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After seeing friends experience financial success with property letting, Joanne and Darren Helsdon, both 48, from Norfolk, wanted to find the perfect opportunity to create their own holiday home.
When they discovered an old cowshed and stables on rural farmland in Norfolk, they knew they had found something that had huge potential.
After almost a year of hard work, they transformed the land into two stunning cottages, Tricker’s Cottage and The Long Barn.
We had it in our heads it was something we wanted to do. Some friends had let properties, and considering it wasn’t a full-time job they made a good income from it, so we decided we wanted a slice of that and knew it would be something we’d enjoy doing. We’d renovated properties before, so as soon as we saw the land, we could visualise what we wanted to do in our heads. We weren’t sure whether to do one or two cottages at first – all we knew is that we were going to make this work. We started the renovation in September 2016 and welcomed our first guest in June 2017.
Oh yes! It was an old cow shed which had been previously used as a business premises, but it required a complete conversion – there were pretty significant renovation costs. We had a builder do the major work but my husband is good at turning his hand to anything and is very practical so anything he could do, he did! Meanwhile, I did the cleaning and ordering of furniture, kitchen designs, that kind of thing– we did what we could to save money and any spare time we had went on the renovation which took around 9 months. It was a challenge and hard work to keep on top of things – the house was like a revolving door!
Yes, more or less. I manage all my own changeovers (with help from family) and do all the laundry, so it can be hard work over the summer but as I don’t have this additional cost, it means more profit for us. My daughter helps out too and people do seem to really like converted cottages like ours that still retain original features like the beams. It is a very rewarding thing to do – the income is great and the properties pay for themselves. Of course you get good and bad weeks when things get very busy, but overall it’s extremely rewarding.
A wide variety – some guests have never visited Norfolk before, some are regulars to the area, some are visiting friends and family. Guests are usually family units during the summer and school holidays. During off-peak and winter periods it tends to be couples or small groups of friends walking or cycling or just having a quiet break.
What is really lovely is that we have had the family of the last people who farmed on the land stay here! The family left in 1969 and one of the family members came to stay here recently, which was really special.
Norfolk is an extremely popular UK holiday spot– we live just across the road from the cottages and it really is a lovely place to live, we are just 10 minutes away from Norwich which has a lot of history, and also near the Norfolk Broads.
We live near our holiday lets, and have met so many lovely people and the extra income is fantastic. I guess the only drawback for us as we do a lot of the servicing ourselves, we are tied to them especially on Saturdays over the summer but this is something Sykes could arrange for us if we wanted.
Since letting the properties with Sykes, I’ve since gone on to get a job working for them as a property consultant!
Emma, the lady who we dealt with at Sykes, was so brilliant with us. My husband told me he thought I’d really enjoy a job like hers and I’d toyed with estate agents in the past and always really saw myself doing a job that advised people on properties. When the opportunity came up I was between jobs so it was the ideal time! It’s wonderful going out seeing properties and meeting new owners and sharing my experience with them to help them with their holiday let
*Based on a 7 bedroom property in the Lake District with bookings between October 2017 to September 2018.
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