Home and away
PUBLISHED: 06:35 09 June 2014
Zoe Ford is director of Countryside Cottages, an independent holiday business and family firm based at Old Stable Yard, Holt; www.countrysidecottagesnorfolk.com; 01263 713133.
Q Tell us about the business and what it does within the county?
A During our 12 years of providing tempting self-catering cottages in the north Norfolk area the value of the tourism sector has blossomed. It’s increasingly important to the local economy, worth around £2.6 billion, and 7.4pc are employed directly, increasing to 14pc when taking account of those indirectly benefitting.
We provide accommodation for visitors, however much underestimated has been the subsidiary benefits to local businesses that self-catering accommodation in particular provides. For example, not only do the cottages need cleaning and laundry services, they also need gardeners, builders, electricians, window cleaners, carpet people, painters, plumbers . . .
Q Is it still a developing sector?
A Despite the economic downturn, holidays are still important, so rather than travel abroad we think many stayed at home and as a result we have had our strongest three years with no sign of demand slowing. We also think many people who have never had a holiday at home or did as a child have rediscovered how beautiful and convenient the UK is - Norfolk, of course, in particular. We’ve noticed more frequent short breaks being taken and more demand for the formerly quieter months of November and February due to the lower cost of breaks during this time.
Q What special aspects does it offer to visitors to Norfolk – and to those people who own holiday cottages and homes here too?
A It’s a competitive business, the self-catering market, and you need stamina and a sense of humour to not only succeed but to maintain consistently high standards in all aspects.
Q Any top tips for people considering buying or developing a holiday home in Norfolk?
A Parking, parking, parking.
Properties with a more modern feel to them are increasingly popular, but if the pared back interior is not for you, then having a “gentle” Norfolk theme is appealing too.
Prices of inland properties are more attractive, but unless you can offer something special and make your home a destination in itself you may be disappointed with the financial return.
Q What pitfalls should people be wary of?
A Keep up to date with all the red tape. We keep a list of legal requirements to advise and put owners in touch with the right people.
Talk to us before you undertake a renovation or purchase. We have lots of helpful, perhaps thought-provoking, things to say which could save you money.
Budget as well as the potential financial return is the governing factor in a purchase. It’s better to go for a smaller property in a better area if you can.
Q What is the secret of a really great holiday cottage?
A When an owner loves their home and is generous enough to want others to be happy staying there. We have had guests in tears because they’ve not wanted to leave. I hope it is to do with the cottage they stayed in, but I also suspect it’s equally because of this lovely county of ours and its friendly people.
Holding the key
Keith Harding and Julie Cometa have owned Blackbird Cottage in Holt since 2010, which they let out through Countryside Cottages; www.countrysidecottagesnorfolk.com
“Our guests appreciate the warmth and comfort of a traditional stone cottage with its brick fireplace and woodburner, but they also like the modern facilities. I think people want to find the comfort of the familiar, but also be surprised by unexpected joys. Similarly, we try to give as much information on things to do, without taking away the joy of exploring and discovering things for themselves. An interesting area like north Norfolk will always provide hidden treasures, and a holiday cottage gives you the perfect base from which to dig and delve!”
Ian and Pia Saunders own Oxnead House Holiday Cottages at Rockland St Mary and also manage Randalls Cottages in Tunstead; www.oxneadhouse.co.uk and www.randallscottages.co.uk; 01508 538295.
“It’s all about finding your market and giving a fair deal for a fair price. We pride ourselves on being flexible and offering our visitors more than they are expecting. We are on site if people need us (and that means you can’t think you’re not going to get called on to change a lightbulb at 11pm) but we don’t bother our visitors at all. As a lifestyle business you cannot top it - we live in a lovely place, get to meet happy people and some become really good friends.”
What you say
Our holiday cottage-owning Twitter followers add their thoughts on what makes a perfect holiday home:
Fern Cottage, Stanhoe: “A home from home, but better than home, with all the things you need but probably forgot to bring . . . and really sharp knives.”
Jess Mackay at Jolly Sailor Cottage, Wells: “As well as beautiful in a fab location, provide everything that guests could possibly want and make sure it’s easy to find.”
Do you own a holiday cottage in Norfolk? Share your story with us as firstname.lastname@example.org