Buy British - and reap the rewards

As more people choose to holiday in the UK, investors can afford to look closer to home
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The Independent Online

Holiday homes in Britain seem to have a lot to offer the property investor compared with those abroad. Weekly rentals are enticingly high, the properties are close enough to keep under observation, the legal situation is better, and the owner can stay there for free.

People are taking more holidays in Britain, too. As a result, house prices in holiday areas have been booming. According to research by County Homesearch, the West Country recorded the highest property price surge in England and Wales over the last decade, with Truro topping the list with a staggering 272 per cent rise. Dorchester, Exeter, Taunton and Bath all made the top ten. Over the last five years, northern seaside resorts such as Blackpool have seen property prices surge, too.

Unfortunately, the property market has now hit the buffers and investors must rely on old-fashioned intelligence and hard work to make holiday homes pay.

The work starts right at the beginning - it is essential to do your homework. Choosing a property tailored to the market to which you want to sell is vital.

In the West Country the best investments are family homes, says Nicola Oddy of Stacks Property Search in Devon and Cornwall, but any old family home will not do. "If you're renting to families, you need plenty of bathrooms and cloakrooms, and probably some downstairs facilities such as a shower, drying-room and utility space," she advises.

Gardens are less important, especially for active families that will be spend most of their time out and about. The property also has to look good in photos, because holidaymakers choose from a brochure or the web.

Getting the sums right on a holiday investment is complex. Not only are voids inevitable, the landlord has to keep the rent competitive, and also ensure he or she doesn't miss out on seasonal opportunities like the summer holidays and Christmas. "Speak to a local holiday-property agency for an accurate picture of what percentage of the year you can expect to rent for," Oddy advises.

Another drawback to holiday-home rentals for many landlords is the need to provide top-class service. Unlike assured shorthold tenants, who just want to be left alone, holidaymakers need the place cleaned regularly, laundered bed linen and new soap in the dish. Many get sniffy if there isn't a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge on their arrival. And everything has to be pristine, too - holiday landlords now redecorate every year and often replace the domestic appliances as well. As Simon Gordon, of the National Landlords Association, says, "People like a property that is fresh, clean and well furnished."

The North has also seen a revival of its holiday trade, especially at that most traditional resort, Blackpool. Blackpool Pleasure Beach's theme park is the most popular tourist attraction in the UK, with 6.8 million visitors in 2004, and plans for Britain's first super-casino will bring a new type of punter.

Lee Dribben, the Blackpool-based Residential Landlords Association director, says: "Although many investors prefer the security of year-round income from permanent accommodation, holiday lets can still command a premium price. Speculation about Blackpool becoming an 'English Las Vegas' has raised prices across the entire range of properties."

There is much more than the seaside to the North, however. At Ribblesdale Park, near Clitheroe, Guy Hindley is building 75 luxury homes for people who want to enjoy the countryside.

The "lodges" are technically caravans but you wouldn't know by looking - these are hi-tech timber productions with a traditional look. They are well spaced out and each has an extensive deck with Jacuzzi.

Owners are automatically members of a club that maintains the grounds and organises maid service. The surrounding Gisburne Park Estate provides a wealth of thing to do, including fishing, shooting and riding.

Ribblesdale Park can also arrange lettings, and Hindley expects rents to range from £600 to £1,000 a week. Prices start at £157,000 for the basic lodge, rising to £228,000 for a deluxe one.

Stacks: 01208 850555

Ribblesdale Park (Savills): 0161-244 7712