For the majority of holiday makers heading down to a cottage in South Devon, this is something they have been excitedly anticipating for months. As they embark on a long journey to the region, these customers are looking forward to their afternoon ‘check-in’ and the opportunity to unpack before relaxing in the sunshine with a glass of fizz, or heading out for a walk along the edge of the River Dart with a delicious locally made ice cream.
For a holiday lettings agency like Coast & Country Cottages, the busy changeover days of Friday and Saturday entail much more than simply taking keys from the reluctantly departing guests, or handing keys out to those happily arriving for their holiday. Coast & Country Cottages are one of the very few agencies in the area to offer owners a fully managed service, arranging everything from cleaning and gardening to property maintenance and winter checks. In the hours before arrival an extraordinary amount of effort is put in to preparing a property for incoming tenants. With over 120 cottages in Dartmouth alone, sleeping up to 12 people, there are as many as 300 bathrooms to clean and in excess of 1,000 beds to change in the course of a weekend!
So what really goes on, to make sure a holiday property is ready for arriving guests? Before anything else, a team briefing takes place at the start of a busy changeover weekend. Crucial information is passed amongst team members regarding any tenant requirements, individual maintenance issues and any minor problems - that may have come to light over the week – to be resolved.
At 10.00am - the designated check-out time for departing guests - keys are returned en masse and the task begins of ensuring they are all back in the office, ready for the cleaners and the changeover team. Soon after this, the cleaners begin arriving to collect their linen and keys before heading off to complete their cleaning. Depending on the size of the cottage, it may take a team of three or more cleaners to prepare the property within the time frame, whilst smaller ones can be ‘turned around’ in a matter of hours by one conscientious housekeeper.
Over the next few hours, the team spend time preparing for their changeover inspections, and taking telephone calls from a variety of people including contractors and last minute enquirers. Often during this time of year, where there is last minute availability, bookings will come in at very late notice!
At around 1.00pm, the property checks begin. Coast & Country Cottages Dartmouth office has a team of up to four people who head out to inspect 10 or so properties each, in the space of just a few hours (flat, comfortable shoes are a must!) The properties are checked to ensure they are clean and well presented, that all equipment is working, and that individual requirements are met (for instance a cot and high chair are provided if requested). The Coast & Country Cottages information folders are also replenished with discount vouchers and local leaflets. At this point, any items of lost property are brought back to the office, ready to be returned to the previous tenants. Whilst lost CDs and clothing are commonly found, occasionally more unusual items appear, such as walking sticks and legal documents! Once a distraught young lady left behind her teddy bear and the team had to send it back in the post - they were given strict instructions from the girl to leave air holes, so the bear could breathe whilst in transit!
By 3.00pm, the changeover ‘rounds’ have been completed by the team, and the keys are arranged into marked envelopes for the incoming tenants. The stream of guests then begin to arrive, some excited at the prospect of exploring the town, others looking forward to settling their children in and unpacking after a long drive. The team are on hand to answer questions, offer directions and provide advice on local attractions and activities. Coast & Country Cottages have a host of business partners, who can be recommended for everything from delicious food to fantastic family days out.
By the end of the day, the used linen is packed and ready to return to the agency’s Salcombe-based laundry Travel Lite, who spend the week washing and ironing the linen and towels in readiness for the next changeover. The staff will also replenish their own bags with light bulbs, batteries and waste sacks as necessary, before the next changeover round.
The July and August changeover days are exceptionally busy for every member of a holiday lettings team – however it is essential that the days run as smoothly as possible, making checking in and out for guests a pleasant experience. The Coast & Country Cottages team work together to ensure that guests arriving in Dartmouth enjoy a fabulous, hassle-free holiday relaxing in this beautiful area.
If you would like to find out more about letting your holiday home with an agency offering this level of service, Coast & Country Cottages’ dedicated New Properties team would be delighted to arrange a free property assessment without any obligation or ‘hard sell’. Similarly, if you are considering purchasing a property but would like to know more about its rental potential, please contact Andrew Jones or Leigh Robinson on 01548 843773 for advice.•
First Published July 2013 By The Dart