Buying a short-term rental properties is similar to buy-to-let with some market-specific considerations. Here’s how I go about evaluating a prospective investment:
You want to look at the following dimensions when buying a short-term property:
- Freehold vs. Leasehold
- Guest access
- Quality of space (layout and character)
- Property purchasing history
- Vendor’s position
- Potential yield
As with all property purchases, location is the penultimate factor. You want to ensure the property is within walking distance to:
- Local tourist attractions
- Great amenities (shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants)
- Transport links
- Culture & entertainment
I set a 20-minute radius from Norwich Market and only look to buy properties within that circle. Sure, you could go 25 or 30-minutes out, but the closer to the centre, the better.
Tip: Enter the property address on https://www.walkscore.com to see how walkable it is.
Freehold vs. Leasehold
This is a big one that you don’t want to get wrong when buying properties in the UK. Most leasehold properties will have leases with restrictive terms such as: “This property must be used for personal private residence only.”
These leases represent risks that I prefer to avoid. So make sure you buy a property that is either:
- Freehold (without restrictive covenants that conflict with your intended use as an Airbnb)
- Leasehold (with a lease that does not prohibit the above either)
Most estate agents in Norwich have no experience dealing with the above. So do your homework here and know what to look for. Otherwise you might find yourself with a property that isn’t fit for purpose…
Tip: There are dozens of posts on the Airbnb Community forum about the leasehold topic if you want to read more…
Whenever you view a property, ask yourself “How will guests access this property on their own?” If it’s not easy, you will have issues. The less friction in the check-in process the better (for all parties involved).
Over the years, we’ve found clever ways around guest access issues. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned if you’re interested.
Quality of space (layout and character)
When you walk into a property, ask yourself “How does it make you feel?” Is there a sense of uniqueness and quality? Do you feel there is potential to make the space into something delightful?
The best performing properties on Airbnb around the world are unique. They have something to offer that others don’t. Norwich has a lot of history and culture. Does the property represent that story in a meaningful way?
You can get away with a bog standard property on Airbnb if it’s furnished and decorated well—especially in Norwich because the demand is so high and supply is so low…
However, as the market grows it will get more and more competitive. As we’ve seen in tier one cities around the world, the highest quality properties will stay on top as best performers year after year.
It doesn’t take a fortune to create a high-end property. It just takes an understanding of what guests need, a skilled designer and the right furnishings and decoration.
Tip: Check out our blog post 10 Amazing Airbnb Plus Properties for Inspiration.
Property purchasing history
One of the first things you should ask when booking a viewing is “How long has it been on the market?” and “Has a sale for this property recently fallen through during conveyancing?”
Properties that fall through conveyancing several times tend to have serious issues. Structural problems, subsidence, damp and wood rot are common problems.
Tip: Check out our blog post: Top 10 Questions to Ask Estate Agents When Buying a Property for Airbnb / Short-Term Rental.
This one is crucial. This is where you make great deals.
A vendor’s position depends on:
- Why are they selling (do they have money issues)?
- How quickly do they want to sell (and move)?
- Do they occupy the property?
- How much is the property costing them every month?
- What else could they do with that money?
- Do they need to sell to move somewhere else?
- Are they emotionally involved in the property?
Below is an example of two different vendors who were selling similar properties I wanted to buy. You can guess which one resulted in a deal and at what price…
Vendor 1 — Owner occupier, recently renovated the property to a high standard. Wanted to sell to buy a bigger house. Didn’t have a mortgage. Wasn’t in any rush. Didn’t mind if the property didn’t sell.
Vendor 2 — Investor who recently experienced a significant financial loss. Property was vacant and encumbered with a mortgage. Wanted to sell to reconcile debts. Needed cash immediately. Was desperate to sell.
Vendor 2 is your ideal vendor. If you are in a good position (cash in hand, or financing agreed) and are confident in negotiating, you can get a great deal out of this one…
Are there any ongoing disputes with nearby neighbours? Is there someone who is likely to complain or cause issues for your guests? Can you speak to the neighbours to find out more about the area?
Parking is a great asset for any short-term rental property. A vast majority of guests coming to Norwich do so by car. The more parking access you have the happier your guests will be and the easier your property will be to manage as well.
This is where all the factors above come together into a figure that represents the quality of the prospective investment. With an understanding of the market, you should be able to judge how much yield the property will produce per annum given a variety of assumptions.
In order to calculate an accurate yield you need to consider:
I look at two different expense types: 1) Capital expenditure 2) Operating expenditure
Capital expenditure is the amount of money you have to spend to acquire the property. Operating expenditure is how much money you spend each month to produce income.
Capital expenditure tends to be:
- Down payment
- Solicitor fees
- Stamp Duty
- Mortgage fees
- Decoration and furnishing
Operating expenditure for a short-term rental property is usually:
- Mortgage payment
- Management company
- Direct costs (including cleaning and laundry)
- Gas + electric
Your short-term rental income is based upon two key metrics:
1) Occupancy rate
2) Average daily rate
When you multiply the two together you get what is called “Revenue Per Available Rental” or “RevPAR”. If you don’t own other short-term rental properties, you’ll have to make assumptions about these figures to produce a yield estimate.
I’ll give you some figures to get you started.
- The average occupancy rate in Norwich is 70%
- The mean average daily rate is £90
This means the average RevPAR in Norwich is £63. This means you should expect about £1,900 / mo gross revenue from your average Airbnb property in Norwich.
How did I get to this figure? The average month has 30.4 days. So 30.4 x 63 = £1915.20
I calculate my yield after tax so that it is a true reflection of the amount of money that actually comes back to me. Furnished holiday lets have significant tax advantages over buy-to-let properties. You can claim all of your operating expenses as deductions from your income.
I won’t go into detail on this one, but you can read more about this topic here: HS253 Furnished Holiday Lettings
Calculating your yield
I only buy properties that can produce a net yield between 12.5% and 17% per annum after tax. You might be happy to settle for less, but this is what I aim for in any investment.
We’ve got a free spreadsheet to help you quickly calculate your property’s perspective yield over here: Calculate Your Airbnb Cashflow with The Good Host. This will save you loads of time analyzing your prospective investments!
Similar to buying any investment property, short-term rentals have a wide number of factors to consider. If you feel like it’s all a bit much to keep in your head, try using a spreadsheet.
If you want to use the spreadsheet that I use, sign up to our monthly investor newsletter.