With many farms outside typical tourist areas, Cath Anthony at Bidwells told Alex Black why farmers should still consider holiday lets.
Holiday lets in typical tourist areas have been popular for decades, but large holiday lets on farms and rural estates in ‘non-tourist’ locations have also seen significant success, according to Cath Anthony, partner at Bidwells.
For many farms with large houses or barns suitable for conversion which are surplus to requirements, the high running costs and maintenance can make them a liability.
But these buildings could provide perfect accommodation for large families or groups of friends celebrating special occasions.
With the recent boom in staycations, holiday rentals have become a popular alternative to hotels for tourists staying in the UK.
“Often there are only a handful of properties that are able to accommodate larger groups and so, people are willing to look away from the typical holiday destinations, especially as they often plan to stay on site for the majority of their stay,” Ms Anthony said.
Felixstowe in Suffolk was not known as a tourist destination, with the residential rental market also not particularly lucrative.
But Searsons Farmhouse discovered there was a demand for large holiday lets, which offered an opportunity to utilise the farmhouse which was no longer appropriate for the farming enterprise.
“For many decades Searsons formed part of a modest holding on the Suffolk Coast which needed to look to diversify in order to continue to be financially viable,” Ms Anthony said.
“The Grade II listed farmhouse required extensive renovation in order to preserve its longevity for the future.”
After four years of trading and an extensive renovation of the internal and external elements, the farmhouse was producing a ‘healthy’ net profit and, as a trading entity, also provided favourable tax benefits.
She added marketing was essential.
“Most bookings for holiday lets are made online, so it is vital to appear at, or near, the top of any search page,” she said.
The estate commissioned a booking agent specialising in large, rural holiday lets, to push year-round occupancy. This has ensured maximum occupation.
Ms Anthony added quality was essential as the site must impress to attract visitors and the project had been subject to major renovation. However, the target market was willing to pay a premium.
“Without a return on investment, our client could not have justified the works required to be done to this listed house,” she said.
“Large-scale holiday lets has proved even more of a success than anticipated and, essentially turned what had become a liability into an asset."