An Overview of the Best Holiday Letting Agencies Compared

Posted by Linda Maclaughlan on 09 March 2018

Looking for a holiday letting agency that you can rely on?

If you’re just starting out with your holiday let, there’s so much to think about, and the choices you’re presented with can feel a little overwhelming.  

For instance; do you do everything yourself, or do you need an agency that can manage most of the heavy lifting for you?

TIP: Ask yourself if you can really manage all of the work yourself. If you ARE looking to list your holiday let yourself online, without the help of an agency, here are 9 of the best holiday letting websites compared.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you taking on all the hard graft – but in my experience, the safer option might be to opt for a holiday letting agency to help; at least when you’re first getting started.

So, that’s why I’ve put together this list of the four top holiday letting agencies – and the average costs you can expect to pay – so you can compare them and make an informed choice.

1. Scottish Cottages

Offering an extensive selection of holiday cottages throughout Scotland – the Borders, Highlands and Islands, plus everywhere in-between – Scottish Cottages offer a great, personal experience for guests, with an emphasis on ensuring people get the very best holiday experience.

They also have many years of experience looking after self-catering guests and owners, and put customer service as no.1 on their list. They also claim to take a proactive role in helping you advertise and manage your property. Scottish Cottages can also provide some great advice.

Services provided: Listing, consultancy, advertising/marketing

Opening hours: 9am – 9pm (5:30pm Sat & Sun)

Reviews:

“The team at Scottish Cottages is always so helpful and very much work with the owners, creating both a fantastic working relationship, and producing a website entry that is comprehensive and very attractive to holiday clients – one of the best on the market.”

2. Sykes

What I appreciate about Sykes is that they provide a fully-tailored services for holiday let owners. So, if you need help with the essential stuff for running your holiday let (as such cleaning, laundry etc.) as well as bookings, then they can help.

They have over 10,115 holiday properties currently online, and boast that many of their owners achieve over 45 bookings per year – and their web visitors total over 26 million. Their website even has a free owners’ pack to help you get started!

One thing to note is that their Google reviews indicate they may be missing a personal touch when there’s an issue with the properties.

Services provided: Listing, consultancy, management services, advertising/marketing

Opening hours: 9am – 8pm

Reviews:

“Excellent cottage in Anglesey exactly as described. Good service form Sykes when I had a query but took a bit of time else would have been 5 stars. will use again.”

“They cancelled 4 days before our holiday without any explanation or compensation.
Couldn’t offer us anything in replace. I will never use Sykes again, neither would I recommend them to anyone.”

3. Unique Cottages

Specialising in the very best cottages in stunning locations across Scotland, Unique Cottages offer a ‘what you see is what you get’ service for holiday let owners. They’re happy to do as much of the work as you’d like with your holiday let.

They also provide all the advice, marketing and expertise you’ll need to ensure you can get the most out of your holiday let. Their property inspections are thorough and will help you succeed to welcome in plenty of new guests!

Services provided: Listing, consultancy, management services, advertising/marketing

Opening hours: 9am – 7pm (10am – 6pm – Sat, 11am – 5pm – Sun)

Reviews:

“Unique Cottages have an astounding selection of holiday properties in Scotland. The standard of cottages is second to none, the booking process is simple, and the reservations team are exceptionally helpful. Overall, an excellent company!”

“I have become a very successful, profitable and happy owner under Unique Cottages who have swelled my occupancy from 30% to more than 90% in just two years. Signing up has been one of the best business decisions I have ever made.”

4. Crabtree & Crabtree

With an emphasis on local knowledge and expertise, relative newcomer Crabtree & Crabtree specialise in holiday homes throughout the Scottish Borders, Northumberland and East Lothian. Its their job to make your guests feel at home.

They claim to handpick all of their properties, and they also have additional services for your guests, like childcare, catering options, transport and special events – along with arranging trips for fishing and golf.

Services provided: Listing, consultancy, advertising/marketing

Opening hours: 9am – 5pm (Mon – Fri), 10am – 4pm (Sat & Sun)

Reviews:

“After an initial misunderstanding about where to find the key .. we had a very enjoyable stay in a lovely apartment in Kelso. Very clean, central, private parking – was perfect for our needs!  Lots of places to eat nearby. Apartment was well equipped.”

“A feast of quality, comfort and good taste…..that sums up Lower Tweedknowe for us .It is a delightful property in a gem of a town…..lovely shops and friendly people.Thank you to Crabtree and Crabtree for excellent management. We will return!!”

How much commission should you pay?

With so many costs to take into consideration when running a holiday let, commission fees on top of everything else can put many people off – however, unfortunately they tend to be a necessary evil when listing your property with a letting agency.

Agency fees are usually worked out based on a percentage of the booking cost for your holiday let – although, you’ll find with some larger agencies (including holiday lettings and owners direct) have a paid listing amount starting at around £300+.

So, how much can you expect to pay? Well, as a rule of thumb, commission costs are usually around 18 – 25%. And if you’re also paying for some property management aspects of your holiday let (laundry, cleaning and maintenance) then these costs will be added on, too.

For more information, check out our blog: ‘How Much Commission Should You Pay a Holiday Letting Agent?’

Advice from a holiday letting agency

Firstly, be honest with yourself. Think carefully about whether or not you really need an agency, or whether you can go it alone. If you’re able to – and you want to – do the work yourself, look at AirBnb, Owners’ Direct, Booking.com etc. (again, here are 9 of the best listing sites compared).

If the answer to the above is ‘no, then you’ll need a booking agency. And if you need help with regular management such as cleaning or laundry, then you’ll need to find a bespoke agency that does full management – or employ cleaners etc. yourself.

If you can do everything, and you just need bookings, consider the list above. But once you’ve chosen, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to give it time. I’m finding a lot of people don’t wait long enough and call me after a couple of months, or sometimes even weeks.

NOTE: I think the issue with many large agencies is you need to fit into their model. Many want you to have a set arrival and departure date, and this isn’t what guests want. I appreciate that changeovers can sometimes only happen on certain days, but if possible, don’t make your guests work around you. And don’t forget the personal touches!

Due to oversupply in the holiday lettings market, I’m still surprised that owners think all they have to do is put some furniture in a property and watch the bookings roll in. I can’t empathise enough – it’s a very competitive market. Think about how you can set yourself apart.

And finally, don’t make your judgement solely on commission rates. I’ve seen commission rates fall as agencies try to compete with the many other alternative types of rental (like AirBnB etc.). This is no longer a cottage industry; guests and owners have more options than ever before.

Conclusion

If you do decide to go down the large agency route, please compare all of your options – and once you’ve settled on one, give it time! Remember that many agencies will try and tie you in for a set period, so it’s vital you’re 100% confident you’ve made the right choice.

Do you have any questions about choosing a holiday letting agency? Let me know in the comments – or feel free to get in touch directly. I’d love to hear from you!

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