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The most common mistakes made by holiday home owners new to the letting market

Online travel agents like Airbnb created a gateway for letting holiday homes easily, and changing the property market forever. However, while creating a listing might be comparatively simple, setting up your property and getting those marketing details right can be the difference between short-term success and long-term headaches. For example, here are some of the most common mistakes made by holiday home owners new to the letting market. 

The view from Curlew at Bigbury-on-Sea

Not paying attention to details 

While the overall impression may well be what attracts someone to a property, it’s the sum of so many detailed parts. That means everything from touching up the scuff marks where the last visitor hit the skirting boards with their suitcase, to making sure the property is kitted out with all the things that make a stay easy and trouble free.  

It takes time, energy and usually some money to get a property ready, whether it’s for personal use or for guests. However, really thinking about how the house is experienced and what people want on holiday, is definitely worth considering, and that consideration costs nothing but time.  

We live in a luxury world where guests expect a hotel experience from the properties that they visit. So if there are beds for six, make sure there are six chairs around the kitchen table, the garden table and in the living room. However, also consider adding things like toiletries in the bathroom or putting a hamper or flowers in a vase in the living room to greet people. 

Not investing enough in your listing 

We have spoken in the past about the presentation of your listing. It’s all very well having a beautiful property but before people arrive and see it, you need to try and communicate all the things that make it special. While we may all think we’re photographers because we have an iPhone, or copywriters because we have social media, we’re not.  

If you do have the skills to do the photos and write the information yourself, remember to not only make it look and sound nice, but consider what you’re communicating and why. It’s something we have advised on before and you can read more about. However, while many property owners are a lot more business savvy about doing things properly, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to save in the wrong areas.  

While you don’t need to go overboard and spend fortunes, investing in setting up your listing professionally is far more likely to generate interest and drive bookings in the long run. 

Over or underselling the property  

Leading on from that, while we all want to paint our properties in the best light possible, over or underselling it as something that it’s not won’t win you any brownie points.  

The key is in highlighting what its merits are but not pretending that it’s something it isn’t. While underselling a property may mean that you don’t get the level of bookings you would expect, overselling can lead to poor reviews, disappointment and refund requests - all of which are administratively exhausting, upsetting and time consuming as well as potentially costly.  

You love your holiday home for a reason, so highlight the things that you know are great about it and make it clear what it is. If it’s a five-star contemporary penthouse for five - fantastic. However, if it’s an unpretentious cottage for two - that’s just as wonderful, they’re just different experiences for different people. Perhaps the location of the property is it’s major selling point, making it perfect for exploring the area, or maybe it has ample parking - a limited commodity in the South Hams! 

Not having a maintenance plan for wear and tear 

Day one, your property is set up and looking wonderful. The walls are painted, the carpet is new and the cupboards are stocked with shiny new sets of crockery, cutlery and glassware. If you own your own home you will know that when it comes to looking after a house, the set up is just one part of keeping it looking smart.  

Holiday homes undergo more wear and tear than the average residence. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be damaged, it’s just that with different people moving in and out, walls get scuffed, glasses get broken and things happen. Have a maintenance plan for wear and tear, such as annual painting (one client even touches up scuff marks after each guest leaves). Ensure patios are pressure washed each year, plant out gardens and hanging baskets in the spring and replace household items such as linen and towels as required. It’s all part of keeping a holiday home well cared for and appealing, but it does need to be budgeted for in your letting calculations. 

Not replying quickly enough to guest enquiries 

Self-managed letting platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo really broke the mould when it came to letting a holiday home. All of a sudden people could let properties on a professional site without the need for an expensive marketing agent.  

There’s a catch however - at least there is if you’re generating interest - these things take up time. Guests often have questions before and after they book, whether it relates to the best restaurants to visit, the facilities in the property or local family activities. While it might be your home that’s being let, guests do expect a level of professionalism, and that means answering questions in a timely and helpful manner.  

That not only means having the time to do that, but also having enough local knowledge to be able to answer properly. You may have one or both of those things. Either way, it’s important because if you don’t respond, another property owner will, and then you risk losing not only that one booking but you also lose the chance to turn them into repeat visitors. It can also make a big difference to those all important reviews, which you don’t want to miss out because they can snowball into Super Host and Premier Host status, which lead to higher rankings and more bookings. 

Getting the pricing wrong 

We wrote last week about how to price your property for holiday letting, and at the moment it can seem like an excellent time to take advantage of the boom in UK staycations with inflated pricing. While there may or may not be an element of truth in that, pricing should always be based on a combination of factors including the property itself, the location, seasonality, market fluctuations in general and comparable nearby properties.  

In the South West holidaymakers are generally willing to pay a premium to visit this popular and beautiful part of the world. However, they are also savvy and discerning travellers. While pricing too low can cause problems, pricing too high may well mean that people simply don’t book with you, or that they are more inclined to complain if the property doesn’t meet expectations. That in turn, can impact your reviews, long-term revenue and the likelihood of repeat bookings. 

Not buying with long-term practicalities in mind  

Setting up your property and your listing really does lay the foundations for looking after it long-term. For example, if you have wooden surfaces around your bathroom sinks, would it benefit from having a protective top put on it to prevent damage from splashing water? You might choose a carpet that feels luxurious but is a practical loop style, making it easier to clean than the popular twist style that can become easily tangled in vacuum cleaners. Choose glasses and crockery from places where you can easily replace the odd one or two when they get broken, and paint walls in a colour that can be easily touched up.

If you would like support in setting up your home to make the most of the South Devon and East Cornwall holiday letting market, contact HolidayHost any time.