Making the most of a rental home on the Ile de Ré: a few pointers

The number of weeks that a property rents out varies significantly and depends upon 7 esssential criteria which are the key to optimizing your letting.

The rental season on the Ile de Ré runs from April (or the beginning of the Easter holidays) to the end of October (or the end of the November half term holiday). In addition, the Christmas holidays are a possible rental period. The only down time is during the months of November, December until Christmas, January, February and part of March.

The remaining 7 months offer rental potential of up to 30 weeks. In an imperfect world which doesn’t take into account the following comments, 15 weeks can be considered a normal level of rental, less than 15 the rental potential is clearly not optimized, 20 weeks is good and above 20 excellent.

Why do some properties on the Ile de Re only manage 10 weeks rental per year while others manage 20 or more? How can we account for this difference?

1 – Location

Even if the Ile de Ré as a whole is a very desirable holiday destination, not all villages on the Ile de Re hold the same attraction for clients. By rating the 10 villages on a scale of 1* to 4****, where 1* represents the least attractive village, our rankings would be:

  • La Flotte, Saint-Martin-de-Ré and Le Bois Plage fall in the 4**** category: this attraction is in large part explained by the presence of a harbour in the case of La Flotte and Saint-Martin while Le Bois Plage’s attraction arises from its beautiful beaches, its central position between the North and South ends of the island and the charm of the village centre. It is the ideal village for doing everything on foot (or by bike).
  • Les Portes, Ars en Re and Le Couarde fall in the 3*** category: Les Portes and Ars en Re have a very glamourous reputation but the location at the far end of the island makes it slightly less attractive out of the high season. La Couarde is comparable to Le Bois Plage and its reputation is  chic and the village centre is judged so charming than that of Le Bois Plage by connoisseurs.
  • Loix, Sainte-Marie-de-Ré and Saint-Clément-des-Baleines fall in the 2** category: Loix attracts those looking for a quiet life during the high season although outside the high season, this calm can drive away even the most ardent lovers of solitude. Sainte-Marie is a traditional farming village with a special attraction for shell fishers and nature lovers. The urban development of the village leaves something to be desired, with little thought for the village as a whole – except on the Place des Tilleuls and the cover market of the Place d’Antioche, there are very few shops beyond the village basics. Saint-Clément is a little like Sainte-Marie but at the other end of the island: its proximity to the lovely beach of la Conche is a definite plus but it location in the Northern sector makes it less desirable out of season.
  • Finally, there is Rivedoux-Plage in the 1* category: Rivedoux’ image is somewhat tarred by the masses of cars which all pass through it after crossing the bridge. This is unfortunate as it has many plus points: a harbour, lovely sandy beaches, forests for walking, which all combine to make it a very pleasant place to stay. However, its location at the beginning of the island is an undeniable drawback.

2 – Size of the holiday rental

2, 3, 4 or more bedrooms, that is the question! 3 bedrooms is the perfect compromise. Ideal in the summer for a family with 2 or 3 children but also out of season for a couple travelling alone or with a baby, who don’t mind renting a house with a bit more space but who would veto a bigger property with too much room that they just wouldn’t use.
Watch out for houses that are too big and difficult to let out of season!

When it’s a question of letting your house, an oversized property means oversized facilities and a house that goes beyond the usual expectations of the majority of potential clients.

Let’s just take the example of a house with 5 bedrooms for 10 people. The “normal” expectations for a client on the Ile de Ré for this type of house would be 200m² of living space (5 bedrooms of 20m² and 100m² of reception and other rooms) with a 500m² garden. If your house has 300m² of living space and a 1000m² garden, the additional living and garden space would be classified by the majority of potential clients as useless luxury, while for you it represents a significant additional investment with no corresponding return.

Our advice would therefore be: between investing in a château and investing in several houses, put your money on the houses!

Our solution for large holiday rentals on the Ile de Re
If your house sleeps 10 (or more), our advice, outside the Peak Season, is to reduce the capacity of the house by closing some bedrooms (for example 2 bedrooms if your house sleeps 10) in order to offer the kind of price associated with a smaller house. This way, in lower seasons, your house would have 2 prices and our website manages this function such as your house appears with a reduced price out of the peak season if the number of guests are up to 6 but appears with the same price (high price) in the peak season whatever the number of guests.

3 – Is the swimming pool on the Ile de Re a good investment?

A pool is a determining factor when renting a property, even on the Ile de Ré. Claiming that “the sea is just like having a pool” doesn’t hold water with the potential clients who make the pool their number 1 selection criteria.

It doesn’t need to be big: 8m x 4m is enough. It’s better to invest in accessories like a heating system (indispensable on the Ile de Ré) and an electric safety cover which also helps conserve heat.

Ideally then, your property should have a 8×4 pool with a heat pump and an electric safety cover.

For « top of the range » or « luxury » properties, not having a pool significantly reduces your letting potential. For small village houses, a pool is a plus point but not essential.

4 – Garage – private car park

This is a key point for 3 reasons:

  1. only 20% of the territory on the Ile de Re is urbanised and in this the population is very dense and growing fast, in particular in the heart of the villages. In the centre of Saint-Martin, La Flotte, Ars en Re, La Couarde and Les Portes, it is as hard to park as it is in Paris or London,
  2. the clients who rent a house also like to keep their cars safe in a private area, next to their house. For the majority of them, it is a pre requisite,
  3. Finally, if you buy a holiday house, think about the sell-on-price. The absence of a garage – or private car park – can seriously compromise this.

5 – Garden or courtyard?

A courtyard suffices in the more attractive villages such as La Couarde, Saint-Martin or La Flotte. On the other hand, in Rivedoux-Plage, Saint-Clément-des-Baleines or Sainte-Marie-de-Ré, a courtyard isn’t enough and the lack of a garden may even become a serious stumbling block for potential clients. In all cases, you shouldn’t invest in property which has neither garden nor courtyard, whatever the village.

Another determining factor is the ratio between Living Space (LS) and Outside Space (OS) such as a garden, courtyard, terrace or patio. We recommend a ratio OS/LS of at least 1 for investment properties on the Ile de Ré, i.e. if a house has 200m² of living space, it should have a garden of at least 200m². Beware of investments where the OS/LS ratio is low.

Go for a small house with a big garden rather than a big house with a small courtyard.

6 – Decor & facilities

Style is very important. Take the example of 2 identical houses (same location, same living space, same size garden, same number of bedrooms and same rent) whose only differentiating factor is the style and quality of their interior design. This simple factor will make a vast difference to the number of weeks rented. Clients look for a simple, uncluttered style, houses that don’t have the stamp of their owner on them nor too much furniture and ornaments.

In addition, certain « luxury » items have almost become standard and contribute to a better quality rental property for a minimum investment on your part. Here are a few examples:

  • a DVD player with flat screen television of a size corresponding to the sleeping capacity of the house. An old-style TV or one that’s too small is no longer acceptable (even on the Ile de Ré),
  • wifi internet access. A lot of clients will refuse to rent your house if it doesn’t have internet (after all, what are all those teenagers going to do without Facebook?),
  • modern equipment like an iPod dock or a Nespresso coffee maker will give your house an up-market image.

It might sound obvious but the quality and cleanliness of the bedding (mattresses, pillows and duvets) must be beyond reproach. Pillows in particular should be replaced regularly.

Finally, the garden equipment is important. Our clients, mainly city dwellers, come to the Ile de Ré to spend time outside. As a result, they pay attention to the quality of the garden furniture such as the barbecue or the sun loungers. It’s no longer enough to simply equip your outside space with deck chairs.

To summarize, improving the style of a house does not necessarily require a major investment on your part : it’s often enough to repaint a bedroom wall in a warm colour, remove old furniture and add a few bits of modern machinery to make your house on the Ile de Re comfortable and welcoming. The return on investment won’t be long in coming. Just think about it!

7 – Rental price

Building a well adapted price list is essential and requires careful thought.

Here are a few common-sense pointers:

  • you can’t rent out anything at any price, even on the Ile de Ré! If your rent is too high, you’ll be full between August 1 and August 15 when there are more than 200 000 people on the island. However, you’ll have difficulty renting out other periods,
  • you should ensure you have at least 3 pricing periods in order to make a clear distinction between the high season (mid July to end of August), the mid season (April, May, June, early July, September, October) and the low season (all other periods),
  • make sure you have a big enough price difference between each season. There’s no point in defining 2 different seasons if there’s only a 5% price difference between the two! We advise a 50% price difference between a low and a high season,
  • take your time to benchmark. Take a look at different holiday let internet sites or ask advice from a specialist like Bon Séjour en France to help you put together a coherent price list that corresponds to the Ré market and to other properties similar to your own.