Category Archives: Community

EasyJet flights released – get ready for summer season 2015

Rowena, Cyprus holiday homeownerHoliday home owner Rowena tells us why it’s good to plan ahead as flights for 2015 are released.

The long awaited flights have been released for a few weeks now and the 2015 summer season is now a reality. This is really important for me as a holiday home owner because as soon as summer approaches, the price for seats creep higher and higher often making a self-catering holiday to Cyprus seem impossible because it become so expensive. If I don’t start our marketing early, it may be too late to secure many bookings, a fate that had sadly befallen me this year.

2014 has been a tough year for us to get rentals, most coming from return visitors. I’m partly to blame; it was a busy year for me as I was getting married and perhaps I should have spent more time focusing on promoting our holiday home. However, it’s also become tougher as more properties enter the market and are available to rent. I really need to ensure I’m on top of the game for 2015 and here’s how:

  • Let everyone know that the flights and our property are available to book by updating advert and emailing past guests.
  • Visit our property in November to give it an update and take some great new pictures to entice guests to stay.

I’ll keep you updated on how I get on – wish me luck and any tips or advice to share with me and other readers of the blog are as always very much appreciated.

All the best!

Rowena

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!

How I’m trying to reach the top of the search results

Rowena, Cyprus holiday homeownerRowena shares her strategies for getting her holiday home in Cyprus to the top of the Holiday Lettings search results.

The high season is fast approaching and although we’ve had some bookings confirmed, we still have a lot of weeks available and need to get the empty dates filled!

It’s important to me that our property stays at the top of the listings on Holiday Lettings. I’ve mentioned before that tourists can be put-off looking for self-catering holidays abroad because of the cost of flights, and these are especially high for European flights to sunshine destinations like Cyprus. Plus, our property in Paphos faces a lot of tough competition from other holiday lets, so I need to ensure that our house stays at the top of the search results.

How properties are ‘ranked’

I’m not quite sure how the rankings are worked out on Holiday Lettings, but my personal thoughts are that it must be similar to Google. Like Google, or most search engines for that matter, they don’t give away how they ‘rank’ you. But what we do know is that it helps to keep your content fresh, relevant and up to date.

One of the major factors that can only assist with where you appear on Holiday Lettings is responding to enquiries within 24 hours. Quick responses will help you stay at the top. I also try to make sure our availability and prices are regularly updated and that content is appropriate to the season that we are trying to get bookings for.

Researching the competition

There are currently 23 properties listed in Anarita, the village where our property is located. It has been at number four in the search results for a while now and I’m determined to get it to the ‘top of the props’!

If you search for Paphos (the region where our property is located), there are 47 pages of properties and I’m pleased to see that regularly updating and refreshing our advert has resulted in us appearing on page two. However, I want to get on page one to try and generate more enquiries: it’s down to me as the homeowner to do this.

My tactics so far

Here’s what I’ve already done to achieve a good place in the search results:

  • Asked our guests to leave reviews – we have 10 in total and our overall rating from past guests is 5/5
  • Allowed new guests to book online with Payment Protection
  • I respond to enquiries quickly, and always within 24 hours
  • Included photos of our property and the surrounding area together with photo descriptions
  • I regularly review and amend content to keep it up to date and appropriate to each season
  • I use social media – our property has been shared 136 times on Facebook (and that’s not only by me… promise!)

New things that I’m trying out

So what have I done recently to try and achieve an even higher ranking?

  • Added two more photos so that I’m now at the full capacity of 24 photos
  • Added prices for 2015
  • Updated the intro on our advert
  • Added a link to our property’s website

So fingers crossed this will help our home climb even higher in the property charts! Watch this space and here’s hoping we’ll start receiving more enquiries and bookings soon. I’ll keep you updated!

All the best,

Rowena

How I use Pinterest to promote my holiday home

Rowena shares about how she uses Pinterest

Holiday homeowner, Rowena, tells us how she uses Pinterest to promote her place in Cyprus. 

Pictures can tell some wonderful stories. If you see a good image of a holiday destination, you begin to visualise yourself there and imagine that you’re on holiday.

That’s why I’m a big fan of Pinterest. As a holiday homeowner I have a Facebook page for our Cyprus house and I have over 1,000 people following us on our Twitter account. Both Facebook and Twitter are a great way to promote your property, but Pinterest is the social media platform that’s beginning to get me excited. More and more people are beginning to use Pinterest and it’s becoming a valuable social media platform that we as holiday owners could be using to our advantage.

I admit, at first I didn’t really get Pinterest. What are pins, what’s it all about, why do I need an account and how would it benefit me as a holiday homeowner?

After some research, and also using Pinterest to start planning for our upcoming wedding, I began to understand it as the end user, looking for ideas and inspiration.

So, basically, Pinterest is an online pin board and can be used as a planning tool. A means to find images that give you inspiration. For example, if you’re getting married you can search for wedding images to get ideas for your own big day. Or (more importantly for us holiday homeowners) if you’re planning a trip or holiday you can search for destinations to give you ideas of where to go and what to do.

A pin is quite simply a picture, illustration or an image. If you see a picture you like you ‘pin it’ to a board. You can create ‘boards’ to save your pins, so for example, if you were planning a holiday to Cyprus, you could create a board and name it ‘Cyprus Holiday’. You could then simply search ‘Cyprus’ and see what images appear. Any that you like you can pin to your ‘Cyprus Holiday’ board.

Now if you’re a holiday homeowner you can create boards and upload your own images of your holiday home and the surrounding area. You can add the source of the picture, i.e. your website, to try and direct traffic to your holiday home.

For an example of how I’m using Pinterest, have a look at my Cyprus board: http://www.pinterest.com/cyprusholiday/cyprus/

I’ve started with a basic board for Cyprus images – pictures we’ve taken whilst out and about in the surrounding area of our holiday home. However, there is so much more we could do.

For some ideas for creating boards why not try:

  • Local wine and cuisine (pictures of local dishes, local vineyard tours, etc).
  • Local festivals and events
  • Sea and mountains (beach photos, scenic views)
  • Relaxation (local spas, people relaxing by the pool)
  • Golf and sports (local golf courses, tennis, horse riding, mountain biking, etc)

There’s so much you can do on Pinterest and at the very least it helps you sort out your photos, so if you haven’t already, why not give it a try.

All the best!

Rowena

Why we visit our holiday home out of season

Rowena discusses her Swiss Franc mortgage

Holiday homeowner, Rowena, tells us how the out of season visit to her property was for more than just a holiday.

We’ve just returned from a week’s visit to our holiday home in Cyprus, and what a wonderful time of year to visit. Unfortunately, the week we picked happened to be the coldest weather of the season, with snow falling on the mountains.

Typically, it’s back to glorious sunny days again now that we’re home! However, we were still able to get a couple of days of sunshine, catch up with neighbours and visit the tourist places that we’ve never seemed to have time to do on previous trips.

The benefits of a winter visit

I think it’s important to visit your own home at different times of the year so you are able to prepare your house for all seasons and also be able to give your guests information on what they can expect during that season, what the weather is typically like and what they can see and do.

As a result of our visit we bought an electric heater for the evenings to keep the home nice and warm. It’s surprising how quickly the temperature can drop once the sun comes down. You can blast hot air through the air conditioning units but this is an expensive way to heat the house. We also made sure there were plenty of fleecy blankets to keep people warm at night.

Cyprus at Christmas

A gallery for all seasons

We took some photos so we can show people what our home is like in the winter season. We also made a few home improvements, something we try and do every visit. We brought out with us a new hairdryer and extra games for the playstation, checked the fly screens, which were fitted earlier in the year and changed both the shower curtains. We bought a new lamp and cushions for the lounge and gave the kitchen a deep clean ready for the new season.

Mixing work with pleasure

The most fun we had was seeing Cyprus in December with all the Christmas lights, including the village of Anarita where we are located. We also managed to enjoy some quality time with our neighbours, including a Christmas party, and Stewart and Ann who manage our property so well throughout the year.

All in all a very successful trip – my only wish was that we could have stayed longer!

All the best!

Rowena

What to do about my Swiss Franc mortgage

Rowena discusses her Swiss Franc mortgage

Many property owners with Swiss Franc mortgages are now paying more than they expected. What can you do? Holiday homeowner, Rowena, shares her advice.

It’s like a confession that you don’t want to share with your friends or family, but here goes…

“My name’s Rowena and I have a Swiss Franc mortgage.”

Yes, I was one of those people who, back in 2007 in the property boom years, bought our beautiful home in Cyprus by borrowing in the Swiss Franc currency.  Years later, with the Swiss Franc thriving and the Sterling still struggling, our mortgage payments are almost double the amount of what we had been advised we would need to pay.

Perhaps we were naive when we were led to believe borrowing in Swiss Francs would be a good decision. It clearly wasn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it’s no good to us now. Myself and many other buyers of Cypriot properties are paying much more than what we expected and many buyers are now seeking the help of solicitors and lawyers to see if they have a case against the bank for the mis-selling of their loan.

Some people have been negotiating directly with the bank, whilst others have been getting legal advice. I have been following reports with interest, uncertain on the best course of action to take. There are a few rumours circulating, as well as some informative articles on websites such as Cyprus Property News. I decided to contact Louise Zambartas, of L.G. Zambartas LLC , to try and clarify some of the things that I’ve heard.

Do I have a case for mis-selling of our Swiss Franc loan?

It is likely that the bank has a case to answer for mis-selling of your Swiss Franc loan. In recognition of their customers’ rights to bring such claims to be determined by the court, some of the banks in Cyprus are willing to renegotiate Swiss Franc loans.

Of course, every case depends on its own merits and an analysis of the documentation signed at the relevant time is essential to assess the strength of the mis-selling case.

Will the bank write off part of my loan or reduce my payments?

The answer to this question depends on which bank is involved and some of the banks are willing to negotiate, whilst others are not. Those banks that are willing to negotiate will discount the loans, however the discount is granted on terms, which will protect the bank in the event of a future default on the repayments.

The restructuring can include an extension of the loan term depending on the age of the borrower and a reduced interest rate with a fixed margin. These factors can make a significant difference to the monthly repayments as well as the total cost of the loan in the future.

The restructuring also results in repayments of capital and interest, meaning the loan will be repaid at the end of the loan term. This is usually not the case with a standard 15-year foreign currency loan from a Cyprus bank. These loans frequently require a ‘bullet’ payment of an unspecified amount to be made at the end of the 15-year term. As many customers will be on a retirement income at the end of the term, this bullet payment will be extremely difficult to make.

It is also our experience that many customers were not aware that the loan would not be repaid at the end of the term. An easy way to check whether this is the case or not, is to add up the total amount of the repayments and compare this with the initial amount borrowed. If the capital borrowed will not have been repaid, it is clear that a very substantial bullet payment will be required at the end of the loan term.

Is there a deadline?

The limitation rules in Cyprus have undergone a significant change, with the passing by the Parliament of Cyprus of the new Limitation Law (N. 66(I)/2012).  The implementation of the law has been delayed until 31 December 2013, however it is not anticipated that the implementation will be delayed any further.

The new law introduces certain time limits for the filing of civil claims and time starts to run on the day upon which the cause of action arises.

The following are the limitation periods for the relevant civil claims:

  1. A claim related to mortgages or pledges cannot be filed after the passing of the 12 years from the date on which the cause of action is completed.
  2. The default limitation period for Tort claims is six years from the date on which the cause of action is completed. However, in the case of damages for negligence, nuisance, and breach of statutory duty the limitation period is three years. The time period is calculated from the time the cause of action is completed.
  3. As the law has not yet been implemented, no time limit can expire under the above provisions before 31 December 2013. However, after that date, any claim which has not been commenced and in respect of which the limitation period has passed, will be statute barred.

It is worth specifically mentioning how these time limits apply if you have a property in Cyprus and a loan with a Cyprus bank.

As actions against the bank are likely to be based on misrepresentation/mis-selling, these are claims for negligence and the time limit is therefore three years from the signing of the loan documentation. Claims against developers are often for negligent building at the time of construction therefore this is also a claim based in negligence with a time limit of three years, with a time limit of six years in addition to a claim for breach of contract.

In accordance with the Cyprus Limitation Law, the limitation periods apply not only to lawsuits but also to counterclaims. The effect of this is that the bank has 12 years to proceed in respect of a mortgage/loan default, however a counterclaim to such an action will potentially be statute barred owing to the much shorter time period applicable.

Remember everyone is different and the decision you take on how to proceed is ultimately yours. Do your research carefully and make sure, if you do seek legal advice, to use a reputable lawyer.

Good luck!

Rowena

The content of this blog is intended only to provide a summary of matters of interest. It is not intended to be legal advice.

My top 4 tips for early bird bookings

Rowena shares her tips on getting early bird bookings for next year

Want some advice on how to secure early bird bookings for your holiday home? Holiday homeowner, Rowena, shares her top four tips. 

So far we have had zero confirmation on bookings for next year. I’m not too worried at the moment as most of our bookings seem to come in from January onwards, but it would be good to get at least a couple of booking confirmations for 2014.

I’ve tried late bookings before, but these haven’t always worked well for us. The main reason being flights to Cyprus often increase in price the longer you leave it to book. The earlier you book generally the cheaper flights are, so I really need to ensure we are on the ball with our marketing to get a full season of rentals next year.

So how do I go about getting early bird bookings?

#1 Let people know that flights have now been released for next year

EasyJet has released its flights for spring/summer 2014. I will contact previous guests to let them know and I have also announced on our Holiday Lettings advert that flights are now available. It’s important to integrate this type of information into any marketing activity, be it within our advert or on our newsletter to past guests.

#2 Add an incentive or deal

Early bird booker deals work really well for guests looking to book in advance. These often appeal to families who are looking to arrange their summer holidays and want to ensure they get the best deal by booking early. Using a deal or incentive helps to attract interest from these types of holidaymakers.

#3 Make sure prices are up to date and competitive

If you don’t show your prices, or if they are higher than similar properties in the area, the chances are you won’t get the bookings. I try to make sure my prices are kept up to date and are competitive for any guest looking to book in advance.

#4 Respond quickly

I know I always say it, but I really do feel from my experience that the quicker you respond, the better chance you have of securing the booking. I always try and be speedy with my reply and keep my response friendly and informative.

I’m looking forward to getting some bookings confirmed and hope that our initiatives work. What do you do to try and appeal to early bird bookers? Any tips and advice to share with fellow homeowners always appreciated.

Good luck!

Rowena 

Managing our holiday home from a distance

Rowena - image with house

Rowena tells us about her on-site management team that help her to manage her holiday home in Cyprus from the UK.

The thought of something going wrong with your property is a big concern for many overseas property homeowners, especially when you live far away. I don’t know what we’d do without Stewart and Ann, our on-site management team. They live at the resort where we have our holiday home and provide an invaluable service. They give us peace of mind that our property is well looked after and take care of emergencies when needed.

During the winter, Cyprus can experience heavy rainfall and a common problem is damp in houses. Unfortunately our house is no exception! Last year Stewart reported a problem with damp indoors. The damage was promptly sealed, filled, sanded and painted in the hope it wouldn’t happen again. But on one of Stewart’s recent weekly rounds he noticed more damp and we realised we needed to take action to stop the problem reoccurring and causing lasting damage.

The ever-helpful Stewart sourced a reliable builder and we were quoted 250 euros to fix the problem once and for all. Not cheap, but worth the investment in our minds, so we went ahead with the work. Now the problem is resolved and hopefully fixed for the long term.

Without having someone on-site to spot the problem, help find a cost-effective solution and oversee the repair works, we would have had to travel over to take charge, costing us even more money. That’s why it’s a good idea for holiday home owners who live far away from their properties to find someone reliable nearby – a neighbour, a friend or a management company – who can deal with issues as they arise. Because they always do in some shape or form!

Do you work with someone on-site? Have they ever had to assist with issues at your property?

All the best!

Rowena

Welcome to my diary of a homeowner!

Rowena

Holiday homeowner, Rowena, will be regularly sharing her experiences with us on managing and running a holiday let. Read on to find out more about her and why she decided to invest in a holiday home. 

As both a journalist and a holiday home owner I was absolutely delighted when the team at Holiday Lettings approached me to write a regular blog about my experiences of letting my holiday property in Cyprus. I’ll be writing about topics and issues that affect holiday home owners and I’ll also keep you up to date with our successes – and our trials and tribulations too! It’s good for us holiday homeowners to share tips and advice so please let me know what you think, if there is anything you would like me to write about in particular or if you wish to share any views and experiences.

A bit about me: back in 2007 when the economy was still thriving my other half and I took the plunge and bought an off-plan property in Cyprus. To say we had a few hiccups along the way is probably a bit of an understatement, but five years on we find ourselves the proud owners of our very own place in the sun. Although when I say our very own, that’s of course not strictly true – we share it with our guests too!

We bought the property with the idea of looking for a long-term investment, but if truth be known we really bought it because we fell in love with the area and the concept. And we haven’t been disappointed, it’s everything we had hoped it to be and although there are many times when I wonder why we did it, I just have to look at our photos and it instantly takes me back there – to our little slice of paradise.

We finally took ownership of our holiday home in August 2010 – a newly developed townhouse on a small resort called Anarita Chorio, set next to the beautiful Cypriot countryside and close to the Med. Our initial thoughts were to look for a long-term tenant but unfortunately we didn’t have much interest and the returns from long-term lets were unlikely to cover our costs, let alone our mortgage.

rowena

So we had a rethink and as such we went back to Cyprus in March 2011 and set up our home for holiday lets. Our sole intention was to create an environment that would be friendly and welcoming to all our guests, we wanted them to feel that our home was their home and the perfect base for them to relax and enjoy their holiday. This is my ad – I hope you like it!

We’ve tried various ways of getting bookings – some more successful than others! We’ve found that holidaylettings.co.uk has delivered many enquiries and is our main source for rentals. 2012 was the first full year since we’ve marketed the property and we’ve managed to get quite a few bookings with guests telling us that they’re planning to return, which is always rewarding. With that in mind we’re very much looking forward to the new year ahead!

All the best,

Rowena

My review of the new mobile app

CaptureHoliday homeowner, Rowena, reviews the new mobile app for homeowners advertising with Holiday Lettings.

I was pleased to hear about the free owner app from Holiday Lettings and keen to try it out. It’s available on iPhones and Android, it’s free to download and has been specifically designed for people who advertise their property with Holiday Lettings.

It was easy to find and download on my iPhone via the Apple app store. And if the many positive reviews are anything to go by it’s proving popular with homeowners. Once the app was downloaded all I needed to do was enter my advertiser ID and password, confirmed I wanted to receive alerts and I was ready to go!

The app is easy to navigate and gives you quick access to your latest enquiries (up to four weeks), as well as availability and prices. You can also easily create a quote directly from the app and there’s quick access to the help and contact pages.

The main benefit, as I see it, is that you have your availability calendar instantly to hand, which is very convenient when you receive a new enquiry. Plus you can easily – and most importantly quickly – manage enquiries wherever you are. Personally this is a huge advantage, especially in light of the fact that many people enquire about more than one property at one time, so responding quickly is key to securing a booking.

My verdict? Anything that makes it easier for me to manage my bookings and respond quickly to enquiries gets a thumbs-up! I also think there’s potential for further developing the owner app and perhaps introducing a holidaymaker app in the future.

Have you tried the app, is it making your life easier? Let me know your thoughts…

All the best!

Rowena