Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gites with pools

Today if you have a gîte, and if you wish to get enough bookings to show a return on your investment, it is almost obligatory to have a pool. This wasn’t always the case, when I first started renting gîtes some 17 years ago a pool was rarity, and anywhere that did have a pool was more likely to be referred to as a Villa, for that more upmarket appeal. Today the trend is towards heated pools and all that it entails. On my complex I have the luxury to have both the original unheated outdoor pool and an indoor heated pool, though I can assure you this was not by design. When I bought La Grange the huge barn was not included in the price, as the farmer Charlie and his brother Dominique wanted to keep it for their farming needs, and nothing I said or did could change their mind.

Nearly thirteen years on and the barn was looking decidedly sad, the roof was missing from one of the side wings and everything else needed attention. Then one day Charlie visited me and we spent some time engaging in pleasantries and discussing life's problems. As Charlie was making a move to leave, he turned to me and said " I've decided to sell the barn" I looked at him quizzically and he went on to say that he had advertised the barn and had an offer from some English people who wanted to turn it into gîtes. I was, for once, lost for words and before I could get my head around the situation he announced here's the price if you want it, it’s yours. To be honest all my money was tied up in the two large farmhouses that make up La Grange so there was nothing left to pay for the barn, their wasn’t even anything to use as a down payment for a mortgage. I knew nothing about mortgages I had never had one, but the situation was desperate. I could not allow someone else to sit within 30 meters of my site and run another gîte complex. With the help of my accountant I somehow managed to secure a 100% mortgage, a situation apparently never heard of before in France or so the Bank claimed, and the barn was mine.

This however was far from the solution, now that I had bought the barn the next problem was what to do with it. Here was this cavernous building that was costing me a fortune in mortgage repayments needing major repairs, and I hadn’t a clue what to use it for. After much soul searching I decided that a bold new venture was required, I would change the barn into a sports and entertainment centre and increase the rents on the gîtes to cover the extra expenditure.

I set about the task with gusto. The first thing that I had to do was to add a new first floor as the barn is 9m high in the central section. Once the main beams were in place it was possible to start construction of the indoor pool that would be the focal point of the entertainment complex. Unfortunately at this point I had a serious accident which lead to several weeks in hospital and a big operation on the double disc hernias that I had suffered. Oops! To be continued....

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