How To Setup a Holiday Home Business

Laptop on a desk

1. Introduction

Welcome to your comprehensive guide to owning and successfully renting out a holiday home. If you've ever dreamt of owning a holiday haven that generates income, you're in the right place. Whether you're a seasoned investor looking to diversify your portfolio or someone with a passion for hospitality, this guide will walk you through the essential steps and considerations when turning a property into a lucrative self-catering holiday rental.

From choosing the perfect location and property to navigating legal and financial aspects, or curating a memorable guest experience - we've got you covered. Uncover insights on how to market your holiday home effectively, manage bookings seamlessly, and make sure your guests leave with cherished memories that mean glowing reviews.

Join us as we delve into the world of owning a holiday home that not only becomes your sanctuary but also an investment that pays dividends.

2. Buying A Property With a View to Running Self-Catering Accommodation

If you’re looking to buy a property with a view to running a self-catering holiday let, there’s lots to think about. From the types of properties to look for to what makes a hot spot, we’ve brought together all the things to consider when buying your ideal holiday home.

2.1. Type Of Market

When starting your journey, one of the first things to consider is the type of market you’re entering into.

One of the fundamental decisions lies between operating a traditional holiday let or a serviced accommodation set up, with the choice hinging on the location you’re looking into and the needs of the travellers you’re aiming to attract. For instance, if you're eyeing a picturesque countryside or seaside destination, a holiday let is probably the right choice, catering to people looking for a home-away-from-home experience. However, a holiday let in a built-up city area would be more suited to serviced accommodation, as they attract a different clientele, such as business travellers, conference attendees, or people needing temporary housing. Understanding your local market and identifying the right client base are vital steps in ensuring the success of your holiday let venture.

2.2. Location

One of the main things to consider when looking for a property is its location. Picture your holiday let, not just through the lens and atmosphere of its surroundings - whether that’s the whisper of seaside waves, the gentle caress of mountain mists, or the rhythmic hum of a city pulse - but also through its location and how that benefits you and your guests.

If you're planning to personally manage your holiday home, living close by is a must. This means quicker problem-solving and a personal touch that guests love. But if you’re considering remote management, the location you choose should generate robust rental income. This allows you to employ a local caretaker or agency so your guests experience a seamless service.

When looking into the surroundings, take time to think about your target market and what they’ll be looking for. While carefully chosen rural homes can offer breathtaking views and nature-packed adventures, almost every holiday home still truly thrives when nestled close to amenities and attractions. Think of it as offering guests a retreat without having to travel far to top up on essentials. With the right balance, your holiday haven will be the talk of the town (or countryside) in no time.

2.3. Type Of Property

When considering properties for holiday lets, it's good to be selective and evaluate the different types of properties available to make sure they fit with your vision and target market.

Traditional cottages in the countryside, city-centre apartments, coastal cabins, and historic townhouses all offer unique experiences for holidaymakers. The choice of property will impact the kind of guests you attract - families, couples, solo travellers, or business individuals. Consider the maintenance, appeal, location, and potential returns each property type offers. Also, consider any legal or regulatory restrictions related to particular property types, such as listed buildings or properties in conservation areas.

On a separate note, where possible, be careful when choosing a flat, unless you've thoroughly reviewed the lease. Issues from other owners, noise disturbances, and waste management concerns are factors that may be beyond your control. Such challenges can compromise the quality of your guests' stay, especially when they're relying on you to offer an unforgettable experience during their precious holiday time.

2.4. Size Of Property

When thinking about the size of the property, aim for the maximum number of bedrooms within your budget. While the house might not always be full, having the extra space can be invaluable for larger gatherings or groups working together. If, for instance, you own the only 5-bedroom house in the area, and a group requires exactly that, your property becomes the prime choice.

Inside the home, look for options where extra guests can sleep. For example, if your living area can accommodate it, consider investing in a corner sofa that not only offers ample lounging space but can also be converted into a temporary sleeping area. This small addition can significantly boost your booking potential, and the cost is often justified after just one stay. Spacious bedrooms are also an advantage, as they can easily adapt to include an extra mattress when needed. Your goal isn't to cram guests in but to comfortably house as many as the space allows and which maximises your options.

Always be clear about the maximum occupancy of your property on your website. While you may not want to hit this with every booking, it's beneficial to offer that flexibility, especially in situations where guests may need it. Plus, accommodating more people often translates to better value per person, making your property an attractive choice.

2.5. Property Facilities

When setting up your holiday let, it's important to think about the comforts and conveniences your guests might need.

One of the first things to consider is parking. If you're in a location where a car is the go-to mode of transport, making sure you’ve got adequate parking spaces is key. But remember, in bustling urban settings like London, it's normal for many people to get by without a car. In these locations, being close to public transport or offering information on local cab services can be a good alternative.

Aside from parking, think about Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, a well-equipped kitchen, and comfortable bedding. After all, the little touches often make the most significant difference in making sure your guests have a memorable and comfortable stay.

2.6. First Impressions

The curb appeal that enticed you to view a property, will also be the first impression that your potential visitors will have of your holiday let.

Whilst an outside photo isn’t maybe the first photo you’ll show people on your website, it should be one you make an effort with, so if you’re buying for the self-catering holiday market, you should look to choose a property that looks good from the outside. You also want your clients’ first impression on arriving to be great, so they start their holiday with a smile.

2.7. Actual Business Potential

It's essential to see your holiday let as a valuable business asset, and not just a cosy getaway. Consider the potential rental yield; how much can you realistically charge per night or week, and how often do you expect it to be occupied? Remember, a property that appeals to a broader range of holidaymakers has a much higher chance of being booked up for the season.

When choosing and setting up your holiday home, it’s also good to have an eye on the future. Think about the property's resale value down the road. Is it in a location that's likely to appreciate over time? Or perhaps you're planning improvements that could boost its market value.

By balancing the romantic appeal of running a holiday home with the pragmatic aspects of business potential, you'll be setting the stage for both memorable experiences and sound financial rewards.

2.8. Transport Network and Amenities

If your holiday rental is situated in a tourist destination, brimming with beautiful scenery and things to do, it might not matter too much if it's located miles away from the nearest motorway or major road, with only a scattering of amenities close by. You could be nestled in a remote area, without the traditional charm of a local pub or village shops which will fit the bill for your target market. Or if the surroundings are beautiful, with opportunities for hiking and cycling, and you’ll be marketing your property to people seeking solitude and a nature retreat, transport links and local amenities become less important.

On the other hand, if you’re aiming to attract the serviced accommodation market, the surroundings and accessibility become more important. Having good transport links could encourage repeat business from clients, which is great if your property can accommodate larger groups, such as teams of workers.

In catering to the serviced accommodation market, it's also crucial to have nearby eateries and ideally, a supermarket. The availability of cleaning and laundry could seal the deal for potential guests, especially for the services apartment market. These amenities meet your client's basic needs and add bags of convenience to their stay. As a result, the external appearance of your rental property matters less for this market, as long as the interior offers high comfort levels.

If you're targeting the temporary housing market, your property's proximity to good schools becomes highly beneficial. People often want their children to stay within the local area, so this could be a significant advantage. If you are aiming for this market, it’s good to let local estate agents know about your property's availability for short-term lets. They're likely to come across clients needing emergency accommodation or those relocating to the area, expanding your pool of potential guests.

2.9. Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Before buying a property for holiday rental purposes, it’s worthwhile speaking to the neighbours. While they might move away, keeping on good terms with your neighbours is a very good tactic and will give your guests a much better experience.

Antisocial neighbours can create issues that negatively affect your guests' experience, potentially leading to unfavourable reviews. Proactively identifying any potential problems can save you trouble down the line.

A detached property might seem ideal to avoid issues with the neighbours, but it might not provide the best return on your investment. It's important to remember that while you're reaping profits from the rental business, your property could also be appreciating in value. While property appreciation might not be your primary concern, considering the long-term implications is advisable, especially in terms of an exit strategy.

2.10. Local Area

While sourcing your perfect property, think about your guests and what they would look for in the local area. Would they love a cosy pub nearby to grab a hearty meal? How about handy access to a local store or supermarket for easy shopping? And, of course, those hidden gems or popular attractions in the area - perhaps a picturesque park or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Have you checked out what TripAdvisor recommends for top activities in your vicinity?

If you're still on the hunt for the perfect property, keep all these factors in mind. And if you've already settled, take a moment to rediscover your surroundings. Even if you've been in the area for ages, there might be new and exciting developments you've missed. Take a leisurely stroll and look at everything with fresh eyes. What stands out to you? Make sure to highlight what you find in your advertising and welcome booklet. And maybe even look for collaboration opportunities to offer exclusive deals with local businesses.

However, it's also important to be vigilant about potential drawbacks. A close-by pub might sound great, but if it's the noisy kind - especially those that clink and clatter with bottles late into the night - it could be a spoiler. Remember, peace and quiet is usually a highly sought-after holiday feature.

2.11. Finance, Tax and Legal Implications

It’s essential to pay attention to the nitty-gritty of buying a property– the finance, tax, and legal implications of your venture. By being proactive and informed, you'll set your holiday let on a solid foundation. Familiarise yourself with any potential business rates that may apply, as these can differ depending on your location and the size of your property.

It’s also a good idea to speak to a friendly local accountant to help guide you through tax implications, to make sure you're making the most of allowances and not missing out on any tax benefits. Lastly, always check that your property adheres to local regulations and legal requirements.

2.12. Rules, Regulations and Compliance

Before you open your doors to keen holidaymakers, it's crucial to familiarise yourself with the rules, regulations, and compliance aspects of the industry. Making sure your holiday let is up to code not only safeguards your guests but also gives you peace of mind.

Every locality has its own set of guidelines to ensure the safety and comfort of both guests and residents. It's also worthwhile getting acquainted with local and building planning regulations. These can dictate everything from the number of guests you can accommodate to any necessary alterations to your property.

At a national level, whether you pay business rates will depend on how many nights your property is available throughout the year. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will work out the rateable value of your property based on its type, size, location, quality and how much income you’re likely to make from letting it. Find more on the rules and rates here.

2.13. Stay There Yourself

One of the best ways to know if your chosen location is up to scratch is to stay there yourself. It’ll highlight what the area is really like and draw attention to the good things and the drawbacks.

If you’ve found your perfect property or already own one, it's still a good idea to stay in it yourself. Putting yourself in your guest's shoes will highlight anything that needs changing and help to avoid people leaving a bad review or worse, not telling you about something that could easily be changed.

2.14. Do You Employ A Manager?

According to a 2022 survey by the Holiday Homes Association, 37% of holiday homeowners in the UK use a management company to look after their property. This percentage has been steadily increasing in recent years, as more and more owners realise the benefits of letting their property to guests.

Managing holiday properties can be time intensive as the property will need to be cleaned and maintained between guests. Other duties include admin, bookings and being available to answer questions or being on hand to meet and greet and offer advice on local activities.

If you have other time commitments, or live far away it can make sense to use a management company to take care of the property on your behalf. With agency fees around 15-25%, it can be a cost and time-effective way to manage your holiday let. We’ve included some of the pros and cons of using a holiday let manager later in this guide in Section 9.1.

2.15. How Often Will You Use Your Property Yourself

Many holiday rental owners plan to enjoy the property themselves throughout the year. A recent survey showed that almost 8 in 10 new holiday let investors plan to use their property for personal use as well as renting out to the public.* Source Holiday Let Mortgages | The Cumberland

You’ll need to consider how often you’ll be using it, as there are a few rules and regulations to stick to, to operate correctly and can claim the right tax reliefs.

The HMRC states that your property must be available for letting as furnished holiday accommodation letting for at least 210 days in the year. Any days that you spend in the property don’t count as available.

To then qualify as a furnished holiday let, you must let the property commercially to the public for at least 105 days in the year. This means you can’t count any days when you let the property to friends or relatives, either for free or at a reduced rate. These days don’t count as commercial lets, and therefore won’t satisfy the HMRC conditions.

2.16. Popular Features

Obviously, the property you choose needs to be of good quality to attract your future guests. And alongside an appealing location, an overall good design and layout of the property is key.

Other popular features to look out for include:

  • Good, versatile and ideally fully enclosed outdoor spaces for children and/or dogs

  • WIFI access

  • Ample and accessible parking

  • More than one bathroom

  • Open-plan living areas

  • Easy to operate heating and hot water systems.

  • Good electrical equipment (fridge, freezer, cooker, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine).

  • Space to house a sizeable television (plus DVD or video player) and a few games.

Depending on your market, there are also a growing number of specialist features that guests are increasingly drawn to.

  • Hot tubs

  • Eco features

  • Large cottages

  • Log burners

2.16.1. Hot Tub Holiday Cottages

Hot tubs can make a property more desirable to holidaymakers and can help increase your rental rates. Holiday rental properties with a hot tub perform up to 54% better than those which don’t.* Source As they can be enjoyed year-round, they can also help you attract more bookings during the colder seasons and winter months.

With estimates suggesting there are now around 20,000 holiday homes with hot tubs in the UK, it’s a trend that continues to grow.

2.16.2. Eco Holiday Cottages

More guests are now searching for green getaways, eco-friendly breaks and sustainable retreats. Not only will they attract more guests, but you’ll be playing your part in a more sustainable future.

If you’re keen to provide a holiday experience with as little environmental impact as possible consider these eco-sensitive practices throughout the property:

  • Eco-friendly cleaning products and toiletries

  • Green initiatives such as water butts, solar panels, solar heating, and investing in insulation and double glazing.

2.16.3. Large Holiday Cottages

Big rentals for big groups will always be popular and can provide a healthy return on investment. But you’ll need to factor in more time and costs for cleaning and maintenance.

If you’re thinking about going large, research the area, to see if it’s a popular location for larger group breaks, that there’s plenty to do, and places to visit. This research will also help with your marketing strategy.

2.16.4. Log Burner Holiday Cottages

Wood burners are a great addition and will help your guests feel cosy during their stay, providing year-round appeal. But you’ll need to make sure the property has appropriate smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide detector. Chimneys will also need to be swept regularly to avoid the risk of chimney fires.

If your property has a log burner it’s a good idea to lay a fire ready for your guests and a small supply of wood. Provide lighting instructions and maybe leave an honesty box for guests to contribute to the cost of wood and coal.

If you’re thinking about a property with a log burner, take a look here at London Fire Brigade’s advice for open fires and wood-burning stoves.

2.17. Pricing and Positioning Your Property

All of the above will impact how much you charge your guests. Be realistic - don’t set your prices too high or guests will have expectations beyond what you provide. But equally, if you do offer a luxury experience, reflect this in the pricing.

Do your research: See what others charge, and speak to other owners or agencies. And if your property is always booked out, consider that you might have priced it too low.  

Painting wood with a paintbrush

3. Before Your First Guest Arrives

Once you’ve chosen your property, it’s time to get it into shape before your guests arrive.

3.1. Decoration, Fixtures and Fittings

When selecting the colours for your walls and interior designs, aim for versatile hues that you can effortlessly accessorise, and that stay fresh season after season.

When it comes to the details, while stylish fixtures can be tempting, always choose functionality combined with beauty. For instance, those intricate lights from the catalogue? Although they look gorgeous, they can be a dust magnet. Instead, opt for simpler designs that don't give dust a chance to settle in. And when you're considering chrome finishes, remember shiny surfaces show every fingerprint. A brushed chrome might be your best friend, offering longer life and less frequent clean-ups.

Now, a tip for those setting up a bathroom: the humble toilet plays a starring role in your cleanliness campaign. A dirty loo is a rich source of guest complaints, and the right design can make all the difference for your housekeeping team. Don't skimp on a sturdy, well-fitted toilet seat; it's a small detail that can really enhance the guest experience. Let's just say choosing a well-designed toilet can save everyone some trouble. You might not find this tip in most guidebooks, but it's a gem: a great toilet design can minimise the need for those not-so-pleasant toilet brushes.

3.2. Legal Requirements

While running a holiday let is all about creating a warm, inviting space for your guests, it's just as important to make sure your guests are safe.

For starters, if your property uses gas appliances, you'll need an annual gas certificate to confirm everything is up to standard. Smoke alarms are a must in every room, and a carbon monoxide (CO) detector should be present if there's any risk of CO emissions. And although it's not a legal stipulation, considering a fire blanket and maybe even a small fire extinguisher is a good idea.

Safety requirements also include keeping your customer's data safe and secure so don't forget to register with the Data Registrar if you plan on storing any customer details.

There’s no legal requirement to take out holiday home insurance, but your mortgage lender will probably insist you have buildings insurance. You’ll also want to consider holiday home contents insurance in case your furniture and possessions are damaged or stolen.

Plus, if you’re planning to use your property for extra income, there are risks associated with letting out your holiday home, like guests losing keys or having an accident. Specialist holiday rental insurance can cover these risks, giving you peace of mind that your property is protected. These insurances often include public liability to cover you if a guest is injured on your property and sues you, or for loss of rental income when bookings are cancelled through property damage from floods, fires or storms.

3.3. Taking Payments

Making sure your guests can pay easily is part of creating a seamless experience for them. You can offer various payment methods, from good old bank transfers and credit cards to online platforms like PayPal, Stripe or mobile payment options.

Regardless of the method you choose, remember to always prioritise your guest's security. Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it's vital to protect and not retain any personal data longer than necessary. This not only ensures compliance but also builds trust with your guests, letting them know they're in safe hands.

3.4. Guides, Instructions and Brochures

No guests will want to struggle to turn on the oven for tea or fail to work out how to watch their favourite tv programme. So, you’ll want to provide clear, user-friendly instructions that even a ten-year-old can follow.

To make things as easy as possible put all the information in a binder, divided into two sections:

  1. How Things Work: This contains instructions for all the things in your property. From the hot water system, heating, and kitchen appliances to the TV, entertainment system, and even the burglar alarm if there is one. Meticulously cover each corner of your property so your guests don’t face any hitches. And most importantly, include the property's Wifi code in there - popped in as a QR code to make it super simple.

  2. Making the Most of Your Holiday: Include regularly refreshed brochures and leaflets about local attractions and things to do up to a couple of hours’ drive away. Be a little selective though or you could end up with hundreds! For ideas, take a look at the top things to do on Tripadvisor as they always have places even a local might not know about.

Lastly, have a guest comments book, for people to write recommendations for local places. But make sure you get the type that means you can pull out a page in case you get comments you don’t want other people to read.

3.5. Accessibility

You’ll need to make your holiday home accessible in compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and provide an Accessibility Guide for your properties, which is clearly displayed at your property and shared with guests before they arrive.

An Accessibility Guide is a written map of a property which details any access restrictions and identifies potential hazards, such as steep stairs, changes to the floor level or a gravel drive. Factors to consider include:

  • Is the access level uneven outside the property?

  • What's the driveway surface like? Paved, gravel, level etc

  • Are there steps up to the property?

  • Does the property have level-access bedrooms?

  • Are the light switches wheelchair-level?

  • How steep are the stairs?

  • Does the property have a ground-floor bathroom?

  • Are there any high thresholds, or low door frames?

  • Are the doors 750 mm wide or more?

3.6. Emergency Contacts and Procedures

As a holiday homeowner, you’re responsible for lots of the issues that crop up during your guests’ stay. For example, what would happen if a fire broke out at your holiday home during the night? Who would they call?

If you’re using a letting agent, have a conversation and agree on a clear understanding of the procedures they have in place, and where your obligations begin and theirs end.

Either way, you’ll need a plan that covers as many emergency scenarios as possible so they can be dealt with quickly. And telling your guests about the emergency contacts and procedures, before they arrive and during their stay, will keep everything running smoothly.

  • Add emergency contact details to your welcome folder and communications before arrival.

  • Add emergency procedures to your welcome folder, remembering to make everything clear and simple to understand.

  • Keep a log for guests to report any incidents.

  • Know what is and isn’t covered in your specialist holiday home insurance.

3.7. Bed Choices

Picking the right beds for your holiday let can make or break a booking. Plenty of guests will only book a property with large beds for example and, trawling through plenty of online reviews about lumpy mattresses show how important a good night's sleep is.

Zip and link beds with good mattresses make the perfect choice as they offer the best flexibility for you and your guests. And always get beds with no foot end, which is a regular bugbear for people over 5ft 8. To make guests rave about your property, providing cot beds, extra blankets, pillows and duvets can also go a long way.

3.8. Use Good Quality Furniture

The right furnishings determine the look and feel of a property. Good quality furniture, space planning and layout are critical when choosing your holiday cottage furnishings. Go for subtle styles, and low-maintenance flooring to appeal to the widest audience and always have your target market in mind.

3.9. Contents

Keep an inventory of everything in the property. Not only does it help you keep track of breakages and missing items, but it’s vital if you ever need to claim on your content’s insurance.

Use guest feedback to keep your inventory up to date. You might notice for example that whilst you’ve provided a capsule coffee machine, your visitors also want a cafetiere.

3.10. Gadgets

How far you want to take the level of gadgetry in your property is up to you and will depend on your target market.

For most properties, a decent widescreen TV (very minimum 32", but preferably 40" and up for a larger room) together with a DVD player OR paid subscription to a service like Netflix or Amazon Prime means you can market your property in the premium range and recoup your costs within a few months.

The essential music provision must be a digital radio, as it can receive a wide range of stations. If you're prepared to splash out a little, a SONOS player is becoming more common these days and is another selling point for your market, who will increasingly have all these things themselves at home and won't want to downgrade when they come away.

In the kitchen, you owe it to your clients to give them the best facilities possible. Include a dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, and a good-sized fridge and freezer. There are many ingenious ways to fit mini machines into even the smallest kitchen area. A coffee maker of some description is a nice touch but can be a pain to clean. The many devices that take pods are much easier, and you only need to leave a few pods; people can always buy more. But don't forget the traditional people who still love a filter or cafetiere brew.

3.11. Bedding/Sleeping Linen and Soft Furnishings

With a good night's sleep high on your guest's agenda don’t be tempted to scrimp on good quality bedding, linens and soft furnishings.

For bedding, only ever use hypoallergenic, never feather. Whilst down can feel luxurious, it's expensive, and some people will have a poor night's sleep as they cough and splutter with an allergy. And for your zip/link mattresses (the best choice for flexibility), use a topper for added hygiene and comfort.

Choosing patterned or plainer duvets is up to you, depending on the decor of the place and location. But it can also be good for guests to mix and match what you have, which is harder if you've tailored one set for a particular room.

The quality of your linen is essential, especially on the sheets, so get the very best you can - 600 thread count is perfect. Nothing feels as good as lying on an ironed, very high thread count fitted sheet. It will be one of people's memories of their first night with you - so make it a good one! It will make a big impression on any guest and may get a specific mention in feedback.

When it comes to window dressing, the number one piece of advice is to get decent thick curtains as it's so important to block out sunlight and help guests maximise their well-deserved rest. Even better - if you have a blackout blind plus curtains, people can choose whether to be woken up as it gets light at 4 am in the summer.

3.12. Comfort

Comfort is a factor to consider in every corner of the home. It should be extremely comfortable throughout, rather than looking like a photo shoot from House and Garden magazine. When it comes to mealtimes, for example, dining chairs should be nice to sit in, not just stylish to look at.

Make sure you include enough comfortable seating options for everyone to lounge around and enjoy their time in your property. Corner sofas offer ultimate comfort, and recliners are a good choice if you're short on space.

Cushions add even more comfort, so make sure there are plenty of sofas and armchairs. As with bedding, make sure they aren't feather or down to avoid allergic reactions. And remember that you'll need to regularly clean your cushions to keep them in tip-top shape. Don't worry about scattering cushions all over the bed, though, as it's annoying for guests to throw them on the floor, and it's something else for you to clean.

3.13. Usability

You'll need to make every area of your holiday home as usable as possible, which can mean designing low-maintenance spaces or adding plenty of touches to help your guests.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Optimise your property's outdoor space by choosing a low-maintenance patio or decking with easy-to-maintain plants.

  • Provide enough seating in the kitchen, lounge and outside spaces.

  • Check for good WiFi coverage throughout the property.

  • Offer a well-equipped kitchen, with affordable additions such as a coffee machine.

  • Add blackout blinds and night lights in children's bedrooms.

  • Supply dog blankets, towels, beds, treats and poo bags for pooch-friendly properties.

  • Go above and beyond by providing things they may have forgotten, such as umbrellas or bike helmets.

3.14. Dressing Your Property

Dressing your property can sound a little over the top, but in our experience, it's led to brilliant feedback and are small things that take very little time.

Ideas include:

●    Folding the toilet roll to a point, as they do in top hotels. You could even get little stickers made and put one on the point to look extra posh.

●    Adding a little welcome basket with milk, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Add a few chocolates, some old-fashioned sweets or a packet of luxury biscuits.

●    Asking your guests beforehand if it's a special occasion, and leaving something to show you've paid attention, such as birthday cake or balloons.

3.15. Questions For Your Guests Before They Arrive

It's a lovely idea that guests appreciate if you ask them a few questions before they arrive.

  • Do they have any dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free etc)?

  • Ask what type of milk they like, semi, skimmed, full, nut, soya or other.

  • Will they be using a sat nav to get here? This is especially important if the standard sat nav postcode takes people to the wrong place.

  • Do they have special requirements, such as bed layouts or wheelchair access?

  • What’s the reason for their stay? If you discover it's a birthday or anniversary, you can wow your guests by providing something nice.

3.16. Special Deals with Local Places

When looking for a place to stay, people often check out dozens, if not hundreds, of homes. How will you make yours stand out?

One way could be to offer an entire package of pre-arranged discounts and additional extras so that when they get there, they already know that a few bars, cafes, restaurants or attractions will give them a freebie, special service or offer.

Work with local businesses you like and would recommend to and come up with offers they're happy to do. It's fantastic exposure for them, and because you aren't asking them to pay anything upfront, they'll only need to provide the freebie if they are getting the custom, making everyone a winner.

Almost every business has a 'cost of acquisition' per customer, so you could ask them what theirs is and work out what they would be happy to give your guests. Make the code or voucher specific to your guests only, and rather than putting exact details on your website, tell your guests that they'll receive a welcome package on arrival with full details.

A bonus from this approach is that you'll make the local business feel special. You’ve chosen just a handful of places to recommend based on your and other people's fantastic experiences, and they are one of them. It can also lead to reciprocal recommendations and website links, which are both great for business.

3.17. What To Provide (Toiletries etc)

Holidaymakers don't want to be spending their holiday savings on housekeeping items. You should supply the basics of:

  • Toilet roll

  • Bin bags

  • Tea bags

  • Washing up liquid (& sponges!)

  • Tea towels

Also consider welcome baskets, complimentary treat toiletries and additional bedding options such as blankets and pillows.

4. Decisions, Decisions

It’s important that what you offer reflects what you want as much as what potential guests want.

4.1. Policy On Pets

Choosing whether you’ll accept pets in your holiday let is important. It’s a personal choice, but we’d strongly urge you to consider it, for these reasons:

  • Pet owners are very appreciative of a nice property that will allow dogs and if you look after their four-legged friends you could find some super fans who (contrary to some beliefs) will look after the property well and come back in the future.

  • Dog owners are a chatty bunch you love to talk to each other, so give one an unforgettable stay, and you’re very likely to get referrals to their friends.

  • There are lots of pet-friendly directories to link with for extra marketing opportunities.

  • You can link up with other dog-friendly businesses such as cafés and local attractions, to cross-market each other.

  • There are fewer properties accepting pets, so you’ll have less competition.

  • If you’re close to great facilities for dog walkers, such as pooch-friendly beaches, you’ll have plenty you can use to market very effectively to dog owners.

  • Whilst some holiday homeowners worry about the potential damage to their properties, there are plenty of ways to minimise issues, such as blankets on sofas, providing crates or dog-safe rooms.   

If you decide to go down the route of becoming a pet-friendly destination, here are a few tips to maximise the opportunity.

  • Accept multiple dogs, as there are even fewer properties that accept 2, 3, or even 4 or more dogs. As long as you’re taking deposits and credit card details, there’s no more risk to your property accepting 1 dog or 5.

  • Get a support network of people to make pet owners enjoy every moment of their and their furry friends’ holiday extra special such as dog-walkers or groomers. You could even find a dog-loving neighbour who’s happy to pop in and check on the pet when your guests are out and about.

  • Bake a few special homemade doggy treats.

  • Supply bowls, beds and leads.

  • Provide safe off-lead dog exercise areas and a fully enclosed outside space.

  • Allow cats, house or garden-located rabbits, and other more unusual animals, and you could open up bookings from a whole variety of people who struggle to find suitable holiday homes.

Finally, you’ll need to decide on the house rules. Whilst some owners insist that dogs can’t be left alone, or pets have to stay downstairs, this can put off potential guests.

4.2. Will You Accept Children

You may think that every property will accept children, but that’s not the case. Some aren’t suitable, with steps that won’t take a stair gate, balconies, open water and other risks that can’t be made child-safe. Some owners simply might not want to take children. As with pets, it’s a personal choice but remember with every restriction you reduce booking potential. Whatever you decide, make sure your website and marketing make any policy clear and if you do allow children, really sell what makes your holiday let the perfect choice for families.

Things to consider for families with children up to 3 years old:

  • Stair gates are essential.

  • Travel cot and highchair. Remember to allow extra cleaning time for the highchair!

  • Child-friendly plates and cups. You could even consider a particular theme, such as Disney, especially if you have any attractions nearby that are related. For example, if you’re near Thomas Land in Staffordshire or Peppa Pig World in Hampshire, you could add and advertise themed tableware and bedding for extra bookings from families with children mad about Thomas or Peppa.

  • A range of books, DVDs and games to keep tiny minds happy.

Things to consider for older children and teenagers:

  • Books, games and DVDs for a wider range of ages. You’ll need to check periodically that games have all the necessary parts.

  • If you want to impress, a games console goes down very well, and not just with the children! They also make a great tool in your marketing toolkit, so it can be worth the investment.

Whatever age the children might be, make sure you include information on all the family-friendly activities in the area.

4.3. Arrival/Check-in/Check-out

Once you have guests starting to book, you’ll need to decide on all the arrival, check-in and checkout information.


Decide and communicate your standard check-in time, which is often 3 pm. If possible, have someone there to meet your guests. A friendly and helpful check-in will help to build rapport, meaning any mid-stay issues and niggles that can be ironed out quickly and smoothly. It also improves your chances of guests returning in the future.

If someone won’t be there, make sure the key is in a safe and accessible place that’s easy to find. Key-safe locks are ideal.

Whether you are there or not, make sure your check-in documentation clearly lays out your guests’ responsibilities, asks them to let you know straight away if they need anything at all, and also gives an opportunity to request valuable feedback to keep your business running in the best way possible.

Check out

Again, decide on your check-out time. Whilst most check-outs are 10 am, setting yours at 11 am or even noon, will give you an advantage over the vast majority of properties. Unless your cleaners have quite a few properties to turn around on the same day, the later check-out will give you plenty of time.

As with check-in, you’ll need to decide on a procedure. Again, being there in person can help to build your business as you can ask them how they’ve enjoyed themselves and get valuable feedback or reviews. However, this isn’t possible for 99.9% of properties. Instead, a well-written ‘this is what you do on departure’ section in the check-in paperwork works well. This includes whether to strip beds and polite information about washing up.

You could choose to put in their contract about your ‘just walk out’ departure option, whereby they don’t have to do the washing up and tidy round for an additional fee of £x deducted from their deposit. That way if the house is left in a terrible state you are covered.

4.4. Changeovers

Your changeovers are a potential stress point in your operation, so devise a system that you can hone to a tee. It will keep running smoothly and as fast as possible without missing a thing. Take a look at our bedding changeover checklist (link) and perhaps produce something similar.

Here are a few things to think about in your changeover process:

  • How you’ll get your bedding cleaned and ironed in between stays and who will be responsible for it?

  • Where will you store the bedding, towels and products you need?

  • How many sets of bedding will you need? If you’ll potentially be doing two or more handovers per week, make sure your cleaning service can cope. It still always makes sense to have some new bedding available for emergencies, maybe even kept at the property. Remember the dirty laundry is taken away with the cleaner each time.

  • How many toiletries, cleaning products and basic supply items such as tea and coffee will you need? Don’t underestimate and still buy extra, as items can be lost, or damaged or might take a trip home with your guests.

  • Keep spare and emergency provisions locked away.

5. Marketing Your Property

To get your first guests, you’ll need a clear idea about what makes your holiday let special. What is your unique selling point (USP)? Why should anyone book your property, when the likelihood is there are plenty of other choices? Do you offer the best home-baked scones this side of Cornwall, is your technology offering second to none, or have you just made your property so comfortable they will never want to leave?

Whatever efforts you’ve made to stand out in what can be a very competitive market, should form the cornerstone of your marketing. It should be clear on your website and become a regular source of posts on your social media.

It also pays to understand your ideal guests. Begin by researching your target audience and painting a picture of what they’re like, from what they drive and where they shop to their typical holiday budget. You can then advertise where your audience hangs out (on or offline) by getting a great website, active socials, teaming up with local attractions and providing offers and incentives to book.

Once your booking starts to roll in, it’s time to build strong relationships with your customers. Develop slick and informative processes, communicate with your guests, do a brilliant job and they will become your raving fans on social media, and review sites and will possibly book again in the future.

5.1. Photos

High-quality photos play a critical role in holiday rentals, and they can make or break a property's success. They serve as the first impression for potential renters who are scouting for the ideal holiday spot. A visually stunning photograph can help your property stand out from the vast array of listings and attract more prospective guests. They also form an emotional connection with your potential guests. A picture of a cosy bedroom or a sun-drenched patio can spark the imagination and evoke feelings of relaxation and comfort. This emotional engagement is key in encouraging people to book your holiday rental.

Detailed, professional-grade images accurately reflect the property's charm, reinforce that you are professional and build trust in the genuine look and feel for potential renters. They give the potential guest an insight into the cleanliness, spaciousness, and amenities available. The more accurate the images are, the less likely guests are to be disappointed when they turn up with their suitcases.

A picture really is worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to holiday rentals.

5.2. Writing Your Ads

Wherever you advertise your holiday let, when it comes to writing your ads, the key is to keep in mind your target audience. Picture your ideal guest and write creatively in an informal tone. List your property’s features and facilities but also add information on the local area and attractions, to showcase why your property and location is so special.

If writing isn't a strength, asking an experienced holiday letting agency to write your property description is a great alternative.

5.3. Your Own Website

Your website is a critical part of your overall marketing strategy and something every holiday owner needs, even if you advertise through agencies and directories. Your own website will build trust that you are professional, your service is spot on and will sell the sizzle that makes your holiday spot special.

‘Off-the-shelf websites’ are available to buy and configure or you can get a designer to make a professional website for you that fits your needs to a tee. It’s always good to hire a copywriter to create an attractive description of your holiday home as they know the words that work and make sure they are written from your customer's point of view.

5.4. Local Directories

Plenty of local places will allow you to list your holiday let, bringing it to a wider pool of potential guests. Look into local tourism sites, county council sites, newsletters, business groups and local newspapers.

5.5. National Directories and Commission-Based Agencies

There are plenty of national directories that can help you find more eager holidaymakers who will choose and love your let. Third-party websites can increase your holiday let's exposure, often linking back to your website.

Some charge a commission on a pay-per-booking basis so there’s no limit to where you can advertise. Others offer the option to pay an annual subscription fee to advertise your holiday rental on their website or network of websites. Good ones include Airbnb, Saga, Hoseasons, Expedia and Homestay,, HomeAway, TripAdvisor and Vrbo. You’ll usually do all the work to manage your listing or advert such as writing copy, providing photos and keeping availability updated.

5.6. Google Business Profile

Having a Google Business Profile for your holiday let can dramatically enhance its visibility. This free listing not only positions your property directly in front of potential guests but also allows them to view essential details like photos, reviews, and availability at a glance.

To maximise the benefits of your Google Business Profile, make sure you regularly update your listing with high-quality photos, encourage satisfied guests to leave positive reviews and respond promptly to any queries or feedback. Also, make use of Google's insights to understand how guests are interacting with your listing, and optimise accordingly.

5.7. Pay Per Click

You might want to look into running a search campaign in Google Ads to take potential guests to your website.

Ads are displayed when someone searches Google for the type of accommodation you are providing. Google shows your ad to potential guests searching for exactly what you have to offer. You only pay when the searcher clicks your ad and visits your website. This is called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and, when done correctly, can be a very profitable marketing tool.

5.8. Social Media

Adult internet users spend an average of 3 hours 59 minutes a day online and 93% of adults who are online have a profile or account on a social media or messaging site or app (source: Ofcom). So, having a presence on a social network could make a huge impact on your marketing as well as providing the opportunity to talk to potential customers.

5.9. Shop Window Cards

Advertising in local shop windows can be incredibly beneficial for holiday rentals. This strategy taps into a community's existing foot traffic, capturing the attention of both locals and visitors. Locals may recommend your property to their visiting friends or relatives, while tourists already in the area could be enticed to extend their stay.

This approach also suggests a personal touch, showcasing the property as a part of the community. Overall, it's a cost-effective method that helps to increase visibility and bookings.

5.10. Listing Free Websites

Blogs, forums and social media offer lots of extra exposure opportunities for your holiday let.

5.11. Facebook

Facebook offers a huge market to tap into. It’s a great platform for attracting future bookers and communicating with guests.

5.12. Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups present an excellent opportunity for owners to not only boost their brand’s visibility but also engage in meaningful interactions with potential guests and fellow hosts.

Facebook Groups gather individuals around shared interests or goals. For holiday rental owners, these groups can be a treasure trove of potential guests, useful information, and insightful discussions.

5.13. Facebook Page

Setting up a Facebook Page for your holiday let is a straightforward process. Find out how here.

Once set up, stay active by posting regularly with content that’s relevant and engaging for potential guests. A good strategy includes sharing insights about local attractions or events, to provide a taste of the local experience. Additionally, setting up events on Facebook can amplify the reach of your holiday let, allowing you to directly invite contacts.

5.14. Build Your Email List

Collecting emails from guests and potential guests is a valuable strategy for holiday rentals. It allows direct communication with people already interested in your property. This forms the foundation for a robust email marketing campaign, offering exclusive deals, updates, or personalised recommendations.

By nurturing these relationships, you foster repeat bookings and referrals. Essentially, email collection serves as a powerful tool for boosting occupancy rates and sustaining long-term business growth.

You can also use this to talk directly with old customers to get reviews or even encourage them to book direct.

5.15. Booking Agents

Holiday letting agents will charge a commission on any bookings your property makes. The holiday agent’s fees will vary, depending on how much work they do for you.

5.16. Channel Managers

Booking and management software such as Supercontrol can act as your channel manager and give you ongoing expert guidance to help you thrive. They can help you to push out your availability to multiple listing sites in one go for more bookings with less work.

5.17. Customer Loyalty

Incentives, multi-booking rewards, and joint marketing with local companies and attractions can help to grow customer loyalty and make managing your property easier.

5.18. Getting Repeat Business and Referrals

Repeat business and referrals will keep you ahead of all your competition, and fully booked from year to year. The key is simple - do a stunning job, provide everything you say you will, how you say you will, and be genuinely grateful for their business.

To drive even more business your way, you could consider a tiered points system that encourages repeat business and referrals. Whilst it’s not well-used in the self-catering business, it’s a proven winner in the cruise industry and could be just what you need to give you the edge and keep bookings flooding in.

Work out a tiered points system, with referrals, repeat stays, constructive or great feedback, or maybe interacting with you on your social platforms or sharing your content that all earns guests points towards upgrades, discounts for future stays or referral bookings or vouchers to use at local businesses. You can make guests gold, silver or bronze to encourage more of the activity you’re after. And don’t forget, if you offer this system, make sure you tell people all about it on your website, marketing materials and guest communication.

5.19. Online Reviews

Managing reviews for a holiday cottage is essential for its ongoing success. Positive reviews enhance the property's online presence, reassure potential guests, and increase bookings. Encourage guests to leave reviews by making the process easy and accessible, perhaps via follow-up emails or direct requests at checkout.

Don’t forget to respond to all reviews - both positive and negative - in a timely and professional manner. For negative reviews, offer solutions where possible. This shows you’re committed to guest satisfaction and continuous improvement, which is essential for building and maintaining a great reputation.

5.20. How To Outsource Your Marketing

Navigating the vast landscape of holiday let marketing can be a daunting task. To simplify the process and maximise your reach, consider leveraging third-party directory sites. These platforms can help amplify your property's visibility among potential holiday-goers. However, before diving in, it's crucial to set a clear budget to make sure you're investing wisely and not overspending.

When outsourcing your marketing, recognise the areas you specifically need assistance with, whether that's content creation, SEO, or social media management. When selecting a company to partner with, always check their reviews to gauge the satisfaction of their previous clients. Additionally, examine their current Google rankings as a testament to their digital prowess.

With careful planning and research, outsourcing can be a game-changer for your holiday let's marketing success.

6. Guest Management

To help manage guests, set up a system that sends texts and emails to your guests with property access details two days before they arrive, follows up to ask if there are any issues and reminds them of departure dates and times.  You can also include a request to leave a review.

6.1. Vetting Guests

Vetting or checking guests before their arrival at a holiday rental is an integral part of managing such holiday properties. It promotes safety and makes sure your property is rented by responsible individuals who will respect the rules and maintain its condition.

This process can involve verifying the guests' identity, checking previous rental reviews, or even having a brief conversation. By taking these steps, you protect your investment and contribute to a positive rental experience for both parties.

6.2. Check-in/Check-Out

Managing check-in and check-out at your holiday let means having clear pre-arrival communication for a smooth guest experience. Before arrival, make sure guests have all the information they need, including how to access the property, timings, and any other relevant details they need to know.

Between check-out and the next guest's check-in, it's important to allow sufficient time to clean the property thoroughly. This gap allows for time to make sure the accommodation is not only presentable but also safe for your next guests.

Plus, specifying changeover days helps to streamline bookings and operations. By designating specific days for check-ins and check-outs, it's easier to schedule cleaning and maintenance tasks. Lastly, imposing minimum stays during peak seasons or weekends can optimise occupancy rates and revenue while reducing the frequency of turnovers.

6.3. Communication

Communication with your guests will help to address complaints and resolve issues, resulting in guest loyalty and repeat bookings.

When it comes to communication before, during and after guests' stay, don’t forget to cover:

  • Check-In and Check-Out Procedures

  • Guest Amenities and Welcome Packs

  • Local Recommendations

  • Guest Surveys and Feedback Collection

  • Rubbish dates, recycling, fees for leaving etc

Whilst lots of guests like the peace of being left alone during their stay, a quick call or text to see how you’ve settled in, or if there’s anything they need shows a caring attitude that can make your service stand out. There might be something you thought was super obvious, which isn’t or there might be something that isn’t working that can be quickly fixed rather than left to fester and turn into a less than glowing review!

6.4. Deposits and Damage Deposits

Every holiday let owner hopes their property is left in perfect condition when their guests leave. But, while you can do everything you can to prevent damage, accidents are inevitable.

Whether it’s a broken kettle or a stained carpet, we always recommend taking a security deposit. You can charge a fixed amount (typically £100 a week) or take a percentage based on the total prices of the booking (typically 10%).

You can choose to take the payment at the same time as the booking, but it's more common to take credit card pre-authorisation, which is only used when something goes wrong.

6.5. Key Safes and Access

Whilst it can be a nice touch, there’s no need to greet guests in person and hand over keys.

Keyless entry systems are a popular and secure alternative to key safes. They allow guests to access the property using a smartphone app, card or keypad, eliminating the need for physical keys.

6.6. Fair Use Heating Policy

Consider a clause in your guest agreement that "reasonable use of utilities is covered", but excessive use will incur a charge.

6.7. Problem Solving (When Things Go Wrong)

Whilst 99.9% of guests are brilliant, you need to be aware that things can go wrong, and you’ll experience the occasional bad guest. To keep things running smoothly:

  • Specialist holiday let insurance is a must.

  • Make sure you know the terms and conditions of your payment platform provider for any payment defaults or issues.

  • Communicate with your guests during their stay to flag any issues as soon as possible.

  • Speak to other holiday let owners to learn from their experiences.

6.8. Feedback

Most of your future customers will base their booking decisions on the reviews you get, so you want to build a guest experience that results in as many great ones as possible.

People can leave reviews on your listing if you’ve it set up to accept public submissions, or if you are on Tripadvisor. Always make sure you respond to every piece of feedback you get, good or bad. Be professional and if you’ve made a mistake hold your hands up. But be assertive too, if you helped them resolve an issue make sure you mention this.

It's worth noting that some of the reviews you get on Google Local might not be genuine, they might be automated, or done by a bot, so won’t even make sense or relate to your property. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about these. All you can do is ask your happy customers to leave glowing reviews so that your overall rating stays as high as possible.

To help gather genuine reviews, you could enter every guest who leaves feedback into a regular competition to win a prize. Make sure it’s clear that everyone will have an equal chance to win, not just those who leave great reviews! If you offer this, make sure you publicise the winners on your website, so that people can see you are holding up your side of the bargain.

Extra ways to build your pot of fantastic reviews could be to send thank you letters which ask for feedback or join independent reviews or feedback sites, some costing more than others.

Cleaning windows

7. Property Management

There are two holiday let management options; owner-managed and agency-managed services. Whichever option you choose, these are the services that need to be taken care of:

  • Housekeeping, including cleaning and laundry.

  • Property checking and security.

  • Property maintenance

  • 24-hour guest support

  • Safety checks and legislative documents, including annual fire risk and gas assessments.

  • Key collection and property presentation

7.1. Repairs and Property Maintenance

Managing a holiday let requires a proactive approach to repairs and property maintenance. Unlike long-term rentals, where issues might be addressed when it’s convenient for the tenant and the landlord, holiday lets demand swift action to make sure your guests have a pleasant and uninterrupted stay.

Regular inspections and preventive maintenance are essential to highlight possible problems before they escalate. The result is a well-maintained property that has positive reviews, boosting occupancy rates and profitability.

7.2. Automation/Technology

In today's fast-paced digital age, leveraging automation and technology in the management of a holiday let can enhance both the owner's and the guest's experience.

For example, incorporating LED lighting not only sets a modern ambience but is also energy efficient, reducing overhead costs in the long run. And systems like HIVE offer smart home automation, allowing you to remotely manage heating, lighting, and even security.

Incorporating a QR code in a holiday property is a game-changer. It simplifies the process of connecting to Wi-Fi, reducing the hassle of entering complex passwords. Also, with a quick scan, guests can instantly access the manager's contact details, fostering easy communication.

7.3. Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning, you'll need to decide if you’ll do it yourself or use a local company. Even if you take on the task, you'll need other people as a backup for when you're away or ill. Although doing the cleaning yourself can cut down on expenses, it only makes sense if you can commit to a thorough cleaning routine after every rental. If you can’t, you should think about hiring a cleaner.

If you go for outside help, you'll need to make sure they have holiday and sickness cover, too, so you and your guests aren't left in the lurch. Take a look at Checkatrade to get an idea of holiday let cleaning prices.

In terms of how deep your cleaning goes, it depends on your market and your standards. But at the very least, a thorough hoover and an excellent level of basic cleanliness, especially in the bathroom and kitchen, are essential during every changeover.

You'll then want to schedule regular seasonal deep cleans, where the tops of kitchen cupboards, utensils, drawers, ovens and cabinets are given the royal treatment.

Here are a few tips to help make cleaning a breeze:

  • Do a thorough check of the inventory with every clean to make sure things haven't gone walkies, and top up supplies of crockery, glasses etc.

  • Do a ‘top ten places missed’ list to remind you or to help someone who’s taken on your cleaning. Remember that the tops of mirrors, pictures and light fittings often get forgotten and can be devilish dust magnets.

  • Think about a checklist for your cleaner. An excellent cleaner will do a great job because their standards are high, but having a list to look over always helps.

7.3.1. How To Choose A Holiday Let Cleaner

A good place to start is a search on Google to find cleaning services in your area. Ideally, those who specialise in holiday rental and Airbnb cleaning. They should be experienced in short-term rental turnovers and provide a higher level of service than typical house cleaning. Guests expect the highest level of cleanliness and attention to detail so look for a 5-star level of service.

7.4. Rubbish

Keeping on top of rubbish is essential in managing a rental property. To make sure everything runs smoothly:

  • Put a bin schedule in the welcome pack

  • Provide labelled bins or bags, each highlighting a different type of waste.

  • Provide spare bin bags

  • Add reminders in the property about recycling

7.5. Preventing Problems

Managing a holiday let requires proactive problem prevention to offer a seamless experience for your guests.

Every challenge faced offers a lesson, and by continuously learning and adapting, you can make sure your guests have a trouble-free stay, while also streamlining your management processes. For example, after an incident where a cleaner accidentally turned off the freezer, we hard-wired it so it couldn’t happen again.

7.6. Insurance and Legals

When managing a holiday let, understanding the insurance and your legal obligations is crucial.

At the forefront are Health and Safety Regulations, so you know your property is free from potential hazards, is a safe environment for your guests and protects you from potential liabilities.

Other insurance and legal considerations include:

  • Obtain any necessary licensing and permits for short-term rentals, ensuring that the property adheres to local bylaws and standards.

  • Data Protection and Privacy, for any personal guest information you handle.

  • Taxation and Accounting measures must be in place. Revenue needs to be accurately reported, and tax liabilities settled to avoid legal complications.

  • Accessibility and Disability Compliance can’t be ignored. Properties should be equipped, or at least adaptable, to cater to people with disabilities, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy their stay.

7.7. Know Your Numbers

Successfully managing a holiday let means keeping a firm grasp on your finances. It's imperative to know your numbers, from the most significant expenses like your mortgage payments to the minutest details like the cost of a roll of toilet paper.

Every expense, whether it's regular cleaning, maintenance or unexpected costs that arise from mishaps, plays a crucial role in determining your profit margins. Moreover, it's not just about tangible costs; it's also about intangibles. Allocating a budget for goodwill gestures - like offering a complimentary bottle of wine or refunding a night's stay when things go awry - can be the difference between securing repeat business and receiving negative reviews.

7.7.1. Financial Management

Effective financial planning and management are vital to a successful holiday let. Tracking revenue, budgeting, tax planning and cash flow management all play their part in making sure your venture is not only profitable but also sustainable in the long run.

You’ll need to consider:

  • Tracking revenue to see a clear picture of the rental's financial health. This will help you to make informed decisions, identify peak seasons and rate effectiveness, and to forecast income more accurately.

  • Managing expenses and setting a robust budget. Costs such as maintenance, utilities, marketing, and staff wages need careful control to make the property run efficiently without compromising on the guest experience. Regular review of these expenses also assists in determining areas where cost reduction or efficiency improvements are possible.

  • Tax planning. Understanding tax obligations, as well as potential deductions (like repairs, cleaning services, or insurance), is crucial to maximising profitability. Regular consultation with a tax professional can make sure you're compliant with laws and aren’t paying more tax than you need to.

  • Expenses and Taxes records. Keeping a meticulous record of all expenses related to your property is essential for claiming and logging tax deductions. This includes costs for cleaning, repairs, insurance, and any applicable licensing fees. Regular tracking simplifies tax filing and means you're making the most of eligible deductions, potentially increasing overall profitability.

  • Cash Flow Management and Seasonal Variations. Managing cash flow, especially considering the seasonal nature of the holiday rental business, is essential. Periods of high and low demand can significantly affect income. A well-planned financial strategy, including savings during peak times and careful budgeting throughout the year, can help maintain a slick operation, even during off-peak seasons.

8. Using A Holiday Let Manager

Whether you choose to manage your property yourself or rely on a holiday let manager will depend on your own circumstances, i.e. how much time you have, what other commitments you have and whether you’d rather someone else deal with the day-to-day running of your holiday let.

8.1. Pros vs Cons

Here’s a list of some of the pros and cons of using a holiday let manager.

The pros:

  1. Time Savings: You don't have to deal with daily operations, guest inquiries, or problem-solving.

  2. Professional Marketing: Many managers have access to marketing tools and platforms, potentially increasing occupancy rates.

  3. Maintenance: Regular property checks, cleaning, and maintenance are typically handled by the manager.

  4. Guest Services: A manager can provide 24/7 guest support, improving the guest experience.

  5. Regulatory Compliance: Managers can make sure the property adheres to local laws and regulations.

The cons:

  1. Cost: Hiring a manager usually involves a commission or fee, reducing the net income from the property.

  2. Less Personal Control: You might have less direct influence over guest interactions or property care details.

  3. Potential Misalignment of Interests: If not carefully chosen, a manager might not prioritise your long-term property value over short-term profits.

  4. Contractual Obligations: Some managers require long-term contracts, limiting flexibility.

  5. Standardised Operations: Some managers might apply a one-size-fits-all approach, which may not cater to specific needs or nuances of individual properties.

8.2. How To Hire A Holiday Letting Agency

When hiring a holiday letting agency, there are several things to consider to find a partner who not only understands your needs but is also committed to maximising your returns.

First and foremost, scrutinise the contract. Pay special attention to the rental rates; while high occupancy might seem promising, always be wary of agents more focused on filling the space rather than driving profit.

Secondly, evaluate their marketing expertise. A well-marketed property attracts the right guests, and the reputation of your chosen agency plays a pivotal role in this. A quick online search or seeking recommendations can give insights into their credibility.

Lastly, consider how the agency manages guests. Excellent customer service, from booking to check-out, means more repeated bookings and positive reviews, essential for the longevity of your letting venture.

8.3. How To Manage Your Holiday Let Remotely

Successfully managing your holiday let remotely involves a combination of meticulous planning, open communication, and trust in your local support team.

Begin with a heartfelt welcome letter, introducing your guests to your lovely property and giving them a taste of the experience they're about to enjoy. Supplement this with recommendations for local treasures, such as fantastic places to eat, scenic walks, pristine beaches, or captivating attractions. This showcases your intimate knowledge of the area and helps guests to make the most of their stay.

It's also essential to set down house guidelines, clearly conveying any requests you may have in a friendly and respectful manner.

Lastly, to give your guests a seamless experience, provide clear and easy-to-follow instructions for all appliances and remote controls. This proactive approach helps prevent misunderstandings, reduces the need for back-and-forths, and helps your guests to fully relax and immerse themselves in the getaway experience.

8.4. Tasks To Outsource

Holiday rental management involves a lot of work that can often become overwhelming for property owners. To optimise operations and offer the best guest experience it's wise to consider outsourcing certain tasks. These could include:

Cleaning services: Hiring professionals means your property is always in pristine condition for every guest.

Maintenance: This should be entrusted to experts to address any repair or upkeep promptly and prevent potential issues.

Communication with guests: While crucial, this can be time-consuming, so delegating this task to a dedicated team or using specialised software can improve efficiency.

High-quality photography: This is essential for effective online marketing, and hiring a professional photographer can significantly elevate your property's online presence.

Managing bookings online: These can be streamlined with the assistance of agencies or platforms that specialise in holiday rental listings, saving you time and reaching a broader audience.

9. Food For Thought

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when it comes to choosing many of the things we’ve covered in this guide, from choosing what and where to buy, who and how you’ll manage the property and more:

  • How have you financed your property?

  • What kinds of tax rules do you take advantage of?

  • How do you get your cleaning and ironing done?

  • Who looks after your check-ins?

  • How do you deal with having holidays yourself, where do you go and do you struggle to find the right place?

  • What interesting situations have you had?

  • What’s the worst thing that ever happened, and with experience, could you prevent it from happening again?

  • Have you ever been subjected to fraudulent payments?

  • How do you get most of your business?

  • Do you like the type of customers you get now, or would you prefer to be in a different market?

  • What do you like about doing this?

  • Do you have an end game - if so what/when?

  • Are you flexible on booking charges for last-minute/longer bookings?

  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned?

  • What top tip would you have given yourself, if you’d known it at the start?

  • What would you have done differently with the benefit of hindsight?

  • How many properties do you have?

  • Do you have long lets, HMOs, or any other type of property investment?

  • How do you feel about receiving feedback - do you take it on board, or is it fraught with frustration?

  • Would you be open to adding in some extras, to increase the amount/ratings of your feedback?

9.1. Expansion and Growth

When your holiday let bookings flood in and your profitability increases, you might start to think about expansion and growth.

Adding more properties to your portfolio allows for increased revenue streams and a broader geographic reach, appealing to a wider market of holidaymakers. But don’t forget that as your portfolio grows, so will the need to scale your operations and staffing. Hiring a robust and efficient team will make sure that each property is maintained to the highest standard and that your guests stay happy.

Collaborating with partners and agencies can amplify your market presence, tapping into a broader audience and optimising occupancy rates. Moreover, diversifying services and offering upselling opportunities can enhance the guest experience, making your holiday let more than just a place to stay but an entire holiday package.

If expansion and growth are on your agenda, it's crucial to stay updated with industry trends and innovations, making sure your holiday let remains competitive and offers the latest in guest conveniences and luxuries.

9.2. Know Your End Game

Knowing how long you plan to run your self-catered property will determine how you go about finding, managing and developing your property or properties.

Do you know how long you plan to run your self-catered property? Is it just a money spinner for you, or a passion to welcome people to your corner of the world for as long as you can go on, perhaps as a retirement project? Are you aiming to get out by a certain date, or age? Are you looking to move location yourself? All of these questions will mean you need to consider what you’ll do with your properties well in advance.

If your property has done well as a holiday let, you’ll get more money if you can sell it as a going concern, including all furniture, contacts and previous guests’ details. And if you have accounts showing what you’ve taken, it should be an easy deal.

Whenever the time comes to sell, you’ll need to consider capital gains tax, so take advice on this and set things up to maximise what you can get tax-free, assuming you are making a profit. If not, the capital gains tax loss may still come in handy for future years, as you can roll it forward to offset against profits down the line.

And finally…

9.3. Facts Of Life

Being a holiday let owner is like riding the world's most unpredictable rollercoaster. One day you're basking in the glow of a thank-you note left by a delightful family who treated your property like their own, and the next, you're scratching your head over the mystery of the vanishing teaspoons or the surprisingly pink-tinted sheets. And oh, the stories! Tales of guests with a slippery grasp on the truth, or the ones with a penchant for five-finger discounts. Not to mention the wizards who somehow manage to bend the very fabric of time, arriving hours before or after they said, with no hint of a call or text.

But through all the loops and drops, there's nothing quite like the thrill of sharing your space and knowing that you've been a part of someone's cherished holiday memories. It's a wild ride, but a truly rewarding adventure.