Meet Fiona: holiday rental owner, Claremont WA

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Fiona started listing her holiday rental in 2011. She chose to rent her beloved cottage to give it a new purpose, keep its gardens well-maintained and ensure the property was in regular use. We spoke to her about what it takes to make her holiday rental a success.

What’s unique about your holiday rental?

The cottage is in the middle of the Western Suburbs of Perth, exactly halfway between Perth and Fremantle. It’s completely hidden in the middle of a large garden with no street frontage, so it is very peaceful with a lovely garden and pool outlook. Furthermore, the cottage has a really interesting colonial history, dating from the mid nineteenth century. Despite its spare, convicts’ beginnings, it’s now a luxurious and spacious cottage for the discerning traveller.

Financially or otherwise, how has your holiday rental benefited you?

Through making the cottage available to travellers, we have met some really interesting people. There are other benefits: ensuring that the cottage is always looking its best prompts us to keep this special colonial building in tip-top shape. Similarly, guests always expect to find the cottage as it is in the photos, and since the peaceful garden is a particular attraction of the cottage, we are committed to ensuring the garden always looks lovely, even if the plants aren’t always flowering. Consequently, we benefit too – we always have a lovely garden to enjoy and so too do our local birds.

What made you decide to make your property into a holiday rental?

Our children have moved overseas and interstate – it was too easy to let things go, we needed a purpose to keep the cottage looking lovely and the garden well-tended.

Did you face any challenges when you first entered this business?

Initially, we were so overwhelmed with accommodation requests because there has been a shortage of affordable and quality accommodation in Perth and in particular, the Western Suburbs. We realised that we had to get our pricing right and we extended the length of minimum stay. The arrangements suits us very well.

Some holiday rental owners like to manage every detail personally, from handling enquiries to property maintenance. What balance works best for you?

We handle everything ourselves. I like to get a feel for the people who will be coming to our garden and the cottage. I also want to be confident I have all the arrangements correctly recorded in our diary so there are no mess-ups. I arrange a cleaner to come on a regular basis and my husband coordinates all the maintenance. That doesn’t mean we necessarily do it all – in fact, now that we have paying guests we can afford to have professionals assist us at all times.

In your experience, what does it take to run a holiday rental successfully?

At the very least, it’s really important that guests receive what they are expecting. We aspire to surprise them with our offering. We would like guests to leave the cottage feeling as though they have been somewhere unique, and were a little spoilt on their time away.

You have to be super-organised, to ensure that the arrangements about people’s comings and goings are correctly recorded and the cleaning is done on time and to my standards. We advertise that the cottage is entirely private, so I consider it very important to be friendly and welcoming but not intrusive. People come and go as they want and we don’t necessarily have to be there.

What’s the best way to safely screen guests before they stay at your holiday rental?

I try to find as much as I can about people during the enquiry stage. We remind people about our guidelines and I always request a bond. That said, it is very much based on trust and intuition.

What’s your advice for people just entering the holiday rental business?

Take it slowly and think about surprising people by exceeding their expectations. Refine your communications so that all parties are clear about the dates, the time of arrival and exit, your expectations of guests and offer details about local attractions, including public transport, local eateries, shopping and things to see. I always want that information when I go somewhere and you rarely receive those details when staying at a hotel. Make that the difference.

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