Preparing your holiday home

 

It may seem obvious, but the key to generating the most income possible from your holiday home is attracting guests. This can be achieved in a number of ways but there's no doubt that fabulous pictures and great reviews are going to be crucial to potential guests when they are searching through listings. To attract attention, your property needs to stand out, be memorable and the feedback from previous guests needs to be as positive as possible. Fortunately this can be achieved and the rewards can be fabulous! However, it takes work, time, effort and investment to do this well. We're hoping that the insights below will be helpful to you and they will help you to make a success of your own holiday home.  

 

The first thing to do is to ask yourself the question, if I were to arrive at a holiday home, what would I like to see?

 

We asked ourselves that question and one of the answers that we came up with was a fully stocked property. We felt that we could help guests to feel welcomed and able to settle into their property by providing everything they could need to be able to function in the space. First, this meant providing all of the household goods that they may need during their stay. We didn't want our guests to worry about going shopping for goods such as bin liners, food bags, dishwasher tablets, laundry powder, cleaning cloths, toilet rolls, kitchen rolls, and sponges. It seemed to us that for a little investment, we could make things much easier for our guests and they would appreciate our efforts. We decided that we would provide every non-perishable product that our guests might need. This approach has worked very well and it has helped us to attract positive reviews, recommendations and regular guests that come back to us year after year. The annual cost to us of supplying all of those products is covered by just one out-of-season booking of 1 week. We figure that the positive feedback has helped us to attract numerous bookings that we may otherwise have missed.

 

We also wanted to ensure that our guests could function in our home as well as they could in their own. For us a particular focus was on the kitchen. We enjoy cooking ourselves and we know that it can be frustrating trying to cook with limited or poor quality equipment. Having stayed in various holiday homes ourselves we've been disappointed to find a shortage of glasses, cups, plates and cutlery along with suitable pots and pans. We've felt frustrated at being unable to fill a dishwasher because to do so would mean that we wouldn't have enough plates and cutlery to have a meal. We didn't want that to be an experience for our guests. The kitchen needed to be at least as well-equipped as our own kitchen at home.

 

For our guests to be happy in our holiday home it was also clear that they should feel comfortable. Very often owners try to save funds when preparing their properties by providing poor quality sofas, mattresses, pillows and bedding. In our opinion that approach was false economy. Not spending sufficiently on these items typically just means that they become unusable and need to be replaced sooner. Not only do the guests feel uncomfortable during their stay, but in the end the owners soon need to invest again to replace everything. It seemed to us to be a far better idea to provide good quality equipment that would last and help our guests enjoy their stay.

 

Perhaps the most concerned guests that might stay in a holiday home are parents with babies or very young children. For us it was a priority to make things as easy and manageable as possible for those parents. We figured that happy children would make happy parents so we provided everything we could think of that parents, babies and young children might need. These included plastic beakers, cutlery, bowls, bibs, baby baths, cots, high chairs, stair gates, food blenders and toys.  

 

The key priority for all people that choose to rent their properties to others has to be safety equipment. Again this is an area where an owner can give a clear signal to their guests that they have their interests and well-being at heart. Legislation varies from country to country so there will always be minimum standards that need to be met. However there is nothing preventing owners from going above and beyond the minimum standards and making their property a safe environment for their guests. In order to make our properties safe, as standard we supply smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers, fire blankets and very well-stocked first aid kits.     

          

When searching through listings, potential guests will often see a lot of properties that look very similar. This is sometimes because owners buy furniture packs through their builders when buying a new property. Sometimes owners like the convenience of buying the majority of their furnishings and fixtures from large well-known furniture shops. The products are instantly recognisable to guests and they see the same furnishings used in numerous properties that they are considering. The problem with this approach is that the properties become less memorable. In order to attract guests it's important to have a property that stands out and looks good. Through presentation of their property, owners are sending a message to their potential guests indicating how much pride and care they take over their holiday home. Just by looking at the pictures, guests will instantly recognise if an owner is cutting corners and providing low cost furnishings. Examples where this can be particularly noticeable include outdoor furniture - does it look good and solid or is it cheap plastic furniture available in supermarkets?

 

In order to catch the eye of potential guests (and to make our properties pleasant places to be) we include original artwork and decorative vases. The artwork may seem expensive when buying, however it will still be there in 20 years' time looking great and helping guests feel at home and happy in our properties. It's important to have a long-term perspective when equipping your holiday home.

 

Again, with a view to making guests feel welcomed in our properties, we provide some basic food, coffee and tea. Often owners can arrange for welcome packs to be given to guests through their management companies. These packs will typically include some bread, cheese, ham, milk, biscuits, butter and jam. We feel that they are a really good way to make your guests feel valued. That said, we have taken a slightly different approach ourselves and we provide pasta and jars of tomato sauce.  We've done this as the products last for a very long time so our property managers don't need to go out shopping before every new guest arrives. If our guests arrive late at night and hungry they can help themselves to some pasta and sauce to keep them going. A bottle of wine can also go a long way towards making your guests feel welcomed.

 

When preparing a holiday home it's important to think 'robust'. The vast majority of your guests will take excellent care of your property however from time to time people can be heavy handed and mistakes can happen. Although you may take a damages deposit from guests, it can often be difficult using those funds. Guests may not realise that they caused any damage and they may resent having their damages deposit withheld. This resentment can then be reflected in poor reviews that go on to harm the income and success of a holiday home. We find that it's best to avoid situations where damage can easily happen to a property and if you have prepared your property well, the furnishings and equipment will stay functional and looking good for many years. Think carefully about the materials that you use in the property and the colours of the bedding, towels and any rugs.

 

So here are some tips to help you ensure that your holiday home is robust and practical:

  • Include a sofa bed in the lounge, this will help you sleep more guests and enable more bookings. Try to use leather or false leather for your sofa bed and any other seating as it will wipe clean.
  • Consider having reasonably dark bedding and towels (brown, grey, black can work). With darker colours stains don't tend to show so you get more life out of them. Designs on bedding and towels can also help with this.
  • Buy mattress protectors for the beds and pillow protectors - this is really important because any stains are suspicious to guests and unpleasant to see. Ensure that you have spare protectors too so that sets can be washed and replaced.
  • Buy coffee tables and dining tables with glass surfaces. Glass doesn't stain; it may get scratched but it's unlikely to look bad. A chip-board table will tend to chip and a wooden table might stain or scratch.
  • Provide plenty of coasters and place mats, these will help protect surfaces. You could also provide wipeable tablecloths (though sometimes they don't look so good).
  • Buy rust-proof outdoor furniture - not wood again. Wood needs annual staining to keep it weatherproof so it gives additional work. Aluminium furniture is good as it stays looking good and it doesn't rust.
  • Provide good quality kitchen pans and cutlery. If you have a dishwasher then everything should be dishwasher safe. We recommend stainless steel pans as they will last for years. Non-stick surfaces can soon become damaged and look bad. 
  • Provide good mats inside and outside the doors for dirty feet - particularly if you have carpets.
  • Provide a cupboard full of free cleaning products and materials. Normally the best way to avoid stains on soft furnishings is for people to be really fast when cleaning any spillages. By providing the products and the materials necessary, you can enable your guests to be quick to solve any problems and avoid permanent damage.
  • At least once per year try to clean scuff marks off the walls. We normally do this using just water and non-stick washing-up sponges. This process is really effective for keeping a property looking good and it helps avoid repainting.  Keep spare pots of paint in the cupboard for touching up stubborn scuff marks.
  • Hang paintings high enough not to be knocked into easily.
  • If you do want to use rugs then choose ones that are able to disguise small stains. Dark colours or designs with lots of colours work well.
  • Try to find ornaments, vases etc. that look nice but aren't expensive to replace if they get broken.
  • Don't leave candles for guests to use.

We hope that these tips help you to have a holiday home that you will be proud of and your guests will love to visit for many years to come.