to scratch in case of unexpected bookings.

19. Gite or gite complex - will I have to pay tax?

There are tax implications for those who run a gite or gite complex in France, as there are for any one running a business or claiming an income of any sort in France. How you pay your taxes depends on the type of regime for which you register, with a choice of a micro enterprise, with set taxes and charges, or a under a system of real accounting whereby you pay according to your turnover. If your business is small, i.e. just one or two gites let for a few weeks of the year, then a micro enterprise is probably the best for you. This can be a complex issue and an important decision, so you are advised to take professional advice (an accountant can help) before deciding. (Tax in France.)

20. Gites for sale - can I get any financial help to renovate a property to convert to gites?

There are various possibilities for obtaining grants or tax breaks to help with gite conversions (Property grants available in France). The French authorities are keen to promote tourism so this is an angle worth investigating.

Gites for sale - more information available

Above you have twenty of the most commonly asked questions and their answers. If you are looking for gites for sale or are in the process of buying or setting up a gite you will probably find that there are even more questions that you wish to ask. Further information is available from Gites de France and local authorities.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Life in France
House Renovations in FranceBuilding or extending property in France
Buying a campsite in France

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

your questions...

1. A question about water supply and gites (added 20/11/07)...

Hi - is it French law that you must have mains water to rent a gite. We have very good well water!! Thanks in advance.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. My colleague in France and I have been trying to find an answer to your question, but from what we can gather, it would seem to be up to your Maire as to which is acceptable. Though as we aren't experts in the matter, I would suggest that perhaps you contact the French Chamber of Commerce or a solicitor on this. You can use the links and/or forms on the following pages of our site:

http://www.frenchpropertylinks.com/frenchlegalservices.htm
http://www.frenchpropertylinks.com/memberscat.asp?category=LEGAL

2. A question about setting up a mobile catering van (added 2/12/14)...

Can you run a mobile catering van - what's the law in France?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would suggest you contact the people at your Mairie for advice about this, as I am unaware of what rules and regulations may apply. If they can't help directly, they should at least be able to point you in the right direction.

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