Ever dreamed of buying a house in the country? What about at the beach, or in the mountains, or on the edge of a vineyard?
If you’ve already taken the plunge and bought your holiday home, congratulations. Purchasing a second property is one of the most exciting investments you’ll ever make, offering a bolt-hole (often in the sun) to which you can escape to create long-lasting memories with family and friends.
If you decide to rent it out as a holiday let, you could also see yourself bringing in a tidy income to complement your day job or fund your retirement.
It’s a situation that many of us dream of, so it’s hugely important to be aware of the maintenance that it takes to keep a holiday home ticking over safely. In this article, we’ll think about all the things that you need to do to maintain your holiday home, and highlight some things that you’ll need to consider when taking out holiday home insurance.
Maintaining your holiday home
If you’ve just bought your holiday home, or are in the process of buying it, it’s important that you’re fully aware of its true state of repair.
Remember that you won’t be able to see all of the potential issues that you might have with your holiday home just by walking around it. Whilst you might be able to see obvious things (like damp, broken steps that need fixing or potential trip hazards or leaks), it’s a good idea to spend at least a couple of nights there before you start maintenance work so that you know exactly how much will need to be done.
Otherwise, how will you know about the window that’s jammed shut and needs looking at, the air con that breaks down in the night, or the old electrics that need rewiring?
A few days of living in the property can alert you to these problems, and ensure that you’re equipped to fix them before you start either inviting guests or staying in the holiday home yourself for longer periods of time.
It’s also important to remember that insurance policies don’t cover normal maintenance or wear-and-tear, so you’ll want to be aware of any potential issues so they can be sorted before they become a real problem.
Preparing your holiday home for the change of the seasons
Remember that properties in hotter climates might need more seasonal maintenance than those in the UK – you’re likely to need to think about issues such as pool cleaning, air conditioning inspections and garden maintenance. All of these things need to be done in the spring and you need to take extra care if the property has sat empty all winter.
Likewise, holiday homes in colder countries are likely to need extra attention, too. You need to consider keeping the heating on low at all times in order to reduce the risk of the pipes freezing (this is something you definitely don’t want!). If you’ve got a chimney, it’s hugely important to get it swept ahead of the winter to reduce the risk of fire if it’s used during cold spells. Preparing a holiday home for colder weather
is something you need to consider ahead of the winter, even if the property is in a mild climate like Spain or the south of France. It’s important to make sure you’ve checked the exterior to reduce any chance of damp creeping up, to turn off all outdoor taps, to consider insulating your pipes, and to fix any weak or broken gates or fences outside. Leaving them over winter is likely to deteriorate them even further.
Checklist and tips for maintenance
At Insurance Choice, we know that there are a multitude of things to think about when you’re maintaining a holiday home. Because it can be difficult to keep track of all of them, we’ve created a handy checklist that you can use to ensure that all your key maintenance jobs are ticked off:
- Check for blockages and leaks in all taps, sinks and other fixtures in the kitchen, bathrooms and utilities
- Check all rooms for damp or signs of moisture
- Make sure all tiles are clean and re-grout if needed
- Make sure all lights are working
- Make sure all white goods (fridge, freezer, washing machine) are working sufficiently and have an up-to-date PAT test (find out more about PAT testing here)
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace the batteries if needed
- Paint walls or skirting boards if needed
- Bleed radiators if needed
- Get the boiler serviced by a professional
- Check for blockages in the air conditioning
- Do a safety check in outdoor spaces around the pool: trip hazards, broken tiles, slippery surfaces and sharp edges might need to be dealt with, especially if you’re likely to have small children visiting
- Are the burglar alarms working? Replace if not, and also consider installing smart security and cameras so that you can keep an eye on the property when you’re not around
- Empty the septic tank if needed (annually)
- In any garden areas, weed, plant and prune as necessary
- Check for blockages in the gutters and drains
- If you’ve got a chimney, make sure it is swept (especially ahead of winter)
- Check all linen, outdoor furniture and other aesthetic items such as cushions and indoor sofas for tears, stains and so on. This is particularly important if you’re renting out your holiday home outside your immediate family
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you a good starting point from which to check the safety and maintenance of your second home.
Quick ways to make your holiday home look like it’s brand new
If you’ve had your holiday home for a long time, or if you’ve just bought it and it needs some work doing before you can rent it out, you might be looking for some quick fixes to make it look sparkling new without a huge amount of time, effort or expense.
We can help with that. Here are some quick ways that you can spruce up your holiday home
in extra-quick time:
- Give the walls a lick of paint, preferably in white, for a quick dose of freshness
- Add plants. It might be a nice idea to brighten up your communal spaces with plants native to the location that you’re in, if possible. Make sure you choose plants that don’t take much maintenance, as you’re likely to be away for long periods
- Add colourful or luxe-textured throws, cushions or rugs. This can work particularly well if your holiday home is in a colder location, where guests might want to spend time getting cosy indoors, or if you’re planning to spend a lot of time there in winter yourself
- New light fixtures. Old lamp looking a bit tired? Get rid of it and replace it with a statement piece (if that’s your style) or a minimal piece if you want it to look more understated
Hopefully, these tips will help you revamp your holiday home in super-quick time, without costing the earth. Using local markets, shops and designers can help you save money on shipping and delivery costs, too, as well as being better for the environment and supporting the local economy.
Getting the right holiday home insurance
Some of the problems that immediately spring to mind when considering the safety of your holiday home include break-ins whilst you’re away, and the damage that could occur if something goes wrong (for example, a leak that isn’t dealt with immediately).
If you’re renting your holiday home out to other people, you’ll want to take out a holiday home insurance policy that covers things that could go wrong whilst guests are staying as part of a holiday let.
You’re also very likely to want to take out a contents insurance policy, in order to protect any gadgets, furniture or personal items that will be remaining in the house whilst you’re not in it.
Luckily, there are lots of insurance options that cover all these eventualities, plus more. What you need to do first is to speak to an expert
like Insurance Choice.
What to be aware of when looking for holiday home insurance
There are some things that you should make sure you have covered
when you’re buying insurance for a holiday property abroad:
- That contents insurance, as well as building insurance, is either covered in your plan or is taken out as a separate policy
- That your insurance covers theft and burglary, even when the property will be spending a lot of time empty (it isn’t always the case that theft is covered)
- Coverage for lost keys and replacement of locks
- Cover for damage caused whilst the property is being rented out by guests (especially important is accidental damage cover)
- That Public and Employers Liability insurance is included, particularly if you’re hiring staff to work on your holiday home whether on a casual, part-time or full-time basis
- Coverage for loss of rent. This covers you in the (not too-uncommon) case that a guest cancels their stay, possibly at the last minute and without giving you the opportunity to find replacement guests. Having this clause in your insurance policy means you won’t be left out of pocket
- Coverage for flood, storm and fire (again, not a standard part of many insurance policies) is very important, especially with wildfires becoming increasingly common and freak weather incidents regularly causing damage to properties across the world
- That all policy documents are in English. This is likely to be the case anyway, especially if you’re going with a British or international insurance provider, but is still something you should be aware of if you’re insuring a holiday home abroad.
- Consider sticking with your insurance provider at home, with whom you already have a policy, as they might be able to offer a policy for your holiday home, too. Many people think they need to go with an in-country provider, but that’s not the case
- If you are using an international company, or a company in the country that your holiday home is located in, it’s a good idea to make sure your policy is underwritten by a British insurance company
- Likewise, it’s highly likely that you’ll need English-speaking claims handlers if you do need to make a claim. Make sure whichever company you use can provide this. Even if you speak a certain amount of the local language, it’s unlikely to be enough to explain the complexities of a burglary or damage claim
- Cover for hotel stays and/or travel back to the UK if something happens that means you can’t stay abroad in your holiday home
There have been reports that holidaymakers have had their insurance claims rejected after posting on social media whilst they’re away. Insurance companies, according to this article
, are using the “reasonable care” clause in their contracts to invalidate burglary claims. How should you avoid this? We’d recommend saving your holiday snaps for when you’re back, or, if you must share from the beach, setting your social media feeds to private so that only the people you trust can see them.
Only you know what specifics your policy needs to cover, so make sure you’ve thought long and hard about what you need and what you might want to use your holiday home for in the future. Living in it for now, but renting it out from next spring? That’s great – but make sure you get the right insurance now and remember to adjust your policy to holiday home insurance when the time comes.
Protect your property with holiday home insurance
Finding the right holiday home insurance doesn’t need to be a hassle. Get a quote
from Insurance Choice today and see how much you could save.