How to win hearts with a holiday let

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With the Edinburgh festivals in full flow, holiday property owners are taking advantage of record numbers of visitors.

The rise of short-term letting in recent years has challenged the more traditional tourist accommodation of hotels, hostels and B&Bs.

Airbnb, where owners let everything from a blow-up bed in their sitting room to complete high-end properties has been a phenomenal success but Gillian Taylor, who runs Edinburgh Hideaways with her husband, builder Ewen MacAskill, and owns eight holiday letting properties in the capital, says there is still a gap at the more luxurious end of the market.

“A lot of what is on offer with Airbnb has the feel of being in someone’s flat who has just popped out, whereas we are finding that what people want is more akin to a boutique hotel experience, without paying for room service or all the extras,” says Gillian.

Their flat at 17/6 Grassmarket, which is now for sale, is a case in point.

The property is offered on the short-term holiday letting market and has a 100 per cent occupancy rate.

Gillian says: “We bought it two and a half years ago, as the third in our portfolio, just as I decided to leave my ‘proper’ job to set up a lettings business full time.

“We were attracted to the location – many Grassmarket flats advertise that they have a castle view, but this one probably has the best, so was likely to be popular with tourists who like the buzz of a central location.

“It is also a third-floor flat, so above the noise of the street below, and the bedroom is at the back of the building so it is quiet.”

When they bought it the flat had been let long term and was quite basic but they could see the potential.

Gillian says: “It was a bit dismal and needed stripping back, but in doing that we uncovered some nice features, such as the stone wall in the sitting room.

“We replaced the kitchen, bathroom and flooring throughout and undertook a general renovation.”

With Ewen’s talents as a builder and property developer, they always look to add value to their properties in this way, but Gillian has her own skills as an interior designer.

She says: “I take over when the heavy work is done. I’m not a professional, but my own homes have always been featured in interior magazines and through experience I’ve got to know what works.”

The look Gillian was aiming for was that of a five-star hotel with a romantic feel.

She says: “It is a one-bedroomed flat, so likely to appeal to couples who go on short breaks throughout the year rather than being restricted to school holiday times, and so it has proved.

“We have hosted honeymooners, couples have got engaged in the flat and we have plenty who return for celebrations three or four times a year.”

The flat is marketed through letting agencies including Airbnb, but returning visitors can go direct to Edinburgh Hideaways.

Even in the low season of January and February, the flat is occupied, at a minimum of £85 per night midweek.

The income from the city-centre property adds up to £35,000 a year, but Gillian says running a holiday let is a big commitment.

“We have a full-time cleaner for the properties but I always check each one to maintain standards which is so important to keep good feedback scores online.

“We’ve brought things like the laundry in-house and invested in industrial irons to keep costs down, so I’m very hands on.”

The attention to detail has paid off. “The flat doesn’t have a day free all year and there are waiting lists for popular times such as the Festival or New Year,” she says.

With her background in marketing and her property experience, Gillian has just launched a consultancy to advise others on how best to run a holiday rental.

While the couple are selling the flat to invest in a development in Perthshire, she says anyone wanting to carry on letting it would benefit from the established business.

“We have bookings up to the beginning of October, but many guests have asked to be kept informed if it will carry on as a holiday property.

“It has been a great investment for us and for anyone who wants to dip a toe in the industry, it is a good bet.”

Offers over £255,000. Contact Simpson &

Marwick on 0131 5258666.