How To Rent Out A Holiday Home by:David Stuttard
The important steps involved are described in this article; if the advice given is taken and you do the necessary work (some effort is necessary for what is, after all, a major investment), there will be no problems and you will maximise your marketing potential. However - and this cannot be emphasised too strongly - if you are lazy and think that good renters are going to rush to book your beautiful villa while you sit waiting for the phone to ring, you will be left with an expensive, empty investment.
The property obviously needs to meet local health and safety regulations, to be clean, well-maintained and furnished/decorated to a standard that fits what you expect to receive in rent (simple and neutral respectively is normally appropriate). It should not be cluttered by lots of personalised artifacts, such as family photos and all kitchen/bathroom utensils, etc, should be out of sight. If when guests first arrive they are welcomed by a basket of essentials (tea, coffee, milk, rolls, butter and mineral water, etc) and fresh flowers they are more likely to relax and come again next year. You should also make sure there is an up-to-date and complete file of useful local information for each new visitor.
You need to decide what dates you want to rent it out to holidaymakers and then what are the seasonally-based rental prices you should set to attract renters - based on researching prices asked for similar properties in similar locations.
Positive consideration of how the property will be maintained is necessary - if you are there, this can be controlled by yourself (covering such things as meeting guests to hand over and collect keys and formally agree the condition/contents of the property before and after and listing who to call on when the air conditioning or plumbing fails), otherwise you need an agent or a reliable person (make it a business, not an informal, arrangement) to take care of these things.
It should go without saying that you need to find out about legal and tax issues in the country where your property is located and, indeed, with your own country's taxes associated with overseas rental income. This means consulting the appropriate departments or professionals.
Then possibly the most challenging job is that of advertising. There are many ways to do this, such as in newspapers, magazines, local agents, your own website, through relatives and friends and of course via reccommendation. None of these ways are likely to generate enough bookings to make it worth your while. They would cost you a lot of time and money to control and the option of having your own website is a non-starter, because it will cost you from 500 to 1500 for a designer and your website will not be found by searchers.
On the other hand, there are many well-organised holiday rental search type websites, that have other properties on their books and that attract many visitors via the search engines (importantly, they have already made the investments needed to develop a website and promote it using various search engine optimisation, ie SEO, techniques). Some of these websites offer free advertising, some are free to advertise but take a percentage of any rentals and some simply ask for an annual fee, which varies widely but is usually proportional to how big they are. Many in each category charge extras, eg for highlighting an advert or for entering advert details. It is suggested that the free ones do not offer a very professional service, in which properties are presented too simply in advert-bound and cluttered pages. It is further suggested that the very big ones are expensive and are simply overwhelming for searchers (with thousands of options that can quickly lose a visitor).
The best option is undoubtedly to use any and all professional-looking websites with a nominal annual fee, eg 30, noting that some offer a free period (which should be grabbed with both hands!). Some work is necessary to enter details and upload photos, etc; but that's all part of the work needed to promote your property rental. Some websites do that work for you for a price, if you already have your own website to extract details from or you provide them details in some other way.
One website that you must use is http://www.solapartments.co.uk, who are free up to 1/1/2010 (then 29.99/year). Importantly, this is a very professional website that is uncluttered and provides a clean, full-featured property advert page with 16 photos in a distinctive Flash gallery, an interactive map, an availability calendar and direct owner contact details. It also features a wide variety of travel aids via seperate menu selections (not mixed up with property search and property advert pages!). They do not make you pay extra for anything, even if they have to enter your details for you.
On the website(s) you enter your property details, it makes sense to 'sell' your property in the most effective way you can imagine, to attract bookings in what is a very competitive market - good, clear photos of every room, every outside feature and interesting local attractions such as the beach or golf course; a pricing structure; complete and grammatically-correct details of the property and its surrounding areas, including all facilities (air conditioning, TV, broadband internet, kitchen appliances, etc) in the property; what there is to do in the area (horse-riding, sailing, sightseing - you name it).
You can outline terms and conditions in your advert, but you should have a rental agreement already prepared, so that this can be emailed to a renter. The agreement needs to clearly define the deposit required and when it is due, when the balance is due (before they arrive), what the refund and cancellation policy is, what additional costs there are such as for cleaning after they leave, if smoking or pets are allowed and how the condition of the property will be established before and after the rental (to decide if any damages or losses need to be paid for out of the deposit).
Most importantly, when you receive an enquiry you should respond promptly and in a professional and friendly manner (they won't wait more than 1 day - they're anxious to plan their holiday somewhere now not next week and they will be keen to establish a rapport with the owner - they need to feel they can trust you when they send you a deposit) and be prepared to be flexible and helpful with such things as the price, times of arrival and departure, minimum stays, help with airport transfers, etc - just make sure you get that booking!
About the author
Dave Stuttard writes for the blog in the http://www.solapartments.co.uk website, where you can confidently advertise (currently free in 2009!) and search for holiday rentals (mainly in Europe).
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