Grapevine Stories

Top tips to successfully letting your valued holiday home

If any of you are lucky enough to have a second home in the UK or abroad, we thought it might be useful to put together a checklist of do's and don't's to enable you to maximise your bookings in the future. Or indeed if you haven't yet rented your home out, how best to make this a successful, profitable earner.

Features which may increase your booking value and widen your potential guest audience.                                               

Making your property a pet-friendly place can increase the popularity hugely; according to the RSPCA there are 8.5m dogs in the UK and ONE THIRD of Brits choose to take their pets on hols with them - that's a large market not to be missed. Log burners, WiFi and hot tubs can also widen the appeal; have a look at similar holiday lets in the area so you know what they have and what your competition is - this should also help you give your property ‘the edge’ above everyone else's.

The devil’s in the detail….  

Small touches can make a big difference - here are a few ideas:

Fresh flowers for when guests arrive

Turning the heating on in the colder months before they arrive 

Filling the log basket 

Fresh milk and bread and a constant supply of tea and coffee – no one likes arriving and being unable to have a decent cup of tea after all!

3) The boring (but essential) bits - holiday home insurance, tax and health and safety

Obtaining the appropriate insurance policies for your holiday let will protect you from any unfortunate mishaps that may occur; this could be as small as a guest accidentally breaking something in your property, to serious damage caused by a fire or flood. There’s a variety of insurances for you to choose from, including buildings insurance and Public Liability Insurance; getting the right one is important.                      

Holiday homes are exempt from the new buy-to-let tax treatment, so you can still obtain higher and top-rate tax relief on mortgage interest repayments, and the returns from holiday letting can be impressive: between £12,000 and £15,000 a year for the average two-bedroomed cottage in the UK.      

Health and safety - there's no getting away from it these days sadly so in order to insure yourself (and your guests!) from any nasty mishaps, you need to make sure that your properties are fully compliant with current regulations. Basics include: PAT testing of all electrical appliances, Gas Safety Certificates which should be annually renewed (Check the credentials of any engineers that you use and make sure they are fully accredited with the relevant bodies) and having Carbon Monoxide monitors fitted.

Flexibility with bookings

As the demand for short breaks increases, the importance of being flexible with your property bookings rises too. If guests are only allowed to book for longer periods it means you are automatically taking yourself out of a huge market. Last-minute booking availability should also be strongly considered as a lot of business is gained through this channel.

Feedback…however painful it is to hear!

No one likes criticism but in order to improve and grow your business you must learn to be proactive when given negative feedback. Taking the bad news on the chin may be hard but acting upon it will only ensure that future guests will have a better experience and therefore in turn, will generate more positive feedback and generate more business for the future.

A simple but decent website is a must!

Unfortunately, in this day and age, unless you have a website, you simply don’t seem to exist! It’s really important to have a small but informative and easy-to-use website and specifically, it needs to have a high-quality photographs for potential guests to look at. It sounds silly but basic information such as the amount it sleeps, number of rooms, address, postcode, map, house details and preferably a floor plan and all the equipment in the property should also be on there. Other information should include local amenity information; good pubs/restaurants and ‘things to do’. Remember you are selling it to them from your website so make sure you really talk the place up! In addition to this it is also wise to consider how and where you advertise your property – there are a lot of options out there and some are more costly and less efficient than others so make sure you explore your options carefully.

An inviting and informative ‘Welcome pack’ is vital!

It’s so important for guests to have a ‘welcoming’ but informative pack when they arrive (not a dictatorial list of points telling them off before they’ve even put their bags down!) which can nicely outline the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of the place but also give them local information (as above on your website) for example maps, footpaths for good walks, beaches, picnic spots, ‘Things to do on rainy days’ (after all, we are in Britain..!) – as well as vital information and contacts such as the local hospital/doctors, taxi drivers, etc. Most people won’t know the area well so they will need this for guidance – and to get the most enjoyment out of their stay!

Decorating and furnishing your holiday home – the important bits…

Try not to get overwhelmed with kitting out your holiday home and equally, don’t go OTT with it! You want to create character and comfort but also make it practical with a welcoming atmosphere. Try not to get swept away in a sea of décor and remember that it is not meant to be personal to you – we don’t mean ‘magnolia’ but to suit all needs and guest types! Bear this in mind when choosing paint colours, prints, patterns and accessories. Ideally you want it to have all the practicalities without the clutter; on this note; good storage space is important so guests don’t need to live out of their suitcases and a space/utility/boot room is also a good idea if you have the space. Often with beach hols you return wet, cold and covered in sand with fishing/surfing/beach kit and need a ‘wash down’ area and place to put wellies and dry things out – if it’s raining outside (likely!) there has to be a place to do this – no one likes putting wet kit back on!

In addition to furnishing and decoration, the following points are vital and most definitely worth investing in:

An efficient boiler which will provide ample hot water for guests

A comfortable sofa

Decent beds and mattresses (no one wants to go away and wake up crippled and pooped!)

A well-equipped and functioning kitchen (I stayed somewhere that had one saucepan and NO bottle opener – HELL’S BELLS!)

Professional cleaners or a decent local, trustworthy housekeeper

The last thing you need is to be worrying about the level of cleanliness and care that your property is in – or indeed, how it will be found by the next guests. It is worth spending the money and time to find a proper professional cleaning company or a diligent, conscientious person to look after your property. You need to know that you are ‘singing off the same hymn page’ as it were and that they understand your level of standards and that they are flexible enough to deal with potentially last-minute bookings without it being a problem. This is easier said than done but not impossible…hopefully.

Last but not least……

Go and stay yourself at least once a year! You will only know what other guests will be experiencing and/or notice anything that needs improving if you go there yourself. You will be able to see if the place is looking a little tired or if bits and pieces need updating; on this note, it is advisable to invest yearly in your property in terms of updating and replacing certain aspects and things. As in any home, things do get broken, tired and outdated but if you keep on top of it, it is worth doing and just view it as an investment which will create returns in the long run.

We hope you find this useful – we are open to comments and ideas so if you have any more tips for renting out your holiday homes then please let us know.  

Happy holiday letting from the Grapevine team!

Grapevine is a trusted network of private members, linking kindred spirits from town or country. Members promote, sell or buy goods and services within the network.

Grapevine also believes in supporting young people to get a strong start through internships and work placements. We also help a number of charities including Heads Together and The Injured Jockeys Fund.