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Own a holiday let property? 4 ways to boost staycation bookings

As 2021 looks set for a staycation boom, here’s how to make the most of opportunities to let your holiday property out. By Vicky Shaw.

With staycations likely to prove popular in 2021, holiday lets could become more appealing to those with the money to invest.

And mortgage lenders have boosted their ranges to cater for demand from holiday let investors, according to Moneyfacts.co.uk.

The website recently found the choice of mortgage options for borrowers looking at holiday lets has doubled since August 2020. In early April 2021, Moneyfacts found 149 mortgage options available for holiday lets – a figure which was nearly back to levels seen in March 2020, when there were 162 deals on the market. Back in August 2020, there were just 74 deals recorded.

If you’re getting a holiday let property ready for bookings, here are some tips from Bev Dumbleton, chief operating officer at Sykes Holiday Cottages, to help maximise the potential of the property…

1. Prioritise easy DIY jobs

Now could be the perfect time to get stuck into some DIY. People often underestimate how effective simple DIY jobs can be to spruce up a property. And when it comes to a holiday let, you need to ensure that the space is always looking its best for your guests.

If your property has been empty for a few months, it might just need a bit of love. A fresh coat of paint on the walls can really brighten the space and you could also bring your painting skills into the garden to repaint any garden furniture and fences, to make it feel smarter and more luxurious.

Prioritise easy repairs that are going to make the experience better for the customer. For example, a bathroom can be instantly revitalised by resealing around sinks and the shower, replacing an old shower curtain or fixing any leaky taps.

Remember, it’s not just about making it look better, but fixing any small issues that will help secure you top reviews – and ultimately more bookings.

2. Give your property images a facelift

When marketing your holiday let, ensure you’re using top quality images. No matter how stunning your property is, images are going to be what really grabs people’s attention.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make sure you are using the most up-to-date photos. If you have made renovations or interior changes during the lockdowns, now is the time to show them off.

The first image makes the biggest impact, so use it to showcase the best parts of your holiday home. Try and capture pictures that show off amenities that will be great for all times of year too – from cosy fireplaces all the way to beautiful balconies and sun terraces.

Finally, you should also consider including some of the local area to show off what there is to do around the property come rain or shine.

3. Ensure year-round appeal

Looking to the years ahead, to help secure bookings across the seasons, think about what will drive opportunities during those sometimes-quieter autumn and winter months. Certain amenities draw more bookings in colder months than others, so if it’s something you can afford to add, it could be a worthwhile investment.

For example, Sykes’ bookings data has previously shown that properties with hot tubs, on average, earn 50% more than lets that don’t, and woodburning stoves and open fires also attract guests all-year-round. Believe it or not, dishwashers are also an attractive feature to holidaymakers when booking.

If you’re worried about cost, then there are smaller but still effective changes you could still make, like providing blankets or putting rugs down on wooden floors to add warmth. The key is to ensure the space is cosy to drive bookings in those colder months.

4. Allow shorter bookings

Often during the low season, guests don’t want to book a week-long holiday, opting instead for a shorter mid-week or weekend break. Allowing bookings for two or three-night stays will may well encourage more people to book.

This is especially true after the past year, with short breaks becoming increasingly popular as people have been working from home and having long-weekend ‘workcations’. Recent research from Sykes found half of people plan to take more weekend trips and shorter breaks this year, rather than longer ones.

 

8 clever tips to save you money when shopping online

From leaving items in your basket to going incognito on your web browser, Vicky Shaw looks at some dos and don’ts of online shopping.

Online shopping is a trend that appears firmly here to stay, even as more of the high street begins to open up again, as lockdown restrictions ease.

A third (33%) of people think they will continue to shop online more often for non-grocery items, even after the immediate threat of the pandemic has subsided, recent research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found. And one in five (21%) will continue to shop more often online for groceries in the long-term.

However, with online shopping having become so firmly ingrained in everyday life, it’s a good idea to stay on top of the latest advice for getting the best deals and avoiding any online shopping scams.

Here are some ‘dos and don’ts’ from Andy Barr, retail expert and co-founder of online price tracking website Alertr.co.uk…

1. Do go incognito or use a different browser

Got your eye on something? Do you keep going back to the same website to check if it’s still there or gone down in price? Well, doing this could actually bump up the prices. This can sometimes happen when browsing for holidays.

To avoid the price hikes, try going incognito on your web browser. Incognito basically means it won’t track your browser history, meaning your browser won’t remember which websites you have visited previously.

2. Do use discount websites

While you are shopping online, it’s worth signing up to discount and cashback websites, to make the most of any discounts you can get while looking for your online purchases.

Depending on who you bank with, you may even be able to get cashback with particular retailers by using certain payment cards, so make sure you check. You might not get a deal on every purchase you make, but at least you’re signed up to ensure the possibility.

3. Do leave items in your basket

If you’re signed up to a website you’re buying from and you decide to leave the items in your basket for long enough, you might get lucky and be sent a discount code via email from the retailer. This is a technique that retailers use to ensure that any products added to customer baskets are then purchased.

4. Do track your desired items

Price tracking websites such as Alertr will allow you to spot patterns in pricing and get notifications when a desired item you are following goes on sale.

5. Don’t end up paying for multiple deliveries

Make sure you have everything you may want or need from a particular online retailer before shelling out for those pesky delivery costs. There is nothing worse than having already paid and realising you’ve missed something out, therefore having to pay double for delivery. Some retailers also offer free delivery if if the total number of purchases adds up to a certain amount.

If you’re only slightly below the free delivery threshold, it may be worth looking on the website for something that only costs a few pounds but takes you up to the free delivery threshold. The additional item may be cheaper than the delivery charge would have been – and you’ve got a little something extra for your money.

6. Don’t necessarily buy on the first website you find the item on

Make sure you shop around first. Another retailer may sell the same product for a cheaper price, or there may be a similar product which does the same thing for less money.

7. Don’t forget that how you pay can give you added protections if something goes wrong with the purchase

Paying for items by credit card can give you added protections under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if anything goes wrong with the purchase. Payment options such as PayPal can also offer added protections if you don’t receive the goods you were expecting.

8. Don’t be fooled by copycats

Remember, there are a lot of scam websites, which may look legitimate but are designed to trick you into handing over your money. They may be selling fake goods, or the website might be trying to copy a well-known brand and the goods may never arrive at all. Information you put into bogus websites may be used to steal your identity.

If you’re buying from an unfamiliar website, it’s worth doing extra checks to make sure it’s genuine. Check the website URL and search for independent reviews to see if anyone has had problems with it before. Spelling mistakes on a website are also a red flag that it could be fake. There have also been fake missed delivery messages purporting to be delivery firms doing the rounds, so be on your guard.

How to make skincare products out of garden plants

An expert offers a guide to making bath bombs, spritzes and soaps from common garden plants.

Want to create your own bath fizzers, soaps and other skincare favourites with botanicals from your own garden?

If you grow roses, chamomile, lavender and other common plants, you can use them in your regular skincare routines, says organic gardener Tanya Anderson, founder of Lovely Greens (lovelygreens.com) and author of A Woman’s Garden: Grow Beautiful Plants And Make Useful Things, a guide to how you can use your garden plants to aid wellbeing.

“We tend to think of botanicals as plant extracts that come pre-packaged, but the truth is that you can transform chamomile, roses, lavender, and even more exotic plants, into high-end skincare in the average kitchen,” she insists.

“You don’t need a huge amount of space,” she continues. “You can grow plants in pots or window boxes, or even forage for plants such as chickweed.”

Which plants should we grow for skincare?

Cucumbers are a soothing astringent, the roots of echinacea can be made into a tincture or glycerite, which is beneficial for healing skin, while soaking the roots of marsh mallow in water can provide a cooling and hydrating infusion for the skin, she says.

Rosemary, thyme violet and peppermint also have beneficial properties for skin, she adds.

Anyone with an indoor space could grow an aloe plant, for the obvious benefits the gel from a leaf can provide to soothe sunburn or regenerate tired skin.

“Different plants have different functions for your skin. Some promote healing, so if you have eczema or acne, it can help create regenerative tissue. Other plants have properties which make them humectant (which can draw moisture from the air).

“Some plants have natural tannins which help to tighten skin, so you can use them as toners. Witch hazel, for instance, has tannins in it. You use the extract in firming lotions and creams, while lady’s mantle also has tannins which helps to tighten skin as well.

“If you’re a beginner, I’d grow gentle plants which are also edible. Chamomile, for instance, is fantastic for regenerative skincare, as is calendula. They can both be used as edible flowers, in calming tea, or in skincare.”

What about carrier oils?

To make herbal oils, you’ll need a carrier oil suitable for your skin type, she says.

“My favourite carrier oil is sweet almond oil, which is popular when used in massage. Those on a budget might use extra virgin olive oil, if your skin isn’t too oily.

“Coconut oil is good for your skin but can cause breakouts if you use it on your face – but we all have different skin types, so it’s a matter of trial and error and research.”

Projects to try

Create herbal oils

To do this, steep dried plant material in a carrier oil and you’ll end up with a solution which may be coloured or scented, which will contain fat-soluble components from the plant, she says.

The oil can be made by filling a jar halfway with dried plant material – such as calendula flowers – and then fill it up with a light carrier oil, such as sweet almond or grapeseed.

Leave it for two to six weeks in a warm spot out of direct sunlight, strain through a sieve and the finished product can be used to make massage oil, salves, lotions and cleansers.

Rose petal facial mist

“This is an easy one. To make the rose petal skin toner, you make a glycerite (from vegetable glycerine, which you can buy, and distilled water) and infuse those rose petals into it.”

Add that to a rose tea infusion, made by putting rose petals into distilled scalding water and then turning off the heat, putting a lid on the pan and allowing them to steep for 20 minutes, she advises.

“Shake it all together in a spray bottle. It’s a very light astringent which smells lovely, and the vegetable glycerine helps to promote moisture. Use it any time, but make a small amount, because it doesn’t last very long. Keeping it in the fridge will help it last longer.”

Herbal bath fizzies

“These are among the easiest things to make – and make great gifts. You combine bicarbonate of soda with citric acid and Epsom salts and then meld them together with herb-infused oil with dried herbs in it. It’s very safe and you can make it with the kids.

“The fizzies have infused oil in them. The fizziness is just for fun but the oil will float to the surface of the bath water and when you get out of the bath, that layer of oil will coat your skin and help to condition it afterwards.”

Easy soap

“If you are going to make soap from scratch, it is home chemistry, but you can buy pre-made organic ‘melt and pour’ soap bases, which you can cut into cubes and microwave, and once it’s liquefied then you can add an infused oil and dried herbs afterwards.

“You have to work quickly, pour it into moulds and it will firm up.”

A Woman’s Garden: Grow Beautiful Plants And Make Useful Things by Tanya Anderson is published by Cool Springs Press, priced £18.99. Available now

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