This summer Chris and Claudine Stanton-Jones will be leaving their Twickenham home and heading for their rambling farmhouse in the South of France, up in the Languedoc and surrounded by medieval villages and fields of lavender.
They didn’t just get a good buy — they bought a huge old farmhouse for only £310,000 — they got builders in, fortunately with an English-speaking project manager, who divided the house into two separate semis with five bedrooms each. This means one half can be used for holiday lets, paying for the other half and all the Stanton-Jones’s overheads (ownersdirect.co.uk, ref: FR8329).
The couple, 48, bought the farmhouse in 2010. To get there, they fly from either Luton or Stansted to either Beziers or Carcassonne, which are both around 45 minutes’ drive from the house.
Running costs total about £1,200 a month, including mortgage, taxes and maintenance, and initially they planned to offset the expense by letting out the entire property. However, they swiftly found that they and their children, Jake, eight, and Yasmin, 10, wanted to be there at peak times — as did their paying guests, said Mr Stanton-Jones, a video games consultant, whose wife is a French tutor.
The cost of building in France turned out to be much higher than expected, at about £1,200 a square foot. Nonetheless, Mr Stanton-Jones is delighted with the venture. “This is a long-term investment for us, and I expect in five years or so we will see the house rise in value because of the work,” he says.
Away in Hungary
Catherine Dickens, 45, a direct descendant of Charles Dickens, wanted a holiday home and knew if she went outside the traditional western European areas she would get more for her money. She tips Hungary as an excellent option.
After a spell living and working in London, she moved to Budapest in 2001, where she and her husband Christopher Gore set up a property company and in 2007 decided to try their hand at building a holiday home.
They bought a two-acre plot about an hour’s drive from Budapest for £22,000 and have created a small, luxurious bolt hole that sleeps two in the heart of a peaceful vineyard.
The build cost just over £60,000, including all furnishings and the excavation of a cellar with a sophisticated rainwater-harvesting system. Without this the project would have cost about £40,000.
Solar panels provide 95 per cent of the power needed, so bills are minimal, and the couple estimate that if they rent out their house, Pippins, (pippins.uniquehomestays.com) it will pay for itself within seven years.
Now the family — Mr Gore has two children, Lucy, 19, and Johnny, 15, from a previous marriage, and the couple have a seven-year-old daughter Meg — use their cottage during school holidays, “when we always have great summer weather”.
... and back in the UK
Irene Douglas and her partner Roger Barker have made their second-home lifestyle work by spotting the potential of a derelict clapboard tea room, perched on Millook Beach in northern View sold house prices in Pembrokeshire
Top investment tips
* Buy in a tourist-friendly area with year-round attractions so you can make an income in every season.
* Make your accommodation flexible: two adjoining cottages with a linking door can be offered as either one large property or two smaller ones, which will appeal to a much wider range of potential paying guests.
* Buy unusual character property — water towers and windmills rent well.