The people using YouTube to pay for their French chateau (2024)

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The people using YouTube to pay for their French chateau (1)Image source, Stephanie Jarvis

By Kate Stanton

Business reporter

Stephanie Jarvis credits YouTube with saving her vast French chateau.

She had bought the 40-room, 16th Century home back in 2005 after pooling resources with a friend.

Such French castles were relatively cheap at the time, so between them they were able to buy one for £590,000, raising the money by selling both of their two-bedroom London flats.

The plan was to turn the property - Chateau de Lalande, in the Centre-Val de Loire region of northern France - into a bed and breakfast, and hire it out for events.

However, Ms Jarvis admits that she didn't factor in just how expensive it would be to pay for the upkeep of such a huge, old building. "I didn't realise how much money it would take to run," says the 50-year-old.

So, by the start of 2020, the chateau business had yet to make a profit. And then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, and France went into lockdown.

Image source, Chateau du Puy Vidal

"It was going to be the first year that we were in profit for the bed and breakfast, but everything had been cancelled," she says. "I had no money coming in, and nothing to do."

Then Ms Jarvis had a brain wave. Since 2018 she had been sporadically posting video blogs about her life at the castle up on social media platform, YouTube, under the channel name, The Chateau Diaries. She had started to do this after appearing in a TV renovation show, called Escape to the Chateau DIY, and found that she liked the experience of talking to the camera about her home.

With the pandemic shutting down everything else, Ms Jarvis decided that she'd now make and publish such videos on a daily basic "and see how it goes".

To her surprise, her YouTube channel soared in popularity, going up from 10,000 subscribers in 2019 to 173,000 today.

This meant that the money she made from the advertisem*nts on her videos jumped from a few hundred euros to many thousands.

Image source, Stephanie Jarvis

"It escalated so fast, it was unbelievable," she says. "I think a lot of people were finding themselves in quarantine, and wanting to see how other people were living through it."

"The channel also gives people this hope that maybe they don't need to follow a traditional path, and then can still make something happen with their lives."

Ms Jarvis is now able to use the revenue from YouTube, along with the renewed income from the bed and breakfast, to pay four staff to work at the castle.

She also now gets additional funds from a Patreon account that she set up last year. Patreon is an online subscription platform that allows Ms Jarvis' subscribers to pay to view exclusive, extra video content. This is now said to make about £24,000 per month.

Another couple now making YouTube videos about life owning a French chateau are British designer Anna Mayrhofer and her Italian filmmaker husband Philipp.

Image source, Anna Mayrhofer

They purchased their 18th Century Chateau Le Fleur, in Normandy, in 2019, using money from the sale of their Parisian apartment. Like Ms Jarvis, they also underestimated the total cost of the renovations that the property would need.

The couple started to post videos at the end of 2020, hoping it would serve as a marketing tool for when the pandemic ended and they could open their bed and breakfast.

Their YouTube channel - How To Renovate A Chateau (Without Killing Your Partner) - now has 133,000 subscribers, and brings in regular advertising revenue.

"It never occurred to us that this could become an income stream as important as the guesthouse," says Mr Mayrhofer. "But we get more and more advertising money, and it started to become almost like a salary."

The couple also launched a Patreon account, which has more than 750 subscribers paying from about £4.50-17.50 per month. Mr Mayrhofer says he and Anna are now so busy making video content it might make more financial sense to slow down the guesthouse side of their business.

"For now, we enjoy [making videos]. It encourages us, and it's fun to do," he says.

Image source, Anna Mayrhofer

Paris-based estate agent, Patrice Besse, specialises in selling chateaux dotted across France. He says that one in relatively good condition now costs between €800,000 ($900,000; £670,000) and €1,500,000. Cheaper properties require more restoration work, and therefore might end up costing more in the long term.

He cautions that buying a French chateau should not generally be seen as a way to make money. "Any buyer knows that owning a chateau will not make you rich."

Instead, he says that owning a chateau is a "way of life", and that many buyers care less about the return on their investment, and more about the emotional journey of restoring an old property and the dream of living in one.

Yet he adds that per square metre "chateaux are the cheapest real estate in France", especially when compared to the cost of a Parisian apartment. And demand has risen as a result of the pandemic meaning that people want to leave France's big cities.

Fellow estate agent Christophe Chassin adds that the price of French chateaux has increased since the start of the pandemic, due to high demand.

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"We made a lot of sales over the past 12 months," says Mr Chassin, who sells mostly to overseas clients from the UK, US, Australia and South America. "And we are struggling to renew our portfolio of properties."

One person who bought a French chateau from Mr Chassin over the past year is American, Julia Leach.

The 30-year-old was inspired to purchase one after becoming an avid viewer of Ms Jarvis' The Chateau Diaries while she lived in New York.

"The contrast was stark between the hustle and work culture I was immersed in, and the slower pace of life of Stephanie's videos pulled at my heart," says Ms Leach, who shared Jarvis' videos with her family in California.

So in April 2021, Ms Leach, her partner, sister and their parents pooled their financial resources to buy the 12-bedroom, 13th-Century Chateau du Puy Vidal in Charente, southwest France, for €2.2m (£1.8m).

Image source, Julia Leach

Ms Leach, who previously worked in film and television production, plans to turn the castle into a studio facility for filmmakers. And she naturally has also set up a YouTube channel - Lady of the Chateau Productions - which already has 13,000 subscribers.

Back at Chateau de Lalande, Ms Jarvis says she can spend 40-60 hours a week filming and editing videos. "There's nothing else I'd rather be doing," she says. "I feel more tied to the chateau, but in a really positive way."

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The people using YouTube to pay for their French chateau (2024)


How much did they pay for château de Lalacelle? ›

The 21-acre dream property was purchased for 300,000 Euros and had been abandoned for 40 years when they bought it 18 months before our visit. When we arrived, most of the structural repairs had been completed to the chateau and the cottage, and cosmetic work was beginning.

Does Stephanie still own the Chateau? ›

She bought the chateau with her university friend Nic in 2005, buying the huge property for the price of two small London flats. The chateau is now also jointly owned with her friend Michael as well.

Who is the owner of the female château? ›

Corinne Mentzelopoulos-Petit (born 6 July 1953) is a French-Greek businesswoman who owns and runs the prestigious Bordeaux wine estate, Château Margaux. Her wines have often won Bordeaux's Wine of the Vintage. She has been cited as one of the leading women in the wine industry.

How did the Strawbridges afford to renovate the chateau? ›

After spending the savings they had accrued on initial essentials when they moved in, they immediately started offering the chateau as a wedding venue, and designated the income from each individual booking to a specific project - and never dipping into it for anything else.

Why were so many French chateau abandoned? ›

The late 18th century brought seismic changes to France with the onset of the French Revolution. The ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity clashed with the aristocratic splendor embodied by many chateaux. The revolutionary fervor led to the abandonment, destruction, or repurposing of numerous estates.

Can you stay in chateau Lalande? ›

The Chateau De Lalande is a traditional hotel in elegant surroundings, 12 km from Périgueux. It offers an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi and large, peaceful grounds. Guest rooms at the Chateau De Lalande are air-conditioned.

Are Stephanie and Philip a couple? ›

' The couple married in March 1993 after meeting when Phillip worked in children's television and Steph was a BBC production assistant. They held their wedding in Scotland's Ackergill Tower in 1993 and celebrated their silver anniversary in 2018 - just two years before Phillip came out as gay.

Why are chateaus so cheap in France? ›

Why are so many castles in Europe for sale cheaper than some American mansions? Because many castles are very old, and in need of very expensive repairs, that will be supervised by heritiage bodies, so no shortcuts. They often have difficult access and other problems as well.

Who inherits the chateau? ›

For years, speculations have rumbled about which offspring would ultimately claim the chateau, but in 2022, James disclosed it would be his half-siblings Dorothy and Arthur who would inherit it.

Why was the chateau cancelled? ›

"It was two years ago that we decided to end the Escape to the Chateau series,” he said. "We made the decision because the kids are growing older, and all the parallel activity was not sustainable at this level.

Why did Karen and Paul sell their château? ›

Karen and Paul owned and commuted to the château for 16 years. The idea had always been to ultimately retire there. Sadly the pandemic has put an end to their dreams and now they have sold their property. But they don't regret a single day of their adventure.

What happened to Tony from Chateau de Lalacelle? ›

He's absolutely fine. There's nothing to worry about. He's just dealing with a couple of family things at the moment so that's why he's not been in the videos and things like that. So please don't worry.

Why are château owners selling up? ›

Because there are thousands of châteaux in France. Châteaux are cheap to buy, but living in a château isn't always so comfortable, and maintaining the building is costly.

How much is the chateau worth in escape to the chateau? ›

. The chateau has since been valued at £2million but the couple also cash in through TV rights from Channel 4 for the series and its day-time spin off. Channel 4 made nine series of Escape To The Chateau and the popular show got almost 3 million viewers every Sunday night - making it one of the channel's biggest hits.

How much did the pethericks pay for their chateau? ›

Becoming chateau owners

Billy Petherick from Greenwich in London was just 27 and his fiancé Gwendoline from Cherbourg, Normandy was 24 when they bought the Chateau de la Baismagnée. In the heart of the rural department of Mayenne in Pays de La Loire, it cost them €1,050,000 in 2016.

How much was Château de la Motte-Husson sold for? ›

In 2015, the estate was sold by the Baglion de la Dufferie family to British television presenter Dick Strawbridge and his partner Angela for £280,000.

Who are the owners of chateau Lalacelle? ›

Who are Chateau De Lalacelle owners (Escape To The Dream Family)? Terry Short, Ash Waters, Tracy Briggs, Tony Briggs, (and Jonathan) are the family that purchased and moved to Chateau De Lalacelle in summer 2020 from Middlesbrough, England. Meet Terry Short and Ash Waters here.

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