King of the cas­tle

Hol­i­day­mak­ers are look­ing for some­thing spe­cial and what could be bet­ter than be­ing lord of the manor, if only for one week? While the French no­bil­ity may have lost their ti­tles dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion, Michelle Den­ton Cook dis­cov­ers that the life of a lor

French Property News - - Fpn Contents -

Why the châteaux mar­ket in France is now within reach, and could pay div­i­dends

The own­ers of this château in Dor­dogne only let the prop­erty in July and Au­gust and it is fully booked ev­ery year. It of­fers nine en-suite bed­rooms, a heated in­fin­ity pool and fa­cil­i­ties such as bikes, tram­po­lines, a play­room and a BBQ. It rents for £8,000-£9,500 per week

This im­mac­u­late ‘Char­treuse’, re­duced to €970,000 from an orig­i­nal price of €1,395,000, is a stone’s throw from Berg­erac and the River

Dor­dogne and has a to­tal of nine bed­rooms

Ex­chang­ing life in the UK for a French farm­house is a com­mon as­pi­ra­tion but now the French dream is get­ting big­ger and bet­ter. It used to be that your only chance of liv­ing like a lord was to have been born one – but not any­more. If you fancy be­ing king or queen of your own French cas­tle, now is the time to do it!

Cur­rent prices With prices for top-end prop­er­ties down by as much as 50% from their peak in late 2007 com­bined with a strength­en­ing pound, it is ac­cepted that the time is per­haps bet­ter than ever for pur­chas­ing a sec­ond home in France.

What is ex­cit­ing is that the sort of fig­ures that would have been re­quired eight years ago for a well-ap­pointed farm­house now bring some very re­spectable manoirs and châteaux within financial reach, and, com­bined with the avail­abil­ity of some ex­cel­lent mort­gage op­tions, many buy­ers are choos­ing to stretch them­selves to more am­bi­tious in­vest­ments.

Here in the south-west of France, we are very lucky to be sur­rounded by châteaux in all dif­fer­ent guises. For­ti­fied cas­tles es­tab­lished dur­ing the Hun­dred Years’ War tend to have very thick walls and var­i­ous de­fen­sive el­e­ments, from moats to bat­tle­ments and machico­la­tions (an open­ing be­tween the sup­port­ing cor­bels of a bat­tle­ment).

The more gen­teel châteaux, de­signed to house no­bil­ity or gen­try, and gen­er­ally built in the lat­ter half of the 19th cen­tury, are char­ac­terised by their or­nate stonework and tow­ers, while the wine château can be any­thing from a mag­nif­i­cent cas­tle to a mod­est farm­house. There are also prop­er­ties called maisons fortes, which are es­sen­tially sub­stan­tial homes that were owner-oc­cu­pied and had a de­gree of de­fen­sive at­tributes. In Dor­dogne alone, it is said there are more than a thou­sand châteaux.

Rather than cut things fine fi­nan­cially, savvy home­own­ers rent out their prop­er­ties for the weeks that they do not use them. Even if it is your main home, you can rent the prop­erty out for the peak sum­mer pe­riod as a way of fund­ing the fi­nanc­ing and main­te­nance of your beau­ti­ful home.

Towering ap­peal Clearly there are many dif­fer­ent types of rental prop­erty, from typ­i­cal self-catered gîtes to lux­ury châteaux. What is ex­cit­ing about the châteaux rental mar­ket is that it is far less sat­u­rated than the typ­i­cal gîte mar­ket.

More­over, the de­mand for larger group hol­i­days for friends as well as fam­i­lies is grow­ing fast, with many peo­ple choos­ing group hol­i­days over sin­gle fam­ily hol­i­days th­ese days. With a larger prop­erty you also open up the wed­ding mar­ket as well as res­i­den­tial cour­ses, both for work and leisure.

Gone are the days of the ba­sic ru­ral gîte hol­i­day. Clients are now look­ing for some­thing spe­cial and bet­ter than home, and what could be bet­ter than be­ing lord of the manor, if only for one week?

Bizarrely, châteaux rentals of­ten work out cheaper per head but with far more space and bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties, mak­ing them very ap­peal­ing.

The ren­o­va­tion ques­tion A big de­ci­sion for many, made com­pli­cated by the con­flict­ing pros and cons. Ren­o­vat­ing a prop­erty takes time, money, imag­i­na­tion, hard work and pa­tience – and in­vari­ably there is risk in­volved with cost and time over-runs.

Fur­ther­more, dif­fer­ent build­ing ma­te­ri­als and work­ing prac­tices – not to men­tion the lan­guage and le­gal frame­work – can be some­what daunt­ing.

How­ever, the ben­e­fits can also be sig­nif­i­cant. You get ex­actly the look, style and fa­cil­i­ties you want and there is sig­nif­i­cant scope for cap­i­tal ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Our ad­vice would be to do your home­work thor­oughly be­fore tak­ing the plunge if you are to take on a project, par­tic­u­larly as there is such a glut of well-ren­o­vated prop­er­ties cur­rently on the mar­ket at low prices.

Live like a king As a gen­eral rule, rental clients look­ing to hol­i­day on a self-catered ba­sis in châteaux and manoirs are typ­i­cally look­ing for the fol­low­ing cri­te­ria to be met.

If it is to be a sum­mer rental, a pool is a must. Of­fer­ing a heated pool will ex­tend the sea­son con­sid­er­ably. Hav­ing en-suite bath­rooms that are well ap­pointed prob­a­bly rates as the next most im­por­tant, and the more, the mer­rier – par­tic­u­larly if you are keen to at­tract all-adult par­ties.

Large well-equipped kitchens, out­door ter­races and BBQS are all part of the out­door­liv­ing dream. We also ad­vise you to of­fer ad­di­tional ser­vices, such as a chef who can be hired di­rectly by the client.

Con­ve­nient though it may be, we strongly ad­vise against equip­ping prop­er­ties from large in­ter­na­tional home-fur­nish­ing chains. Guests are un­der­whelmed on ar­rival to find ex­actly

the same fur­nish­ings that they have just equipped their chil­dren’s stu­dent digs with, and cheap fur­ni­ture gets shabby very quickly. French an­tique fur­ni­ture, bought through bro­cantes and vide gre­niers, is stur­dier, bet­ter value for money, more charm­ing and ages bet­ter, not to men­tion more pho­to­genic.

While you may not nec­es­sar­ily be able to charge higher weekly rates, prop­er­ties that are well equipped with ad­di­tional fa­cil­i­ties will al­ways book up faster and sell more weeks per year than those with­out, so con­sider of­fer­ing things like ta­ble ten­nis, bikes, tram­po­lines, hot tubs, books and DVD li­braries.

Tar­get mar­ket Our most pop­u­lar pro­file of rental clients for th­ese larger prop­er­ties is ex­tended fam­i­lies, where mum and dad will hire the prop­erty for, say, their 40th wed­ding an­niver­sary and come with their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

We also get mul­ti­ple fam­i­lies of sim­i­lar ages who are hol­i­day­ing to­gether, usu­ally with young chil­dren. Struc­tured themed hol­i­days or­gan­ised by a group leader along ac­tiv­ity or in­ter­est lines are also pop­u­lar, ex­am­ples of which in­clude artists on a course, cy­cling hol­i­days and wine or golf tours.

The big­gest change we have seen of late is the growth of the wed­ding mar­ket where cou­ples rent a château for up to a week, one day of which is for a wed­ding cel­e­bra­tion and the rest of the time for hol­i­day.

Share the love Hol­i­day rental agen­cies will typ­i­cally charge be­tween 10 and 25% of the weekly rate by way of fees. While this may sound high, you should find that the ben­e­fits of go­ing down the qual­ity agency route rather than do­ing it your­self greatly out­weigh the costs.

Given their ex­pe­ri­ence of the mar­ket, they will be able to op­ti­mise your pric­ing strate­gies, plus the mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial they pro­duce should be sig­nif­i­cantly more ef­fec­tive, with bet­ter pho­tos, more ef­fec­tive text, and ad­di­tional el­e­ments such as floor plans.

Agen­cies ag­gre­gate their ad­ver­tis­ing spend over many mar­ket­ing chan­nels and cross­ref­er­ence en­quiries to the most suit­able and avail­able prop­er­ties in their port­fo­lio.

Fur­ther­more, they should also be able to ad­vise you on the le­gal as­pects of of­fer­ing your prop­erty for rent, as well as play­ing a key part in en­sur­ing that every­thing runs smoothly for your clients.

If you are think­ing it all makes sense and you are up for the ad­ven­ture, one very good way to test the wa­ters is to come down and stay in one of th­ese beau­ti­ful prop­er­ties while you house­hunt.

Go on… live like a lord, if only for a week.

Michelle Den­ton Cook is di­rec­tor of Clas­sic French Homes in Dor­dogne and heads up the hol­i­day rental side Clas­sic French Es­capes Tel: 020 8123 3830 clas­sicfrench­ clas­sic-french- es­

King of the cas­tle: why châteaux liv­ing is no longer the stuff of fairy­tales

This six-bed­room coun­try château from the Napoleonic era is sit­u­ated in a stun­ning coun­try­side set­ting close to the bustling ‘bastide’ towns of Lotet-garonne, €795,000

If you are look­ing for an in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity, this mag­nif­i­cent château in Dor­dogne is set up for hol­i­day rentals, wed­dings and con­fer­ences. The prop­erty of­fers 17 bed­rooms with two swim­ming pools, all set in 7.5ha of land, €1,375,000

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.