Renting out your second home

If you're in the happy position of having found and funded a second home it's important to ensure you get the most from your investment. While you and your family will almost certainly want to use it yourselves during the year, it's likely that there will be many months when the house will be empty. So, why not consider renting it out so that your second property can literally earn its keep as well as make you some money?

First you need to decide whether you would prefer to let it for a fixed but short term period (six months for example) or have several holiday lets throughout the year. The benefits of the first option are that you only have one set of tenants to deal with per rental period, regardless of whether you handle the lease yourself or employ a letting agent. The downside is that you can't enjoy using the property yourself at all during that time.

Option two means you can still stay in the property yourself if there's a gap in bookings but more importantly, renting for holiday use, particularly in peak periods of the year (Easter, school summer holidays and Christmas for example) generally reaps higher profits. However, you will be required to have much more input to ensure the smooth running of rental 'changeovers' unless you decide to register the property with one of the many holiday homes rental agencies. If you decide to 'go it alone' and follow the holiday rental route minus a letting agent, the following tips could help you avoid some common pitfalls:

DO

  • Research the other holiday lets for rent in the area - either with an actual visit as a potential renter or via the internet. Make a note of what they are charging at different times of the year as well as any special features or amenities they offer which add to their holiday rental appeal. Consider leaving some milk in the fridge, a vase of flowers or a bottle of wine to make your guests feel welcome when they arrive.

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    Work out your sums carefully to ensure you charge an economically viable rate that will keep the property booked throughout your chosen rental season and leave you with an acceptable return on your investment and efforts.

  • Ensure you have the buildings and contents insured with a reputable and reliable holiday homes insurance company.

  • Inform both your mortgage provider and buildings and contents insurer of your intention to rent the property or you may find yourself in breach of their respective terms and conditions.

  • Get your property noticed in all the relevant places by all the right people. This could include:

    • Creating a fully informative, user-friendly website with high quality images of the property's interior and exterior. Or promote your property on a local tourism website? Or on an aggregator site such as cottages4u.co.uk

    • Investing in a number of professionally produced leaflets detailing and picturing the property's best assets. These can be used as adverts in local shop windows (often people are looking for places to accommodate friends and relatives close by) and also as mail outs to enquirers

  • Properties can be notoriously expensive when things go wrong and need repairs or replacement. Consider saving around 5% of your rental income each month to help cover those unexpected expenses.

  • Prepare an inventory of all the items you have provided in the house - this should include everything from cutlery and plates to paintings and ornaments. Some breakages are inevitable but this will help you keep a track of your belongings.

Ensure you hold a current Gas Safety Certificate for the property. This is a legal requirement

  • Ensure you hold a current Gas Safety Certificate for the property. This is a legal requirement if a gas supply is connected. You should also make regular checks on all electrical appliances and install smoke alarms at each level.

  • Make it absolutely clear what is included in the rental fee such as electricity, gas, linen, towels, logs for the fire if applicable etc. State an earliest arrival time for your guests and a latest departure time.

  • Employ a reliable person to take responsibility for effecting the 'changeovers' as one party of guests leave and the next set arrive. It's vital that the housekeeping element of the property is kept to a consistently high standard.

DON'T

  • Assume your guests automatically know the area. Help them to get the most out of their stay and make them more likely to return by leaving a selection of tourist information leaflets about local attractions, pubs, restaurants, walks, shops, bus and train timetables etc.

  • Be precious about carpets and other furnishings if you are allowing pets to stay. Lay down some ground rules about where they are permitted to go (bedrooms may well be prohibited for example) and opt for hard-wearing, easily washable items.

  • Treat letting your property as a mere hobby; always think of it as being a proper business and you will find it easier to manage and are more likely to see increased profits.

  • Be complacent and ignore comments left in the visitor's book. Take pride in positive entries written by your guests and learn from any negative findings.

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