Lessons learnt, hint and tips on renting out your Languedoc home
Having recently prepared my Languedoc-Roussillon property for the holiday rental market, and now half-way through the season, I‘ve put together my top five tips to help you in the decisions you make if you are looking to cash in on your holiday home as well as enjoy it.
1. Location, location, location
I believe that I was slightly hampered in this respect because renting our property out as a holiday home was not a major concern when we bought it – we bought a typical village house in the very back of beyond, an hour from the nearest airport at Carcassonne. It’s perfect for us as we’re in a very beautiful part of the region and had already made friends here, but being just that bit further from the airport I feel probably reduces the number of potential guests. If you’re really keen to make money from your property, then I would recommend not being any further than about 45 minutes from an airport. If you are going to go truly rustic then you will have to carefully consider where to advertise, in order to target those holiday makers who are looking for rural bliss.
2. Beating the competition
It’s important to research the local competition as much as possible – there are a great number of holiday rental properties in the Languedoc-Roussillon, of varying degrees of comfort, style, size etc. You’ll want to try and distinguish yourself from the crowd, but that temptation might lead you to alienate potential guests. Try and consider what kinds of people are coming to the region and what tastes they might have; for the vast majority of holiday makers the south of France provençal dream cottage is what they are looking for. Of course you can go off trend, and create a fabulous urban loft style apartment in your rural bit of paradise, but again you will need to find ways of targeting the kinds of people who will go for that style. Our home is probably a bit overly modern in that respect – again a choice made for ourselves before we put it into the holiday rental market – I don’t know for sure if it has put people off, but I can’t help thinking that it might be a factor.
3. Do you need a pool?
Well, it definitely helps, but is not essential – though some form of outside space is a huge bonus. Again it comes down to the local market – where we are, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, having a pool is not as important a consideration as say in the Gard. I think that this is because many holiday makers come here for mountain walks, horse treks and visiting ruined Cathar castles. I do think, however, that certain modern comforts are worth offering – letting your guests know that they can have access to Wi-Fi internet, satellite TV a washing machine and a dishwasher allows them to decide how much they want to keep in touch with “real life” and again widens your pool of potential guests. You could also consider other extras to give you a bit of an edge – for example, if I know that guests will be arriving too late to stock up at the supermarket, they can order a food package, enough to make a simple meal and a cup of tea!
4. Making it work
I remember when we first moved to the Languedoc-Roussillon we constantly underestimated travel times – and so do our guests; so be prepared for a long day of waiting for guests to arrive, as well as a very manic day of cleaning/ bed changing/ fixing things between guests. Another thing I initially underestimated is just how long it takes to iron linen for 2 singles and a double! For those property hunters who don’t intend to live here full time, you absolutely will need a property management service to handle all of this. But beware, finding such a service is not always that obvious a task – there are a number of professional services advertising on the internet now, but also you may find someone locally by asking around, and at the very least I imagine that if you tell your estate agent your plans he/she may be able to recommend someone.
5. Getting the word out!
Successfully marketing your holiday home in the Languedoc-Roussillon is becoming something of a fine art thanks to both the competition and the huge amount of advertising medias available. I freely admit that I did not do enough marketing for this season – a lack of time and bad timing being the main cause; if I had the time again I’d make sure everything was in place before January, and not as late as April! In the end I chose one very large, quite expensive at 300 euros, well known website which deals with the whole world (only 2 enquiries and no bookings), one medium sized, mid priced at 150 euros, less well known website which specializes in France (about 15 enquiries resulting in one booking), one completely free, unheard of website linked to a UK national newspaper (got no enquiries or bookings), and word of mouth through friends and family, some of whom run B&Bs locally (got three enquiries and three bookings) – in all a total of 4 weeks booked over the 8 week holiday season (we were aiming for 6 weeks). So, interesting results. I also made my own website, which I do think is pretty essential in this day and age – again, my advice for websites is to not over complicate them, don’t waste time with overly flashy additions – just keep it simple so that it loads up quickly, doesn’t date, and is easy to navigate. I didn’t get any enquiries direct from my website, but it helped to send a link when I was emailing friends and family about the place!
So all in all, with lots of other lessons learnt besides those above, not too bad a season. As renting out the house is not our main form of income, in fact we’ve only done it this year to raise money for a charity project we’re doing, I am quite happy with what we’ve achieved. However, as an exercise to see if we could live on it, clearly we would have failed – indeed I think you’d need to have more than one property for that and I would definitely have had to more actively pursue marketing the property. We won’t be renting our house out again anytime soon after this summer, but for next year, we’re planning on having the smaller attached barn fully renovated and ready for action!