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  • Writer's picturelouiserollason

So, do you want to run a chambre d'hotes in France?

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

Are you thinking of moving to France?

Are you thinking of running your own business?

Might that business be a chambre d'hotes?

Have you thought it through?

Would you like to hear from me about how it works?

What is your situation? You have decided to move out of the UK and who can blame you? It must be driving everyone crazy at the moment with the uncertainty and discord. Whether you are for or against Brexit, it probably still feels like the UK is a very unsettled place. I have no doubt it will be fine again in a relatively short time, but in the meantime it has made you question your life there. Plus the weather! I have hot summers, cold winters, fresh springs and crisp autmumns. We still have a lot of rain but it falls heavier and less often than the UK. It never feels like endless days of grey, wet, drizzle. If it rains in the winter, we know it is snowing on the mountain tops. If it rains in the summer it is usually at night and we need it! The weather here is perfect.

My brother and I decided to leave the UK and open a chambre d'hotes in 2017. I sold the lease on a pub in Devon that I had renovated and built up over 5 years. He sold a flat in London and the hunt was on. We looked in the UK first but seriously, property prices are extortionate and that pushed us to look elsewhere.

We decided on the Pyrenees because we needed summer and winter trade. In the summer, the area is teeming with cyclists and walkers. In the winter, we have ski slopes nearby. And the laidback, relaxed and slower-paced lifestyle of France was calling to us. We both only had school level French (trés terrible) but so what? We could learn French when we moved. Also, we are on the Spanish border, so paella is available a short drive away. What's not to like?

So, to find a property! We had a huge dose of luck and came across a property that had just gone one the market. It was the right size (you can have up to 5 letting bedrooms to be classed as a chambre d'hotes. Any more and you fall into the realms of an hotel and all the health and safety that goes with it), it was the right layout, it was in a great area and the price was perfect for us. We did use an estate agent, but in France the whole business of estate agents is very different to the UK and many people sell their houses privately. Estate agency fees here are much higher than the UK so be aware. Most houses with agents are advertised at the price 'net vendeur' meaning the fees (which are paid by the buyer) are included in the advertised price but make sure.

Our house needed renovating and you will find a large number of older houses for sale are in the same position. The French are not into the DIY market in the way the British are. Older property, often inherited, is left to deteriorate. The French seem to be happier in newer, more modern, eco friendly property. Us Brits love the old, historical, characterful houses that ooze 'Frenchness.' Our French guests (the majority) love the house and what we have done with it, they just would not want to be the ones to do it themselves! The renovations included adding 6 bathrooms, knocking doorways through 4 walls, blocking doorways up in 2 walls, installing steel girders under 2 of the floors to shore them up, 2nd fix electrics, joining the house to the mains waste and mains gas, installing a kitchen, installing a phone line, carpeting throughout and total decoration inside plus staining all the windows (25) and painting all the shutters (21). We have 5 letting bedrooms all with private bathrooms, a sitting room/dining room to serve breakfast and a kitchen, plus an apartment on the top floor, which is our living area. We had one builder and ourselves. It was very hard work and at times felt overwhelming, but we encouraged each other and finally it was ready.

I will leave it there for this post. In the next one I'll talk about how we actually went about the renovations and the pitfalls to be aware of when doing this in France! It's not as easy as they make it look on telly, but it's all possible.

Until next time.

Bonne journée et `a bientot


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