Guide for cottage owners on renting out your cottage
When it comes to cottage rental there are two main options available to owners of such accommodation:
1. Agency services
2. Dealing direct with holidaymakers
This guide in the main focuses on the processes involved should you decide to go for the second option of dealing with holidaymakers direct.
If you aren’t sure which option is for you, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions. We recommend that you answer the below honestly. You may want to note down your answers for each.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are you happy to be fully involved in all aspects of your holiday home business?
- Do you enjoy dealing with holidaymakers?
- Are you good at administration, customer focused and well organised?
- Are you happy to handle things mostly on your own?
- Do you prefer to keep your own profits without paying commission to an agency?
- Do you anticipate having sufficient funds to employ someone to help with cleaning and taking care of your self-catering accommodation or are you willing to do this yourself?
If you answered mostly yes you may be well suited to being involved in running your own holiday home business. If you answered mostly no it may be best for you to consider using the services of an agency to help with your cottage rental.
There are a number of agencies in the UK which range from small specialist agencies to big brand names. Do your research to find out which suits you best. Local specialist agencies should have important local specialist knowledge and may be able to offer you a more personal service. Big brand name agencies are able to offer the advantage of large advertising budgets including television advertising campaigns and the weight that goes with being a household name. Agencies can be very helpful when it comes to handling things on your behalf but of course charge a commission fee for their services.
For those new to the cottage rental business some prefer to start off with an agency and later break away to running things themselves after their confidence and experience levels grow. Others are happy to jump straight in to doing things direct.
If you have decided that dealing direct is for you read on for more information on the processes involved in renting out your cottage.
To get holidaymakers to visit your cottage it is necessary to market your property. People will need to be able to quickly and easily find details of your cottage if you are to successfully find customers. There are a number of options open to you when it comes to marketing. Some people choose to advertise in newspapers or magazines. Others choose local ads in newsagents or supermarkets. With these traditional approaches to marketing, monitoring the effectiveness can be a challenge.
Over the last 10 years or so, online advertising has really taken off. There is now a dizzying array of websites that specialise in advertising cottage holidays. Some websites specialise in a certain type of accommodation such as country cottages or coastal cottages for example whereas others are more generic. Similarly some websites cover accommodation worldwide whereas others specialise in local areas such as the English Cotswolds. Our Country Cottages website covers all kinds of self-catering accommodation within the UK and Ireland from idyllic rural retreats to unusual self-catering houseboats.
If you are advertising on cottage advertising websites you may be wondering whether you should have your own website. Having your own website doesn’t have to mean going to huge expense nowadays. There are a number of free blog type websites available online such as Wordpress which you can use for free. The only expense you may need to go to is getting your own domain name. Having your own cottage website can really help when it comes to fully showing off your property. On most cottage advertising websites there will be limits to the information shown about your cottage and you may not want to input too much information for readability reasons. Having your own website is an excellent opportunity to show your cottage off to the maximum and to really zone in on the selling points. What’s more with your own website if you sign up for free monitoring tools such as Google Analytics then you can find out which are the best websites for sending traffic to your own website.
You may be wondering whether it’s worth making the effort to set up your own website but having your own website should help with giving a more professional impression of your cottage holiday business and does so to speak put you on the map.
Once you have put your advertising in place you then wait for holidaymakers to contact you via your preferred method of contact, usually by phone and/or email or via your own website.
We recommend that you also read through our hints and tips on marketing online.
When dealing with potential holidaymakers direct it is important that they can get hold of you quickly and easily. To get bookings it usually pays to return calls and emails in a timely fashion.
It is usually a good idea to have an answer machine so that if you are unable to answer the phone then potential guests have the opportunity to leave a message. You may also want to give out your mobile number so that people can contact you on the move. Bear in mind though that giving a professional impression can be important so it may be best to stick with a landline answerphone rather than to be taking mobile phone calls about potential bookings in a noisy shopping centre for example. It may also help you sell your cottage better if you return and deal with calls when you are not busy on some other task and are able to give the potential holidaymakers your full attention.
To secure a booking of a holiday cottage it is standard practice for owners to request a deposit payment. The standard amount requested is probably somewhere in the region of 30% of the overall price. Most owners require receipt of this deposit to confirm a booking. When taking last minute bookings it is important for security reasons to only accept payment by cash. With cheques and credit cards with last minute bookings there is always a risk that the payment method will fail and you will be left without payment. See our guide on staying safe for more information. Some people in addition take a damage deposit as extra protection against any damage.
For some owners it is important to greet guests personally and hand over keys to them. It is advisable to give guests written information about the issue and return of keys. In terms of customer service and security you may decide to deal with the issuing and return of keys personally. Other owners have cleaners or housekeepers who deal with this on their behalf. Others still use lock boxes outside or near the property where guests access the keys by entering in a security code. Others still use a lock with a security code as is commonly found with offices.
Changeover Dates & Cleaning
When dealing with bookings you will need to decide whether to only offer weekly lets or to have more flexible options. Some owners only rent their cottages out Saturday to Saturday. Do decide on check in times and make sure that holidaymakers booking your property are aware of these times. Having set check in times can help you with staying organised when it comes to cleaning the cottage before guests arrive. Do bear in mind that nowadays particularly when it comes to breaks in the UK, many people like to opt for short breaks or weekends away. The more flexible options you are able to offer, the more likely it is that your cottage will get booked up by guests.
Feedback & Follow Up
It is advisable to have some process in place to gain feedback from those who stay at your cottage. You may want to collect an email address for each person booking your cottage and following their stay, email them to ask them for feedback, compliments and complaints. Gaining feedback should help you iron out any problems, keep standards high and potentially get guests who want to return to your holiday home time and time again.
Some websites allow guests to leave reviews. Again with reviews it is important to consider feedback and act on any points made to make improvements. If responding to reviews it pays to be polite and to acknowledge the points made by guests.