Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.
Are you in the holiday lettings business, with a self-catering cottage in the countryside that you’re renting out to holidaymakers in the UK? The income you receive from the cottage will directly affect the success of your business, so avoiding common mistakes will help ensure those bookings coming in is vital.
This is particularly important if the building is mortgaged and/or you have regular outgoings that need to be covered from your guests’ rental payments. What’s more, HMRC’s rules for furnished holiday lettings (FHLs) stipulate that the property must be let for at least 105 out of 210 available days per year in order to qualify for potentially valuable tax benefits.
So, what can you do to boost those all-important bookings and keep your occupancy rate nice and high? Let’s focus on three key areas that you need to master in order to attract maximum interest in your holiday cottage.
1. Professional photography
Your holiday home may be the most charming coastal retreat or beautiful country cottage with roses around the door, but if the photography lets you down, no-one will be able to appreciate the property’s true appeal.
We live in a media driven, highly visualised world where a picture says a thousand words and first impressions are everything. Put bluntly, if the marketing images of your holiday cottage don’t catch the eye of your potential guests, chances are that they will end up booking with a competitor who put more effort into the visual presentation of their property.
Unless you have a good command of photography yourself, it’s worth investing in a professional lifestyle photographer who will use all the tricks of the trade to really bring your cottage to life. Proper lighting, clever camera angles, high-quality lenses, great image composition… it all comes together to create visual magical moments that set the scene for a wonderful holiday. If you only have enough marketing budget, for one thing, this year, make it professional photography.
2. Immaculate presentation
As a professional landlord, no doubt you are fully aware of the importance of immaculate presentation, both inside and out, of your holiday accommodation. ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ should be your mantra – and if you’re struggling with the upkeep and maintenance, invest in a regular cleaner for every changeover and have a reliable handyman on standby.
Furniture and furnishings should be spotlessly clean, comfortable and functional – and a stylish design goes a long way too. When choosing interiors, think what you would expect to find in a good quality hotel and take your cue from there. Neutral tones and no clutter or personal knick-knacks are the best way to go.
Be warned that second-hand furniture is a risky option. Preloved antiques may add personality and charm while unloved cast-offs will tarnish your professional image. ‘Quirky’ features are another potential danger zone, particularly when it comes to kitchen facilities, bathroom and heating appliances. What you think may be cute and whimsical may not be seen that way by guests who expect modern convenience and comfort.
3. Serving your target market
One of the most important rules for any successful business venture is to clearly define who your customers are, then offer them a product that perfectly meets their needs. When it comes to a holiday cottage, you may be tempted to think that everyone will have the same taste or lifestyle as you, and present the property accordingly, but unless ‘people like you’ are the target market, this is unlikely to work.
Look at your property from your guests’ perspective and provide what they need. Romantic couples breaks, friend getaways, weekend jaunts with the dog, holidays for young families – each of these are distinct groups with their own particular needs and wants. For instance, if you’re catering for families with toddlers, make sure a cot, high chair and stairgate are supplied and the entire property is designed with child safety and accident prevention in mind. For dog-friendly cottages, a secure garden, doggie bowls and perhaps some dog treats will go a long way to make four-legged guests feel welcome.
Ensure that your website, directory listing and other marketing material clearly communicates all those unique perks that your cottage has to offer your target market, and don’t just stop there. Distance to the nearest beach or local dog-friendly pub, suggestions for long country walks, nearby family entertainment, great restaurants, sightseeing and shopping opportunities will all help to paint the picture of a perfect holiday, and should ensure plenty of bookings.