KeysPenny and Ken Smith have been running their property management company Complete Property Care for the last six years. Situated in a small village called Neuvy Bouin roughly 20 minutes from Parthenay, in Deux Sèvres, they look after properties within a 50 minute radius, and are currently managing 10 properties.

Penny and Ken moved from North West England to the Vendée in 2002, after Ken retired from working as a financial adviser and Penny as a secretary. They thought they would start by living in their Vendée holiday home and see how they got along for twelve months. As foreseen, they enjoyed their new French life and decided to move to Deux Sèvres in 2003; there they established Complete Property Care.

Their role at Complete Property Care ranges from complete property management involving a full clean of the property, laundry service, preparation of a welcome pack (wine, milk, tea, coffee, bread and jam), garden maintenance, safety and security checks and an on-call service for guests, to just safety checks. Penny said, “Just last week we had to help a family whose daughter was very poorly. We found them an English speaking Doctor and extended accommodation.” As French speakers, Penny and Ken can usually cope with any problems which arise.

Complete Property Care pride themselves in taking the worry out of having a gîte or second home for those who don’t live in France and can’t mange it themselves. They tailor their service to meet each client’s needs: “We even clean, do laundry and maintain properties for clients who use their holiday home just for themselves. This way, they feel they are having a proper holiday rather than just visiting a second home where every day chores still need doing.” Working as a team allows Penny and Ken to take on more properties while keeping standards high.

Penny revealed that they had the idea to start a property management company when they lived in the Vendée because they were always being asked by their British holiday home neighbours if they would mind keeping an eye on their property while they were back in the UK, plus Penny was already doing the cleaning and laundry for some friends.

Although the couple have private pensions, as the cost of French living gradually became more expensive (food and utilities), they wanted to do something to boost these. In the last eighteen months their sterling pensions have also been affected by the weaker pound and they’re glad they established the company when they did. Penny said that it was not hard to start the business, despite the fact it involved a lot of paperwork! Their first step was to visit the local Chamber of Commerce and apply for a Siret number.

Despite the economic slowdown, Penny said they have not lost clients or noticed gîte owners being severely affected: “While some gîte owners have had less bookings, few have had to sell-up completely.” They market their company mainly through word-of-mouth, but also with a web presence including on FrenchEntrée and Total France.

We asked Penny what advice she has for people looking to set up a gîte: “I would recommend investing in a website to market the gîte yourself. Travel companies take a huge percentage of commission and the changeover day for guests is usually always Saturday. Taking your own bookings enables you to be more flexible for guests who may wish to arrive during the week or on a Sunday when the ferry crossings are cheaper. This will also entice guests perhaps wanting to stay for just a few days or for longer periods.”

The cost of running a gîte with a property management company works out, on average, at 10% of the amount the guests pay. Complete Property Care charge an hourly rate since the amount of time taken to clean each gîte will depend on its size, the amount of guests and what other services they are providing.

Penny and Ken love living in la belle France and feel they have achieved the right work life balance.

If you are looking for a property management company in Deux-Sèvres to take the worry out of managing your gîte, contact Penny, email: [email protected] or call: +33 (0) 5 49 95 16 74

Nina Richards spoke to Penny Smith

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