My husband and I resigned our careers and moved to the French countryside to buy a 500-year-old hamlet. Here’s how we turned it into a profitable rental business and our ideal house.

This essay is based on an interview with Liz Murphy, the 45-year-old owner of Lac de Maison, a 17th-century French village and vacation rental. The following has been condensed and adjusted for length and clarity. In search of a higher quality of life, my husband, Dave, and I sold our separate house in Manchester for a 17th-century village in the French countryside.

Lac de Maison, a 17th century French hamlet and holiday rental

We both worked 9 to 5 jobs in copywriting and marketing, and our lives had devolved into a frenzy of food, baths, and night. We were both furloughed when COVID struck. It gave us the opportunity to reflect on our lives, and we realized how much time we’d missed with our children, Charlotte and Tom, who were then 6 and 9.We started looking at gîte enterprises — holiday rental residences in France — for sale on a whim in August 2020.

We fantasized about traveling to the French countryside.We’d need at least two gîtes to rent, as well as two more houses: one for our family and one for my mother, Helen, and her husband, Terry. By September, we’d located ten locations that suited our criteria. We travelled to France and saw various locations because COVID-19 travel restrictions had been relaxed that month.

We knew it was the one as soon as we came up to the drive of Lac de Maison, a three-acre homestead in the quiet countryside of the Poitou-Charentes area.The 500-year-old hamlet included an owner’s residence and three working gîtes, as well as other derelict buildings on the property that may be converted into more gîtes. There was also a lovely garden with chickens and goats.

Lac de Maison, a 17th century French hamlet and holiday rental

We canceled the remaining viewings and made an offer the same day. My mom and her husband, who were joining us, and I divided the cost of the hamlet. The hamlet cost a total of 430,000 euros. We paid a total of 215,000 euros. We paid for the house by selling our house in England. Any earnings over the purchase price went toward renovations.

Despite the fact that we completed the house purchase on December 15, 2020, we did not begin physically relocating to France until January 2021.Brexit happened during that period, changing all the laws and turning our move into a whirlwind of passports and spreadsheets. We spent roughly 6,000 euros on the relocation. However, by the beginning of 2021, all six of us had arrived in France.

While running the firm, we renovated two buildings. Our family relocated to the largest gîte, while Mom and Terry took over the prior owner’s residence.
Mom and Terry realized after two weeks that the area wasn’t suitable for their needs. And, despite the fact that we hadn’t budgeted for it, they opted to pay for the remodeling.What began as a new bathroom became a comprehensive renovation, right down to the bricks.

Lac de Maison, a 17th century French hamlet and holiday rental

Mom and Terry returned to the United Kingdom for around eight months while we finished the project. We saved money by performing any labor we could – plaster, floors, roofs — a learning experience. We’d bought the home knowing the previous owners had a handful of spring bookings and five or six summer bookings, including the gîte we were staying in. We moved into their house when Mom and Terry left.

We stayed in that house until the renovations became so extensive that we had to relocate to a camper on the property the following spring.At the same time, we began hosting visitors, which was Dave’s and my first experience with hospitality. The learning curve was significant, but because we both love people and had previously gone on vacation, we knew what kind of experience we wanted to provide.

Lac de Maison, a 17th century French hamlet and holiday rental

We were able to keep afloat by advertising in places where French people look for vacations. We also opted to stay open during the winter, when the site was formerly closed. All of this was in preparation for converting an old destroyed barn into a four-bedroom gîte and relocating to one of the existing gîtes.We braced ourselves for a loss of income in January 2022, when we removed the enormous gîte off the market, moved in, and began construction on the ruin.

This building’s shell had been abandoned for nearly a century, with no rooms, no power, and no running water.We did as much work as we could, much like Mom and Terry’s house. We retained the old floors and transformed everything around them into a new third gîte over the course of roughly ten months. While we went over our 80,000 euro budget, it was well worth it.

Lac de Maison, a 17th century French hamlet and holiday rental

From May until the beginning of September, all three gîtes are fully booked seven days a week, and every weekend the remainder of the year. We’ve finished remodeling for the time being, but we’re still making modest changes to our home, changing it from a rental cottage into our home. The countryside life is fantastic. This historic farmstead is nothing like our neighborhood in the United Kingdom.

Our closest neighbors are a quarter-mile away, not a few steps away. A larger village is close down the road, where the children attend school. A movie theater, a library, and a café are all available. The children have been attending a French school from kindergarten. They detested us, the school, the entire business for the first six months.

Lac de Maison, a 17th century French hamlet and holiday rental

They’re both prospering and fluent two and a half years later.Dave and I were fortunate to meet our builder’s wife, a lovely English-French lady who assisted us in navigating the French bureaucracy, which I found to be the most difficult aspect of the entire process. For example, even if nothing changes, you must fill out documents to reregister your child for the same school and teacher every year.

Lac de Maison, a 17th century French hamlet and holiday rental

I believe it is simply because the French enjoy paperwork. With no further construction planned, we should begin to reap the benefits of the money we’ve invested in the business next year. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s all been worthwhile. We made the best decision of our lives by relocating to France.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *