The holiday rental season is now well under way and those that have decided to rent their homes are reaping the benefits. Many people buy a house in France with the intention of running a little gîte. Perhaps this takes the form of renovating a small outbuilding or renting out a holiday home when not in use. It is a great way to earn a little extra money and pay some of the costs towards owning a second home abroad.
The process of getting a house ready for rental is fairly simple but there are a few things that can sometimes be overlooked and this article will hopefully help you cover all the bases.
Is it ready?
The first thing to ensure is that your house is actually ready for rental. That is not the same as saying it is ready as a holiday home: when we set up our own holiday homes we can often put up with things that are not altogether finished or perfect – sometimes dressing it up as ‘rustic’. Rustic is fine but there are limits and your rental property must be clean, comfortable but above all safe. Take a step back and really look at the house, maybe even get a friend or relative to do this, and ask yourself “would I pay to stay here”. You should think about how well equipped your house is: does the kitchen have all the things a guest will need? Do not just think about your needs but of everyone’s needs – again maybe ask a friend to go through your stuff and make some recommendations. Also think about who might be renting your house, if it is a family space think about children of all ages and what might keep them occupied, games, music for teenagers, dvds etc…. Do not forget the outdoor space too, ensure there are plenty of sun loungers, seating and dining options. The most important space is the dining area which must be big enough to seat the number of guests you are planning to rent to. Also, if you have the space, create other smaller seating areas for smaller groups and do not forget shady spaces. Remember your guests will certainly want to all sit together but they might also want to split off into separate smaller groups.
The next thing to do is think about a lockable storage space indoors. This space will serve two purposes, firstly it will house your towels and bedding but also your personal belongings. There is a fine line between making your property homely or making it your home. Guests will love it to be homely, that is why they choose a gîte rather than a hotel, but they do not want to be surrounded by you and your family: all your personal belongings must be removed, especially family photos.
Dress it up
Now that you have removed your personal belongings and completed all the little jobs needed to complete your home, it is time to dress the house. Clean the house fully, make up all the beds with your best linen, lay out towels in that special way and set the house as if the Queen was coming. With that done you should pick a bright sunny day and take loads of photos - many more than you think you will need and from all angles. At this point, do not forget the outside, dress that as well and take plenty of pictures of that too. This is perhaps even more important than the inside as hopefully your guests will spend all their time outside basking in glorious sunshine.
Now is the time to appoint your changeover team – not later when you have your first booking. Often there is a temptation to use someone local, perhaps a friend in the village looking for some pin money. Whilst this can be a cheap option it is fraught with potential problems. More than anything else we encounter, this is where issues have arisen during the rental season. Someone carrying out this service as a sideline will not prioritise your property and your guests in the same way as a professional. You need to know that your changeover and laundry will always be done and not pushed into second place due to an illness, family drama or even a holiday. We once encountered a changeover lady who announced to the rental owner at the last minute that she was off on holiday for a fortnight – because it was August and she always went on holiday in August!
The House Book
You also need to write your ‘house book’. Consider this as the instruction book for everything related to your property – and make it an idiots guide! Instructions for all your appliances, the tv, boiler or hot water/heating systems, pool, etc etc etc…. Also include in here information relating to the area around you: places to go for couples, families etc, places to eat and all the interesting local towns. Include in here numbers for the emergency services as well as a name and number of a local contact which may be your changeover team and/or pool person in case of any problems during their stay. Most importantly tell your guests about the local shops and their opening times which will be different to what they are used to. We advise telling them about the nearest supermarket and it’s opening times in an email before they arrive in order that they can pick up some food on their way to you.
Towels & Bedding
One last thing to consider are your options for towels and bedding. You will need enough bedding for all your beds, plus at least two spare sets. You need to cater for one set on the bed, one in the laundry plus another set just in case a set is ruined. Also consider what you will do if your guests are staying for more than a week. Generally there are two options here: either provide them with the ability to clean their bedding (ie a washing machine and possibly a tumble dryer although the latter is not so important) or you can leave them a spare set of bedding in order that they can refresh the beds. Choosing the latter option not only means you need an additional two sets of bedding (so that’s five sets: two in the house with the guests, potentially two in the laundry and a spare set) but it will also increase your laundry costs – if the bedding is used it will all have to be laundered but even if it is not used, it may still have to be laundered if your changeover team are not sure if it is clean or not. Towels are another minefield…. Bath towel or bath sheet? Face towel? Pool towels? The more you provide, the better it looks but it all contributes towards laundry costs and do not forget, three or five sets depending on whether you provide a washing machine or not.
The house is now fully prepared and with all those fabulous photos you took, you are ready to list it for rental – but where? The most popular sites are Airbnb and HomeAway but there are other sites too. At this time I would say it is essential to be on at least one of the aforementioned sites and the choice is a personal one. Both sites are multi lingual although I have to say my preference is HomeAway because (at the time of writing) they presented country specific websites where potential guests view your property thinking the listing is specific to their market. It is also a good idea to consider your own personal website that allows commission free bookings. Caution should be exercised here as you may be a little more open to fraud if renting to someone unknown to you. Also, do not ignore social media and the outreach that that allows. Lastly speak with your changeover team as many, like us, will list your property on their website too. My advice is use all mediums: use social media, set up your own website and use at least one listing site. Maximise your exposure to increase your rental potential and keep updating. Regular updates or just a change of photo (remember you took all those extra photos before) will improve your place in all the mediums you have chosen.
The day your guests arrive will be like your child’s first day at school but if you have chosen a reputable changeover team you have nothing to worry about. Consider leaving your guests a gift, a bottle of wine or snacks perhaps. Everyone loves a free gift it makes a great first impression.