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Holiday let owners

(79 Posts)
origamiwarrior Mon 25-Jun-18 14:34:57

Setting up a thread for holiday let owners (UK and abroad) to share hints/tips, advice etc. Also if anyone is thinking of going into this business, you're welcome to ask questions of those who have done it.

I have a Grade 2 listed two-up, two down cottage in Sussex, owned outright and let out on an AST for a couple of years but launched this spring as a holiday cottage. Visit England 4-star, quirky/period/vintage style. Letting it though a local agency, and I do the changeovers myself. Had a great start, pretty much fully booked until October.

Advice needed - how to speed up changeovers!! I'm taking the full 5 hours, and it's only a tiny 2-bedroom place! I find the kitchen so time-consuming to clean/check. I think it's going to get harder in winter when I can't chuck things outside as I go. I seem to be constantly moving things around as it is. If you have cleaners, how long does it take them to changeover?

Look forward to hearing from other owners about your properties/experiences!

KevinTheYuccaPlant Mon 25-Jun-18 15:01:56

Excellent, thank you smile

We have a traditional 3-bed croft house on the north coast of Scotland, bought as a renovation project to sell on and then the North Coast 500 was launched and we thought we'd try it as a holiday let instead. In our first season, letting through Wyndham Group (Cottage.com, Scottish Cottages etc. etc.), and happy with the bookings so far, though we still have the last three weeks of August empty (Scottish schools go back the first week of August as they're on a 4-term system). It's going well enough that we've just bought another project house 20 miles away smile

I do changeovers myself too. Despite it having a double, a twin and a single, we mostly just have two people staying (and usually a dog or two) - if that's the case I can do the changeover in about 2.5 hours, if I need to do all four beds it's the full 5. If I've got a quick-ish changeover, I try and give one room a proper pull-all-the-furniture-out/toothbrush-round-the-taps-style deep clean, which helps keep on top of things. If I'm struggling for time, I concentrate on getting the beds changed and making sure the kitchen and bathroom are spotless, push the hoover round and then in the bedrooms and living room, I check there's no obvious dust and use some spray furniture polish on one item of furniture, so it smells like it's been cleaned thoroughly. So far 10/10 on all my Revoo reviews for cleanliness! Are there any tasks you're doing at every changeover that could be shunted onto a once-a-month checklist?

loveka Mon 25-Jun-18 15:04:53

Ours is a listed 3 bedroom cottage in Cornwall.

It is our pension...

Elphame Mon 25-Jun-18 15:14:11

Hello - I have a 3 bed Victorian cottage in Snowdonia with a 4* Visit Wales grading. It's been let for a number of years now and I ditched my own agent after the first couple of months as they were doing nothing I couldn't do myself.

My changeovers average 4 hours generally. It was a deliberate decision to go for a clean modern look with a bit of a traditional twist and to keep dust and dirt traps to a minimum to facilitate a quick and easy clean to a very high standard. Beds for example are frames rather than divans so easy to hoover under and curtains hang either sill length or just above floor level to keep them clean and dust free.

I leave a full range of cleaning products and equipment for guests in the hope that they will use them. Some even do!

My biggest time consumer is also the kitchen. Mine is very well equipped so there is a lot to clean and check but again it's been designed to be as straightforward as possible with as many dirt and dust traps as possible eliminated. The main problem areas are the beams and the actual building quirks but they are what give the cottage its character and I can't design them out!

origamiwarrior Mon 25-Jun-18 15:25:23

Kevin I am doing pretty much everything in full each time I clean - problem being the cottage is so blimmin clean that to not do something thoroughly would be noticeable! Like on Friday, I wasn't going to pull out the sofa, but DH pointed out there had been a baby staying so there could be food/toys under it (there wasn't!). I need the cottage to get a patina of wear - it's all still fresh paint and new carpet at the mo!

Have you had any issues with dogs? We don't currently take them, but I'm thinking of changing this (for the winter breaks market). We have a dog ourselves and he visits the cottage with us, so we can't advertise as 'pet free' anyway....

birdladyfromhomealone Mon 25-Jun-18 15:28:59

You all know I have a 5 bed villa in Spain.
We have a mortgage,
Changeover takes 3 cleaners 4 hrs we also have a gardener and pool guy. A meet and greet and 24hr contact agent.
With linen costs and air con costs our overheads for each week are in the region of 500 euros.
We only let it for 10 weeks a year.
There is not massive profit in it.
It is our family home that we rent out whilst its too hot for us and we go on a cooler holiday and come back to the Uk to visit family/friends.

origamiwarrior Mon 25-Jun-18 15:31:12

Elphame I reckon i should be able to get down to 4 hours with practice. It's also the prep stuff - topping up handwash, tea bags, setting out welcome pack, new tea towels etc. All seems to take much longer than you would think - I can clean my 4-bed hous in half the time it takes me to do the cottage - go figure!

origamiwarrior Mon 25-Jun-18 15:35:35

Loveka You mentioned reviews on the other thread, are you on airbnb or similar? Part of the reason I went with an agency is so I don't have to devote brain space to dealing with reviews - if they aren't good, I assume the agency doesn't put them up on our listing!

Singlebutmarried Mon 25-Jun-18 15:38:38

Origami - for handwash etc keep two lots.

Take the other home with you to refill.

phlewf Mon 25-Jun-18 15:46:26

Please settle an argument for me. We usually rent cottages for holidays, maybe 3 times a year (often on the North coast as it happens). I always put the dishwasher on as I leave with the very last things in (including chopping boards, trivets, oven things). In my mind the cleaner can open the dishwasher and see that stuffs all clean so is less to check, especially fruit bowls and containers that I think must take time.
DM hand washes the breakfast cups and and puts everything away, thinking that I’m giving the cleaners more work by making them empty the dishwasher.
Who’s right?
Once you’ve answered that I have a fascinating one about bed clothes.

origamiwarrior Mon 25-Jun-18 15:46:47

Hi birdlady that must be very tough when it's your principal home and you see people treating it so badly. While I've never lived in my cottage, I ruddy luffs it (and put my heart and soul into renovating it) and would be gutted if it got trashed. As someone said on your other thread, it's a hard balance as you are advised to provide high quality kit and to provide homely touches, creating a property with personality and character, but then its heart wrenching when someone doesn't respect that.

Elphame Mon 25-Jun-18 15:52:24

I keep a locked cupboard on site for all the consumables like teabags etc so they are there and just need replenishing every 6 weeks or so. Handwash and washing up liquid are replenished as necessary and not necessarily every week.

Most of our guests have dogs. I wasn't going to at first but it was pretty clear that where I am, not doing so would significantly limit my market. I take 2 without question - any more it depends on size.... Personally I find the dogs less destructive. They don't scribble on the coffee table in felt pen or leave black sticky fingermarks on the blinds!

I leave rolls of poo bags in the kitchen and most are pretty good about pooper scooping the garden. My treasure of a gardener deals with the odd missed one during his weekly lawn cut.

loveka Mon 25-Jun-18 16:22:16

Origami, I am.with a small local agency. However, people put reviews on trip adviser! Our agency wont allow deposits.

We are currently doing another one, which will be air b and b as we were too late to go with an agency. We are only aiming to get the 8 peak weeks this year, anything else is a bonus!

I just can't decide about the deposit thing for air b and b.Next year we will be living next door, so I wonder if people are better behaved if the owner is so close?

We pay for 4 hours for a changeover. Plus the laundry takes up to 2 hours.

Gardener is an hour or 2.

People were very snippy to the poor OP on the other thread. Who do they think owns the cottages/villas/ hotels they go on holiday to?!

loveka Mon 25-Jun-18 16:24:36

I prefer the dishwasher on! As long as it is not on a long programme of course. Sometimes we have 2 cleaners who do 2 hours each to get it done quickly.

phlewf Mon 25-Jun-18 16:34:21

Haha! I knew I was right. Probably everyone else will reply with the opposite. And I do pay attention to the cycle length, nothing worse than a 4 hour economy cycle. I try to remember to leave a note too, saying beds not stripped haven’t been slept in or whatever but I don’t always remember.

origamiwarrior Mon 25-Jun-18 16:47:34

I prefer dishwasher on too and leave a note to this effect in my guest instructions (I spell it out because some people [my parents] wouldn't normally leave a dishwasher running if not in the house, but it's far preferable than the final bits being left steeping in the sink!)

single that's genius 're. the handwash! Far better to refill at my convenience at home, rather than during the time-pressed changeover. Thanks!

loveka Mon 25-Jun-18 16:49:23

If only eveyone said if the beds haven't been slept on!

A few weeks ago the house had been totally cleaned. It looked like noone had been there it was so clean
Beds were crisp and perfectly made, we wondered if they had washed the sheets! We knew it was a couple who had stayed, but we had to strip all the made beds.

TheOnlyAletheia Mon 25-Jun-18 19:37:52

Hello all, we’re in our 3rd year with 1 x 4 bed and 2 x 3 bed barn conversions in Norfolk.

We’re with Wyndham but have our own website but the bookings mostly are through Wyndham (EnglishCountry Cottages) paying 18% commission on the bookings.

We have about 46 weeks occupancy on the larger unit and 36 weeks on the three beds.

Our gross income is about £100k pa, net profit is about £45k.

Phlewf - send your mum to me 🙂 I’d love her.

TheOnlyAletheia Mon 25-Jun-18 19:43:34

If we didn’t take dogs, our occupancy rates would be a lot lower but we have solid floors throughout so it’s an easy clean.

TheOnlyAletheia Mon 25-Jun-18 19:45:45

I have a washing up bowl for each barn that I fill with the cleaning products etc and just swap them over and bring the rest home on each changeover and sort them out during the week.

KevinTheYuccaPlant Mon 25-Jun-18 21:05:24

Origami - no issues with dogs whatsoever, there's been the odd scratch mark on the leather sofas, but nothing that won't polish out. About 80% of our bookings have one or two dogs with them. The new place will take up to 4 and I'm considering putting a dog shower in the utility room there.

Aletheia - 46 weeks occupancy is amazing! We're trying to get to 5 lets, so that DH can give up his day job. Did you find there was a big impact when you went over the VAT threshold?

OhMrDarcy Mon 25-Jun-18 21:14:26

I've a one bed house I let out, and because we welcome dogs (welcome rather than accept!) we're booked 50 weeks a year. 95% of our guests are couples who are 60 + with one or two little dogs and they leave the cottage really clean. We're popular as it is really spacious inside so it doesn't feel cramped with solid wood floors and old sash windows with window seats.

Changeover takes around 3 hours as there is the garden to sort out in the summer and the log burner to clean and lay and stock up on logs in winter. It doesn't matter if the guests have hoovered and mopped, it needs to be done again so I know it has been done and there are no surprises!

We are thinking of getting another one and would run it on the same basis - dog friendly and aimed at the 60+ market. If we have any younger couples to stay they don't clean, use all the wifi (rural area) and leave late on changeover day. I wish I could restrict bookings to the over 60s!

TheOnlyAletheia Mon 25-Jun-18 22:06:56

kevin - we registered for VAT to do the conversion of the barns when we incorporated the company which the revenue allowed us to do, so we could reclaim the VAT on the conversion. It was worth doing for us and we’ve got another 2 barns to convert (1x 2 bed which is at internal fit out stage and 1 x 5 bed which is probably going to be a retirement project in 15 years time).

origamiwarrior Mon 25-Jun-18 22:24:15

Aletheia Is that commission 18% plus VAT? I pay 17.5% plus VAT (so works out about 20%) but I'm hoping to renegotiate lower next year on the basis of still putting all bookings through the agency, and not doing any myself.

Nice tip re your niche demographic MrDarcy and amazing occupancy! We're running fully booked over summer but it's the winter where I think things might dip, hence the dog dilemma/discussions.

Doilooklikeatourist Mon 25-Jun-18 22:34:19

We’ve got a 2 bed cottage that we let out

We’re with booking . Com and Air BnB

We were with Cottages . Com. But found them awful , so changed to Sykes ( which were worse ! )

We do weekly let’s with Friday as changeover day in the main school holidays ( have 2 weeks left at the moment , but we’re holding our nerve and not splitting the weeks yet )

Mainly families , sometimes couples. , my favourite was 2 ladies who bought loads of books with them , their walking boots ... and a box set of Poldark

We do our own laundry , and have a cleaning lady to help with the cleaning ( but she phoned in sick this morning. So I did it )

Most guests are lovely , there’s only been 2 lots that we don’t want to see again. And we’re in our 4th year , so that’s not bad 😀

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