Second homeowner in Spain, Richard Way has decided for the first time to prepare his property for the holiday rental market. Fresh off the plane from a fact-finding trip, he tells us how he plans to make this happen over coming months…
The time is right to start letting my house in the Costa Brava to holidaymakers. The financial benefit is the obvious reason. We’ve reached a point where it makes no financial sense leaving the house empty for months, just for the luxury of keeping it available for personal use (including friends and family). It just does not get used enough. Even an empty house incurs bills and recent rises in the cost of living, both at home in the UK and Spain, make this even harder to swallow. Mine is a three-bedroom villa with a small garden and pool, so the running costs are not insignificant.
Admittedly, I’ve been procrastinating about addressing the situation, not helped by Covid and lockdowns. The property is tired and needs updating, which stand even if I weren’t planning to rent to holidaymakers (which is not an option in its current condition). This of course means money being spent on it. Mercifully, this is easy to justify knowing the potential returns will quickly make up for whatever I spend getting it up to scratch.
In recent years, I’ve had a house-sitter staying there during the quieter months, covering the running costs and helping to deter potential squatters. Due to colder winters, my area is more seasonal than the more southern Costas, so gets very quiet outside of the summer months. This was even more pronounced during lockdown, when streets of second homes lay eerily vacant and went a whole year without anyone visiting. It was reassuring to have someone minding the house for me. They have gone now, and the property has been empty since the end of March. So, to get the ball rolling, I went out to Spain at the start of May. Here’s how my plan of action is unfolding.
I want a hands-off experience letting my property so am looking at the full management option. Which means when the time comes my chosen rental agency will take care of everything from advertising and managing bookings to cleaning, change-overs and guest enquiries, as well as general maintenance. In return, they keep a cut of all rental bookings (typically 25-30 per cent). Perhaps later down the line, if I have more time to manage bookings, I might use an agency for just the on the ground bits.
Before we even get to that stage though, the agency will be useful for helping me set everything up. Last week I visited two agencies, having contacted them in advance by email. Both offered to come and visit my property and offer guidance on getting it up to the required standard for optimising rentals and where necessary, recommend tradespeople (although I already have an excellent local builder). Equally importantly, they would take care of all the required paperwork and regulatory procedures, including registering my property with the town hall for tourism use and getting a licence number. Similarly, they could assist with tax returns.
My preferred agency was a personal recommendation and their office is a handy five-minute stroll from my property. I met the owner – a Catalan lady who conveniently happens to be a lawyer, and her second-in-command, also local and who speaks good English. They’ve been operating for more than 20 years and have an established client base. The other agency is also based in the resort but a two-minute drive away. I met the owner, who was Belgian and equally helpful, but spoke no English.
Timing is everything
Obviously I’m not concerned with the 2023 season. So, the aim is to have my property ready for the rental market before the end of the year, in time to take bookings for the 2024 season. According to the agents, holidaymakers start booking their summer holidays in the preceding December. For properties new to the market like mine, the agent will need to take photos and prepare its listing, which means it’s ready ideally by the end of November.
There is no time to get the bigger jobs in the property done before the summer holidays, when I’m there with the family for a two-week holiday and other family and friends are also booked to go. This leaves a two to three-month window between September and November to get everything done.
The to-do list
The two bigger jobs, which will be done after the summer, are fitting a new bathroom and a complete rewiring of the property, including a new consumer unit, light fittings and sockets. The kitchen is old but I am keen to avoid replacing it, at least for a year or two. During my recent visit, my builder and I came up with ways to refresh it without having to change the units (which are out-dated but solid). He’s always replaced the sink for me, while the worktop – which appears to be marble or a similar material – is in good condition. We’re going to get creative.
Last week, I also visited our local Scandinavian furniture store and cleared out their bargain buckets. I walked away with eight pillows and four lightweight (single) duvets for €110, a two-seater for €250, a small easy chair for €90 and a mattress for €125. There’s more to do, but it’s a start – and I have till November…