DONEGAL businessman Bernard Greene is reaping the rewards of turning his hand to holiday letting after completely renovating a derelict site near Dungloe into a beautiful holiday home.
House Crohy Head, which took around three years and cost in excess of €200,000 to renovate, has been very popular with 12 weeks already booked up in 2021.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Bernard (55) explained how he got into holiday letting and charted his renovation story.
He lives in Loughanure with his wife, Teresa, and children Ciara, Michael and Joe but commutes to Loughton in Essex where his business is based.
Ten years have passed since he first bought the property with planning permission to refurbish and extend it.
“I chose the site because of the stunning views. At first, the old property on the site was in ruin, so we had to completely renovate and rebuild it. Though there were strict planning constraints, I knew it would be worth it for the location – I feel pretty privileged to be able to own such a fantastic spot in Donegal,” he said.
When he began the revamp, Bernard made sure to use local stone, natural slates and timber windows to ensure it blended into the rural environment and captured the spirit of Dungloe.
Overall, the renovation cost in excess of £200,000, as they had to add in triple glazing, hot water pressure and a new heat recovery and ventilation system.
“I was also keen to make sure the property would be finished to a high standard and be considered a luxury holiday home, which meant factoring certain extras into our budget. This included the addition of under floor heating and enhancing security, building an electric entrance gate and walling off the property’s garden,” he said.
Following lockdown, bookings are back and busier than ever as travellers look to holiday closer to home. The months ahead are set to be extremely busy for holiday let owners, with properties booking up fast as people look to take a much-needed break.
“As it’s our first full year of income, we’re putting the majority of it in further enhancing the property, such as extra planting externally. However, in the future, we plan on using it for payment of our children’s college fees,” he said.
“Since I began letting House Crohy Head in April 2019, it has been a family affair. They all love to get stuck in and have helped with the changeovers of guests and general maintenance of the house. Our friend Ray, who lives nearby, also assists with any changeovers that might take place while we’re away.
“From the money we make monthly on the house from bookings, we’re able to pay the children for their help, so they’re able to feel as though they’re part of the letting process and earning money in their teenage years. “We also work with local businesses, such as our resident laundrette on cleaning the sheets and towels after each stay,” he said.
Sykes Holiday Cottages handle all the bookings, so Bernard and his family don’t need to worry about marketing the house themselves or securing visitors for each year.
“We’re actually working on an additional site to let out as a holiday home, which is in the Dungloe area. We’re aiming to have this ready to list with Sykes next year which is very exciting, particularly given how popular House Crohy Head is proving to be this summer,” he said.
What are your top tips for those who are considering buying a holiday home to let?
“I would advise anyone who is looking to let out a holiday home to ensure it is finished to a high standard. If you put in the extra time and money to make sure it is comfortable, with quality furnishings and décor, you’ll see you get repeat visitors on a consistent basis.
“I’d also recommend partnering with a trusted agency such as Sykes Holiday Cottages, as they can offer expert advice on how to price your property, how to market it and also help with overseeing bookings and customer service. I found it really useful to have professionals guiding me through the process,” he said.
In the past two months, Sykes Holiday Cottages have seen a huge 239% year-on-year increase in domestic bookings of its properties based in Ireland and the occupancy level has already hit 89% for July and August.