The pros and cons of holiday home ownership

Perhaps an unexpected windfall or a legacy means that for the first time you can seriously consider purchasing that dream cottage in the country or a delightful apartment with views of the sea. As with any other major item of expenditure careful research can go a long way to minimise the pitfalls. The first major consideration is to decide whether your new home is to be purely for use by you and the family and friends or whether to holiday let it for part or most of the year to make a contribution to the running costs. This article is aimed at the owner who intends to holiday let but has yet to decide whether to handle all aspects of marketing and maintaining the property themselves or alternatively to utilise the services of a specialist agency.

How to research your purchase
With the advent of the internet it is now a fairly straightforward matter to find out which properties are letting well in a particular area and which are not. A look at an agency’s website that covers your area of geographic interest will, if they have online booking enabled, show you the current level of bookings for each of their properties and it becomes thus an easy matter to determine the ones that seem to be letting best. It is important to establish how large a property (within your budget) you should aim to purchase. If you are considering a coastal location, likely to be favoured by guests for a major one or two week holiday then you can consider a wide range of property sizes from one to perhaps five or six bedrooms. However a location closer to a large centre of population will probably attract smaller groups, often for short breaks. For seaside holiday homes one, two or three bedrooms tend to attract higher occupancy levels across the year. Larger groups usually book at peak times when the schools are on holiday and so are more difficult to fill at other times..

What to buy
Whether or not you ultimately decide to employ an agent it is advisable to have a chat with one who is very active in the area of your choice. A quick search on Google for ‘Holiday Cottages in XXX’ will provide a list. Ask them to advise on what would be their ideal in a holiday home in the area from a letting viewpoint. They are likely to suggest some, amongst many, of the following:

  • go for a property that is photogenic – inside and out, pictures speak louder than words
  • go for quality – guests will appreciate it, look after it and probably return
  • buy with parking if you can – it can be a real problem in coastal resorts in the season
  • try and get a sitting out area, a garden, patio, - just somewhere to enjoy the sunshine without having to leave home
  • buy in this or that area and avoid xxx & xxx, as, for whatever reasons, these are the most popular spots with guests
  • try & get a view – especially if you’re buying on the coast

How to look after it
If you are purchasing nearby to home it may be possible for you to handle the changeover between guests yourselves. This will involve the cleaning, laundry, maintenance and key holding. For most owners this will not be practical so the choice is between finding somebody local or an agency. In the case of an agency they will probably also handle the business of getting bookings. A local person is a good way forward as you will get a personal service and may well end up becoming chums. The downside is coping with illness or their holidays and finding cover for these events – not always easy. The agency approach is normally the most reliable (though not necessarily the most personal) as they will have staff to cover every eventuality.

This is one area where the agency scores over doing it yourself Generally they will spend thousands of pounds a year on maintaining a high profile website, probably with online booking, press advertising and public relations. Simply to create a website yourself to be found on page 3000 in Google is not very effective and press advertising is hugely expensive. If though you work in a large organisation and can promote your property cheaply there it can be done but be aware, the huge increase in the amount of holiday homes available these days makes for stiff competition.

In summary then, take your time, seek advice from people who know and heed it. As agents work solely on commission their success is your success and that after all is what everyone wants.