According to the Andalusian Tourist Board, there are approximately 40,000 registered holiday properties in the region (not counting of course the significant amount of illegal ones). This means that the competition is fierce. If you are planning on investing in a holiday home on the Costa del Sol, it is therefore important to make improvements and maximise rental income.
The first thing you need to do is decide is whether you want to take care of your holiday apartment yourself or have an agency handle it. These are two very different things. You should ask yourself whether you want to participate actively in the whole process or if you would rather sit back, relax and let someone else do it for you. Running a holiday apartment is a very time-consuming job and you have to be ready for the unknown. For example, getting a call in the middle of the night that a water pipe has burst. If you live abroad, I would definitely recommend using a local agency.
Whether you already own a holiday home or you are considering buying one, you can certainly make a difference in both cases, but it requires you to make a few improvements. Like in any other business, it's all about making a difference, meeting your guests' needs and expectations, and of course making it as seamless for yourself as possible.
Most holiday home owners have a tendency to think that their home is the best one and different than the others which is of course understanding. Having said that, it is important that you have a good grasp of the local market and most importantly know your target audience. My advice is to be realistic and not set your expectations too high. If you do so, you might set yourself up for disappointment. If you find it difficult to assess the viability of your holiday product, an agency will be able to help you as they are familiar with the local market and what guests are looking for.
Once you know your audience, you will also need to decide whether you should buy your furniture in IKEA or in Bo Concept. If you set your price at 80€ per night, then IKEA is a good option but if you set it at 300 €, then you should probably aim for Bo Concept as an alternative. It is a fact that, on occasion, guests may cause minor damage to your furniture, so wear-and-tear is something to keep in mind when choosing practical, robust furniture. Unfortunately, many holiday home owners buy furniture based on their personal taste without taking into consideration the type of business they are running. For instance: a white sofa is definitely not a good choice for a holiday rental.
Many “gadgets” have been developed in recent years not only to streamline the holiday home industry but to make it safer and more efficient. Obviously, some are better than others so it is important to shop around, go with an open mind and use what’s available to you. The most common ones are electronic locks (smart locks), online check-in apps (it is mandatory in Spain to register all your guests with the Police), sensors to control electrical use (especially air-conditioning) and last but not least, a sound sensor to prevent excessive noise. There is a wide array of technological tools around and not all of them meet your specific requirements so you need to make sure you get the right guidance.
If you decide to run your own holiday rental, you need to be prepared to work hard, especially in high season. You will need someone who can assist you and be present if something should happen (as it often/always does!).
You should also note that holiday home rentals on the Costa del Sol are somewhat different than renting a holiday home in the UK. It differs for instance in the way that on the Costa del Sol the expectation is that there are linen and towels provided and therefore you will need someone who can clean and launder after your guests. Competition is tough, so you have to make the right choice and do not settle for the cheap solution as it certainly does not pay off in the long run. So remember to make improvements and maximise your rental income.
If you use a professional agency, the above services are of course included in the commission that the agency charges you; if you choose the right agent, you can simply sit back and enjoy their services. Remember that there are numerous agencies on the Costa del Sol so it can often be a real challenge to find the right one. The commissions charged by these agencies usually fluctuate between 20-35% (incl. VAT) but remember that you usually get what you pay for, i.e. quality usually costs more. If you go for the cheapest one, you will most likely get the service you paid for. In my opinion, you simply cannot get a good quality of service from an agency who is charging a 20% commission. To find the right agency that can provide the services you need and expect, I suggest you start by looking at reviews on Google.
If you choose the do-it-yourself model, advertising will also fall under your responsibility which requires a thorough knowledge of the industry. In this case, the advantage you have is that you can set the prices lower than most of your competitors. If your home is a unique product, then you may not have that many competitors and therefore you may not have to advertise on more than two or three rental portals. But of course, you will have to provide services to the guest in line with the rates you choose and this can be an extensive exercise. Use an agency an all of it will be taken care of, including the services of a professional photographer.
As the old adage goes, the first impression is the last impression. This means that your holiday apartment should be sold on image, i.e. pictures which should be pristine as you only get one chance at catching the eye of potential guests. But a good photographer is usually not enough, you should also consider using an interior designer to help you with some professional home-staging techniques. It will not represent a substantial investment, but it will make all the difference in the world. So always remember to make improvements and maximise your rental income.