In fact, the best way to get a high volume of lets is usually to do it yourself, although many owners use a letting agency in addition to doing their own marketing in their home country. You will need to decide whether you want to let to smokers or accept pets and young children – some people won’t let to families with children under five due to the risk of bed-wetting. Some owners also prefer not to let to young, single groups. Note, however, that this reduces your letting prospects.
Rental Rates & Deposits
To get an idea of the rent you should charge, simply ring a few letting agencies and ask them what it would cost to rent a property such as yours at the time of year you plan to let it. They’re likely to quote the highest rent you can charge. You should also check the advertisements in newspapers and magazines.
Set a realistic rent, as there’s usually a lot of competition. Add a returnable deposit, e.g. €150 to €300 (depends on the rent), as security against loss of keys and breakages. A booking deposit is usually refundable up to six weeks before the booking, after which it’s forfeited. Most people have a minimum two-week rental period in July and August.
If you wish to let a property yourself, there’s a wide range of local and foreign newspapers and magazines in which you can advertise and newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph in the UK. Many of the English-language newspapers and magazines also include advertisements from property owners. You will need to experiment to find the best publications and days of the week or months to advertise. Note, however, that most owners find it’s prohibitively expensive to advertise a single property in a national newspaper or magazine.
A cheaper and better method is to advertise in property directories such as on websites such as Owners Direct (Tel. UK 01372-722 708, www.ownersdirect.co.uk) and Holiday Rentals (Tel. UK 020-8743 5577, www.holiday-rentals.co.uk), where you pay for the advertisement and handle bookings yourself. Regional tourist agencies can put you in touch with local letting agents.
You can also advertise among friends and colleagues, in company and club magazines (which may even be free), and on notice boards in companies, stores and public places. The more marketing you do, the more income you’re likely to earn, although you must also ensure that you provide a quick and efficient response to any enquiries.
It also pays to work with other local people in the same business and send surplus guests to competitors (they will usually reciprocate). In addition to advertising locally and in your home country, you can also extend your marketing abroad (or advertise via the internet – see below). Note that it’s usually necessary to have an answer machine and preferably also a fax machine.
Advertising on the internet is an increasingly popular option for property owners, particularly as a personalised website is an excellent advertisement and can include photographs, booking forms and maps, as well as comprehensive information about your property. You can also provide information about flights, ferries, car rental, local attractions, sports facilities and links to other websites. A good website should be easy to navigate (avoid complicated page links or indexes) and must include contact details, ideally via email. You can also exchange links with other websites.
Brochures & Leaflets
If you don’t have a website containing photographs and information, ideally you should produce a coloured brochure or leaflet. This should contain external and internal pictures, comprehensive details, the exact location, local attractions and details of how to get there (with a map included). You should enclose a stamped addressed envelope when sending out details and follow up within a week if you don’t hear anything. It’s necessary to make a home look as attractive as possible in a brochure without distorting the facts – advertise honestly and don’t over-sell your property.
If you plan to let a home yourself, you will need to decide how to handle enquiries about flights and car rentals. It’s easier to let clients do it themselves, but you should be able to offer advice and put them in touch with airlines, ferry companies, travel agents and car rental companies.
After accepting a booking, you should provide guests with a pre-arrival information pack containing the following:
- A map of the local area and instructions on how to find the property;
- Information about local attractions and the local area (available free from local tourist offices);
- Emergency contact numbers in your home country (e.g. the UK) and Greece if guests have any problems or plan to arrive late;
- The keys, or instructions regarding where to collect them on arrival.
It’s ideal if someone can welcome your guests when they arrive, explain how things work, and deal with any special requests or problems.
You should also provide an information pack in your home for guests, including the following:
- How things work such as kitchen appliances, TV/video, heating and air-conditioning;
- Security measures;
- What not to do and possible dangers, for example, if you allow young children and pets, you should make a point of emphasising dangers such as falling into the pool;
- Local emergency numbers and health services such as a doctor, dentist and hospital;
- Emergency assistance such as a general repairman, plumber, electrician and pool maintenance (you may prefer to leave the telephone number of a local caretaker who can handle any problems);
- Recommended shops, restaurants and attractions.
Many people provide a visitor’s book for guests to write their comments and suggestions, and some send out questionnaires. If you want to impress your guests, you can arrange for fresh flowers, fruit, a good bottle of wine and a grocery pack to greet them on their arrival. It’s personal touches like this that ensure repeat business and recommendations; you may even find after the first year or two that you rarely need to advertise. Many people return to the same property year after year. Simply do an annual mail-shot to previous clients. Word-of-mouth advertising is the cheapest and always the best.