With property prices in the UK becoming increasingly unaffordable, over recent years, more and more people having been looking to invest their money abroad and buying holiday homes to secure a steady rental income throughout the year. With 'The World Tourism Organization' (UNWTO) predicting Europe will remain the most popular tourist destination until 2020, buying a property to rent to tourists can be a very shrewd move. If you are thinking of doing just that, we have put together some information on renting your property and the different options available to you.
Of course, the most straightforward and stress free method is to hand over your keys to a local agent and let them do the leg work for you. They will be able to give you an accurate idea of the local rental market, manage payments, organise cleaning and maintenance and perhaps most crucially, advertise your property to their client base. Naturally, these agents will charge a commission for renting your property, which will eat in to your potential profit. The commission they will charge can actually vary enormously between different regions, type of property and even season-to-season.
With the temptation to cut out the middle-man and therefore the commission, do-it-yourself websites are becoming increasingly popular as a means to advertising your property. They can be an excellent and cost-effective way of managing your rentals and keeping a little extra control over bookings. A year's subscription (of around only £30) provides a whole web page of advertising, with colour photos, a space for a description and availability calendar. But if all that wasn't enough, many will also provide you with an email form for travellers to submit booking enquiries and an SMS text alert system, to immediately notify you when you receive an enquiry.
One of the main areas to be careful of with this type of rental management is there isn't anyone on the ground to ensure the property is cleaned, maintained or to meet the holiday-makers on arrival to collect keys etc. The best remedy for this will be to find a local company or individual who you trust to look after the property for you on the ground.
The other thing to bear in mind is that your property will be on a website with perhaps thousands of others so it really needs to stand out from the crowd.
Greg Grant, Managing Director of holiday-rentals.co.uk who has over 12 years experience of DIY rentals, recommends these 10 tips to ensure a successful rental:
- Cover yourself: Firstly ensure you are allowed to let your property on a short-term basis and that you understand applicable taxation laws, as you must declare income earned from holiday lets. You also need holiday rental liability insurance and ideally a booking contract to confirm details of the reservation, deposit/refund/cancellation policies and terms and conditions of tenancy.
- Furniture for rentals: Keep furnishings simple and avoid clutter; invest in a lockable cupboard to store away personal knick-knacks. Ensure the property meets health and safety requirements, and consider what practical items guests will expect. Luxury furnishings and unique features such as log fires and hot-tubs can give you an edge and enable you to charge slightly higher rates.
- Have a local representative: Ideally you should have someone to meet and greet your clients. You will also need a cleaner and someone on hand locally to deal with problems. One person can often fulfill all these roles. Ask fellow holiday home owners or your property agent for recommendations.
- Know your market: Know your target audience and research the price of comparable properties and alternative accommodation in the area. What type of tourists visit the area and what will they be looking for? Know your seasons and run offers to attract off-peak travellers.
- Advertise!: Having your own website to refer guests to is great, but there are millions of websites online so you've got to tell people this website exists before you are likely to see booking start rolling in. Magazines are one option, but reputable holiday rental websites are a cost-effective way to get exposure to millions of travellers and manage booking enquiries.
- Set the holiday scene: Great photos and descriptions really help potential renters see themselves enjoying their holiday in your property. Take time writing your copy and carefully prepare every shot. Make beds, set tables, and turn on fires, for example. Guests will want to see exterior shots, outside facilities and view, plus photos of every room. It really is worth considering getting a professional photographer to take your shots for you. It will be a one-off cost, but extremely worth doing.
- Provide a prompt, professional service: Set up auto-replies for booking enquiries containing further details of your property and travel options, and have a standard email prepared to send with your booking contract. If your calendar looks out of date, or your rates aren't clear, you will miss out on enquiries.
- Be flexible: Stick to week-long minimum stays in peak periods if you wish, but be flexible at other times to attract those taking short breaks and buying cheap flight deals.
- Provide comments from past guests: Positive testimonials from previous guests will help sell your property. Leave a guestbook at your property for feedback and to gather positive quotes. Look for holiday rental websites with reviews, as travellers prefer sites where they can read comments from past guests.
- Go the extra mile: Little extras can make all the difference so include a welcome pack of basics and local goodies, either included in the price or on request for a small extra charge, and provide a file with useful information on local attractions, activities and transport.