FOR most Brits with second homes abroad, renting out the place will only generate supplementary income while you slave away in the office. But for Tim Forster, a former navy officer, holiday tenants became his main source of income when he and his wife moved permanently to the village of Uzes in Provence in 2001 in search of a slower pace of life and a more flexible schedule.
They had stayed in the south of France before and wanted to buy in a desirable area for holiday rentals but remain relatively close to their children studying in the UK. Being priced out of the multi-million euro villas of the crowded Cote d’Azur, they settled on Provence as providing the perfect mix of idyllic countryside and commercial viability.
They invested £500,000 in a 600-year old farmhouse with only two previous owners and spent a further £200,000-£300,000 and six months converting each end of the house into a total of three luxurious apartments. Their prices vary from €600 to €1,680 per week depending on the season and the apartment.
In order to drum up business, they built a website and listed the apartments on a few commercial sites. Once visitors arrived, they did everything possible to make them return, including throwing a dinner party on the first night. The strategy works:?50 per cent of their tenants are now return business, a further 25 per cent come through the website and the remaining 25 per cent come from advertising.
With two apartments now let for at least 30 weeks a year (Tim’s mother lives in the third), they combine the profits with Tim’s navy pension to make a very comfortable income. And they get a long break during the off-season from November until Easter.
Tim says their success stems from the fact that they built something that they would want to rent for themselves: “There are thousands upon thousands of people buying a small house with an extra room and thinking they can make a living out of that,” he says. “You can’t. You’ve got to do it properly and corner an end of the market – and ours is the high end. So we put in nice furnishing and bedding and kitchens.” Rather than trying to target the native market that they knew little about, the Forsters stuck with what they knew: the desires of Brits abroad.
The house is now on the market for €2.2m. Contact:?www.mas-bosquette.com