To Be or Not to Be a B&B in France?
Volume XX, Issue 41
Special Note: photos taken from the Chambres d’Hôtes website.
Most people come to me with romantic ideas about their future lives in France, including the idea of running a bed and breakfast in the countryside, imagining it being both fun and profitable. I’ve stayed in lots of B&Bs (Chambres d’Hôtes) in France, because one thing I learned when traveling around the country by car, that it’s easiest if you stay in a B&B outside of the cities and towns. You can use it as a hub, do day trips from that central point, and return whenever you like without worrying about finding parking in town. They have been very enjoyable experiences and often the hosts are delightful, making you feel very much like a part of the family.
Would I want to be that host? Probably not. You’re on duty 24/7. Taking vacations means either shutting down or finding someone you trust to run it for you. With a bit of research on what it’s like to be the owner of a B&B in France, I discovered that…
* It’s seasonal. Depending on where the property is, there will be a tourist season, usually June to September, when you’ll be relentlessly working while others are vacationing, and an even longer season when you’ll be twiddling your thumbs. One B&B owner cautioned future owners not to “underestimate how hard you will be working as B&B owners in France. Nothing could have prepared us for the sheer volume of washing, ironing and cleaning we needed to do to maintain the standard we started out with.” (Source)
* During high season, it’s 24/7 and it’s tough to separate home and work life. Some owners recommend to be sure you define the B&B quarters from your private accommodations. For some, fall is just as busy as summer months, particularly September and October when the weather is still warm, but the kids are back in school. Off-season visitors could be those househunting, but the holiday season can also be lucrative.
* If your B&B is an older property, then heating it in winter months may be both challenging and expensive. But, winter is a great time to do maintenance on the property, and be expected to have plenty of that: repainting, deep-cleaning, etc. Your website may need, updating, too. Remember that this is a hospitality business and the quality of the facility itself can make or break your return on investment. Winter is also a good time for you, as owners, to take your own vacations.
* According to owners, there is no regular income, considering the ups and downs, but over the course of the year, you’ll earn enough (this is subjective, if you ask me). Some say you better plan on having a second revenue source.
* Key to success is location and accessibility to good transportation. Many recommend being close to a town or village center, and on a popular tourist route. And you must have ample parking.
* It’s required for all B&B’s in France to be registered with the local Mairie (town hall). It’s best to request permission before you do anything…such as buy the property! And support from the local community is another key aspect. To be classified as chambres d’hôtes, the accommodations must not exceed five bedrooms catering for any more than 15 guests. Prices must be clearly indicated externally and at the reception point. You must have a proper invoicing procedure in place, and hygiene and safety regulations must be respected. Guests must have access to a toilet and a bathroom and take meals at the family table. For all the regulations, check with your local Direction Départementale des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociale (DDASS).
* If you plan on offering an evening meal for guests, you must apply for “table d’hôtes” status. In this case, guests must eat the same meal as you and your family, and at the same table, otherwise, you could find yourself classified as a restaurant, with all the extra regulations and costs that go with it. You will also need to apply for a special license to serve alcohol with the meal.
* Be sure to listen to your guests’ feedback to be most successful.
* Having a good website and doing a fair amount of social media will add to your success. Communicate with your guests by email or the internet, even you think they will never return…they might, or their friends will. (Word of mouth.)
* Work with other B&B owners, both locally and regionally. When you’re fully booked, the referrals will be greatly appreciated by both the guests and the other owners.
* Currently, if your B&B generates annual revenues greater than €23,000 and accounts for more than 50 percent of your total household income, then you need to register under Location Meublée Professionnelle at your local chamber of commerce. If revenues generated are less than €23,000 or represent less than 50 percent of your total income, then you are considered as Location Meublée Non-Professionnelle and you are not required to register as a business. If you register as a business, then you are liable for taxes and “French charges sociales”…and this can get very expensive.
For me personally, this is as daunting as owning and operating a château! Seems like a good idea in your head, and then you’re faced with the reality. Only do this if your eyes are really wide open and you’re willing to take the minuses with the pluses!
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. If even after you read this, you’re still interested in finding a suitable property for your B&B, let us help you find the one that will be the most successful! Click here.