Buying a holiday home as an investment

Like buy-to-let properties, holiday homes work as investments and part of a general investment portfolio. They make a very different investment type, however, compared to say stocks and shares, and may not be for everyone. If you’re thinking about buying a holiday home as an investment you need to consider several important factors.

Investing in a holiday home in Cornwall

Best use for an investment property

Buying a property for pure investment purposes obviously means you have to find a purpose for it. You need a way of generating income from the property beyond the basic capital appreciation made from simply owning the property.

The commonest options include long-term rentals and becoming a buy-to-let landlord; holiday lettings, a popular and more hands-on way of making money from a property; and running a bed and breakfast (B&B). Each of the three comes with its own pros and cons. Take a look at our list and see which one appeals most to you.

The ins and outs of buy-to-let investments

Prior to the latest tax regulations, would-be landlords couldn’t get enough of buy-to-let properties. However, the recent changes in tax relief plus hefty stamp duty on second home purchases has dampened enthusiasm a little. That said, letting property to long-term tenants does have some advantages over short-term or holiday lets:

  • Demand is strong with potential to increase as homeownership falls in the UK.
  • Apart from tenant changeovers (hopefully not very often), buy-to-let property is comparatively hands-off.
  • Set-up cost is generally low and demand for unfurnished rentals means you could potentially make total savings by not fitting out the property at all.
  • Buy-to-let mortgages are relatively easy to come by.
  • Low wear and tear providing (and this is a big caveat) you’ve got good tenants.

But along with the swings, come the roundabouts:

  • Tax breaks are diminishing, especially if you’re in the higher income brackets.
  • Long-term rentals, even the steady ones, bring in less income than holiday lets. Recent estimates point to as much as a third less.
  • Your income stream and the care of the property rely 100% on you having tenants who pay always and on time, and look after the property.
  • It takes time, money and effort to evict a bad tenant.

The ups and downs of holiday home investments

Letting your investment property for holidays or short-term rentals (i.e. up to 31 days at a time) is another way of generating income. Benefits of holiday lets over long-term rentals include:

  • Potential for much higher income – the rent for just one week in high season could equal that for the entire month in a buy-to-let property. This is easily the case for holiday lets in Cornwall, for example.
  • Demand is strong for self-catering holiday accommodation and just as importantly, demand is growing.
  • Holidays in some parts of England, e.g. Cornwall, have perennial appeal so you have a captive audience and an almost guaranteed income stream, particularly in high season.
  • You have the chance to use the property yourself if you wish.

The ups and downs of holiday home investments

But holiday lets can lose a bit of the edge over buy-to-let properties because:

  • Your set-up cost is much higher.
  • Maintenance costs can also be much higher.
  • Mortgages for holiday let properties aren’t too easy to come by and if you do get approval, expect to put down a 25-40% deposit.

Top tip – make your holiday let as hands-off as you like by employing the services of a property management company to take care of the latest rules and regulations, emergencies, key-handovers, cleaning, etc.

How about a hybrid?

Using your investment property for both a long-term rental and a holiday let might be the way to combine the best of both worlds. You could let to holidaymakers during high season to ride the wave of maximum income then rent the property as a long let to tide you over the winter months. This works as an option in Cornish towns and larger villages, for example. Bear in mind that a hybrid won’t be smooth surfing all the way, but it’s something to think about.

The pros and cons of a B&B

Using your property as a B&B brings a whole new perspective to the investment. The pros of offering this type of accommodation include:

  • Total control of the property at all times.
  • Mortgages readily available.
  • Opportunity to use the property as your home as well as a source of income.

However, running a B&B does involve:

  • Considerably more rules and regulations than a holiday or long-term let.
  • Hands-on work (and usually hard work) by you unless you employ others.
  • Almost total dedication – it can be hard to get away from your business.

The pros and cons of a B&B

Best type of property for holiday home investment

Holiday homes come in all shapes and sizes from caravan to cottage and park home to palace. Whichever you opt for will depend on the following factors:

Price – arguably the first consideration for any holiday home investment and a major advantage for park homes – you can pick one up for around £15,000. Ultimately, the property has to be affordable for you while also ticking a series of other boxes…

Location – yes, the same old but just as important. When choosing your spot, remember you’re buying so that someone else can spend their holiday there, not you. Go for the views to die for – sea, mountain or lake typically appeal most.

House at Cape Cornwall

Accessibility – the property needs to be easy to get to, preferably provide parking, or a permit for doing so in popular or restricted areas and at least communicate the steep footpath leading to the front door if that is one of the property’s quirks.

Property type – the quirkier the history or architecture of a holiday home, the more popular it typically is – glamping in Cornwall is particularly popular and can take the form of shepherds huts or yurts. However, well appointed, up-to-date and tastefully furnished homes that have considered the above-mentioned points will have a broad appeal for visitors throughout the year.

Investing in a holiday home rather than stocks and shares

If you’re weighing up the pros and cons between putting your investment into a holiday home or the stock market, here’s some food for thought.

Best returns

House prices in the UK have risen by over 250% across the last 25 years. In Cornwall, they went up by 5.4% in the year to Q1 2017.

Shares have gone up by 134% in 25 years. In the year to the end of March 2017 the FTSE 100 rose by more than 16%.

Investing in a holiday home rather than stocks and shares

But as all financial advisors will be quick to tell you, past performance is no guarantee of future gains. On balance, however, the property market has a slight edge over the stock exchange for consistent gains.

Initial outlay

The average house price in Cornwall in Q1 2017 stood at £233,665. To invest on the stock market, you need a minimum of £20, although to make worthwhile money you obviously need to invest considerably more.


Owning a holiday let can be hard work and a challenge if you do it all yourself. On the other hand, if you put everything in the hands of a competent management company, it’s as simple as can be.

Investing in stocks and shares can be a nightmare for the uninitiated as well as an emotional rollercoaster. Employ a fund manager, on the other hand, and this type of investment is simplicity itself.

Investment term

Neither investment property nor stocks and shares make good short-term assets. Both require medium to long-term commitment. Experts recommend a minimum of six years for stocks and shares – the average time period historically to recuperate or to gain on your initial investment. The term is similar for investment property – you need to sit on it for at least long enough to break even on your outlay (don’t forget to include all taxes and fees in your calculations).

So prepare to be asset rich but cash poor with both options over the short to medium term.

Holiday letting is a long term investment

Exit strategy

Stocks and shares are relatively easy to sell. A holiday home can be too if it’s in the right location and has a strong letting history. In terms of how quickly you can lay your hands on the ready cash, stocks obviously come up trumps – you can sell them in seconds. Property, however, needs a little more time.

Final thoughts

As with all investments, buying a holiday home comes down to weighing up the pros and cons to work out what’s right for you. On balance, there’s plenty going for holiday home investment if you choose the type of property and location with care. A property in Cornwall, for example, ticks the boxes both for long-term return and a steady revenue stream.
Ultimately, buying a holiday home as part of a varied portfolio of investments can give you excellent exposure to the market without having all your eggs, so to speak, in one basket.

Been there and done it

Verity Wall manages a small portfolio of investment properties, all of which she lets as holiday homes in Cornwall. By living nearby she’s able to combine a successful income stream with the lifestyle of her dreams. About her experience, Verity says:

“After finishing my marketing degree at Plymouth University and completing my work placement in London, I knew that the hustle and bustle of city life just weren’t for me. My family all lived in Cornwall, and I realised that I wanted to live close to them, while doing something that could be both enjoyable and at the same time very rewarding both financially and emotionally.
“Having previously worked in the hospitality industry, I felt that with the help of my parents I could set up a handful of holiday cottages in lovely locations on the north coast of Cornwall. The area between Perranporth and Padstow was my target. It was the best decision I could have made. I love meeting new people and building relationships with guests year on year, and living nearby enables me easily to maintain and improve the cottages each week. Providing clean, cosy and comfortable cottages has rewarded me with a healthy, happy and flexible lifestyle, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

If you’re thinking of investment in a holiday home in Cornwall, do get in touch. We’re more than happy to provide advice and information on the market and how to go about letting a property.

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