Ideally a holiday home letting agent will be chosen for their ability to bring bookings for your holiday cottage. However when you look into the details of what is available there are often further factors which are taken into account and this article aims to help guide cottage owners through some of the complex choices which they have to make.
There are three main types of agency to choose from:
1. National agencies.
2. Regional agencies.
3. Local agencies.
Let’s take these in order. National agencies which cover the whole of the UK. These agencies can boast a large following with tremendous visitor numbers. We can see benefits if your cottage is in a really prominent tourist destination. However if your cottage is in rural Northumberland we are not sure that this would be the best solution. Your cottage is likely to be one amongst at least a 1,000 others and the chances are that visitors to their website will be looking at Cornwall or the Lake District. When you first register with a large agency they will often feature your property on a “new cottage” page and this can lead to a nice surge in interest. It is unlikely that their call centre staff will have personal knowledge of the area where your cottage is located.
Regional agencies. Typically they will concentrate on a county, so if your cottage is in Northumberland you know that there is a good chance that it will be of interest. The trick is then to see how many visitors they can direct to your web page. This is covered further below. These agencies will usually have between 150 and 300 county wide properties. These agencies should know the county very well and be able to offer good local advice to interested visitors.
Local agencies. These tend to concentrate on particular areas within a county. For instance Bamburgh and Seahouses. They will know the specific area very well and can offer first hand advice to visitors. With these agencies you have two main decisions:
1. If your house is in say Seahouses, you need to decide if it is attractive enough to stand out amongst all the other properties which are listed.
2. If your house is away from the local area which they specialise in then will visitors be interested. If your holiday house is in say Hexham, will the agency really be able to interest people who are looking for a holiday in Bamburgh?
Let’s now look at specific questions to ask when you are choosing an agency.
1. The really important question is how many times visitors will look at your cottage page. The answer should be given as both the total number of times a page is viewed as well as the number of unique visitors to that page. Let’s look at some examples from Northumbria Byways.
A popular cottage would probably get over 8,000 page views in a year and this might represent say 2,000 unique visitors looking at your cottage.
If your cottage is away from the coast then a good result might be say 4,000 page views with over 1,500 unique visitors.
2. The second most important question is how much will you have to pay the agency? Commission rates will typically be between 15% and 25% of the booking. We have seen rates below and above this range but the majority of agencies will be within these figures.
3. Dual agencies. Most regional or local agencies will work with each other. This can sound a very good idea but it can be more work as you will need to ensure that booking information is always up to date so that there are no double bookings.
4. High season exclusivity. We have seen some agencies insist that owners pay them commission on “personal bookings” during the high season. So if say your friends ask to use the cottage during August then you still need to pay a commission to the agency even though they have nothing to do with the booking.
5. Printed brochure. This can still be very important especially if your property is attractive to older people.
6. Email marketing. Most agencies now maintain mailing lists of interested people. Ask them how large their list is and how often do they run an email campaign.
7. Going the extra mile. Some agencies will go that little bit further to help promote your cottage. With the large number of properties on their websites they can’t do this for all the cottages but why not ask what they can do for you over and above the normal service. For example would they create a special website for your cottage as here?
8. Photography. Ask the agency if they provide a photographer to capture the best parts of your holiday cottage. Look at the quality of the images on their website. This can make a huge difference for first impressions.
9. Will the agency place your cottage on other websites? For instance look at this page which introduces an Armstrong Cottage beside the beach at Bamburgh.
10. Finally why not use Google to see which agencies appear on their first page for enquiries which match your cottage. If your cottage is near Wooler then search for Cottages near Wooler and then maybe try searches for dog friendly accommodation or large family holidays and so on.
This is the second of six articles offering advice for owners of holiday cottages. The first which was an introduction to the subject can be seen here.
The following subjects will be covered by later articles.
How much to pay for a website.
Tripadvisor and Facebook. Problems or Benefits?
Videos and Youtube.
Adwords and Google places. Do you need to pay for appearing on Google?
Resources and contact details.
2. For professional advice on letting your holiday cottage you can contact Vicky at Northumbria-byways.com.
3. If you would like to chat to me, Colin Corlett, about this or any other marketing issues then please email me. Colin.email@example.com