Buying a French Commercial Property
This section of the site covers properties in the commercial sector. Some may already have commercial status and be operating as a business, whilst others have the potential to become commercial, whether as ‘chambres d'hôtes’ (B & B), a gîtes complex or a boutique hotel for example.
It may be worth noting that since the recent financial crises, commercial loans have been much more difficult to obtain and are only likely to be achievable where the property already has a proven source of income or the purchaser has an alternative source of income which could service the loan.
Agricultural Estates/ Farms
These range from farms with pasture and facilities for livestock, whether beef, sheep, goats, dairy, deer or fish farms, to properties with arable land, olive groves, fruit orchards, walnut plantations.
Chambres d'hôtes (B&B)
Running a ‘chambres d’hôtes’ has traditionally been a popular concept amongst those seeking to move to France and find a means to supplement their income. ‘Chambres d'hôtes’ are to be found in a range of different styles of property, right up to the most opulent Châteaux, often with their own websites and a thriving business. At the time of writing, five is the maximum number of bedrooms allowed in a B & B before it attains hotel status and falls under the stringent EU regulations for fire, health and safety but it is essential to check on the latest regulations applying at the time at which you consider your purchase.
Wedding and Corporate venues
These are increasingly in demand with the advent of hi-tech communications and the excellent travel links between France, Europe and beyond. The wedding business has really taken off in recent years and there is no doubt that Châteaux usually offer a photogenic environment for a memorable occasion. Frequently the same venues double up for corporate functions and other social events.
Properties with existing ‘gîtes’ or the potential to create them continue to be popular. The nature of 'agritourism', first promoted by the French Government with the introduction of 'Gîtes de France' is such that quality is, without a doubt, the key requisite. A gîte these days should offer a secure swimming pool, Wifi and Satellite TV as a minimum. Comfort is of paramount importance. Having a range of other activities on offer as well, whether riding, harvesting, wine tasting, painting, cookery or language courses, adds to the appeal.
Château and Boutique Hotels
These may range from the most imposing and impressive star rated châteaux hotels, to smaller charming boutique hotels in rural locations or market towns throughout France.
Châteaux often have private sporting estates. France is known for the hunt or ‘la chasse’ and wild boar or 'sanglier', deer, pheasant and other game are enthusiastically pursued during the hunting season, when almost anybody can apply for a licence. Out of season, a local ‘lieutenant de louveterie’ created in 1812 by Charlemagne to protect the inhabitants and their crops against wolves, is in charge of hunting any wild animals that threaten to disrupt crops or harvests.
Activity Based Commercial Properties
These include equestrian properties, stud farms or ‘haras’, riding schools, livery stables, meditation centres, educational or art centres, or they may offer active pursuits ranging from boating, fishing, swimming and tennis to golf courses and cookery schools.
If it is your dream to have dinner parties with your own ‘château bottled’ wine on the table, it is wise to employ the services of an expert agency to achieve that end. French vineyards have in recent years attracted considerable interest from overseas buyers, most recently the Chinese.
‘Technical due diligence’ is a vital part of the purchasing process where a vineyard is concerned, as it is a business as well as a property. Although the administration and sales may appear in the financial and legal paperwork, there are many fine points which may not. Inspecting the concrete tanks for cracks, ensuring that you have the number of hectares of the grape variety or 'cépage' declared by the vendor, are details which only an expert can verify - and which need to be carefully checked.
When deciding on the available budget, buyers need to take account of the fact that they will need funds to purchase stock and pay for operating costs for the first 18 months. This is because the seasonal cycle of producing and harvesting the grapes and then manufacturing and bottling the wine lasts for that period of time. It is as well to be aware that for a vineyard, mortgages are only available for a percentage of the overall price, if at all.