If you’ve ever thought of renting your French home out to guests or wondered what it’s like to be a holiday home owner then this is the article for you! We have spoken to The Paylor family who own La Grue Gites, a complex of 3 holiday gites near Mons, Poitou Charentes to find out their own experience of setting up their business.
- How long have you had your gîte business?
We moved to France on the 19th December, 2017. We have lived in the beautiful Charente area for almost a year now and it has flown by!
- What made you decide to buy a gîte complex/change career?
We had fairly hectic lives in the UK and we really wanted to spend more time together as a family – and to be able to give more quality time to our children. You only have one life and we both wanted a new adventure. For our children to be bilingual is a real gift.
- Why did you choose your part of France?
Spending holidays here and getting to know the Charente region, its people and food, we quickly understood there’s something for everyone – singles, couples and families. The climate is a big draw – being the second sunniest in the whole of France. Regional identity is important here, and we love the Charentais produce such as La Cagouille, La Galette, Le Pineau and, of course, the world-famous Cognac. There are Charentais words too – you won’t find a ‘Chocolatine’ elsewhere in France!
The TGV at Angouleme is only forty minutes from us and the three major airports of Limoges, La Rochelle and Bordeaux are only 90 minutes away. Also, we’re not too far from the ports either, the Charente is very accessible for tourists.
The undulating countryside is simply beautiful with quiet lanes perfect for cycling and walking by fields of maize, vines and stunning sunflowers. The Charente has many small villages and hamlets with historic architecture, churches, Roman remains and amphitheatres all waiting to be explored.
- What attracted you to the property?
The first time I saw the house, it brought tears to my eyes and we both had a great feeling! It was a scorching hot day and the imposing Maison Bleu with its blue shutters simply blew us away. We knew we wanted three gites and a house to accommodate the whole family – this had it all and more in our eyes.
The walled pool area is stunning and very spacious – there’s easily room for our fourteen sunbeds and the shaded pergola is ideal for board games, colouring or a quiet read.
- What changes have you made to the property to make it rental ready?
Our French dream actually began with three months of hell – we thought we’d bought gites that just needed a bit of titivation to bring them back to life, but the reality was quite different. Each day seemed to uncover a new challenge. A television crew would have had a field-day! From Martin being up to his armpit in a blocked fosse septique pipe and me in my marigolds prancing around like Penelope Keith, to a new roof going on three days before guests arrived – we’ve worked literally from the ground upwards to improve everything. Martin has redecorated throughout and we’ve added our own little touches to make guests feel welcome. We’ve invested in baby and child-friendly equipment so that parents don’t need to bring everything but the kitchen sink with them – being parents of young children ourselves, we know what it’s like.
Our one, two and three bedroomed gites are characterful and have been renovated in the traditional Charentais style with exposed beams and stone walls in addition to having all the modern equipment for guests. Each gite has its own style and our one bedroomed gite is very popular with couples.
After a stressful start, we are now beginning to live our dream.
- What is your favourite part of running a holiday let?
Without doubt, it’s meeting new people and the lovely feeling you get from knowing they’ve had a great holiday. We work hard to ensure guests have everything they need, and we’ve had really excellent feedback this year. People seem to like the fact we live separately, across the road from La Grue Gites – the guests have their privacy but also that safety net of us being on hand for them.
- What is the most challenging part of running a holiday let?
Triple changeovers in searing heat!
- Describe an average day
In the gite business, I would say every day is different to some extent. We never know what might crop up! DIY skills are a must!
Peak season means being awake early to make the most of the cool mornings. Martin prepares the pool, rolling back the cover, checking the water, adding chemicals when necessary, hoovering and netting any debris. Umbrellas and sunbeds are checked, rearranged and cleaned.
Monday is grass cutting day and Martin mows the games field and the area by the pool – he loves his ride-on mower!
Next, there’s the Boulangerie – off I trot to collect fresh patisserie and any bread orders for our guests – sometimes our children come with me for a cheeky breakfast treat. Our daughter likes to make the deliveries to the patio areas for a time of the guests’ choice.
After that, I update our Notice Board with what’s on locally and I pop up suggestions for visits that day. We work hard to support local businesses as we want to be part of our community. We have Cognac and wine producers just down the road – the guests love that authentic experience.
All our hanging baskets and pots need watering and weeds are pulled out every day – they grow like wildfire! Mum does a sterling job – often three times a day.
Washing and ironing are always on the go to keep on top of the nine beds, tea towels, bathroom towels, bath mats, throws and pool towels. The knack is to take them in off the line before they dry like cardboard!
We make sure we take time to chat to our guests at an opportune moment to ensure they’re happy – we want to be approachable as well as respectful of their holiday time.
Our days end with Martin giving his star-gazing tours of the Milky Way, planets and stars. Once the guests have left, he often enjoys a midnight dip!
- What would be your top tips for other people who are considering purchasing a gîte for holiday lets?
- Visit the area to see if you would like to holiday there at different times of the year.
- Take a recommended artisan macon (builder) with you to assess the property.
- Do you use social media to promote/talk about your property?
Yes – Facebook La Grue Gites
La Grue Gites, La Ferme: https://www.holidayfrancedirect.co.uk/holiday-rentals/PC006059/index.htm
La Grue Gites, Verre: https://www.holidayfrancedirect.co.uk/holiday-rentals/PC006060/index.htm
La Grue Gites, Bois: https://www.holidayfrancedirect.co.uk/holiday-rentals/PC006061/index.htm