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 and whether you will accept pets and young children – some people won’t let to families with children under five due to the risk of bed-wetting and the propensity for young children to wreak havoc. Some owners also prefer not to let to young, single groups. Note, however, that this reduces your letting prospects.
If you wish to let a property yourself, there’s a wide range of South African and foreign newspapers and magazines in which you can advertise, e.g. Daltons Weekly (www.daltons.co.uk) and newspapers, such as the Sunday Times in the UK. However, it can be prohibitively expensive to advertise a single property in a national newspaper or magazine. You will need to experiment to find the best publications and days of the week or months to advertise.
A cheaper and better method is to advertise in property directories, or on websites such as those of Holiday Rentals (Tel. UK 020-8827 1971, www.holiday-rentals.co.uk) and Owners Direct (Tel. UK 013-7273 4555, www.ownersdirect.co.uk), where you pay for the advertisement and handle the bookings yourself.
You can advertise among friends and colleagues, in company and club magazines (which may even be free), and on notice boards in offices, shops and public places. The more marketing you do, the more income you’re likely to earn, although you should ensure that you provide a quick and efficient response to any enquiries. It pays to work with 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 extend your marketing abroad (or advertise via the internet). Note that it’s usually necessary to have an answering machine and preferably also a fax machine.
Advertising on the internet is an increasingly popular option for property owners. There are many tourism websites where you can advertise. Typical arrangements include posting your property’s details (in up to four languages), photos and prices, and links from major search engines. Some companies will even provide you with your own website.
Your own 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, 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 an email address. It’s wise to subscribe to a company that will submit your website to the main search engines, such as Google and Yahoo. You can also exchange links with other websites.
If you don’t have a website containing photographs and information, you should produce a coloured brochure or leaflet. This should contain external and internal pictures, comprehensive details of the property, the exact location, and a list of local attractions and details of how to get to them (with a map if necessary). 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 or leaflet without distorting the facts – advertise honestly and don’t over-sell the property, which will be counter-productive in the long term.
If you plan to let a home yourself, you must decide how to handle enquiries about flights and car rentals. It’s easier to let clients make bookings themselves, but you should be able to offer advice and put them in touch with airlines, ferry companies, travel agents and car rental companies.