Break evens, break downs and break ups

Derek and Gay Arnold discuss the importance of seeing house rental as a business, not a hobby. | Villa in Valbonne - VALB103

Derek Arnold and his wife, Gay, were relocated to the Cote d’Azur by Derek’s american employer. The company was opening premises in Sophia Antipolis, the techno-park that makes up part of Valbonne, and needed Derek to be part of the team. The Arnolds soon discovered that moving to the south of France was not exactly a hardship and decided, after a period of renting, to settle down and buy somewhere. They were looking for a substantial family home with room for their son James, and friends and family to come and visit. Not finding anywhere they liked, they took the plunge and bought a 500m2 plot at the top of the village and had their own built. The plot was really well-located with an easy walk to all the services and shops, a huge plus.


Derek wanted their house to blend in with the lovely town of Valbonne and having spotted something he liked in a magazine he literally tore the page out, handed it to his architect and said, ‘Build that’. The architect produced plans and then Derek found a builder to implement them. ‘It was quite stressful. The builder was actually very good, but that meant he also had other projects on the go so he would disappear for days at a time.’ However, 18 months later, in the summer of 2000, the family were able to move in.

The house, although brand-new, is based on a traditional ‘mas’. Derek and Gay have paid great attention to the detail, including fantail French windows and provencale colours for the décor. It has 4 bedrooms and some really nice features such as the hand-built de Tonge kitchen.


James, having attended the local international school, has now left home leaving the Arnolds free to rent the house out. They regard letting the house as a business venture and have invested accordingly ensuring the house will meet even the most discerning client’s requirements. The biggest undertaking was the swimming pool. ‘I never intended having a pool but I recognise that to let a place like this out you have to have one.’ They commissioned Desjoyaux, a large company, to do the work. This was a serious investment and fortunately one that paid off. ‘I reckon our breakeven point is achieved by 7 weeks’ rental. We’ve already booked half that this year and it’s still quite early. We’re looking forward to welcoming our first guests. Valbonne is a fantastic place to be based with mountains, beaches and the sizeable towns of Cannes and Nice all within an easy distance. Our target audience are well-heeled, professional types who can afford the Riviera prices. It’s expensive to buy here and the utilities alone cost us 400€pcm so we need to charge 4000€pw in the high-season.’

Derek and Gay decided to put their lovely house on the SFHV website because they wanted to achieve maximum exposure for the lowest price. Well, it can’t get cheaper than SFHV because we don’t charge the owner anything! Advertising on our site is absolutely free.