LIFE CHANGING PROPERTIES
Fancy swapping your life in the UK for a change of pace, more sunshine and a home that earns you an income? It seems that the recent Channel 4 series ‘Escape to the Chateau’ which follows a tenacious British couple restoring a shabby French chateau back to its former glory is inspiring many Brits to follow suit, with enquiries for similar properties on the up.
We look at some options for chasing l’art de vivre and steer you in a direction that hopefully will have you sitting on the terrace of your new home sipping a glass of wine, before you know it.
Gites – rural holiday cottages- are probably what most people think of first, when you mention a French property business.
We asked Tim Swannie, Director of luxury French property search specalists Home Hunts, what are the factors you need to think about if buying a home and want to run a successful Gite business?
“The first things to consider are where will our guests come from? Is the property in a renowned tourist area? Or is it close to an attraction, a city, beach resort that might attract visitors? You should also research whether there is a golf course or similar attraction nearby that you could work with in hosting clients.
“As for the property itself, most people would prefer to stay in an older property with charm and character but they want modern facilities (new bathrooms, great wifi, air conditioning etc). Wifi is a big thing these days so check how good the signal is. The other thing is will you be offering food? If not, you need to be within walking distance of a restaurant or find out about food delivery services in the area. Many of your guests will be travelling or exploring all day and will want to relax in the evening with a bottle of wine and some nice food.”
Restoring a wreck
The chateaux market is beginning to pick up having been given a recent boost from the Macron presidential victory. Prices of chateaux have been stagnant for a while and sellers are now pricing to sell. Would-be owners need to also factor in the cost of upkeep of the home after any restoration, which can run into tens of thousands of pounds per year.
Often the most difficult decision to make is where to start looking for a property to renovate. “There are popular areas in all parts of France but you should be looking in areas where there seems to be a lot of demand. Popular areas in the south of France include the Dordogne, Languedoc Roussillon and Provence for example, rather than some of the more remote locations such as the Limousin. The property itself I would say needs to be an older property, ideally in stone with lots of charm. Many clients look for older, character homes but want modern/contemporary interiors” Swannie advises.
Finding a dream vineyard property without specialist guidance can be difficult. It is commonplace for agents to only have approximately 10% of the vineyard properties that are for sale on their books. Vineyard owners are particularly discreet as they don’t want their competitors or staff to know their property is on the open market – as a result buyers have to dig deeper.
Rory Ramsden, Home Hunts’ vineyard specialist explains: “Buying a vineyard with quality terroir can produce a highly-competitive wine product, so making it a priority can prove to be a highly savvy investment strategy for those buying a wine business. The concept of terroir encompasses location, soil, climate and grape variety, as well as the local culture and production methods. All these elements have an influence over the considered value of the terroir.
“We would recommend that clients look for quality terroir before considering location. Areas that could offer potentially lucrative investment opportunities include: the Côtes de Castillon ‘appellation’ near Saint-Emilion, and Montcaret and Montravel, areas around an hour east of Bordeaux. There are lots of areas throughout France’s many wine growing regions that offer interesting opportunities. Working with a vineyard specialist who can give advice and in-depth knowledge on this is a must for a serious vineyard investor,” says Rory.
“Finding and buying a vineyard takes time and less than 50 of the 7,000 vineyards in Bordeaux are sold each year. You have to be well-connected in the industry to know the true status of the properties up for sale and that’s why Home Hunts’ strong network and connections are crucial to buyers,” says Rory. Part of Home Hunts’ buyer’s agent service also means that the team can guide clients through the pre-sale, due diligence process, which requires specialist advice, ensuring that buyers ask the right questions about the domaine in question.
Rory recommends buyers ask themselves two questions before making any decisions about their involvement in a wine business. “Potential vineyard investors need to ask what the profile of their ideal client is and if the vineyard they are looking to purchase produces the wine that these people want to buy,” says Rory. “Buying a commercial vineyard is a business decision and should always be based on metrics and a business plan.”
Buy to Lets
If you are looking for pure rental potential then location and length of season are certainly the most crucial factors to consider. As an investor, the return on investment needs to be the main priority so you need to think about where your renting clients would come from outside the normal summer season. Research big events, trade fairs and so on which take place in the area throughout the year, or perhaps look for properties close to well-known golf courses or other popular leisure facilities.
Price is of course key too, buying a property which needs some work could be a wise choice, somewhere that you can add value. “If buying in the south of France then we would always recommend buying a property with some outside space too, whether it is a balcony or a garden; it is important that you have somewhere to enjoy the famous south of France weather,” says Swannie.
All areas (and most properties) will have some rental potential but certain locations offer a longer rental season than others. Cannes for example offers year round rental potential because, as well as the summer season, Cannes also has international trade fairs and festivals running from the famous “Palais des Festivals” for more than 300 days a year.
Financing the Property
At present, interest rates are very low and there are some amazing mortgage deals available so even if you can afford to buy in cash outright, it might be worthwhile taking out a mortgage.
Buying a home in France can be a life changing decision, and you want that change to be for the better. So it pays to do your research and use the services of a property search specialist, who can offer you free independent advice. Now, what are you waiting for, that glass of wine on your terrace is beckoning?
For further advice on choosing and buying a home in France, please visit www.home-hunts.com or contact Home Hunts on +44 (0)208 144 5501