Author Archives: Kate Stinchcombe-Gillies

Calendar sync is now live: less admin, more bookings

calendar-imageWe’ve added a new calendar syncing feature to make it easier for you to keep your calendar updated and ready for bookings.

Calendar sync automatically imports updates to your Holiday Lettings calendar from other calendars. This will also automatically update your TripAdvisor calendar.

You can sync your Holiday Lettings and TripAdvisor calendars with HomeAway, Google, Airbnb, Yahoo and any other calendar that uses iCal technology.

(Please note: your Holiday Lettings and TripAdvisor calendars won’t push out updates – only import them.)

More about how calendar sync works

How to sync your calendars

Log in, go to Properties > Update calendar and select Sync with other calendars

More about how to sync your calendars

What’s in it for you? How calendar syncing gets you more bookings

Sync your calendars and you will…

1. Receive better quality enquiries
When travellers can see your true availability, they can send more relevant and specific enquiries your way. You’ll save their time and yours – no more “sorry, we’re booked for those dates”.

2. Accept more booking requests
Sick of having to turn down good money because you’re already booked? Fully updated and synced calendars mean no more misunderstandings getting in the way of you and paying guests.

3. Give travellers the confidence to book with you
When your calendars are synced, the ‘Calendar last updated’ date on your ad will refresh every day. Potential guests will see this and know you’re on top of your game.

More about the benefits of keeping your calendar in shape

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Print_Logo_COE2014_en_US2014 is the first year that holiday rental properties have been included in the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awards. And it’s all in recognition of your hard work.

The results are in for the cream of the crop, so congratulations to all of you who won – you’ve provided consistently excellent holiday experiences for guests over the past year. Take a look at our champions.

Winners will see a ‘Certificate of Excellence 2014’ stamp on their TripAdvisor and Holiday Lettings listings. You can see an example on Greenbank’s advert, one of our fantastic Yorkshire winners. Here’s proud owner Linda.

Linda. Owner of Greenbank Home 503822

Make sure you’re in the running for 2015

It’s all about the reviews – how many you’ve gained and the ratings you’ve received. Simply collect them from guests every time they check out.

It’s easy to do and it shows you’re committed to providing great holidays.

More about collecting reviews

Getting your certificate

We emailed the winners with all the details and they should have received their certificates by now – read our FAQ if you’re still waiting.

If your certificate got damaged in the post and you’ve contacted us about resending it, you should hopefully receive it next week.

Things to consider when setting your prices

Rowena, Cyprus holiday homeownerWhat do you consider when setting prices for a stay at your holiday rental? Rowena, who owns and runs a holiday home in Cyprus, tells us about how she’s already setting her prices for the 2015 season.

When you factor in the mortgage, maintenance fees, management fees, cleaning and laundry charges, plus electricity and water bills, it can sometimes be difficult to break even and make money from your holiday home. So it’s crucial to set a price that will cover your costs.

It would be great to be able to offer our house at a bargain price, but in reality it’s not possible, and especially in a hot country like Cyprus. Our prices are higher in the summer and this is not because it’s a popular time of year to go, but because the price of running the air conditioning in the hot summer months is extremely expensive – we have to make sure the price we charge covers this additional costs.

Check the competition

We always check to see what prices other people are offering in our area and although we have to ensure we are covering our costs, we also want to be competitive and not price ourselves out of the market. At the same time we don’t want to undervalue our home and guests may question the quality of our property if our prices are too low.

It’s also not always possible, or viable, to match what other people are offering. We had an enquiry last year via Holiday Lettings from a guest. They enquired about our property and another in neighbouring resort in our village at the same time, and told me that (although they preferred the look of our property) the other homeowner had offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse. I weighed up all the factors and came to the conclusion that we just couldn’t match the price they had offered. It wouldn’t cover our costs and, as tempted as I was to reduce the price and secure the off-peak booking, I still believe I made the right decision.

The guest went to Cyprus and viewed our house while they were there. They’ve subsequently stayed with us twice since, as they are regular visitors to Cyprus and much preferred the look of our home. So although we didn’t get that particular reservation, we have as a result got further bookings from them and are still able to cover our costs when we quote.

When are the flights released?

Another point to consider is when to set your prices. Ideally you need to do this as soon as possible as many people like to book in advance.

Next year I have three potential bookings, who are all waiting for the EasyJet flights to be released for 2015. So for me it’s very important to ensure our property has up to date prices when those all-important flights are launched. Plus, at this time we will put some extra effort into advertising and promoting via our social media channels.

What about your prices?

I would be interested to hear how you set prices for your holiday rental and what your reasoning is behind them. 2015 seems a long way off, but in reality it’s just round the corner!

Online security checklist

Occurrences of fraud on our website are extremely rare, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. The last thing you want is a fraudster (or ‘hacker’) accessing your email account, posing as you and requesting payment from your guests.

So it’s vital to watch out for warning signs of phishing attacks and put some simple security measures in place. Use our security checklist to keep your online accounts safe.

  1. Find out about phishing
  2. Look for signs of a fake enquiry
  3. Protect your email account
  4. Log in to Holiday Lettings regularly
  5. Use different passwords for each online account

1. Find out about phishing

Phishing is the practice of sending emails that appear to be from a trustworthy source to get sensitive information (e.g. login/passwords, credit card details) for fraudulent purposes.

These emails may contain a link directing you to a site that looks like Holiday Lettings, but actually has a slightly altered or misspelt URL (e.g. holidaylettttings.co.uk). You enter your login details and the scammers then know how to access your Holiday Lettings account.

For more information and to report an incidence of fraud, visit the ActionFraud website.

2. Look for signs of a fake enquiry

Holiday Lettings has security systems in place to identify scam emails. However, fraudsters are always inventing new ways to trick us, so it’s important that you’re on the lookout too.

Our top anti-phishing tips:

Tip #1 Only respond to emails that you know are from us

We’ll only ever contact you from email addresses that end in:

  • @e.holidaylettings.co.uk
  • @bm.holidaylettings.co.uk
  • @holidaylettings.co.uk

Here’s an example of a valid enquiry address format: Alison.Jones_290ppkn@bm.holidaylettings.co.uk

Tip #2 Never enter your details on a non-secure website

We never misspell or add words to our core website address. We’ll only ask you to log in to your Holiday Lettings account with a website address starting with:
https://www.holidaylettings.co.uk

The Holiday Lettings login screen

You should be suspicious if:

  • The sender asks you to click on a link that takes you to a website address that doesn’t start with ‘https’, then asks you to enter sensitive information.
  • The sender asks to pay by cheque, sends too much money and asks for a refund of the difference.
  • The sender is overly keen to move the conversation away from our secure Holiday Lettings site.
  • The enquiry is written in poor English and overly formal. (However, please note that you may receive legitimate enquiries from travellers who don’t speak English as their first language.)
  • The enquiry includes a lot of the traveller’s personal circumstances, which are irrelevant.
  • The enquiry is for a noticeably long period of time.
  • The sender wants to pay by Western Union, banker’s draft or cashier’s cheque.
  • The sender asks you to phone them on a premium rate number – often beginning in 09.

3. Protect your email account

  • Think about setting up a designated email address just for enquiries from travellers – your other online accounts won’t be affected if this address is hacked.
  • Some email providers, like Google, have an additional security measure called ‘2-Step verification’. If you access your email account from an unknown device you’ll receive a pin code via text message to complete your login. If a hacker tries to access your account, you’ll be alerted by the text message and the hacker won’t have the code to get any further.
  • Check the settings on your email account to make sure nothing has been changed. Fraudsters often set up redirects on email accounts, which means they could be receiving your enquiries and requesting deposits.

4. Log in to Holiday Lettings regularly

  • Every enquiry you receive will appear in your Holiday Lettings Inbox as well as your personal one. If you notice that any of them haven’t been delivered to your personal email address, contact us immediately.
  • Set up SMS alerts. If you receive a text alert but don’t receive an email enquiry, you’ll know to contact us to investigate (the SMS and the email won’t necessarily arrive together, so please don’t worry if they arrive a few minutes apart).
  • Download the app and make sure push notifications are turned on (do this via the Settings app on your phone).

5. Use different passwords for each online account

This way, even if a hacker gets hold of one password, your other accounts will remain secure. Remember to log out straight away after using any online account.

A good password is:

  • Hard to guess.
  • At least seven characters long including letters (uppercase and lowercase), numerals and, where possible, symbols.
  • Changed regularly.
  • Not stored on your computer or any other electronic device that can access the internet.

We’re here to help

We don’t want you to miss out on any genuine enquiries, so if you receive one that you’re not sure about, just get in touch.

5 pricing tips for more bookings

Don't miss out on bookings - read our top tips for pricesHow much will it cost? Alongside ‘Where is it?’ it’s the burning question guests ask when they’re booking a holiday.

So do guests get the answer when they click Prices on your ad? If they don’t you’re wasting their time and yours. But most of all, you’re losing out on bookings and revenue.

With online booking guests can query the price by entering their holiday dates and number of guests. However some guests will look at your table of prices if they’re not quite ready to book so it’s still important for the prices to be crystal clear.

How unclear prices mean missed bookings

Guests are unlikely to book if they can’t easily see how much their holiday will cost. In fact, they’ll probably go elsewhere to find and book another property.

If a guest is still interested in your property, they can contact you to find out how much a stay will cost, wait for an answer and then decide whether to book. Most guests have a shortlist of a few properties to choose from, so while you’re emailing each other about the price, there’s a high chance that they’ll book elsewhere.

Having clear prices lets you seal the deal much more quickly and makes the whole booking process a lot easier for both you and the guest.

5 pricing tips for more bookings

#1 Update your prices

Make sure your prices are bang up to date and you’ve listed prices for forthcoming dates. No guests are interested in what you charged in the past but all guests want to know what you charge now!

#2 Simplify your prices

Put your prices into blocks, e.g. summer, weekends, high season, so it’s easy to see at a glance what it costs to stay at your property.

#3 List prices for short breaks

If you do nightly or weekend lets add prices for these so a guest can easily work out the cost of the 2-night stay and doesn’t waste valuable time asking you.

#4 Think long term

Guests like to get ahead with their holiday plans so list your prices well in advance so they can book with you. We recommend at least 12 months, more if you can.

#5 Make everything clear

If your property is booked for the immediate future or you’re not taking bookings for the moment, say so on your calendar and price lists. And add prices for the dates when you’re able to take bookings again.

Get up to date with your prices now – log in and go to Properties > Update prices.

More help with prices

Need some help with updating and adding your prices? Watch this video guide.

Published: 29 April 2014

French stamp duty increased by 0.71%

French stamp duty increase March 2014Buying a property in France? Then it’s worth being aware that French stamp duty, or taxe de publicité foncière, increased by almost 1% on 1 March. Find out more about the change and which regions have opted out.

The increase of 0.71% is applied to the sale price of all completed purchases (actes authentiques) that take place from 1 March 2014. The rise only affects properties built at least five years ago (a lower rate applies to newer properties, which hasn’t been changed).

A temporary rise?

The extra money generated from the increase will be going to local councils, forming an important part of their budgets and compensating for reduced government grants.

It’s expected to be a temporary rise until at least February 2016, however it could be made permanent.

How stamp duty is calculated in France

When buying a property in France, the total cost owed is based on the purchase price and includes tax (national and local), costs and notary fees.

The amount owed in tax and fees is applied on a sliding scale with the more expensive properties paying a lower percentage.

For example, if you buy a property that costs €90,000 you pay 9.07% of the price in tax and fees (approximately €8,170). A €450,000 property attracts a bill of €33,000 (7.33%).

Stamp duty changes from 1 March

This table provides a rough estimate of the frais de notaire that you could expect to pay when buying a French property (source: Barème Langloÿs).

sale price Fee Stamp duty Percentage
€60,000 €2,250 €3,840 10.15%
€90,000 €2,530 €5,640 9.07%
€120,000 €2,800 €7,340 8.52%
€150,000 €3,080 €9,220 8.20%
€230,000 €3,820 €14,000 7.74%
€300,000 €4,470 €18,180 7.55%
€380,000 €5,210 €22,960 7.41%
€450,000 €5,860 €27,140 7.33%
€600,000 €7,240 €36,090 7.22%

Not a nationwide increase

Some regions of France have decided not to apply the increase:

  • Côte d’Or
  • Isère
  • Mayenne
  • Morbihan
  • Paris
  • Val d’Oise
  • Vienne
  • Yvelines

What to do?

If you’re buying a new property, contact your appointed notary (notaire) for the exact amount you’ll owe.

Published: 28 April 2014

New: book it on your smartphone

Browse Holiday Lettings on your smartphone

Whether you’re out and about or just need to book your holiday in a hurry, you can now do it in super-quick time via your smartphone on holidaylettings.co.uk.

Our newly designed smartphone-friendly site responds to the size of your iPhone or Android device, tablet or computer screen, letting you easily find and book a holiday retreat, whenever and from wherever you are.

Previously, searching via your smartphone would have redirected you to a slimmed-down mobile version of our site. But now you have instant access to all the menus, features and latest updates in a space that works for whatever gadget you’re using.

Browse on the bus, book it over a brew

Book a holiday let from your smartphoneAn easy search facility lets you quickly find what you’re looking for, whether it’s a rustic abode in Tuscany or a spacious family villa in the Canaries.

Once you find that perfect place, just check the price and book it from your phone. A booking request will go direct to the property owner and you’ll find out within 24 hours whether it’s yours.

If you receive our regular email alerts (of all the latest holiday finds and last minute deals), you’ll also notice a big difference. A much more seamless experience means you can quickly book that last minute bargain before anyone else does.

Going fully mobile

So far we’ve used responsive design on the main search pages and the property listings pages. More pages will follow soon – watch this space!

Published: 27 April 2014

Stay up to date with your dates

Keep your up to date to avoid disappointing travellersSearching for a holiday can be time-consuming, especially when your plans aren’t flexible and you have specific dates in mind. There’s nothing worse for travellers after finding the right place to stay and requesting to book it, to then discover that it isn’t available.

In fact, out-of-date calendars are a massive time-waster and the number one guest complaint. Plus they’re a sure-fire way of missing out on bookings.

Easy to update

But the good news is it’s really easy to keep your calendar up to date on Holiday Lettings and make sure you maximise your booking opportunities.

Log in and go to Properties > Update calendar and check your calendar shows exactly when your place is booked and when it’s not. Make a habit of doing this regularly.

Don’t forget: if you accept a booking via a booking request or a quote, our online booking system automatically marks the dates in your calendar so you don’t need to worry about doing it yourself. However, if you take bookings offline (annual listings only), you need to keep on top of your calendar yourself.

Availability alerts

An updated calendar clearly tells a guest if your property’s available when they want to stay – if a guest tries to send an enquiry for a date that’s already booked, a message appears alerting them to this.

We post this message because some guests have flexible holiday dates. If this is the case and they override the message and send you the enquiry anyway, you can make the most of this and try to encourage them to book alternative dates.

So if the guest can’t be flexible with their holiday dates, they won’t send you a request. As a result, no one’s wasting valuable time. And if they like your property enough they may enquire about alternative dates or the same dates next year.

More about calendar updates

Need to know more about how to update your calendar? Watch our video guide or read this.

Published: 27 April 2014

Driving in Spain: changes to traffic laws

Car in TenerifeNew traffic rules came into play on 21 April affecting pedestrians, drivers and cyclists in Spain.

If you’re planning on holidaying in Spain, or visiting your Spanish holiday home, it’s worth making a note of the changes so you’re not caught out with a fine.

Driving in Spain

New speed limits

In some urban areas, e.g. around schools, speed limits have been lowered from 50kph (31mph) to 20kph (12mph).

Children in cars

Only children over 1.35m tall (4ft 5in) can travel in the front seat of a car. Children under this height must sit in the back.

The only exceptions are if other children are already sat in all of the back seats, or if the vehicle doesn’t have any back seats.

Traffic fines

Police can now issue fines without having to stop your car or identify you as the driver.

You qualify for a 50% discount if you pay a fine within 20 days of receiving it. You also have 20 days to contest a fine.

Other changes to traffic laws

Helmets on bikes

All children under 16 must wear safety helmets when riding a bike in an urban area, otherwise the parent or guardian faces a fine of €200.

Pedestrian offences

If you commit an offence as a pedestrian (e.g. crossing a road at a non-designated crossing), expect to be breathalysed for alcohol and drugs.

More on traffic laws

Find out more about the changes to the Spanish traffic laws. The AA’s website is a useful source of information on the traffic laws in all countries.

Published: 26 April 2014

School holidays in Wales 2014 & 2015

School holiday dates 2014 & 2015Fancy a family break during the school holidays? If you’re based in Wales, see when the kids are free by taking a look at our up to date list of the Welsh school holidays for 2014 and 2015.

Search Holiday Lettings to discover the best places to stay in family accommodation and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest deals and ideas.

School holidays in Wales 2014

Summer half term Sat 24 May 2014 – Sun 1 June 2014
Summer holidays Tue 22 July 2014 – Sun 31 August 2014
Autumn half term Sat 25 October 2014 – Sun 2 November 2014
Christmas and New Year holidays Sat 20 December 2014 – Sun 4 January 2015

School holidays in Wales 2015

February half term Sat 14 February 2015 – Sun 22 February 2015
Easter holidays Sat 28 March 2015 – Sun 12 April 2015
Summer half term Sat 23 May 2015 – Sun 31 May 2015
Summer holidays Begin on Tue 21 July 2015

Please note: these school holiday dates are based on information provided by Cardiff Council. The dates can differ between regions, so it’s worth checking with your school. Also see the school holiday dates for EnglandScotland and France.

Published: 23 April 2014