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Holiday let Case Study - Sykes Holiday Cottages

Stuart Hammond - Holiday let Case Study - Sykes Holiday CottagesStuart Hammond began holiday letting in March 2017 after spending nearly two years converting a derelict, Grade ll listed chapel into a successful holiday let. Rainforest Chapel, which dates back to 1852 and steeped in history, is located on the edge of the Forest of Dean and welcomes families and couples all year round.

how to get into the holiday let business - Holiday let Case Study - Sykes Holiday CottagesHow did you first get into holiday letting?

I bought an old chapel with the idea of converting it to live in myself. It was empty and had a tree growing out of it so you can imagine the state it was in. Because I travel a lot for my job, it wasn’t possible to remain in the property myself, but I’d spent so much time doing it up and it was in such a beautiful location, I thought it would work well as a holiday let. Plus, I wanted to keep hold of it rather than sell it, not for the money, but to keep it so that it will be possible for me to return home and to live in Rainforest Chapel once again.

Refurbishing a holiday cottage - Holiday let Case Study - Sykes Holiday CottagesHow long did it take to refurbish Rainforest Chapel?

It took about a year to get the planning conditions approved and I did a lot of the work myself. It was basically dilapidated so it took around 16 months to fully restore – there were a lot of rules and regulations in place because it’s a Grade II listed property. All the outside, original stonework, flooring and ironwork had to be kept and restored or if it was damaged beyond repair, I had to replace it like-for-like. It’s a very unique property, something a bit quirky and different.

For more information on rules and regulations, read our planning permission guide.

Has Rainforest Chapel been a good investment for you?

I bought Rainforest Chapel for £125,000 and, since I undertook the conversion, I’ve spent roughly £35,000 restoring it. It’s been valued at over £250,000 but I’m not in it for the money and everything that I have made I’ve re-invested.

I’ve had no past experience with holiday letting, but I know people that have done it so I wasn’t going in completely blind. Everything has gone according to plan and the bookings have been better than I expected since joining Sykes in March 2017.

Holiday let portfolio - Holiday let Case Study - Sykes Holiday CottagesDo you have plans to expand your holiday property portfolio?

I have thought about purchasing another property in the area to set up as a holiday let but at the moment, I’m just investing in the Rainforest Chapel. I want to keep upgrading it and keep it up to date, adding features that people will enjoy and deliver above and beyond what they’re expecting.

If you’re looking into buying a holiday let as an investment, why not read our guide: Are Holiday Homes a Good Investment?

Holiday let welcome pack - Holiday let Case Study - Sykes Holiday CottagesWhat is your favourite part about holiday letting?

I’m most proud of the positive reviews. The most important thing to me is that people have a happy holiday -we hope to get a lot of repeat bookings which is nice.

I have exceptionally high expectations, personally, and I try to think what I would personally expect from a holiday let. I’m not interested in profit, I just want people to have a good holiday.

I have a housekeeper that does the normal changeovers for me but I always do a monthly check to ensure that everything is as it should be. I replace anything that needs replacing, touch up paintwork, and make small repairs. If anyone has a problem while they’re there, I make sure I get someone out straight away.

I provide all guests with a welcome pack and I contact them after they place their booking to introduce myself, then I tailor my welcome packs to suit the booking. For example, if someone is celebrating a birthday, then I’ll acknowledge that. Someone once said my welcome pack made their wife cry because she was never normally bought flowers! There are also a lot of high-spec features in the property which were all initially for me to live there and enjoy so there’s a lot of thought gone into it.

For more information on how to make your guests feel welcome, read our guide to creating the ultimate holiday cottage welcome pack.

What made you choose Sykes for your holiday let?

I do a lot of travelling and my work takes up a lot of my personal time so without the support of an agency, I wouldn’t be able to deliver the level of service that I’d want to. I’ve holidayed with Sykes as a customer so I was aware of them but what swung it for me was, at the time I was looking, they’d won the British Travel Award for Best Large Self Catering Holiday Company for four years in a row – that was a big factor for me. It was really important that they were good at what they did. I need Sykes there to help with the advertising and reservations to ensure that I can offer a good quality of service once they arrive at the property. It’s been a good experience so far, Rainforest Chapel has been full nearly all the time so it’s worked really well.

Do you have any tips or advice for other property owners?

I’d say to have a good business that works well, you need to invest, put time into it and learn to provide what your guest enjoy. The amount of time and effort you put into it is what you’ll get back.

Let your property with Sykes and earn up to £125,000 per year*

  • Join over 15,000 holiday properties already working with Sykes Cottages
  • We welcome over 26 million web visitors a year
  • Many of our owners achieve more than 45 bookings a year
  • We specialise in turning your holiday property into a profitable year-round income for you

*Based on a 7 bedroom property in the Lake District with bookings between October 2017 to September 2018.

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