Any questions: Lettings

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Any questions: Lettings

I have a gîte in Brittany that I would like to rent out but am unsure of a few things when it comes to asking for payment. How much should I ask for as a deposit, when should I ask for it and when should the remaining balance be paid (I'm guessing before the guests arrive, but how long before)? Also, should I take a refundable deposit to cover breakages or damage and typically under what circumstances could I justify keeping some of that deposit?

I would advise asking for a deposit to secure a booking at the point the guest confirms their booking, and at the same time ask them to complete a booking contract. The booking deposit invariably covers 25 per cent of the total fee for the period booked. You may wish to stipulate the period within which the deposit and contract should be returned - within seven days is reasonable, but if you are experiencing high levels of demand you may wish to reduce this to three to five days.

Payment of the remaining balance varies between four and eight weeks ahead of the booking. That should give you time to re-advertise the period in the event of a cancellation. Whichever period you choose, just make sure that your booking contract tallies with your refund policy. Your refund policy should cover both the initial deposit and the final instalment. A security deposit is definitely something to consider. The exact sum will obviously depend upon the individual property and what you have in it. It is rare to pay less than £100 but you may want to consider a figure of around ten per cent of the rental fee. Be clear at the outset that this is a refundable deposit subject to the property being left in the condition it was rented in and that any repairs, breakages additional cleaning and major replacements will be deducted from the security deposit. It is fine to request this at the time of the final instalment.

I am about to start renting out my three-bedroom villa in Murcia, Spain. How valuable do you think welcome packs are? Do you think they are worth the money and what would you recommend including in one?

Hopefully, you'll find that one of the key elements of running a successful holiday let and attracting repeat custom is the little touches that prove unique and memorable to your accommodation offering. A welcome pack is just one of those touches.

I would approach your welcome pack from three perspectives: something to warmly welcome your guests, something to assist them with the rest of the stay and something to leave a lasting memory. Some examples I've seen include: freshly baked bread or cakes, a jar of homemade jam, a welcome note from the owner pointing me to a fridge stocked with water, local wine, milk and fresh coffee. Also, one Christmas we rented a home with some friends, their children and our dog and were greeted with a small wrapped gift for each of us under the tree, including treats for the dog!

Helping guests as much as possible with useful information about the property and the local area will also help ease them into their holiday quicker. An organised folder or notebook that lists emergency contact details, should guests need to reach you, your local representative or, for example, a local doctor during their stay, is a good start.

Follow that with your top tips for things to do nearby, including attractions, best budget/upmarket restaurants, taxi companies, bus timetables, best activities for kids and also any places where you have negotiated a discount for your guests - this could be a discount off ski equipment hire or a free coffee over breakfast at the nearby café. If your home is within a complex, a pictorial guide for getting around is also a nice idea.

You may also want to include a page or folder for guest recommendations so that your guests can see what previous guests have rated and then leave their own experiences and recommendations.


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