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The rental perspective 2 - featured in A Place in The Sun Magazine

February 18th 2006

Getting the most out of renting your property - Once you have bought your piece of Italy and are ready to take on the rental market, it is important that you prepare the property and your approach to marketing it, to ensure that you maximise on your rental returns. Mark Slaviero from Italian property rentals company www.holidayhomesinitaly.co.uk advises on how to improve your rental success.

Price the property correctly

The first thing a potential customer will look at is the price of the property. Pricing the property, therefore is of paramount importance. Take a look through rental brochures for similar properties to yours and in your area, as rentals will vary greatly even within Italian regions. Contact rental agencies to see where they think that you should position the property. Pricing the property competitively will assist you in the long run as the cost of the rental is a key feature in the consumers decision process, when booking a holiday. Make sure that you allow for peaks and troughs and for seasonal variations. Also be prepared to offer special deals for periods are slow, as this will again distinguish you from your competition.

Define your key selling points

In addition to pricing, viewing the competitors details is essential to see what benefits and attributes they are promoting. Draw up a list of your own selling points both within and outside the property, such as traditional characteristics, outside space, location, and attractions within easy reach – and try to answer why should someone rent from you rather than with your closest competitor. Always stress these key selling points when you approach agencies or when dealing with your own advertising and marketing. Adding additional benefits can often boost the rentability of the property; if you have a farmhouse or large garden for example, adding a pool can boost your income by as much as £100 per week; satellite television may appeal to some families as well as having bikes or games at the property.

Prepare the property for rent

Holidaymakers have high expectations, so ensure that the property is in the best condition both internally and externally as this will lead to repeat bookings and referrals. Make sure that the grounds and pool are well maintained and that the bathroom and kitchen is up to date, fully functional and equipped (crockery, utensils, glassware, pans, etc). Dishwashers and washing machines are a major plus point. Try to think what you would expect from a rental, as it is the small things that make the difference.

The best way is to keep rooms neutral with robust and quality furniture – basic furniture can often be false economy. Make sure that the beds are comfortable and that there are ample chairs for eating and relaxing. Adding a few traditional and local touches will enhance the character of the property and impress clients.

Don’t leave anything of any great importance in the property as items can often be broken (the security deposit may well cover the damage but not replace the item) – a lockable chest is always a good idea for personal items.

Preparing a welcome pack is always an unexpected surprise and adds a personal touch. Include information on the property, what is available to visit in the area, where to eat and even include some basic essentials for the customer.

Finally, don’t forget about insurance cover and fire and health and safety regulations.

Put the resources in place

The maintenance of the property cannot be ignored and you need to make sure that you will be able to keep the property up to the standards that holidaymakers will expect, in addition to being prepared for each arrival and departure of guests. Some rental agencies will offer a full rental service, which will give owners peace of mind knowing that the property is safe and all in order for rentals – don’t forget that the property will need cleaning and linen will need to be changed between lets.

If you decide to go down the self-management route, then either being on-site or having a reliable neighbour or local contact is essential. Finding a person who you can trust is always the problem but asking your neighbours or other English residents will usually lead to the discovery of someone local looking for additional work. Make sure that you leave clear instructions and have a back-up contact for emergency call-outs.

Choose your route to market

Once the property is ready to rent, advertising and marketing will be a key attribute to your success – don’t assume that if you have a villa with a pool in Tuscany that customers will flock to you. The sooner that you address your route to market, the quicker that you can start to bring in bookings and there are a number of routes for you to explore:

Using a rental agency – will open up your property to a wider audience and should definitely fill some of your weeks, in addition to taking the hassle out of enquiries. There are a number of operators and agencies for Italy but don’t expect to necessary go into a brochure or be taken on as competition is fierce and many operators will not automatically take on properties onto their portfolio. Many of the smaller independents may put your property onto their websites. Always choose an agency careful with a good website, good advertising and a selection of property in your area. Ask them for their website statistics, testimonials and terms and conditions before signing any agreements. Agencies can charge anything from 10 – 30% and all work differently, with some being more flexible than others.

Self managing your letting – can often be rewarding but make sure that you have the time and resources to manage enquiries. Be prepared for calls at unsociable hours and to undertake the paperwork associated with bookings. There are a number of avenues to explore:

§ Setting up your own website need not be an onerous task or expensive as there are many companies now offering simple sites at reasonable prices. You only need 4 or 5 pages and should cover information on the property, the area, accessibility, the price list and of course the most important selling feature – (good quality) pictures! A good description alone will not sell the property. If you are going to the expense of having a site, then you must be available to manage enquiries and get back to people promptly as you will lose bookings immediately.

§ Advertising – on other websites, such as holiday-rentals.com and the more specialist Italian websites, will allow you to manage your own bookings without the expense of your own site. Again check to see how good the site is in terms of visitors and ranking in the search engines. Traditional print based advertising can be an expensive option but there are good sections in the Sunday newspapers where lineage advertising will not break the bank. Specialist magazines are also a good avenue, with titles such The Lady and Italy focussed magazines, such as The Italian having a holiday rentals section. Try advertising the property at your workplace or in your local newsagent, gym or golf club and don’t ever underestimate friends and family, which are a good source for word of mouth promotion.

If you are self-managing your rentals, then always take a deposit, which is mandatory with rental companies. The last thing that you want is a cancellation at the last minute in the height of season and having an empty property.

Always be realistic

Finally, the most important thing is to be realistic with your rentals – never assume that you are going to achieve a certain return on your investment, unless this is guaranteed by a property or lettings company. Year one may not bring you the returns that you expect but imagine your property rental operation like a business – how many do you know that achieve complete financial success in their first year?

Being flexible with your approach to market can often bring more positive returns; so try both the agency and self-managing route initially, depending on your own resources. Always ask your customers for feedback and be prepared to make changes to your property or your service.

Don’t give up – the most successful rentals are often those who know the market well, have been renting for some time and have adapted to change. If you get the balance right, then there is no reason why you should not be successful and enjoy the benefits of your Italian property even more.



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