French Property Blog: Our Voice from France

Setting up a B&B in France

We’ve noticed a rise in enquiries about B&Bs projects, so we thought we would give you some top tips on setting up a B&B in France.
You can also hear it straight from the horse’s mouth – we spoke to Eleanor and John, a Scottish couple who decided to live the adventure here in sunny France.

Eleanor and John Gash, moved to France in 2008. They wanted a new start and an instant income, so taking on an already operational B&B was the ideal solution. They bought an elegant eight-bedroom townhouse in the village of Bellac in the Limousin’s Haute Vienne – and hit the ground running.

“We’d never managed a B&B before. But I could speak French and I felt we could cope,” says Eleanor, now 57. “We wanted a life change before it was too late.”
The 200-year-old French townhouse is well situated in the centre of town. This, according to Eleanor, is key to its popularity. Previously run by another British couple, it came with a number of repeat guests. They have updated the decor, room by room.”


They cook for their guests in the evening, using local ingredients and charging €50 per couple (bed and breakfast is €75 to €100 per night).

“We have a wonderful mix of guests, many of whom are house-hunting in the area, and we’ve had a lot of great suppers. Every day is different. Our five rooms are fully booked in summer.”


Although not everyone realises this, B&B owners can get a lot of financial help in France. “You can recover 15 % of the renovation costs from the département, €12,000 from the region and also money from the EU fund (FEDER). This means that up to 63 % of your building work is covered. The only condition is that you advertise your business on the Gîtes de France website for 5 -10 years.

The only downside is that there’s not much time off in the summer. They rest and recharge in January and February, when they close down and get some winter sun!


Here are our top tips for setting up a B&B in France:

1 – Location, Location, Location. The location must be appropriate for both your personal choice of lifestyle and for running a B&B.

   2- Research the region thoroughly. Visit and get detailed information on other B&B businesses. Listen to everyone’s stories and advice, and weigh them against your dreams and desires.

3- Make use of official information available from the local tourism department and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Don’t purchase on impulse !

4- Don’t make your choice only on the basis of ‘Oh, what a beautiful property’, but on objective criteria.

5- Carry out thorough market research on the overall area and workout: a) what market will you target: families / couples, overnight or holiday stay? b) what are the local attractions? c) how long is the letting season?

6- Prepare a realistic business plan. Seek professional help (local accountant, Chamber of Commerce, tourist board).

7- When purchasing a property to turn into a B&B, work closely with your estate agent, architect, local builder and mairie to budget for renovation costs. Never lose sight of quality and value for money. It’s a competitive market place.

To see all Bed and Breakfasts for sale in France with Leggett immobilier, please click here:

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Discover Provence

One of the many joys of living in Provence is its sensory satisfaction: the light, scent and taste all combine to seduce you…


There is a moment as you travel south, when the light changes. The air becomes softer and warmer, and the magical scents of lavender, lemons, rosemary and pine surround you. Chirping cicadas fill the balmy evening air as you dine outside by candlelight. This is Provence.

It’s a place where you can escape the greyer, more northern climes. The light, so beloved of the Impressionists, sets the scene. Then there’s the colour palette, from February’s yellow, mimosa-clad hills to the dear, azure-blue skies. Old houses of yellowed stone and silvery olive trees frame lavender fields; and whitewashed houses are set off by their powdery, Provençal-blue shutters.

In every village from the north of Provence down to the sea, marketplaces are scented gardens of fragrance. Stalls are laden with herbs, thyme, lavender and rosemary, tarragon, mint and sun-blessed tomatoes. Provençal food always seems to have a hint of garlic and scent of sunshine.

Provence – in a geographical region known administratively as Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – covers an area from Avignon to the Italian border, from the Mediterranean to Mont Ventoux, and thence eastwards through the hills of the Mercantour National Park. It’s a region of bleached landscapes, olive groves, herb-scented garrigue and vineyards. Roman ruins and medieval villages balance the cosmopolitan – and often highly expensive – world of the Côte d’Azur.


The diversity of landscape is amazing. Ancient, fortified villages still cling to the hilltops of old Provence; fields filled with flowers for the perfume industry provide a sensual backdrop around Grasse; and the amazing Verdon Gorge is one of the natural wonders of Europe. West of Marseille sits the land of the Camargue, famous for white horses, black bulls and flamingos, pink from their diet of tiny shellfish.

There’s magic in the lifestyle. It could just be the sun on your back or the aromas of lavender and rosemary wafting past as you savour your morning coffee. Perhaps it’s the delight of or a stroll through the entrancing streets of centuries-old villages, or a walk along the glorious waterfronts that border the Mediterranean Sea.

Those who own a piece of this paradise can enjoy their Provence all year round. Every hillside and town has its own personality, and the choice of property on the market is wide.
Due to the Provençal appeal house prices here haven’t been impacted too much by recession. Property ranges from the simplest apartment to luxury villas offering the ultimate in outside living.

To see our properties in Provence, please click here:

Provence 2

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Love France… Apéritifs

We recently ran a poll asking our non-French clients why they wanted to buy a property in France. “French culture” came out on top, so we thought it would be useful to give you the low-down on a few of the best parts of French culture – along with some handy language tips! To kick off with, we bring you the definitive guide to the “apéritif” or “apéro”, a wonderful way to start any French evening with drinks, nibbly bits, friendship and conversation.

glasses sunset

What is an “apéritif”?
Going for an “apéritif” or “apéro” means going for an early evening drink with your family, friends or colleagues. They are enjoyed any night of the week in a bar, outside “en terrasse”, or at somebody’s home. It is the opportunity for French people to relax, enjoy each other’s company, catch up with friends, and share the latest gossip…

When do you drink them?
Apéritifs are usually taken between 6 and 8pm, just before dinner – to whet your appetite.

What do you drink?
Anything you like! A fresh glass of rosé, a beer, or a “menthe à l’eau” (mint cordial) for kids and teetotallers. Each region has its specialty, like the famous anise-flavoured spirit “Pastis” in the Marseille area, or the “Pineau” wine in Charente and Charente-Maritime. And of course, if you want to be chic or celebrate something special, you can always have a glass of champagne. A “Kir” is a very popular apéritif (white wine with “crème de cassis”) which is turned into a “Kir Royal” simply by swapping the white wine for champagne. Don’t forget to clink glasses (“trinquer”) with everybody and look at them in the eyes before you drink!

And to eat?
Since this is France, there has to be some delicious food involved. People like eating savoury treats to go with their drink, like salted peanuts, bits of cheese, crackers, or “saucisson” (dry cured sausage). If you want to play it healthy, you can choose cherry tomatoes or bits of fresh vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers with a sauce to dip them into.


What’s new? The “apéritif dînatoire”
The “apéritif dînatoire” is more and more in vogue in France. It combines “apéritif” and dinner, and consists in making dinner only out of appetizers. The perfect balance if you want to invite people over but don’t feel like cooking a whole meal…

Language buddy…
Here are a few sentences you may find useful in an “apéro” situation:

Passe à la maison prendre un apéro ! (Come to my place for an “apéro”!)
C’est l’heure de l’apéritif ! (It’s “apéritif” time)
Je t’offre un apéritif ? (Would you like an “apéritif”?)
Qu’est-ce que je te sers ? / Qu’est-ce que tu bois ? (What would you like to drink?)
Prendre un verre (To have a drink)
Santé !/A la vôtre ! (Cheers!)

Well now you are ready to enjoy a perfect, relaxing apéritif, and be a bit more French!

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Everything in the garden is lovely…

We British famously love our gardens – but we definitely appreciate French ones too. So we are delighted that Leggett Immobilier will be the proud sponsor of Open Gardens, a fabulous event when green-fingered home owners open their gates to the public.


Jardins Ouverts is an event that is now in its fourth year, and the concept has quickly taken root across the country and hundreds of events have raised many thousands of euros for the children’s cancer charity “A Chacun Son Everest”. The association – that encourages people to open their gardens for a small charge – is run by volunteers and Leggett is delighted to now be funding the administration expenses including a redesign of their website There are many gardens to visit across France throughout the year.

We are thrilled to support this worthwhile cause and to have so much fun whilst doing so. Gardens and outdoor life is such a central part of life in France – we know only too well that British property hunters nearly always request a home with a garden.

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Record low mortgage rates counter weak pound

Whilst the drop in pound against the euro in the past month has undoubtedly been bad news, savvy property hunters can remove the sting of the currency loss by taking a loan – and one at an historically low rate.


Last month fixed-rate French mortgages dropped to less than 2 per cent – with loans available from as little as 1.70 per cent with 80 per cent LTV on a 20-year term. Financial experts have crunched some numbers and calculated that the drop in payments on a loan throughout its term (from 2.7 per cent last year to 1.7 per cent now) more than compensates for the drop in sterling value. The lower the deposit, the less your exposure to the exchange rate too – why not wait til the rate improves then pay off your loan then? In the meantime you can earn some local income.

Trevor Leggett, Chairman of Leggett immobilier, comments: “With the pound bouncing up and down like a yo-yo, a huge number of our clients are now taking advantage of the ridiculously low borrowing rate. If you are looking for an investment then property in Paris, the Alps or PACA can easily provide a 3-4 % yield, with 7-8 % yield available in some provincial towns. We’re seeing an unprecedented opportunity – even clients looking for a holiday home are piling in. Prices hit rock bottom 12 months ago and are only going one way for the foreseeable future.”

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