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Essential dos and don'ts for running a gîte in France

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Essential dos and don'ts for running a gîte in France
Photo: Elliott Brown/Flickr
10:02 CEST+02:00
Setting up a gîte business in France is no small feat and people often find themselves feeling like they've bitten off more they can chew. We spoke to an expert to get her insider tips on how to do it right.
For many, moving to France to set up a gîte business would be a dream come true. 
 
But those who actually go through with it often find it can actually be a bit of a nightmare as the property drains their savings and the thought of ever being able to make a living out of their gite seems, increasingly, like fantasy.  
 
Sally Stone, CEO of Les Bons Voisins -- an extensive network of property managers in France -- gives her tips for how to make a success of your gîte business in France. 
 
Do...
 
... realise that standards are high
 
Guests’ expectations are vastly different nowadays from just a few years ago. They might be looking for a self-catering holiday but they expect a hotel standard environment. 
 
Photo: Vicki Burton/Flickr
 
...realise how competitive the market is
 
There is a vast amount of choice is so, ignoring one key element – like not providing wifi will mean potential guests dumping your property on the ‘no’ pile without hesitation.
 
...think about the reviews
 
It might seem obvious but remember that happy guests will leave good reviews for you – and unhappy ones will leave bad reviews. It's no longer enough to get someone into your property, you have to think about what they might say about it online afterwards. 
 
... provide what you say you will in the advert
 
For example, you might have removed a dangerous trampoline from the garden for health and safety reasons but if you haven't replaced it by the time a family of guests arrive for their summer holiday, they will not be happy.
 
If the publicity says it has a trampoline/heated pool/en suite bathroom, it must have one.
 
... spend time on a comprehensive house information pack
 
If the oven has a red button which must be depressed for ignition, for goodness sake say so – make using the property easy for your guests rather than an intelligence test.
 
Photo: Gites Castelnaut/Flickr
 
... use all the local attractions to make your property one worth visiting
 
That means mentioning that there's a really good restaurant down the road or a tourist attraction which is enjoyable on the not-so-sunny days. This will really make a difference to getting people to book your property.
 
... declutter the property
 
Every absentee owner has a corner at home of ‘things to go to France’ and often forgets what is already there. Don’t stuff it full of unnecessary contents which will make cleaning difficult and detract from the typically French ambiance you are trying to achieve.
 
... have the best possible bed linen you can find 
 
When people go on holiday they want to relax and that means you have to give them the best chance of catching up on a lack of sleep. Buy pillow protectors and mattress protectors and make sure these are regularly laundered. And buy the best possible mattresses you can afford.
 
... expect some reasonable wear and tear
 
And don’t keep back money from a security deposit unless the damage is truly significant.
 
Photo: toprural/Flickr
 
... have spare kitchenware/glasses/cups etc
 
For items like glasses and plates it's important that if they break they can be replaced so that you can still provide a full, matching set. It's also a good idea to have an honesty box in the property for the odd broken wine glass.
 
... create the atmosphere guests want
 
Make sure your gîte has a French feel. No one is coming to France to stay in a typically English country cottage -- they want to feel like they're in France when they're inside their chosen venue as well as outside.
 
Don't...
 
... try and tell your guests what facilities they 'should' want
 
I’m thinking of people who don’t supply UK TV claiming guests should be immersing themselves in all things French. It’s not for you to decide what your guests want and not having UK TV is a huge disadvantage.
 
... make it too expensive
 
If you price it too highly then it's likely that expectations will be equally high and then your guests will be left disappointed. Have a nice surprise for the guests and aim for the reality to exceed their expectations.
 
Photo: Toprura/Flickr
 
... expect guests to 'leave the property as they found it'
 
This won't happen -- no matter how sternly you say it in your advertising and it's important to have the property professionally cleaned in between guests.
 
... forget to take care of your caretakers
 
Absentee owners need to make their local caretakers feel part of their team. Don’t skimp on the hours your property managers are paid for cleaning. In fact, why not build in a bonus at season’s end based on the reviews the property has had? Make sure everyone is invested in its success. 
 
... forget to make sure there is enough room for everyone
 
Remember that however many people you advertise the house as sleeping, must also apply to the number of chairs in the dining room and seating space in the living room.
 
Don’t exaggerate the number the house comfortably accommodates and, in that regard, be conscious of the number of bathrooms people will expect in order to make their stay comfortable.
 
Photo: GK Sens-Yonne/Flickr
 
... forget that France is the most visited country in the world 
 
And if you get it right with your presentation and marketing, you can have a share in that.
 
... think you can live off the takings of one gite 
 
Don’t think that with one gîte you can make a proper living in France. If you are resident here, then a gîte business must have at least three properties to make an income you can live off. 
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