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Style Seminar 03: making the most of your holiday let

How to holiday let

In February 2016, Classic Cottages held the first of their Style Seminars at Nancarrow Farm in Truro, Cornwall.

Along with two talks on soft furnishings and upcycling furniture in holiday lets, Property Manager Suzanne gave a round up on making the most of your holiday let, from rules and regulations to what to put on a welcome tray.



Other videos in this series:

Style Seminar: soft furnishings in furnished holiday lets

Style Seminar: upcycling furnished holiday lets



How your property looks is the key, because often it’s online, people are looking on lots of websites, and whether your property jumps out on that website. You’ve got those few moments to capture them; they want to either book or look a bit further, look at a few more pages. So it’s very important that you have a look and see how – I think the idea of taking some pictures of your let yourself if you’re not quite sure and seeing how it presents – you know, having it up on your laptop and have a look how you see it. But that’s the opportunity you’ve got against other competition, for people to actually find you and choose your let. So, look how it presents is one thing.
There are some other housekeeping points with regards to health and safety. Things like carbon monoxide detectors if you’ve got a wood-burner, if you’ve got a boiler that’s within a property or a certain amount of smoke detectors depending on the size of your property. Fireguards if you’re having children in the properties, fire risk assessments, all sorts of things that we can help you with or you can find out about online. But very important things to make sure your property not only looks beautiful but is safe and ready to receive your first guests.
You have to have holiday cottage insurance, I’m sure you’re all aware of that. There’s lots of checks you need to do just to make sure that when your first guests arrive; they’ve picked your property on the website, that’s the one they want, they’re driving up or down from wherever they live, and that that property is ready for them, and it’s safe and clean and as presentable as it can be.
So hopefully some ideas that we’ve given you today, something else we’ve got, we’ve just brought a couple of ideas of welcome trays over on the corner which we’ve presented. How your property looks when your guest first arrives – because you can create lovely, glossy images online – but also when they first arrive and they come in you want them to walk in and go “wow”, and if they think it looks even better than the pictures that’s not a bad thing. So, if they’re arriving late light the wood burner, put a few lights on and make sure the heating’s on.
A nice tray on the table that’s got maybe some flowers – you know, a bunch of daffodils for a pound, two for a pound probably if you buy them from the side of the road. Don’t have to put a bottle of wine, but something Cornish perhaps if you’re in Cornwall or from Devon if you’re located further up in another county. But something Cornish, cream tea, saffron buns, homemade cakes if you like to bake and you’ve got the time. “Time? What’s that?” someone is thinking.
It’s that personal touch that’s giving something that’s that lovely welcome when they arrive. Tea, coffee, milk, the basics; if it can be Cornish tea, lovely, but it doesn’t have to be. You might have a coffee machine in there or you might just give them a little kilner jar enough for them to have their first tea or coffee when they arrive. But something on a tray with a little welcome when they arrive goes a long, long way.
If you’re a dog-friendly property, I’ve got a couple ideas of things you can put in a basket. Why not show the dog they are welcome? Yes, you’ve accepted the dog, you may well be getting an extra – I know we charge an extra £25 per dog per week to go towards if there is any additional cleaning. I have to say, in my experience and I think Debs would probably say the same – we have very few issues with dogs. In fact, some owners say they’d rather have dogs than children in their properties. Most dog owners are very responsible; they’ll come away with a cage or a bed, they’ll come away with an old towel and everything else if the dogs been on the beach. But just in case, why not have a little basket there? It’s got a throw on it so in case – yes, they’re not allowed on the furniture – but we all know for dog lovers or owners, sometimes the dog is used to sitting next to their master on the chair, so why not provide them with a throw so at least they can sit next to them or sit on the floor.
A couple of poo bags; you can buy a roll of poo bags for under a pound. Tear a couple off, stick those in a basket. A little treat; I bought a bag of four treats in Sainsburys yesterday, (other supermarkets are available!), and I think it was four for a pound, so 25p each. So there you go, they arrive and there are those things waiting for them and perhaps a little card. We mocked up something like this which is the dos and don’ts, and do have a look if you’ve got a moment. It’s like: please remember you’re not allowed on the furniture, please remember you’re not allowed in the bedrooms, please ask your owners to clear up after you. And, putting things in like where the dog-friendly beaches are in your area, some nice walks people can go for.
So make sure your cottage information is there, that gives them lots of great information on things to do locally. It’s all about saying, you know, we’re glad you’re here and this is all the stuff you can do while you’re here. And, whether it’s a visit, a phone call from you or your housekeeper, a little personalised welcome note on the welcome tray if you can’t be there to see them – all those little things will make those extra touches and make the guests feel welcome.
There are things like making sure your furniture meets the fire regulations, all the basic stuff. Is the equipment you’ve got in the property fit for purpose? We as a company have a certain itinerary, or inventory should I say, that we ask all of our cottage owners to make sure they’ve got all of those items. Many will have additional things, above and beyond. It’s the stuff you’ve got in your kitchen cupboards at home, all those useful gadgets like garlic presses and things like that.
Cleanliness is the other so important thing and it’s one thing I always think if Tanya, from our customer services department, was here it would probably be top of her list of people’s complaints. If the weather is bad, okay they can live with that. If something breaks down in your property and somebody’s looking after it and getting it sorted out, the guests are happy. But if they turn up to a property and it’s not ready and it’s not presented well, that’s when problems can arise. So, I’m sure you’re all meticulous with your cleaning, but it’s one of those things whether you’re doing it yourself or getting a housekeeper or cleaner in to do it for you, it’s very important that things are pulled out and everything is spotlessly clean before your first guests to arrive.
Just checking there was anything else: PAT testing electrical appliances; descriptions, back to that marketing thing. You could have the most amazing property but it’s so important to make sure those photographs represent that and the description, because that’s what your leading your guests in with and hoping they’re going to book from. You could create a lovely website but obviously people have got to find you as well, so it’s important that you’re doing it yourself or the agency you’re working with that they’re going to be found if someone is googling cottages in your area that you’re going to pop up. But just optimising everything and whether it’s on your own, whether you need help, whether you need advice from us or somebody else, it’s just making sure you’re showing your property in its best light and that those people are going to click, book, and not only are they going to come this year, they’re going to come next year and maybe for many years to come.
In fact, I visited an owner recently who’d got a very clever idea and I don’t know if everyone would want to do this, but he’s decided to get his, if he’s got children staying in his property, he’s decided to see if they’d like to plant a tree in the garden when they’re there. And, it’s very clever actually, because you can imagine a six year old, seven year old child comes on holiday, they’ve got to plant a tree in the garden, it’s like well, they’re going to want to come back and see how big their tree is. So he could have that guest now for the next ten, fifteen years perhaps and then maybe a few years along when they go off and get married, university or whatever, and then they’ll be bringing their children back.
So it’s just being welcoming. If you’re child-friendly, think about games, think about safety aspects like stairgates, maybe you want to supply a cot and a high chair because they’re the two big items that people don’t want to be carting all the way down the A30 or wherever they’re coming down, the M5. If you’re dog-friendly think about maybe offering a basket or something, look at things like your flooring, make sure you haven’t got, you know, your grandma’s best china sat on a little bookcase that might get knocked over.
Remove any – that’s another thing we advise people – remove anything that’s particularly personal or valuable before you let guests arrive. Generally they’re very careful, generally they’re not about to put it in their bag and take it home with them but accidents do happen, things can get broken. So just, don’t lose the personal touch – make sure there’s a bit of you in your property, but just take out anything that you would be very sorry if it got broken or lost.

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