Party palaces for the sailing set

Cowes residents can earn hundreds by letting their homes to sailors, spectators and their entourages over the week-long yachting event. Mary Wilson hunts down some suitable havens
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The most popular events during the year - Wimbledon, Henley, Ascot and Cowes - are not only social occasions, they also offer homeowners the chance of making a tidy fortune should they be prepared to let out their home during that period.

The most popular events during the year - Wimbledon, Henley, Ascot and Cowes - are not only social occasions, they also offer homeowners the chance of making a tidy fortune should they be prepared to let out their home during that period.

Such is the mark-up on the rent that many owners, who would never normally consider letting out their pride and joy, decide that it's worth it for the huge amount of money they can pull in. In return for the hassle of having to remove oneself for a week, they could earn enough to afford a holiday, pay off a chunk of the mortgage or buy a new car.

For example, a three-bedroom house taking six people could get up to £350 a room, which is £1,050 per week. That same property would usually only command a monthly rental of £475 to £500 for a long-term let.

All types of houses, flats and rooms are in demand by yachties, their friends and visiting spectators. The closer the property is to the action, the better, and although crews tend to be crammed like sardines into any available space, skippers and owners usually prefer something a little more spacious and comfortable.

"These sort of lets tend to be quite labour-intensive, but they are very worthwhile financially," says Leon Betchley, regional manager of Countrywide Lettings (01983 821111). "The tenants can be quite demanding." They are often international crews who want, for example, fresh linen every day and office facilities. But they are prepared to pay extremely high prices, especially if they are desperate enough to find somewhere to stay." Not all landlords charge an exorbitant fee, but if you leave it too late, the closer it gets to the date, the higher the rents go and there is always a shortage of property within five to 10 minutes' walk of the boats.

Countrywide takes a very high security deposit, often the same figure as the weekly rental, plus a couple of hundred pounds. "People often do not inform their insurance company of what they are doing, although they should, so this deposit ensures the client does not have to worry about any damage which might occur," says Betchley.

One lady, who prefers to remain anonymous, says, "I've let out my house and another property I own for several years over Cowes Week. We've been lucky, we've let to the same people every year. They are here to sail, which they do all day, then come ashore to change in the evening and go out for a meal. We just put away personal items and alcohol and shove our clothes to one side to make room for their stuff. But some people clear out their wardrobes and alter the house around, which might take them two or three weeks."

There are stories about tenants at other properties partying day and night and upsetting the neighbours or leaving the place in a terrible state, but on the whole the sailing crowd seems to respect the homes they stay in. Although a number of temporary landlords do not declare their little bit of extra income, it is worth bearing in mind that the Inland Revenue is not blind to what is going on. During Wimbledon week, it was noted in the press that tax inspectors were taking a sharp interest in properties that were being let out and this also goes for Cowes Week. So if you are thinking of renting out your property, remember that the tax man will be interested, too.

Currently on the market are several properties all within spitting distance of the marinas, which would be suitable to let out if desired. Marvins, which also lets out properties during the Cowes season, is selling a three-bedroom terraced cottage with garden in St Mary's Road, just a short walk from the centre for £126,950. This has an open-plan living room/kitchen and is on three floors.

Right on the seafront in Osborne Court, The Parade, Marvins is selling two apartments. These two-bedroom flats, which have three balconies, are next to each other and are linked. They are for sale for £120,000 and £150,000 and although they are on separate leases, they are being sold together.

Also on The Parade is a Grade II-listed, four-storey house with fabulous views across the Solent and the harbour. Harbour House has recently been restored and has four bedroom suites, a three-storey conservatory-cum atrium/breakfast room and a large roof terrace. Christopher Scott and Knight Frank are selling it for £675,000.

Christopher Scott is also selling a split-level garden apartment in the High Street with pebbled and paved garden area leading right down to the water. The period building was formerly a rather fine Lloyds bank and the three-bedroom flat is available for £365,000.

And in a new waterside development, Regatta House, being built above the state-of-the-art regatta centre and home to the Cowes Combined Clubs, which organises the races, Scott is selling eight two- and three-bedroom large apartments from £270,000 to £375,000. These all have balconies overlooking the harbour and three also have terracing at the rear.

A very attractive property, called The Boat House, in Queens Road, which is only 430 yards from the Royal Yacht Squadron and has excellent views of the Solent and all the racing, is for sale through Creasey Biles & King and FPDSavills. The house has many period features and has been prettily decorated with four bedrooms, sauna, three living rooms and in the garden, there is a summerhouse. It is priced at £595,000.

Marvins, 01983 292114

Creasey Biles & King, 01983 527744

FPDSavills, 01962 841842

Christopher Scott, 01983 721777

Knight Frank, 01962 850333