Sue Vaughton Photography

Profiting from Interior Design & Photography

The 5 P’s — Perfect preparation prevents poor performance!

Perhaps you own a second home or you are thinking about buying one as an investment for short breaks or summer holidays? You may already own and rent one out to holiday guests or have considered doing this in the theoretically lucrative holiday rental market.

More and more people are renting out their second homes to assist in their property’s maintenance and running costs and in many cases to generate additional income. This is a booming market and although seriously affected by Covid-19, domestic holidays will be the first to rebound.

The question most people will ask in any of these situations is “what level of rental can I expect?” This is a length of string analogy as there are many variables. Each holiday home is unique in its own way and the preferred rental approach. There are however a number of ways to definitely improve both opportunities, the price charged and expected income.

With the world full of online experts and now webinar weary viewers, a little of my own ongoing practical involvement and history will illustrate the help sometimes needed to position your holiday home to its best advantage.

Although I am now primarily a photographer, I have actually owned a small portfolio of properties and also owned a holiday rental company. In the process of building these businesses from scratch, it became apparent, very early on, that two things were very important. The first was where the properties are located both geographically and their specific locale. 

Rarely does anyone travel to a destination because of the rental holiday accommodation itself, the accommodation research is what follows the initial destination selection and is secondary in importance, but flooded with opportunity.  Vying for a guests’ hard-earned money in a very competitive situation requires attention to detail and an understanding of what may or may not guide a guest to book with you, rather than your neighbour.

Stopping them in their browser tracks

There are many factors involved in receiving a booking but the most important is, without doubt, capturing the attention of a potential guest quickly. With thousands of properties available and only moments to ensure they stop, pause and wish to inspect your home online, in more detail, then photography and the underlying property presentation is the key. No one will dispute this. The large Online Travel Agents, such as Airbnb even use AI to determine which properties are most likely to book and will rank them accordingly, from photographs, location, amenities and reviews.

We have all heard the phrase: “a picture is worth a thousand words, ” These days pictures are worth at least a thousand words – probably more!  High-quality, stylish photographs will maximise your holiday home’s appeal to potential guests without question. In this day and age, all consumers, whatever they are buying, are literally spoilt for choice. Elevating your opportunity and investing time in developing and displaying a desirable and attractive style will pay long term dividends.          

Reviews - Another tick box

Photography is without a doubt what captures the immediate essence of a holiday home, but photographs can only do so much and must be a true reflection of the actual home itself. 

The simple reason is that the next most important decision criteria alongside price are reviews. Great reviews make for great future business and even higher margin return guests. Bad reviews can cripple future business, but sensible investment in the property and with well thought out photographic work will ensure that returns follow is money well spent in both the short and long term. In addition, selling a property with an excellent rental reputation and income is considerably easier than one that has not been so successful.

Presentation

Taking great photographs of poor properties, merely highlights the lack of forethought, attention to detail and a poor understanding of today’s guests and their expectations, which increase daily.

Here is a page full of Before & After Sliders of my most recent design & photography commission which demonstrate the comparisons!

The way in which you style and present your holiday home is just as important as the photography, which can then present your home in a way that targets the market you have focussed on, whether this is a country cottage for couples, a beachside apartment, lakeside villa or a large holiday home for celebrations. 

Excellent holiday home photography is not just an art, it requires patience, investment in the correct equipment, an eye for detail, staging and post-session processing. A commission can require multiple visits depending on the weather, the lighting or seasons.

An iPhone snapshot will simply not suffice and despite so many people owning sophisticated digital cameras. It does not mean they have the capacity or experience to create that special element or ambience to stop a browsing potential visitor in their tracks, draw them in, give them confidence, add to the dream of their chosen destination and push them to book, with you!

As an example, ski chalets have radically different seasons and require two sets of photos and even then, taking photos in a blizzard is not the easiest task!

Differentiation

Photographers are very focussed on the detail, the ambience, the expression and the effects. We have all been influenced by images and they determine our expectations and affect our emotions, without us even recognising this is happening. Understanding this process means the whole property can be positioned to maximum effect and attract the correct audience. Don’t forget in holiday home marketing you are adding to their dream of great experience in their chosen destination and your property is the icing on the cake.

As an example, estate agent photos are typically bland and uninviting, but they are not taken for holiday purposes. They either sell vacant impersonal spaces, where you can stamp your own mark or they are avoiding the clutter or the person’s home which can dilute key features. 

Estate agents are also understandably very frugal as a visit is always necessary to evaluate any potential and their commissions shrink daily and online marketers are challenging their high street advantage. It is unlikely a guest will travel hundreds of miles just to check a place out and as part of the holiday is the expectation, then these need meeting in photography and interior design.

From another angle, ask yourself why new home builds have showhomes and staged examples of the new homes with furniture and white goods. They have experts whose entire living is ensuring that the dream is sold quickly. 

Hospitality has many accommodation types and forms, from yurts to cabins, to pods, to ice shelters, villas, chalets and much more.

Many people assume that the rules of photography which apply to hotel rooms also apply to rentals. Hotels for holidays do not just sell a small sleeping space they sell the whole experience, with communal spaces, often with pools and leisure facilities, restaurants and more. They are invariably in good locations and sell fractional space, so seldom completely unoccupied. Selling factional space also allows pricing variations and different budgets, which is not possible with holiday homes. 

Your holiday home is the complete hotel and needs to both service the guest’s needs but to do that in comfort and remove them from the duress of everyday life. 

How I can help you stand out!

There are so many ways that you can stand proud of the crowd — from the architectural style of the property you fall in love with to the interior decor choices you make. Of course, everyone’s taste and ‘happy place’ varies but there are many human traits we all have an affinity for and enjoy. These generally revolve around exploration, sensory enjoyment and relaxation together with loved ones and friends.

My Recipe

Rather than breezing in and insisting on a whirl-wind of change, I prefer a subtler approach of interpreting, embellishing and encouraging you to develop and incorporate the ideas I’ll be sharing with you — ideas I hope you’ll agree will bring enrichment to your guests holiday experience. For example, not only do I put appropriate emphasis on preserving key pieces of furnishing and existing features in certain rooms that you’d like to keep but I also aim to expand upon your individual sense of style within every room. 

I stand by the notion that the most important design achievement when putting a holiday home scheme together is to introduce as much happiness & relaxation into people’s lives whilst they enjoy their time in your home, especially when the weather in the UK can so easily come between any best-planned alfresco adventure!

After all, would you prefer to market mediocrity when there’s an alternative instead, delivering spirited style with top-drawer comfort? And not to forget, bagging those all-important reviews, will be so much easier to achieve if you adopt the pool of ideas that I’ll be exchanging with you. 

Create Lingering Moments

One area enhancements can be made is to embrace the world of sensory enjoyment and experiences and where a real and tangible difference can be made is within holiday home styling, staging  & decor. 

The old-fashioned term ‘self-catering property’ has gone through serious trend-setting transformations over the past 20 years and visitor expectations are higher than ever. Crushing competition is all around, often within very close proximity to you and booking weeks is a constant challenge. 

So how can you elevate your home from the humdrum to the more avant-garde?

Living in times of accelerated change and in an increasingly technological world, there is even more reason to consciously affect the physical world around us and provide guests with an inviting, comfortable and memorable stay in your home.

Fundamentally it’s about how to bring life to a place, sometimes it’s about looking for the history or looking at the house present-day. The way to appeal is to have a clear identity and a sense of self, an attitude or a way of looking at the world through design and decoration.

One of the obvious ways to enhance the guest experience is to focus on the human experience and offering your home as a place to recharge.  This can begin by consciously incorporating a sense of touch through a variety of textures that you’ve introduced, such as ceramics, wood, textured surfaces and soft furnishings. And ultimately, these will blend together to present a home that has been designed with heart & warmth. 

Presenting an alternative and creating a well-designed interior is not only visually appealing but engages all of the human senses — it’s well-known that haptic design elements provide a far richer quality of living.

Ultimately, if you make the normal special, it will admirably, elevate the everyday! 

Buying a Property

I have on occasions assisted in the purchase and advice on holiday home selection and are also happy to advise on this too. There are many criteria that go into a successful holiday home and it’s not always pricing. 

If you are considering buying a property, please feel free to call and have a chat. With many years of rental experience both managing and owning I’m sure I can assist and help avoid those many pitfalls, I have witnessed when owners have made poor choices, in property purchase, presentation, management selection, furnishing, presentation and marketing.


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