Renovating and Running a Gîte in France

Renovating and Running a Gîte in France

Sue & Simon Paine, who have stylishly renovated properties near La Rochelle, answer our questions about doing up a French home and also offer some sound advice to buyers. They provide essential advice for anyone considering renovating and running a gîte in France…

FE Mag: When (and where) did you buy the house?

Sue Paine: We bought the house in 2003 from an independent estate agent based in La Rochelle.

Was it your first French property/business and what was your background?

Yes, on both counts. I was a fashion buyer in London and Simon was working in Business Development for a corporate company.

What condition was it in?

The house itself was habitable and needed some updating but the barns (now gîtes) were cow barns with mud floors and a roof!

What were your main challenges?

To begin with, learning the French regulations and rules regarding property renovation and working to a tight deadline as we’d already taken bookings before the first gîte was completed.  Having very small children meant that my time was very limited in terms of helping Simon. The following year, when they started at pre-school, it was freed up considerably.


What workmen did you use, if any?

We employed a company to install the pool and the fosse septique (septic tank) as these weren’t our areas of expertise.

What was your inspiration for the look and feel?

We were very keen that the gîtes felt very comfortable and welcoming with modern comforts. The styling was inspired by our love of mixing old and new, especially as we have always been interested in antiques and brocante.

What experience did you have undertaking renovations and remodelling interiors?

We’d previously renovated our Victorian house in London from scratch, on a very tight budget, doing most of the work ourselves at weekends and evenings.

Where did you source the furniture?

Mostly from dépôt-ventes and brocantes, painting and upcycling along the way. For new equipment, such as mattresses and kitchen appliances, we trawled the internet for the best prices.

What advice would you give to anyone in your shoes, who’s thinking of buying French property and relocating?

Having some ability to speak French when you arrive here isn’t to be underestimated. We learnt as we went along, which is fine, but I’ve no doubt that things would have been speeded up, especially early on, had we possessed better French. Speaking French also helps you to integrate much quicker with your neighbours, who we found were always willing to offer us some friendly advice and help.

Budgeting really carefully is vital. I kept tabs on everything we spent, even down to the last teaspoon. We came in just under budget, I’m pleased to say!

Getting to know the Maire (Mayor) is a very good idea, too. You may need him or her on your side when it comes to planning permission. Our housewarming proved very successful in getting to know the locals. The Maire particularly enjoyed that afternoon as the champagne flowed and luckily everyone could walk home!

Looking back, it was important to have a fixed deadline as things can easily drift if you’re not careful. We were still putting door handles on and hanging curtains an hour before our first guest arrived!

Can you tell us a little about the businesses you run?

We have two gîtes, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. They’re set within large walled gardens and there’s a heated swimming pool. The gîtes have been established since 2004 and we have many repeat guests each year, many of
whom have become firm friends.

Further information

Sue and Simon’s antiques business has been running for about four years now and the gîtes are accessorised with many of their items. They also now run furniture painting workshops.

A dream renovation for an antiques hunter in Normandy

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A lifelong Francophile, Justin is the Editor of FrenchEntrée

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  • Sylvia Davis
    2015-10-31 16:45:15
    Sylvia Davis
    Hi Debra, thanks for your question. In the example in the comment the capital gains was applied to the whole property, so I thought worth pointing out the exception for main residences. I'm far from an expert but it is my understanding that the portion of the property used as the main residence would be excluded from the calculation, as no CG applies, and so would any gîtes that could be considered 'dependances' (I'm thinking of a small adjoining gîte with utilities connected through the main house, for example), so there is a range between a full commercial gîte operations, and one or two small adjoining units. As always, check with the pros before committing!


  • Sylvia Davis
    2015-10-30 18:34:25
    Sylvia Davis
    Thank you for your comment Ahcam, your bring up a good point. For further clarification, no capital gains tax is due on the main residence of the seller. More detail here:


    • debra
      2015-10-30 20:20:25
      Are you certain that gites would be included as part of the principal residence, Sylvia? As they are being let as part of a business wouldn't they be assessed separately?


  • ahcam
    2015-10-30 13:50:11
    It should be noted that improvements to a property in France are not always allowable as deductions against capital gains if the property is sold. For example, "cosmetic improvements" such as bathroom and kitchen remodeling are almost never allowed as deductions. Major work should be done by licensed contractors or you risk having the cost disallowed. The capital gains tax on property value increase is around 40%, so if you buy a property for 200,000 euros and sell it for 300,000 with no allowable deductions, your tax bill would be around 40,000 euros. It is sometimes better to purchase a property that needs no work or repairs