Whether you have a French second home or live in France permanently but have extended stays away, letting your property when it is not in use can be an excellent additional source of income.
This is different from long-term lets which come into effect for lets of more than three months, where a person will usually consider where they are staying as a home.
Holiday lets are referred to as location de vacances (holiday let), location saisonnière (seasonal let) or a meublé de tourisme (furnished tourist let). Gite and chambres d'hôtes are not the focus here.
A small house let as a location saisonnière might fetch around €1,000 a week (depending on the location), while a chateau might fetch five times as much in high season. What you can ask depends on size, location and amenities. As expats tend to move to beautiful areas, many homes fit the categories that holidaymakers look for.
Which homes are best?
A home in peaceful surroundings in Provence will appeal to people wanting to get away from it all. Similarly a studio apartment in Paris could be just as useful to a couple who want to spend a week enjoying the capital.
A holiday rental needs to appeal to those who are likely to visit the region. It must also have good links to transport such as ports and airports as most tourists do not like to drive much more than an hour after a flight.
Living near top tourist attractions like ski resorts, lakes, woods, golf courses, rivers and historic towns is also a great bonus.
Sea views, for example, can allow you to charge more - also features such as balconies and terraces. The more normal and home-like your property the more appealing it will be. Aim for mass-market appeal, unless you have a specific niche in mind.
You can deal directly with your would-be guests or use an intermediary like an estate agent. You can charge as much as you like, although it is a good idea to find out what other people charge in your area for similar properties.
Listing as a meublé de tourisme
Having your property classified as a meublé de tourisme - official furnished tourist let - is a convenient way to make sure you follow rules correctly when doing holiday lets as well as a cost-effective way to find guests. If you make a request for listing to your mairie or local tourist office - who work in close liaison - they will take you through the necessary steps.
These involve inspection, registering with the prefecture and the award of a star rating from one to five. You will also be listed at the tourist office and placed in material such as an accommodation brochure.
The tourist office will typically charge an annual fee, usually under e100 a year, possibly with supplements for options like listing on their internet site or linking to a personal site. You will also have to pay a fee of about €40 for periodic inspections every five years.
The tourist office will help with practicalities like supplying a contrat type - a standard contract, which most people take as a base, retyping and adapting it.
Going via an agency can be convenient, as they will usually find guests as well as making the booking, exchanging contracts, taking the money and passing it on to you - minus their commission.
They may also be able to sort out problems arising during a client’s stay - especially useful if you are hundreds of miles away. The amount of commission (often around 20 - 30%) will vary. Check what certification they have - in France property agents must be members of a professional body (usually Fnaim) and have their status approved by the local prefecture.
Look out for the qualité tourisme label - an official mark which is being developed to show the best agencies for work with tourists. Note that while some agencies will do everything for you other companies will help with marketing and finding clients alone.
A variety of internet-based companies, whether France or UK-based, allow you to advertise your property to an international clientele.
For example www.abritel.fr claims to have 50,000 visitors a day. You can upload 10 pictures with each advertisement and have it translated into seven languages. Prices range from €129 for one to eight weeks a year to €229 for 16 - 52 weeks, with a reduction in the second year.
www.holidaylettings.co.uk say they have "more holidaymaker visits than any other UK site" and "more booking enquiries per home than any other UK site". Adverts start at £219+ VAT/year (20 photos).
- Declare your intention to do a holiday let to your mairie.
- Check with your home insurer that you are covered for other people occupying your home.
- Decide on your rent per day, how much advance payment you want and how much the deposit will be.
- Write out a contract - this could be in English if you plan to market yourself exclusively to Brits - include a description of the premises and an inventory list of the main furniture and other equipment.
- Advertise for guests.
- Make an initial contact with the guest - usually by phone.
- Exchange contracts by post and take an advance payment to secure the letting period.
- Meet the guest and hand over the key; take the remaining payment; show them over the property. You and the guest should both sign an inventory of the furnishings.
- After the stay, check the premises and inventory - give back the deposit if all is in order, otherwise agree a deduction for any damage.
- Declare the income in your next income tax declaration.
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