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Have fun renting your apartment!

You've bought a property and now need to rent it out to help pay the mortgage, Suma, community charge, electricity, water and all the other bills that you didn't think about when you bought it!

Make life easy on yourself
26 October 2010

When I first started renting my apartment. I took a deposit payment by cheque and a final payment by cheque and ended up queuing in the Nationwide to pay in my cheques a week or two later.

I also posted out keys to our renters on the first couple of occasions. All of which took up my time and my money.

I also religiously kept a record of their names, addresses, e-mail address, phone numbers and dates of the duration of their stay.

Now I have a key holder I can rely on I no longer send out keys through the post.

I also no longer accept cheques. I have a prepared e-mail document which I send as an attachment to any response to a rental enquiry. I ask them to complete their details which means there is less liklihood of me getting it wrong and it takes me no time at all.

Also on the booking form are the details of my bank account in England for payments in £s and details of my Spanish Account for payments in €s. (You need to include your IBAN no and your banks BIC Code). I ask them to pay the deposit directly into my account. They can either toddle off to the bank and pay it in directly, or as most of them now have internet banking can do it from the comfort of their homes. Easier all round! If they are using English banks paying into my English account payments can arrive in minutes.

No more trips to the bank and no delay in getting payment into my account. 

I can copy my key holder the copy of the booking form. That way he knows who is coming and when they're coming.

On the booking form I tell the potential enquirer that the full balance is due 8 weeks prior to departure and that on receipt of the full balance I will give them the contact details of the key holder (home and mobile number along with e-mail address). The instruction is to contact the key holder directly to arrange a meeting up point and I don't get involved as a piggy in the middle trying to liaise between the two of them.

Next time I'll give you a couple of pointers on how to improve directions to your property. It helps people enjoy their holiday if they can get straight to it without getting lost!



Like 0        Published at 22:44   Comments (0)


Converting Enquiries to bookings
12 October 2010

The holiday rentals website says respond promptly to enquiries, I'd say, phone them up, don't just send an e-mail. Phoning an enquiry gives you a much better chance of converting an enquiry into a booking.

It gives you the opportunity to tell them all about the property and surrounding attractions, give them advice on how to get cheap air fares and car hire or whether they can manage with the local buses!

If they have children you can ask their ages and then suggest local attractions that will appeal to their age group. If they have young children or people with disabilities they may need to know about where they can hire things like cots, wheelchairs or mountain bikes. I can direct my renters to the websites of local firms that can provide these items for them, making their holidays less hassle.

I also e-mail my potential renters access to my on-line web-album (I use PIcasa Web Albums). This has 41 photos of my apartment, the local beaches, the go kart tracks, local beauty spots, flamenco at the nearby restaurants to give them a better idea of what they could be looking forward to,

In addition to the photos, I have also prepared a folder in the apartment with suggestions of what to do and where to go on a seven day holiday staying at our property. As this is a Word document I can offer to send it via e-mail to prospective renters. Some of the suggestions of things to do are very basic, e.g "buy the Costa Blanca News it will give you an idea of what's on and where to go." Others suggest a restaurant to go to and what day of the week to go if you want to see a Flamenco Show. -Alternatively, I can tell them about the local water-park and the go-karts with links to their web-sites, I bet their kids really want them to go to our apartment after seeing what is available for them to do.

I have a smattering of Spanish and have let my property to Spaniards on the basis that we can communicate via the web using web translation pages. They pay their rent directly into my Spanish bank account or directly to our keyholder ( and he pays it into my Spanish bank account!) Don't be afraid of enquiries from people who don't speak English otherwise you are limiting your rental potential.

For some people it will be the first time that they have tried putting their own holiday together and booking their own flights, car hire and accommodation and my advice is to make it as easy as possible for them. Tell them that you can hold the booking for them whilst they book their flights and that you will e-mail them idiot-proof directions to their apartment so they won't get lost. 

Remember that you want people to have a good time at your property and want them to come again. Be honest when describing your property in your advertisement and when speaking to potential renters.

I have a large number of very positive reviews for my property on my holiday rentals website and personally I believe that this makes a large number of my enquiries pre-sold. In other words, when they enquire about my property they are not comparing it with others and seeing whether they can get a reduction on the rental, they genuinely want to rent my property. I recommend that you phone people after they've stayed at your property and ask them how it went. Then, if they've had a good experience ask them could they do you the little favour of writing a review on the website and then e-mail them the link,

Next time I'll give you a few hints about how to make life easier for yourselves and keep costs down when it comes to administering your rental empire!



Like 0        Published at 22:55   Comments (0)


Finding additional rentals...think outside the box.
09 October 2010

When we bought our apartment we suddenly had a much bigger mortgage than our old one (three times the size) and needed to find some rental income to ease the pain of the massive mortgage repayments.

We put our apartment on a holiday rentals website and then thought.....how else can we market our property without spending a fortune on advertising?

One of the other owners on our community was having difficulty renting his apartment out and told me that his attempts at marketing consisted of having a flip photo album showing photos of his apartment that he passed round friends and relatives. Apart from the fact that there is a finite number of friends and relatives that would want to visit his place in Spain, the other issue was that he hadn't taken the time to take photos that presented his apartment and surrounding area in the best light. No wonder that he wasn't getting the bookings.

I worked for a bank which had an internal website that staff could advertise stuff they had for sale. I put an ad on that and immediately had an extra booking. If your employer hasn't a website, there will probably be a notice board that you can stick up advert for your property, I've done that too and got rentals from it. The people at work will probably ask for mates rates and I don't mind knocking a few quid off, except in July and August when I know that I will have every day booked out to people paying top dollar. You need to be generous sometimes but you shouldn't be giving away your best weeks at a discount.

When putting your advert together it helps if you take a bit of time and use your computer to prepare an A4 size advert with a nice external colour picture of your apartment and one or two internal photos. Put in a link to your on-line web advert and your Picasa web album so that people can get a good idea of what they are getting for their money. Put in your advert that you are prepared to offer mates rates to staff.

In addition to your work colleagues you'll probably have the odd relative or two that wants to see what you've bought. I am not a tight-wad but the place is costing me money and I'm not going to let them go for free unless I'm already there and they can come as my guest. If my family want a holiday in my apartment they are welcome and they do get it at a very good price, it all helps towards the mortgage. If your Mum and Dad want to go.....................don't charge them! Your Mum and Dad have given you enough in life already, it is a time to give them something back. All the other relatives are fair game.

So, now you've hit your work colleagues and your relatives. Let's not forget friends and neighbours (let's hear you sing........."When you've got friends and neighbours all the world is a happier place")

I was talking to my next door neighbour who who told me that his daughter has never had a proper beach holiday in the sun, she has now. They had a great holiday and I am sure that they've told the other neighbours. I've had some business cards printed with a photo of the apartment on the front with contact details and web address for the holiday rentals site on the reverse. I gave my neighbour one of the cards and told him to let me know if he was interested. I gave him a good rate for the week but I think his positive comments to our mutual friends and relatives will produce more rentals from them. Moo.com did my cards for me and they cost me about £15, I try and keep a few on me so that I can give them to people who may be interested in renting our property.

I've talked about "mates rates" and let's not forget your mates. They will look after your apartment and they will tell their relatives too. I've already rented out to my old school chums children! Don't be embarrassed to say "It's available at very reasonable rates!" every time that they mention you having a place in Spain. Once one of them has been, the others will be keen to follow suit.

If you are married, then you have the potential to double your rentals from not just your friends, family and work colleagues but also your wives/husbands, friends, family and work colleagues. Yes I've had rentals from all these areas too. 

Spreading the net further, I have a son and daughter both in their early 20's and both have large social networks. I told my daughter that I'd give her a commission on any rentals she could put  my way. It didn't take long before she asked me to e-mail her boss with details of my apartment. Not to be outdone my nephew has also recommended my apartment to a work colleague which resulted in another booking. Although I've offered my daughter the financial incentive, she is too kind to take it!

The important point here is to have an apartment that is a cut above the rest, that you, your family and friends are happy to recommend to their family and friends.

Finally, how many of you have a pre-set signature at the foot of your e-mails? Beneath my signature, address and phone number I have a line that says "click this link for details of a great place to stay on the Costa Blanca" and then the link to my web page on the holiday rentals website. I know for definite that this has got me at least one additional rental that I would not have had otherwise. It lets everyone you e-mail know about your place in Spain.

Next time I'll tell you about how to convert enquiries into bookings and my experiences.

Looking further ahead I'll tell you how to get repeat bookings from happy renters.

 



Like 0        Published at 12:49   Comments (1)


How to get a better income out of your property in Spain!
08 October 2010

Nearly five years ago I was sat at home reading the Daily Mail and saw that Parador properties were running an overseas property exhibition at a local pub. I'd toyed with the idea of buying a property abroad as I'd seen on the telly that they could be bought for next to nothing and the sun always shone once you'd got past Calais.

Off we went to the exhibition and were tempted by the "two inspection trips for the price of one" Just a few weeks later we were on board a flight to Alicante with no intention whatsoever of buying a property. We were "just looking".

Three days after our arrival we were in Parador Properties office, signing up for a property costing 171,000€ just at the time when we were clearing the mortgage on our home back in England. How could we have been so stupid? 

Luckily we didn't make every mistake that could be made. I was (and still am) a fully qualified financial adviser and knew that there are potential risks when buying a property. I knew that the Golden Rule was always take your mortgage in the currency you earn your income in, otherwise you can get caught by currency fluctuations going against you.

Now having owned the property for nearly four years and have been successfully renting it out for more weeks than the average property owner achieves, and at a better monthly income than similar properties, I'd like to share some of my experiences with you. It may help fill those vacant weeks and months and avoid some common mistakes when putting your property on the holiday rentals websites.

I intend to spread my pearls of wisdom over the course of the coming weeks as

  • it takes time to type all  the information
  • you'd get bored if I hit you with all the tips at once
  • you can act on my advice a step at a time.

The first and most important tip is to actually stump up a few quid and advertise your property on one of the holiday rentals websites.

Do your research.

  • Some sites are easier to navigate than others. Customers need to be able to get to see your apartment and there are so many websites that are poorly designed, customers will give up after having looked at a few properties and move on to a better presented website that allows them to search by price, area , availability, or even specific features. e.g the website I use allows potential customers to search for properties that have a dishwasher or air-conditioning.
  • Don't advertise on more than two websites. We had two for a while as we won a competition for a years free advertising. It is a nightmare keeping two availability calendars up to date. You've only got a limited number of weeks available and your are in effect doubling your costs without the potential to double the number of bookings.
  • Make use of the hints and tips on the website about how to promote your property. e.g use your creativity to describe the place in its best light, not just a two bed appt but a "beautiful, comfortable two bedroomed apartment with air-conditioning."
  • When taking photos of the apartment you usually have a limited number of photos that come included in the cost of your advert. Make the most of them. If you exclude photos of the exterior of your apartment people will rightly be suspicious, thinking that it must be on the sixth floor of a block of flats or in a rough area. When taking exterior shots wait for a sunny day and choose the time of day that has the sun on your property if at all possible. Why waste your money showing pictures of the local beaches?Get a decent camera and before you take any photos, give your apartment a big clean and tidy up. Showing pictures of the kitchen with tea towels, cluttered worktops and dirty cups and saucers isn't going to give the best impression. Remember that there are 1,000s of apartments to choose, you need to make them want to choose yours!
  • If you haven't already bought your furniture, don't buy the cheapest package of ugly,uncomfortable pine furniture you can find. It just makes your apartment look cheap 'n nasty and your rental rates will be at the bottom end of what is achievable.
  • If you want to be able to show lots of photos of your property and the surrounding areas attractions, but without paying a fortune for additional photographs why not put a web album on Google and put a link to it on your advert?
  • When your advert comes up for renewal do your research and calculate how many of your renters came from them and how many came from your own marketing. Have they earned their fee? Is it worth looking elsewhere? I had an owner phone me and ask how did I have such a full calendar of bookings. She took my advice and changed the web site that she used, copied my style of advert and I've seen how her bookings have improved. You could do the same and contact other property owners and ask them what success they've had using that particular website.

Next time I'll tell you how to switch an enquiry into a booking and later the ways to increase the weekly rental that you can charge.



Like 0        Published at 00:39   Comments (1)


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