Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Renting Our House in France - Analysis Over Time

The 2009 French holiday rental season is just about over. It’s the fifth season that we’ve rented out our little village house in the small working class village of Cazouls-les-Beziers in the Languedoc region of southern France. The first season, the summer of 2005, doesn’t really count though. We didn’t put up a website and we didn’t contract with any of the holiday rental websites. Instead, we arranged a long-term rental with a single woman whose house in the region was undergoing extensive renovation. That rental served as a sort of shake-down for our house before we put it up for rental on the open market in 2006. So, four years…

In the fall of 2005 we put up our website:
http://www.southfrancerental.com/.

Take a look.

In the ensuing year, we received about a half-dozen inquiries through the website and three or four modest bookings. Not enough traffic. Not enough bookings. We spoke with folks that we had met who had a vacation/rental property near ours. They were quite satisfied with VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner – www.vrbo.com. We did searches on Yahoo and Google using the search terms +”vacation rental”+France+Languedoc. VRBO came up highly ranked. We booked on their site in September of 2006.

We received a few more inquiries. Business improved during the 2007 rental season. But not dramatically.

We spoke with a friend in England with rental property on the Isle of Wight.

“Americans take vacations,” she said. “Brits and English-speaking Europeans go on holiday. I use holidaylettings.co.uk.”

I went up on Yahoo and Google again and sure enough, changing “vacation rental” to “holiday rental” made a world of difference. So we kept our ad on VRBO and added holidaylettings.co.uk for the 2008 season.

Again, a modest increase but no great shakes. One final adjustment. We cut our rates.

Cazouls is a pleasant little town but it’s not a ‘destination’ town. It’s not on the Med but it’s less than a half-hour drive away. The Canal du Midi (for boating, walking and biking) and the Orb River (for swimming and kayaking) are each five minutes away. The Haut Languedoc National Park (hiking and climbing) is a half hour away. Abbeys and cathedrals and all sorts of historic sites from prehistory through the Middle Ages abound.


And the house itself has no garden or pool although the patio is private and has a bbq. There’s no internet connection – the tourist office is three blocks away and offers high-speed access at reasonable rates. Satellite television. Full service kitchen. Beds and sofa beds and a futon. A good place to hang your clothes and spend the night while you and your friends tour the region. So…

We cut our rates. There was a world-wide recession in the works, after all.

Presto. The best summer ever.

After four years, we think that we’ve finally got the formula right. Our website plus a website catering to North Americans plus a website catering to Brits/Europeans. Do I sound confident? We’ll see how the summer of 2010 shakes out.

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