Welcome pack, final touches and maintenance
By providing guests with all they need to get their stay off to a good start, you do the ground work for repeat visits and those all-important recommendations. Many guests will be new to your property and the area so help them out by compiling a welcome pack (a ring binder with individual plastic folders is best for wear and tear) which should contain:
Emergency contacts – include local medical contacts, emergency services, 24- hour help lines for gas and electricity companies, your details, plus those of someone nearby if you’re unavailable or don’t live locally. If your property is abroad include contact details for English-speaking services if possible. Check this information regularly and keep it up-to-date.
House rules – list the dos and don’ts in the property. Be crystal clear on smoking and pets. Include security measures and a brief guide on how things work such as the boiler, air conditioning, internet connection (include security access code), etc. Make guests aware of possible hazards such as a swimming pool or steep steps.
Local amenities – do the ground work for your guests and compile a list of the nearest amenities (supermarket, cash point, post office, newsagents, etc. and their opening hours. Provide a list of bank holidays (national and local) for reference and update details every so often.
Local attractions – list the highlights in your area such as tourist attractions, sports facilities and beauty spots, and provide a map showing where each one is located. Cater for all tastes and ages, and don’t forget to include suggestions for rainy-day activities. A selection of leaflets (you can get these easily from the local tourist office) adds a nice touch.
Personal recommendations – compile a list of cafés, bars and restaurants you recommend in the area with opening hours and contact details. Include different types of cuisine and a range of prices. Leave room for guests for add their own recommendations.
Waste disposal – inform guests about waste disposal arrangements (e.g. rubbish sorting, collection days and recycling facilities).
Welcome hampers – in the competitive world of holiday letting, welcome hamper are now seen as a ‘basic’ requirement by many guests. As well as being expected, a welcome hamper also gives you the chance to go that extra mile without much expense, but remember to budget according to your property and rental rate. It should include a minimum of tea, coffee, milk, sugar and biscuits. Nice touches are a bottle of wine, bunch of fresh flowers or box of chocolates. A welcome pack with a USP comes with local produce or specialities, a basket of fresh fruit, sweets for the children, treats for the dogs…
Encourage guests to add to your collection of leaflets and comment in the guestbook on things and places they enjoyed during their stay. This will be useful for future holidaymakers.
Do the research for your holidaymakers – find out the extra distance to the waterpark, beach, national park, etc, and put this in your welcome pack. If you include a photo of a local attraction in your advert put the distance on the caption.
Your property is now almost ready to let, but before you start taking bookings from your LetStayAnywhere.com advert, spend a couple of weeks in the property yourself to make sure it has got the basics and, while you’re there, run through this checklist:
Fix it – take a final look at the entire property and fix any defects (e.g. dripping taps, peeling paint, broken tiles) straight away. Solving the problem immediately will save you money and guest complaints.
Neighbourly love – introduce yourself to your neighbours and let them know you’re planning to let. Neighbours might volunteer to keep an eye on the property for you or help with key exchange (see Key question below) and they can be helpful in an emergency.
Store your stuff – put all personal belongings, fragile items and extra supplies into a lockable store cupboard.
Working order – check all the appliances work properly. Repair or replace any that don’t.
You will need to sort out a failsafe way of getting keys to guests if you can’t meet them when they arrive. There are several options as detailed below, but only send keys or details of how to get them if you’ve received full payment for the stay. Always keep a spare set of keys with someone local in case guests lock themselves out.
By post – a good option if the postal service is reliable. Send the keys (unmarked) in a padded envelope by registered mail and in good time. Include a self-addressed envelope for key return.
In person – a trustworthy friend, neighbour or caretaker can take charge of key exchange at the beginning and end of each stay. Make alternative arrangements if the person isn’t available.
Key safe – install one with a combination lock in a non-obvious place outside your property. Give the code to your guests before they arrive so they can access the keys themselves. Change the code between visits.
Spick and span
Cleanliness is right next to godliness when it comes to self-catering lets and few guests are happy with anything less than a squeaky-clean property. A 2010 Visit England survey found that holidaymakers view cleanliness as one of the most important factors in a holiday home and are quick to praise sparkling lets or slam averagely-clean ones in online reviews.
Creating a pristine home requires thorough cleaning between lets and a spring clean every six months or more often if you have a lot of changeovers. Consider hiring the help of a local cleaner for regular cleaning and using the services of a professional company every so often. Don’t be tempted to skimp on pay or hours – a sparkling holiday home will make a lasting first impression on your guests and earn your property an excellent reputation.
Invest in the best products and appliances you can afford.
Air the property thoroughly between visits.
Don’t forget corners, window ledges and picture rails.
Clean behind and under furniture regularly.
Check for unwashed cutlery, crockery and kitchenware.
Clean the hob and fridge thoroughly after every visit and the oven once a month.
Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are clean and free of smells.
Dry-clean duvets, blankets and covers every six months.
Shake rugs as well as hoovering them.
Deep-clean carpets, curtains and upholstery every year.
Sweep garden paths and patios, and wash down garden furniture.
All in working order
A well-maintained property makes a good impression and reduces potential for complaints from guests. Between visits, check everything is in working order and make any necessary repairs. Take note of any required major work and schedule a slot in your lettings calendar to have it done. In the winter and when the property is unoccupied for over a month, carry out regular checks on the heating, pipes and roof, and give the property a weekly airing.
If you can’t visit the property regularly you’ll need a handyman/caretaker to help with maintenance and to look after the property in your absence, especially if you’re away for a long time. Ask your handyman to carry out maintenance checks and give authorisation for repairs or work by third parties.
Make sure everything works always. Broken or mal- functioning equipment is almost always commented on in reviews.
A helping hand
Finding the right people to help you isn’t always easy when you’re new to a place, particularly in a foreign country. Ask around for local recommendations and if necessary, check references or use the services of professionals. The LetStayAnywhere.com Property Services Directory allows you to search for companies offering services ranging from air conditioning to wifi in countries including England, Wales, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Repair cracks and damage to paintwork and tiles.
Remove all clutter and give each room a thorough clean – you’ll be surprised how much brighter and bigger everything looks.
Revamp your kitchen with new cabinet knobs and curtains, and a coat of neutral paint on the walls.
Brighten up your bathroom with a set of new towels in a vibrant colour.
Give your front door a new lease of life with a fresh coat of paint.
Display some showy annuals in pots or hanging baskets outside your front door. Change them every season.
Keep your outside space looking neat and tidy – edge the lawn and flower beds, trim hedges and sweep up leaves.
Repair cracks on outside walls, patios, steps and walkways. Remove peeling paint from doors and windows.