The holiday-home market on the Cornish coast looks set for a lively summer. Arabella Youens finds out how to make the running costs bearable.
According to Jonathan Cunliffe of Savills in Truro (01872 243200), the market for top-notch holiday homes in and around Cornwall’s most popular villages and estuaries—Helford, St Mawes, Rock and Fowey—is ‘the best for many years’. This is evidenced by the recent sale of Lanarth, a large waterfront house in Rock, which has steps down to Porthilly Beach and had a guide price of £4.5 million. ‘During 2011 and 2012, the market for these sorts of houses—which are, after all, a lux- ury to own—went quiet, but, since the end of 2013, momentum has gathered and we’ve had good interest in the £3 million-plus market all year.’
Buy in one of these established markets and it’s a pretty safe bet investment-wise, believes Tom Hudson of Middleton Advisors (01235 436270). ‘There will always be a market for good houses in places such as Rock and Trebetherick; they’re old-school, destinations and their appeal seeps down from generation to generation.’
Jonathan agrees that buying something the children will enjoy is the number-one priority for buyers at this end of the market. ‘If you’ve got toddlers, you’ll head to the beaches on the south coast to St Mawes, Fowey or Helford; to appeal to teenagers, you’re better off on the north coast.’
When they’re not beng used by you, the very best houses will achieve £10,000 a week in high season. ‘It’s that dreadful adage of location, location, location, so, as long as you get that right, you can make it work,’ explains Tom.’
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Hobby farmer Matt Dodds, who breeds Zwartbles sheep, moved to Cornwall from the Cotswolds eight years ago with his partner, Marc Leon, a dressage trainer. ‘To find a farm on the coast in Cornwall needed a few more millions than we had at the time, so we settled inland. We’ve got planning permission to convert two barns here into holiday lets, but, in order to maximise the rental season in Cornwall, you have to be on the coast.’
After four years of searching, they bought one of the series of little huts overlooking Whitsand Bay on Tregonhawke Cliff that were built by Plymouth evacuees during the war. ‘It needed to be completely gutted, but has the most incredible view down to the Lizard peninsula, so we knew that, with a little reconfiguring, it’d work.’
‘The internal layout is very open plan by design, so that you can lie in bed and look out to the sea, but the kitchen area is very compact, meaning that I had to choose between a dishwasher and a washing machine. The letting agent was adamant that we’d need a washing machine, but, in the end, no one has ever asked about it,’ explains Matt.
‘However, one thing is abundantly clear: although everyone says they want to come to Cornwall to get away, they won’t want to be away from Wi-Fi. I had to have a 100ft channel dug as BT refused to connect us, but it’s been worth it.’
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‘My ethos is that, if you’ve had a good holiday, you’ve enjoyed being there more than being at home and, although the scenery will be a factor, it’s also important to crank up the quality of the kit, from sheets with a high thread count to sound systems and Dualit toasters.’
For the first couple of years, it’s useful to get an agent and accept that you’ll be sacrificing between 20% and 30% of the letting fee. ‘Choose an agency that’s pro-active and will call you when they see there are gaps in the calendar and suggest ways of attracting rentals.’
He adds: ‘On the Cornish coast, if you’re really serious, you can expect the season to start at Easter and go on towards November.’
‘In my opinion, avoid Saturday as a changeover—the entirety of Cornwall will be on the road. Also, once you’ve found someone to do the changeover clean for you, it’s worth paying them over the odds to ensure they’re constant and committed and won’t mind going the extra mile when needed.’
Matt also recommends doing regular ‘spot checks’ to make sure all is up to scratch.