UK Holiday Lets

More and more members are interested in investing in UK holiday lets so, with some timely advice, over to Farm and Cottage Holidays…

The connection factor – In both the digital and physical sense holidaymakers want to stay connected whether it’s online or in the pub. Farm and Cottage Holidays has seen a 50 per cent rise in the number of properties offering WIFI over the past year. Tech lovers demand to stay online whilst on holiday. We are a nation of pub lovers. The most frequently asked question to the company’s call centre is ‘how far is the nearest pub?’ Over 60 per cent of Farm and Cottage Holidays properties are within 1 mile of a pub and this search facility is available online

The entertainment factor – From farm animals to pet, pools to swim in, Sky TV, WIFI and maybe your very own dancing pole, people are demanding properties with lots of options to keep everyone busy. Farm stays seem to be a firm family favourite with parents keen to show their kids the real country life. Sky Plus packages, DVD players, iPod docking stations all have to be considered for new properties coming online, especially for those catering for larger parties.

The kitchen factor – Spurred on by a love of cookery shows, country cottages and beachside homes need that killer kitchen with kit such as food processors, coffee machines and juicers as well as the all important dishwasher. Country style kitchens are particularly popular with city slickers, as they give them a real taste of country living.

The luxury factor – Whether it’s a four poster bed or a hot-tub, properties offering that added pamper factor are the hottest in demand by far. Great beds are key requirements. Long gone are the times when people accepted plastic covered mattresses and small lumpy twins. Beds are getting bigger and better. Hot tubs are popping up everywhere to give the property that added gloss. Farm and Cottage Holidays has over 50 properties with the option of a long hot bubbly soak.

The good company factor – From bringing along the  extended family, to making room for Rover the dog, Farm and Cottage Holidays have seen a noticeable shift in demand properties offering accommodation for over 8 guests and they offer a choice of 210 in total. The company had a recent request checking if they would accept a parrot in the property! More to come.

We will have more on UK holiday lets soon – do drop us a line if you’d like to know more.

The Chinese Butler

You probably don’t know anyone who has a butler – I know I don’t. Even the wealthy seem to shy away from getting the ultimate expression of privilege and status in the UK. Perhaps it’s the period dramas that have done it. You rarely get a likeable character with a butler!

The Chinese have no such qualms though, and demand for English butlers is going through the roof  The Guild of English Butlers report a 20% year on year increase in the number of butlers they’re training, and Greycoat Placements say demand for domestic staff has trebled in the past three years. Much of this demand is coming from those either living or making their money in emerging markets.

There are two things you can take away from this I think:

  1. If you fancy the idea of becoming a butler, you’re not too late.
  2. It’s easy to fall into the parochial trap. We live on a tiny island and there’s a massive world out there with different requirements and demands.  Sticking to the UK market is both short-sighted and self -defeating.


If you’re planning to transfer currency for a holiday or overseas investment, you’ll probably talk to your high-street bank. Don’t! You’ll save money by going to a specialist currency exchange dealer. Here’s what international property lawyer Peter Esders has to say…

‘Use a specialist currency dealer rather than a bank. We send all our international transfers through currency dealers rather than banks. Why? Because they give us a better exchange rate, lower costs and a speedier service. This is a constant source of annoyance to our bank but frankly they can’t compete with dealers.

An average high-street bank will probably offer spot rate (the real, inter bank, rate of exchange), less 4 per cent. An average currency dealer will offer an ordinary customer spot rate, less 2 per cent. On a £100,000 transfer you save £2,000 on the exchange rate alone!

The dealers will be quicker too. In the days before currency dealers became popular, the money would be send by a UK bank to another country via another bank in the local country who would then eventually send it to the end bank. There were three banks involved but, more crucially, there would be a bank in the middle who didn’t really care how long it took them to send the money!

When it comes to comparing dealers, it is worth remembering that, in addition to exchange rate differences, there are also differences in charges. Currency dealers typically charge less than high-street banks for transferring money abroad. In fact, many of them don’t charge anything at all or, more accurately, they incorporate the fees into the exchange rate.

One example that we saw really brought this home to us. There were two transfers to Turkey done through a well-known high-street bank. The first was for £100,000 and the second was for £200,000. The high street bank charged fees of £535 and £1035 respectively. This is a total of £1,570 just in bank charges!

A currency dealer would have charged either nothing or a nominal amount such as £20 (i.e. a saving of £1,550). And remember that this is in addition to the exchange rate differences (which probably amount to another couple of thousand pounds).

Be wary of recommendations – do your own Google research for the best deals. If an agent or developer recommends a particular currency dealer it is important to bear in mind that this recommendation is not necessarily motivated by what is best for you.

I was at a property exhibition a few years ago and took the opportunity of speaking to all the currency dealers at the exhibition. Several of them told me that the rate that they would offer would depend on how much commission I wanted to receive – i.e. the worse the rate the more money they would pay me for introducing clients to them. Basically what I was being told is that they have a margin which they can either pass to me in terms of a good rate or as commission.

Frankly that is outrageous, but I know plenty of agents and developers who simply see the bottom line and don’t really care whether the client gets a good deal or not. As long as the rate is lower than the banks then they feel that they can justify it.

Always go with a well-established currency dealer. People do get worried about currency dealers. After all they aren’t high street banks. What happens if they go bankrupt? It may seem strange to think like that in the days of bank instability but this is something to think about. It is worth using one of the major currency dealers who have been around for a while as there are so many who are basically a couple of people operating from a back bedroom somewhere and have just set up.

It is also worth asking whether the currency dealer deals with the country that you want to deal with. Malaysia can be a difficult country to deal with in terms of currency. As people look further than just the Eurozone this is becoming more and more important.’

The Same…But Smaller

When the TSA ban on carrying liquids on planes in bottles of more than 100ml (3 oz) came into force, it opened up an opportunity which  New York company 3floz jumped in to fill. They started putting high end skin and hair care products in airline-friendly 3 fluid ounce bottles. These weren’t just marketed to travellers though.  They were also promoted to people who wanted to try out a product without going to the risk and expense of  buying the full sized version.

With a little lateral thinking, this concept has to have much wider applications.  What other expensive product or service could you re-package into smaller quantities, enabling the consumer to try it out without spending a fortune? And  when you’ve done that, how can  you position yourself to cash in if they decide to go for the full blown version?