Where to invest in a holiday let and make money all year round

Clockwise from top right: Weymouth, Dorset; Dartmouth in Devon; Whitby, North Yorkshire; Windermere, Cumbria

As the autumn leaves turn, the feel of the seaside changes. The deckchair hire companies along the south coast are starting to pack up their pitches, and the donkeys that patiently offer rides at traditional bucket and spade resorts will soon be off to their winter homes.

A second property by the sea might have become the number one post-pandemic property aspiration – demand has doubled since the arrival of Covid-19, according to the property website Rightmove. But once summertime activity ceases, the appeal of these locations can pall, which is bad news for second-home owners who plan to rent out their properties.

Smart buyers can bag themselves a summer hideaway that works equally well in autumn and winter. Data from holiday lettings companies Sykes Holiday Cottages and Vrbo have revealed the staycation locations that are most in demand once summer ends.

Sykes Holiday Cottages' top low-season location is Whitby. With its sandy beach and plentiful cafés, it works wonderfully in summer. But visitors flock to the North Yorkshire town 12 months a year to admire its ruined abbey and explore its museums, antique shops and excellent restaurants.

Rachel Barker, who has lived close by for the past 30 years, rents out a property there. “Whitby is beautiful in winter. It is not quite as busy, so you can see more, and you have got the North Yorkshire Moors to explore, too,” she said.

Rachel Barker, who rents out a property in Whitby through Skyes Holiday Cottages – Guzelian

“There are lovely restaurants and country pubs. Some of them used to close in winter, a few years back, but now that the tourists are here year round, nothing really closes.” Ms Barker, 51, runs her own property management company, which means she has her finger on the pulse of Whitby’s tourist scene. Five years ago, she decided to invest in it herself and picked up a down-at-heel three-bedroom cottage in the village of Briggswath, near Whitby. It cost £152,000 and she then spent 18 months renovating and prettifying it.

By mid-2018, she was ready to start letting it out and has been thrilled by the year-round response. Bookings are already coming in for next summer (at £1,400pw), but Ms Barker is also seeing solid winter bookings (at £600pw).

“It is different in winter – there is more of a trend for shorter breaks than whole weeks,” she said. “But the bookings just have not stopped.”

Whitby, North Yorkshire – iStockphoto

Whitby is one of the best-value all-year locations, although prices are starting to pick up. According to estate agency Savills, average prices in the town stand at £212,700, up 22pc in the past five years.

Vrbo’s customers also rate Whitby highly, but their top winter choice is a location more usually associated with high summer. St Ives’s beaches might be delightful, but it also has nationally known attractions, including the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Tate St Ives, which are well worth a visit any month of the year.

The average price of a property in St Ives stands at just over £295,000, found Savills, up 25pc in five years.

The Lake District also scores highly year-round with tough hiking types, who presumably don’t let a bit of rain bother them. Keswick, Windermere, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside have all recorded strong winter holiday lettings.

But to tap into these year-round markets, investors must pay a premium: the average price in Ambleside is almost £460,000, while in either of the Windermeres you are looking at a budget of around £400,000.

Its location makes it a handy spot for weekend breaks from Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. Sam Ashdown, of Ashdown Jones estate agents in Windermere, said: “The thing with the Lakes is that you expect rain all year round.

“I think there is a certain type of tourist, who enjoys climbing, walking, and hiking and is just a bit more hardy than people who go to the West Country and want sunshine and ice cream.”

Windermere in the Lake District – Alamy

Despite its year-round attraction, the prices owners can get for holiday lets in the Lake District do vary widely by season.

Mr Ashdown estimated that a two-bedroom cottage would fetch around £250 per night in summer. The largest, grandest houses charge up to £1,000 per night. But in winter – excluding the Christmas break and Valentine’s weekend – these rates drop by half.

Wales has recently been named Britain’s holiday home capital, with a higher proportion of second homes than the West Country, and it is little wonder that it also features in this league table.

The key year-round resorts are: Tenby, where properties are on average £259,000; Llandudno (£196,000); and Trearddur, on Anglesey (the village is too small for accurate average prices to be available).

Not all seaside towns make a good investment for the winter months. The most popular coastal locations have plenty to keep you busy in winter, and include Dartmouth, Devon (average price £449,000), Swanage (£385,000) and Weymouth (£275,000), both in Dorset, and Newquay in Cornwall (323,000).

Close to Whitby, other good winter choices include Filey (£182,000), and Scarborough (£172,0

Weymouth in Dorset

Dartmouth was the only Devonian location to make these lists, despite the county being packed with holiday lets. Carl McFarlane, of Fulfords estate agents, said: “Things do tail off after the summer, but it is still busy [in Dartmouth].

“I think part of the reason is the council staggers all the festivals we have – there is a food festival next month, Christmas markets, and there are always things happening at the Flavel arts centre.”

It is noticeable that, after autumn half term, an “older crowd” tends to hit Dartmouth, rather than the young family bucket and spaders of summer.

“I think they like having a bit of peace and quiet,” said Mr McFarlane. “They can have a walk around the town, get something to eat, and then maybe go for a walk or visit one of the neighbouring towns.”

The pandemic has heightened demand for property in Dartmouth, both for second homes – which make up 65pc to 70pc of Fulfords’ sales – and for rentals. “Now people can work from home, they can just afford to spend more time here,” said Mr McFarlane. “Our broadband is good, so you can work from here just as well as anywhere else.”

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