DEPRESSED house prices have prompted many homeowners to rent out their property as a holiday let instead of selling – but it requires planning and a clear strategy.
Tom and Alison Ward-Lee moved to the Haute Savoie from London in 2004 and converted a chalet in the ski resort of Samoens for rental.
They gradually began looking after other peoples’ holiday lets in the area, advising owners on how to get the best results, and they now manage 30 chalets and apartments.
Mrs Ward-Lee said: “Even if your house is less than perfect, with rough walls and shabby outbuildings, there is plenty you can do to make it marketable.” Here are their tips for holiday rental success.
Get rid of clutter: Those treasured family photos and trophies must go into storage.
When decorating, think clean and bright. Choose a neutral colour scheme to suit all tastes. White paintwork is easy to touch up between lets.
If you are renovating an old house, add modern items such as new kitchen units, spot lights, cushions and rugs.
Tackle all repairs. Visitors will complain if appliances break down and are less likely to respect your property if things are not in working order. The money that you spend will make your house more saleable later, so repairs are a good investment.
Sorting out leaks, dodgy showers and rickety stairs will save money in the long run. Make the best of what you have. If your house has traditional features, these should be accentuated. Do not be tempted to rip out the bread oven.
Get a professional in to check all the electrics. Think carefully about fire and safety issues and make sure you conform to all regulations. See your mairie for guidance.
Car parking should be adequate – off road if possible.
Invest in new but inexpensive white or matching crockery that you can replace cheaply and quickly.
Make cleaning your priority. Start with a thorough, professional clean. If you are using a local company, check their reputation. The first clean will set the standard. Aim to get back up to this between lets.
Add “feel-good” touches such as a welcome basket of food, drink and toiletries.
Add games consoles, DVDs, books. Think about what people will need to enjoy your property. Self-caterers will love a good set of knives and traditional cooking pots.
If your house is a rural retreat, make sure your garden furniture is freshly painted. Put chairs and a table on any balcony.
Pristine bed linen is a must. Buy easy-iron linen and check it carefully for wear and tear.
Even a small property should have an information folder, with details of local amenities and restaurants. Include details such as bike hire, sports and childcare.
Think about your property’s most attractive qualities. Get business cards with a photo of the home.
If you decide to use a letting specialist, they will have strict criteria before they will take your property on, so talk to them early on to work out what needs doing.
Do your research before deciding on prices. Once you have compared similar properties in your area you can decide on a price structure.
There are hundreds of websites for holiday lets so choose carefully. Imagine you are a holidaymaker looking for a property like yours. Use a search engine to find the sites that are most likely to work.
Word of mouth works. Offer your friends in the UK off-season “mates’ rates” when bookings are likely to be low.
An inexpensive, basic website is a good investment. Include full information, with photos of the property and the area and local activities.
A good photo is worth a thousand words. Do not include unmade beds, family pets, loo seats left up, washing up in the sink and so on. Take the photos on a sunny day.
Make sure you are contactable. It sounds obvious, but many people forget they are running a business and leave inquiries in their inbox while they go off on holidays. Respond quickly and professionally to enquiries.
Partner with other private owners. If you are full, you can suggest them and vice versa. Building up a strong network with others in your town or village is a must. If you are in a rural area, chat with the local businesspeople – their family and friends might want to stay locally. Ask if you can put your business cards in restaurants, and shops.
The Connexion publishes a helpguide, priced €5, on letting out your home for the holidays.