What is flexible letting? A simple guide.

April 1, 2020

Three minute read.

TLDR: Earn the high revenues of short-letting with all the security of a longer-term tenant.

'Flexible letting' means combining different types of let to maximise occupancy and earnings throughout the year.

These lets could be:

  • Holiday bookings of just a few nights.
  • Longer visits of 2-3 weeks.
  • Corporate reservations of several weeks or months.
  • Longer-term tenancies of multiple months.

Simple, right?

What's so good about flexible letting?

Increased revenues: Shorter stays achieve a much higher nightly rate, and business travellers are often happy to pay a higher price for home comforts. But longer-term bookings guarantee income over winter and spring, when demand for short-lets slows a little. Flexible letting gives you the best of both worlds.

Flexibility: Flexible lets are, well, flexible. Circumstances changed? Move back in. Trying to sell? Earn rent in the meantime. In-laws visiting? They don't have to stay with you. Your property is always yours to use as you see fit.

In demand: There aren't many homeowners using this strategy. Most still prefer traditional longer tenancies, whilst others have switched to just holiday lets. Combining both is a fairly new strategy, and the payoff is there for those forward-thinking enough to see this gap in the market.

But is there really much demand?

The extreme popularity of short holiday lets is well documented, and there's a higher demand for mid-length bookings than you might think.

The success of - to name a few - Zipcar, Rent the Runway, and various bike-sharing schemes show an increasing demand to own assets on a part-time basis. The rise of flexi-hours and the gig economy demonstrate that flexible working is in demand too. From cars to jobs, people want commitments to work around their lifestyle, not the other way round.

Their accommodation is no different. In this digital, interconnected world people are more likely to travel or work abroad for extended periods.The traditional, twelve-month, locked-in tenancy doesn't work for everyone anymore.

Different tenants want different things, and the appetite is there for choice.

Some of our regular tenants include:

  • Corporate travellers
  • Those on work placement
  • Longer-term tourists
  • Family visiting family
  • Friends visiting friends
  • Students
  • Digital Nomads
  • Those on adult gap-years
  • People moving house
  • People completing building work on their house
The Digital Nomad in her natural habitat

Sounds complicated though. How do I get started?

It's really important to not just dive straight in. Sourcing more bookings, cleaning more regularly, and communicating more often with tenants takes extra work. There is a significant payoff, but be honest with yourself about the additional input required.

Plan ahead: Having a strategy is crucial to maximising returns, and remember that there's no one-size-fits-all. Familiarise yourself with the regulation in your city. Short-lets will earn best over the busy summer, so most homeowners will use their allowance of days in this peak season. But if you need access to your property in winter, consider saving some of your short-let allowance for then.

Build listings: Diversification is key. Airbnb is a very versatile platform, but many longer-term tenants still prefer to find properties on sites like Rightmove or Zoopla. Expedia and Booking.com have large corporate audiences, too. The more places in which you can advertise your home, the greater your chance of receiving bookings.

Research pricing: Getting pricing right can be tricky at first. A three-month booking doesn't achieve the same nightly rate as a three-night one, so adjust your pricing accordingly. But don't undersell yourself either. Overwhelmed with booking requests? You could be earning more.

There's a lot to consider. Choosing the right partner to help out with strategy, listings and pricing (as well as communication, cleaning and check-in!) can quickly be well worth the commission - it could even earn you more.

How do I pick the right host partner?

Different property management companies have different strengths and weaknesses.

Well-known letting agents, such as Foxtons or Savills, have strong name recognition for potential tenants, as well as significant experience in the long-let market. But traditional agents are expensive, and have been slow to adapt to the growing short-let market. They have limited resources to manage guest communication and check-ins.

There's also a whole host (excuse the pun) of smaller operators specialising in Airbnb-style lets. These companies can be much better set up to handle the rigours of short-letting, with dedicated guest teams and remote check-in solutions. But these companies often aren't set up to service longer-term bookings.

Houst deliver both short and long-lets. We have experienced estate agents advertising long-term tenancies in London, Edinburgh, Bristol and Dublin (with more cities to follow). Our lettings teams work alongside the 24/7 Guest Support Team, who have handled over 250,000 short-let bookings to date.

Hosts who join Houst receive a lettings strategy tailored to their property. We list properties on several platforms (with professional photography included) and provide an Account Manager for every host. Our Pricing Team ensure properties are maximising income and - when the bookings start rolling in - our professional housekeepers keep your property looking great.

Sounds interesting? Get in touch. It might be the best thing you do today.

Who are Houst? We're the world's largest host management company, helping hosts earn more. More time, more money, more freedom. Check us out.

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