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Can a home become your business?

18th May 2018

Insider advice from Mark Mugliston, Residential Sales Manager, in his monthly column in the Diss Express.

Many holiday let landlords fall into the trap of thinking it’s easy to set up a rental business, secure bookings and make a good income, but the reality is not quite so rosy. I had the opportunity recently of getting some really good tips from Abi and Kathleen from our holiday lettings HQ in Southwold.

While the barrier to entry might seem lower than other types of businesses, the world of holiday lets is hugely competitive and guests are literally spoilt for choice in all destinations.

For the best chance of success, you need to be savvy with your marketing, service and quality. There’s a lot more to it than a fresh coat of paint and a listing on a website.  This is where a really good agent can pay handsome dividends. Mistakes can cost money, waste time and cause stress.   Advice from an agent will help you avoid them moving forward.

Many owners simply advertise on one big listing site. While this might bring in a couple of bookings, you could soon lose out to the competing holiday rental that has a thorough marketing strategy in place. For example, you might want to consider an agent that has a high street presence and benefit from being local to your property.

Many owners think the cheaper they are, the more bookings they will get. This might be true in some cases, but can you cover your costs?  Are you going to really attract the kind of guests you want in your property? Will people wonder what’s wrong with it if it’s so cheap? Price for profit – not occupancy. For example, a high quality, more expensive rental will be easier to manage in the long run, even if it may mean a higher investment to begin with. However, if you choose to set your prices higher than those for similar properties, justify this by listing the extras guests can expect to find in your holiday home.

If you don’t reply to enquiries promptly you could lose out to the owner who replied first. Guests who are ready to book a holiday often don’t have the patience to hang around waiting for an owner to get back to them. This is where having an agent really scores bonus points because they are available far more than a private landlord is generally. Obviously, if you are available to answer queries and take bookings at all hours of the day then the personal touch can be a great thing.

Taking rental bookings without the correct T&Cs in place is a big mistake, as it leaves you exposed to complaints and possible financial damage when things go wrong. For your peace of mind, create simple contract, but make sure it includes all the basics (e.g. dates, payment, security deposit, arrival times, occupancy limits, pet policy, cancellation terms etc.) Don’t forget to be clear on insurance – state exactly what your insurance includes so guests are aware of any extra travel cover they may need for their valuables.

Regular inspections are essential and must have an eye for detail. If guests have been visualising sitting on your balcony with their favorite ‘tipple’ for several months, an absent bottle opener can ruin it. Regular inspections identify problems so you can nip them in the bud before they spiral out of control.

Owning a holiday rental or letting out your own cottage can be a great business and loads of fun, but like any business there are trials and tribulations to overcome along the way.