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Interview with an Airbnb Host from Saint Margaret’s Bay, UK – S2 EP40

Last updated on August 24th, 2022

Welcome back to another episode of Into The Airbnb, where we talk with Airbnb hosts about their short-term rental experience.

Today’s guest is Emily Groves, based in Saint Margaret’s Bay, United Kingdom, who owns and manages two beautiful caravans located in a resort park, where guests can enjoy amenities like pool, sauna and gym. In today’s episode, she’ll share with us about her experience with these listings, the number she’s been making with them, how it is like renting owner resort RV park and the importance of bringing awareness to guests by having a plant-base kitchen.

This episode is sponsored by Airbtics, short-term rental analytics for high return investments, comprehensive data for insights, ideas and inspiration. Go to app.airbtics.com to find precise Airbnb data such as occupancy rate, revenue, average daily rate and so on. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

Into The Airbnb Podcast S2 EP 40: Making £3,000 on two months with Modern Caravans in a Resort Park – Saint Margaret’s At Cliffe, UK
becoming an airbnb host uk

You can also listen to this Into The Airbnb Podcast Episode on Otter.

Delia:

So can you please tell us how did you get started with Airbnb or short-term rentals in general?

Emily Groove:

Last year, I was moving house and I was thinking about how it might be easier to do that. So I bought a caravan by the sea near to where I was moving to. So that if I needed to I could sell the house, move into the caravan and then move into the new house and there would be some room to do that with the view that once that was all over I could rent out the caravan and make some money. So I did that. So in March, we put it on Airbnb and then since then I’ve recently bought another caravan. So now I’ve got two caravans on that site.

Delia:

I see I was taking a look at your listing and you have two listing, right? So those are the two caravans, right? And can you please tell us where are they located? Because they saw that you have like a community pool or something. I think is also a resort.

Emily Groove:

Yeah, it’s a holiday park and the park themselves rent out caravans, but most of the caravans on that park are owned by private owners. And so the company that owned the park also rent out, I don’t really know the number but they rent out a number of vans as well. And other people in the park use Airbnb as well. I think there are also kind of chalet bungalows on that park too, not just caravans.

Delia:

So you bought those caravans and put them there? Or do you rent it out from the place like the resort?

Emily Groove:

So I bought them from the resort. And they weren’t on site when I bought them, but the park, put them in there, you know, in the places that I chose. So, you know, they said to me, these are the available spots that you can have and so I chose two spots very close to each other for my caravans.

Delia:

And is that place very popular with Airbnb and short-term rentals in general?

Emily Groove:

I think there’s probably, I’m trying to think, there’s probably 300 or so caravans on that site. But maybe only that I know of maybe about, I don’t know, 7 to 10 of them are on Airbnb, if that. I’m not sure the number exactly, but the ones that I’ve noticed that are on Airbnb, not very many.

Delia:

Okay, but most of them are also short-term rentals, right?

Emily Groove:

No, I think people buy them because they want to use them as a holiday home themselves. So they live far away and they use it to go on holiday with their family. It’s like a, you know, like a home from home.

Delia:

I see,that’s interesting. Is it easier the process to buy those caravans than to buy like, for example, a holiday house?

Emily Groove:

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So you don’t have to pay any of the tax. So when you buy a house in the UK, you have to pay, you know, you have to pay stamp duty it’s called. So you don’t have to pay stamp duty when you buy a caravan. You do have to rent the spot at the park. So you have to pay an annual fee to the park for your spot, but you own the caravan. So, you know, if you want to move it somewhere else, you can move it to another park if you want to because it’s your caravan, but you just have to pay a kind of rental for the space on the park and at this particular park the rental space includes free entry to the pool for you and 10 of your friends or family and you get a discount in the bar and the restaurant and you get free access to the gym and you get various, I think, maybe six or eight times a year, they put on a breakfast for the owners, they have lots of kind of evening entertainment as well that they put on for the owners, which is all free of charge. So you get quite a lot for your, you know, if you want to do all of that you can make the most of your site fees.

Delia:

And are these benefits also available for your guests from Airbnb?

Emily Groove:

They can be yes. So what I do for my guests is I can buy a pass for them. So while they’re staying in my caravan, they’ve got access to the swimming pool and the restaurant and the bar and the gym and there’s evening entertainment as well for them. So I genuinely buy them a pass, but on occasion, if I’m feeling generous, I might give them one of my passes because I’ve got lots of passes because I’ve got two caravans, I’ve got 20 passes free. So I, you know, as a special deal, I can give one of those to a holiday maker or guest.

Delia:

And does those passes that you have to join, any passes you have, can be used like one time by one person or you can give it to this guest and then this guest leave the pass and you can give it to another guest? How does it work?

Emily Groove:

And so the pass, the 20 passes, they’re supposed to be you give them to a named person and that named person can use them for the whole year. With passes that you buy, you know, the one off passes that you buy, like a good deal because you pay one price and it’s not very expensive. And then it doesn’t matter how long that person stays in the caravan. If they stay for two days or if they stay for three weeks is still one price. So they gives them access to the swimming pool and the entertainment and the gym. So it’s good if they’re staying a long time.

Delia:

Yeah, that’s okay. And can be only used for one person, right?

Emily Groove:

Yeah. Yes. You know, yeah, if you’ve got four people staying and they will want to use the facilities, then you buy four passes.

Delia:

Okay, I see how it works. And can you told me a little bit about how did you, what’s the process like to buy the caravan and how much is the annual fee you’re paying for the space in the park?

Emily Groove:

So I saw the caravan advertised online and I went down to the park and they showed me around. And then they take a deposit from you, which is normally like 500 pounds. And then you can go back another day and actually pay the full amount and take ownership of the caravan. And the park then give you like a welcome pack to go with your caravan which includes everything that you need to get set up in your caravan. So they give you all of the cups and plates and cutlery, ironing boards, irons, microwaves, kettles, pots and pans, oven, trays, you know, everything that you could possibly need. So it’s good for Airbnb owners because they don’t need to go out and buy all that stuff. It comes kind of free with the caravan. Obviously, you’re paying for it, but they go out and buy it all and it’s all there when you go and get your caravan. So that it takes maybe two weeks for them to get the caravan sorted, they have to put it on the site, they have to connect up the water and the electric and the gas. And they clean the caravan inside and out and they give you all of these welcome pack that they give you. And then the site fees are quite expensive at this site. It depends on the site. So there’s another site that’s near to my house, but there’s no facilities there. The site fees are like 2,000 pounds a year. The site fees at this one where there’s lots of facilities are more like 6,500 pounds a year. So I obviously have to make more than that and more than my electric and gas fee and everything in order to make a profit from Airbnb.

Delia:

Oh, I see and I have many questions from this one. So the electrical and water connection come with deposit or the annual fee? Or do you have to pay separate for that?

Emily Groove:

You have to pay separately for that. So you pay for what you use, well, you pay for what your guests use, obviously.

Delia:

Okay, I see. What about the caravan, when you buy it already all furnish or do you have to renovate it, furnish it, how does it work?

Emily Groove:

It’s furnished because with caravans everything’s built in everything from, you know, the sofas and everything are all kind of like part of the caravan. And then you know, yeah, so it comes with everything. With beds, tables and chairs and yeah.

Delia:

Okay, that’s great. So you don’t have to spend too much on furnishing. And I’ve seen your started on March this year, right?

Emily Groove:

Yes.

Delia:

So far, how has been going?

Emily Groove:

I’ve pretty much been fully booked in that caravan until the end of August.

Delia:

Wow, that’s great. And can you tell us a little bit about how has been your revenue in this past two months?

Emily Groove:

The past couple of months have actually been my best two months. Actually, I brought that up just now. So I’ve probably made about 3,000 pounds. It’s not very, I don’t rent it for very much, but in April and May, it’s about 3,000 pounds. I’ve made, well, I’ve got from Airbnb.

Delia:

Oh 3,000 pounds all together? Or every month?

Emily Groove:

No, it’s 3,000 pounds in total for April and May. So 1,500 pounds for April. Well, it was 1,200 pounds for April and 1,800 for May.

Delia:

Okay, those are really great numbers! And how much is your daily rate for those spaces?

Emily Groove:

It’s somewhere between 40 and 60, just depending on what I feel like. I started off 40 because I wanted to rent it and it was very cheap and it worked well because a lot of people booked. And because it’s the summer now I put the write up because I know lots of people want to go on their summer holidays. So it’s more like 55-60 at the moment for July and August.

Delia:

And I know there is no much competition around your area, but what did you base on to put the price?

Emily Groove:

I did look at what other people were renting out their caravans at and that particular caravan, the first one, you know, it’s quite an old caravan. It’s very spacious, you know, for that sort of caravan, it’s actually quite roomy and spacious. But it is old, it doesn’t have central heating, it doesn’t have double glazing. So, at the time, I just thought “well, it’d be really good if I made back my site fees” that’s all I was really planning to do. So that’s how I kind of based my daily rate.

Delia:

Okay, makes a lot of sense. So I was about to ask you about… Do you charge extra if your guests want to use these passes you told me about?

Emily Groove:

Yeah, I charged them what I pay. So I do get a discount on the policies, but it’s only 10%. The passes are roughly 10 pounds per adult and 8 pounds per child, which is what I charged them. But when I buy them myself, I get a 10% discount. But they have the option I say when people book, they can go and buy the parties themselves at reception or they can have the passes waiting for them in the caravan when they arrive.

Delia:

Okay, makes a lot of sense. And have you done short-term rentals before like in a house or something? Or this is your first time?

Emily Groove:

This is the first one.

Delia:

Okay. And what do you think are the benefits of doing rentals in this caravan instead of, you know, a house we own or maybe a subleased place?

Emily Groove:

It’s separate from you, I suppose, you know that you don’t have to worry about having strangers in your house. The good thing about it being on holiday park is that the holiday park have security and they have staff there. So I’ve never had to call on them, but if I wanted to, they have a key and they, you know and the security are there and I can call them anytime I want to if I’m worried and they will go and check things out for me. But yeah, I’ve never had to do that so far. So yeah, it’s not really something I need to worry about. But it’s a very friendly Park and the staff are very friendly and helpful. And so it’s nice to have that separation from you and your guests. But also know that the people on the park are helpful and they will help you if you’re not able to get to the caravan if you need to, that somebody would help you and they would go there for you.

Delia:

I see it brings many benefits! And do the park charges you a little bit more if they have to help your guests in case there is any inconvenience?

Emily Groove:

They don’t. The park will charge, so say it depends what it was if there was a leak or something was broken, the park would go in and fix it and then they would charge me a fee for that. But if it was just that, you know, somebody needed some help, you know, maybe they were struggling to open the door or something then they wouldn’t charge me for that.

how much can you make on airbnb

Delia:

I see, it makes a lot of sense. And I’ll like to ask you about how much did it cost you to buy the caravans?

Emily Groove:

That first caravan I bought because it was old, it cost me 25,000 pounds, which is probably more expensive than you would buy if you bought it privately because I bought it from the park, it’s like the difference between buying a car from a, you know, from a showroom or buying it from somebody privately. And the second one cost 35,000. And the second caravan is newer and it has got double glazing and it’s got central heating, gas central heating, you know, so it’s a lot cozier and warmer in the cooler months.

Delia:

I see and you didn’t have to do any kind of renovations in that, aside from what you told me about electricity and water connections from the park?

Emily Groove:

Yeah, they do all of that for you.

Delia:

Okay, that’s great! So you didn’t spend that much, I guess. Do you think you’re going to be able to get a good return on investment with your rentals?

Emily Groove:

Yeah, I guess eventually, if I take into account the purchase price, the plan is to get a return on investment, is probably not the best return on investment, but what you do get is a solid kind of cash flow income, you know, we’ll see, we’ll see what happens.

Delia:

Okay, hope it goes great though! How much do you say is your cash flow going against your expenses? Do you have many expenses there?

Emily Groove:

So initially, I bought not so, so they give you do vase. But I’ve bought new vase because I want a bigger like king size duvet, I bought lots of bedding and towels. And, you know, other soft furnishings to make it cozy, like cushions and I buy tea and coffee and biscuits for my guests. And you know, cooking oil and salt and pepper and things like that. So I’ve spent lots of money initially on that sort of thing probably or when we installed WiFi as well, so there was that cost to this WiFi in both the caravans. We had to buy the key safe for each of them as well. So yeah, there was quite a lot of what felt like a lot of initial outlay, maybe something like 1,000 pounds or something per caravan maybe a bit more. Let me see if I’ve have got a list of it all somewhere, but I haven’t really added it up yet because there’s lots of it. At some point, I’ll have a look and see, you know, whether I’m when it is there’ll be a time when I feel like I’m going to break even I’m sure that’s going to be some years now.

Delia:

Okay, I see. What do you think are going to be your higher months like your most PC months?

Emily Groove:

Well, May was very busy. The problem I have is that I’ve been taking holiday myself this month and in August. So I don’t have anybody staying in the caravans when I’m not here because I want to be the one to go in and make sure everything’s okay when they’re gone. So ordinarily, I would say June, July, August would be the busiest months. It’s the school holidays here in July and August. You know, because it’s a good price, we get lots of families come, you know, because there’s this swimming pool and there’s children’s play parks and things like that on the site, you know, it’s good for families because it’s a reasonable price as well.

Delia:

And how much do you plan to raise your price during that season? Or do you plan to stay at your rate?

Emily Groove:

Now, that’s when I put it up a little bit. So on the first caravan, it’s, I’m trying to think I might have put it up to 70 pounds. And in the real peak season on the second caravan because it’s a nicer caravan, the rate starts at 55 and it goes up to 100 pounds a night in the peak season.

Delia:

And are your rates comparable to the other rentals in the camp?

Emily Groove:

Yeah, I think so. There are some other rentals, but they’re bigger than mine and more extravagant than mine and so they obviously charge more. There is somebody there has one, he has a caravan that’s similar to mine and he charges a lot less than me, I think he charges 30 pounds a night. Yeah, I think it’s kind of average.

Delia:

Yeah. I also think your price is good, right, average comparing to the other ones, giving that you also offer like a lot of good amenities, I think it’s worth it. Can you tell me a little bit about the challenges that you have so far with, you know, short-term rentals, Airbnb, whatever you think has been more challenging during this time?

Emily Groove:

So it’s not been so bad, I think isn’t challenging is that if there is a problem, I’ve messaged with Airbnb, and then they responded and they’ve been very helpful and I know that’s not everybody’s experience. But you know, I’ve not had a problem with them when I’ve needed something or when my guest has got in touch with me because they’re concerned about something before they’ve even arrived. They’ve got in touch because they’re concerned about something. It’s quite easy to go on to the Airbnb site and find the answer to help them. I suppose when it comes to people’s reviews, that’s a bit of a bone of contention, isn’t it? So my caravans interestingly, I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this already, I they’re all plant based. So I request that my guests don’t bring meat or milk or eggs or fish into the kitchen and you know, I’m not saying they have to be vegan, but while they’re in my kitchen, they should be vegan, they can eat out, you know, and a lot of people just come and they eat out because there’s a, you know, there’s a restaurant on the park, so they don’t need to use the kitchen. And some people really like that and they really, they really appreciate it and I have like eco friendly things as well. So I have eco friendly cleaning products in the caravan and a lot of people really appreciate that. But I had one guest who, although I’d messaged him to make sure that he was aware well in advance of him arriving about the plant based kitchen situation, he ignored my message and then his review was, “oh, vegan kitchen, that’s a bit weird” and then marked me really low on everything, you know, and there’s nothing really I can do about that. So had he marked me in the same way as everyone else has marked me because I get quite high marks or high, you know, ratings from everybody apart from that one person, my current rating is only 4.7 because of that one person. So that’s a bit annoying and there’s nothing really, you know, I’m not going to be bothered to, you know, complain about that because that’s his view if he really wants to give me that rating and it’s not really affecting my bookings. So, you know, anybody with any kind of sense will look at this review and think “well, you just didn’t read the listing?”.

Delia:

I also saw the little, like, how do you say these, the little thing that indicates that your kitchen was plant-based. But I didn’t ask about it because I just forgot, I think that was like a rule. Can you explain a little bit more about it? That’s very interesting.

Emily Groove:

So because it’s my kitchen and it started because we lived in the caravan for a few months before we rented it the first caravan and because we’re vegan and I thought I don’t really want to be cleaning up, you know, that people’s meat and whatever, that they’ve cooked in the caravan. I also believe that, you know, with the world would be a lot better if people didn’t eat meat and eggs and milk in so many ways, I’m not gonna go into it because I have this conversation a lot. So I would prefer, you know, if the whole world didn’t eat meat or milk or eggs, but I have control over my caravan to a certain extent, obviously, I can’t really control what people do in there, but if I request that they, you know, eat plant based while we’re there, most people comply with that because they tend to ask me questions about it when they’re booking, it’s clear to me that some people don’t follow those rules. But I don’t, you know, I don’t mark them down particularly for that because I’m not a horrible person. Um, you know, if otherwise, they’ve kept the place clean and tidy and you know, tidied up after themselves and everything was fine, then yeah. If they don’t want to follow that rule, I can’t really stop them.

Delia:

I fully understand and I think it’s really something that for me, will be really easy to respect if you don’t want that, I don’t see why other people can’t do it. But I kind of understand that there are some people that are not going to respect it and are going to be a little bit harsh about it, right?

Emily Groove:

Some people get angry about it actually. I did when I realized that I hadn’t made it very clear, I sent messages to everybody that had booked and I said, “I’m really, really sorry, I wasn’t clear about this rule. You may have missed it, you know, I’m very happy if you want to cancel because of it, you’ll get a full refund” and probably half of my bookings cancelled because of it at the time. They all got booked up again, you know, so I didn’t actually lose anything from it. It felt bad at the time, you know, because everyone read my message and they were like, “what? I’m not allowed to bring milk?” and I’m like, “No, I’d rather you didn’t” so lots of people canceled. But then yeah, lots of people were fine with it and so it’s actually fine.

Delia:

And now you included it in your set of rules? Like the first message that you sent to that guest when their first book?

Emily Groove:

I don’t send them a message, but it’s in every paragraph in the listing pretty much and it’s in the house rules as well. So, you know, I want to make a big thing of it, but I don’t want to make a big thing of it. So that’s why I really get annoyed if people if it’s obvious that people have cooked meat in there. That’s only happened once. And you know, I’ve had like 22 bookings and any once I’ve I noticed, you know, that’s that people have put meat in there. I’m not going to, because I haven’t, you know explicitly message them and said, “By the way, don’t eat meat in my caravan”and I can’t really complain, I suppose.

Delia:

I’ve like a year ago, I saw like a post on Facebook, a person was running her own house and she was vegan and she personally requested everyone to not cook meat in her kitchen, you know, because it was the same pans and pots she used and all the comments were really harsh about it. How do you think you can with your kitchen, you know, with your plant based kitchen, bring awareness to people, right?

Emily Groove:

I think there should be a category on Airbnb, actually. So there’s another site, it’s called veggie visits and they call themselves the vegan Airbnb. But I get no bookings from them at all because it’s very, you know, it’s international and it’s very niche and nobody looking for a holiday that’s vegan is going to think, “oh, I want to spend 40 pound a night in a caravan on the king coast”, so I don’t get any bookings through there. But it would be good if there was a way to like, I don’t want to put the word vegan in the name of my holiday home because I don’t want to put people off, you know, you don’t have to be vegan stay here. I don’t want it to be like a really big thing, but it would be good to have a like a checkbox or a category or something in Airbnb, that would mean that if you were specifically looking for a vegan place, then it would come up. But it would come up anyway, if you were looking for some place, you know, on the king coast reasonably priced.

Delia:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I actually agree with that. I’ve seen there’s categories for basically everything, so I don’t see why there shouldn’t be some for vegan, right? It should be. So the last thing I’d like to ask you about if there’s any tips that you would like to share for other Airbnb hosts or future Airbnb hosts?

Emily Groove:

When people review me, they say that my place is very, very clean and I give great attention to detail when I’m cleaning the place and I use a antiviral spray because of COVID afterwards, that smells amazing, it smells like cherries. And so when people open the door, they smell this amazing smell of cherries and people have actually said, you know, “I opened the door and it smelled amazing and just felt really clean”. And the other thing is that I’m very responsive on the messages. So people message me a lot before they arrive. Some people don’t talk to me at all, that’s fine. But if people message me before they arrive with any sort of questions, I go out of my way to find the answer and people really appreciate that.

Delia:

Okay, so the trickiest will be cleanliness and be responsive to your guests, right?

Emily Groove:

Yeah. Normal customer service really!

Delia:

That’s right, but I guess some hosts aren’t really aware or prepared for that, especially for the attention you have to give to your guests, right?

Emily Groove:

Yeah.

Delia:

Especially for that one. So yeah, that’ll be it for today. Thank you a lot for your time. Thank you for telling us about your story, about your journey.

Emily Groove:

It’s my pleasure!

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