Successful Edinburgh Festival Lets – The Owner’s Guide
I’m Louise Dickins, the Managing Director at Dickins Edinburgh, and I have been successfully organising Edinburgh Festival lets since 1998. So 2019 marks my 21st anniversary! It’s where Dickins started all those years ago.
Over the past 21 years, I’ve experienced pretty much everything that can happen when letting homes for the Edinburgh Festival. In this blog, I share the knowledge (and some funny stories) I’ve gathered over the years, along with my best advice to help you make Edinburgh Festival letting a success.
So, if you have a home in Edinburgh you’re thinking of letting for the festival this summer, I hope that you’ll find this guide very useful.
1. Right Home, Right Guest
Over the 21 years, I’ve been organising festival lets in Edinburgh, the festival has grown and the world has changed beyond all recognition. Back in 1998, I started my business by cold calling some of the Edinburgh Festival venues, like Assembly and the Gilded Balloon. It was before the days of websites and digital photography, so I used to type up long descriptions of the homes I was recommending. Something clicked when I discovered that I was good at matching the right person with the right home. People were happy, word spread, and my business grew.
Today, getting the right person staying in the right home is still absolutely crucial. When you get that right, everything else should run smoothly. So don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole – that’s when things go wrong!
2 Location. Location. Location.
It might be an old adage (made famous by Phil and Kirsty’s TV show of the same name) but when it comes to Edinburgh Festival accommodation, location is key. Most people want to be able to nip home at some stage in the day for a break or to eat. That’s true for people coming to Edinburgh to watch Festival shows, but it is especially important for performers. Performing in Edinburgh every day for a month is fairly punishing. So staying close to the place you’re performing makes life a bit easier.
Many of the largest venues – Pleasance, Gilded Balloon, Underbelly and Assembly – are based around Bristo and George Square now. That means that the most popular areas, and homes, are the ones around Southside and Pleasance, Lauriston, The Old Town, Marchmont and Bruntsfield. The hottest ticket in town for the stars is Quartermile as it’s right next to George Square and has great quality homes.
The most beautiful homes in Edinburgh are often found in The New Town. It’s certainly much quieter here during the Festival and some guests will prefer a peaceful place away from the mayhem. Tollcross, Fountainbridge and the West End are also easy to reach.
3. Monthly Or Weekly Lets
One of the starting points is deciding if you’re going to do weekly or monthly lets. At Dickins, that’s largely dictated by the location. Performers and people in Edinburgh working during the Festival are likely to be the only people booking homes for a full month. Many of our owners prefer to take a whole month booking, especially if they are going to be abroad. This year the dates for whole-month bookings are roughly the 27th July to the 27th August. We often suggest that our most central homes are let on a monthly basis in order to accommodate performers and festival workers.
If you decide on weekly lets (that’s our minimum during the Festival) it will probably be for people coming to see festival shows. Often visitors won’t arrive until the first weekend (this year the 3rd of August). Recently our experience has been that the last week in August (leading up to the Bank Holiday) has been the least popular.
4. Presentation Is Key
If you decide to rent your home out for the Festival, there are some key preparations that must take place before your home will be ready.
Firstly, it’s important that all personal possessions are removed. It could be just the push you need to have a real clear out. In fact, I remember one owner telling me that being forced to clear up was more of a driving force than the income. Guests understand that owners are often letting their own homes but they still don’t want to wake up to your wedding photo on the bedside table or your toothbrush in the bathroom! During a guest’s stay, it needs to feel like their home. So remove all your personal possessions and any sentimental items, too.
Second, we insist on our homes being cleaned to 5-star hotel standards, a standard that is usually higher than your home would normally be. Next, make sure you’ve checked that everything is working and get things fixed if necessary. Sod’s law is it will break during the let otherwise!
This one may seem silly, but don’t lock the broadband router in the cupboard with your stuff and then take the key with you to Africa! Things like this may need to be accessed whilst you’re away.
Being able to sleep is very important for festival goers and often it takes place during the day. So make sure you have good quality bedding and that the bedrooms have good blinds, curtains or shutters to make the room dark.
5. Double Check Your Keys Work!
I remember a guest phoning me in the early days of my business, after collecting their keys, and saying they couldn’t get into their home. Keys can be tricky and I thought perhaps they just didn’t have the knack. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the home to check, the keys didn’t work.
The owners had gone abroad for the month and had mistakenly given me the wrong keys, so I had to find a locksmith who could drill the locks straight away. The guest was famous and it was a tricky situation! I sent them to Valvona and Crolla for a drink whilst I got the locks sorted. The lovely thing was that after that inauspicious start, we went on to become great friends. They became friends with the owners of Valvona and Crolla, too!
So, check and double check that your keys work, especially if you’ve just had them cut.
6. Maintenance Issues and How To Solve Them
We’re great problem solvers at Dickins. I’m sure one of the reasons for that is all my experience having to solve problems very quickly in the Edinburgh Festival. It started back in my student days when I cleaned Spike Milligan’s flat. That felt very exciting. He wasn’t there and I had the stereo cranked up whilst I was cleaning. Trying to be helpful, I watered the plants on the balcony and a drop of water got into the stereo, which suddenly went silent. AHHHHHH! So I packed it in my car and drove around until I found someone who could fix it that day (there was no Google or mobile phones then either!).
Tensions can be running high for guests in the festival, with so many pressures coming from so many different directions. Getting any issues resolved straight away is vital. At Dickins, we’ve built up great relationships with tradespeople over the years and we always approach problems with a solution-focused attitude. We also have a 24-hour emergency phone and are on-call for the whole month.
7. Post Festival Checks
It’s important to check your Edinburgh festival accommodation quickly after guests leave. There may be rubbish to take out and windows to close. We find that the vast majority of our homes are left very well by guests, but if that isn’t the case, take photos before you clear up. You’ll need them as evidence.
8. Do It Yourself or Use An Agent?
There are so many online portals for letting these days and obviously as I own an agency, I’m biased. But I have got a great deal of experience and would say that using a professional agent with an excellent track record, like Dickins, should pay for itself.
When I set up Dickins in 1998, I was looking to form long-term relationships and still do. I want both owners and guests to have a great experience with Dickins and use us again. Over 75% of the guests staying with us during the Edinburgh Festival have stayed with us before. And the companies I cold called back in 1998 are still clients today.
In this day when so much happens without ever speaking to the person you’re dealing with, we still like to speak. By speaking we’ve built up great relationships with the people we’ve worked with over the years. Well-known performers want to be in safe hands with a letting agent they know and trust.
We’re a trusted brand, known for quality and resolving issues that arise quickly and efficiently. A good agent like us, will present your home in its best light and make sure that the right guest stays there. We take care of payments and make sure that problems which arise are solved to everyone’s satisfaction. I meet new owners personally and see all our homes before they’re let. I take all the photos, too! So all Dickins owners benefit from my input right from the start.
If you’d like to speak to me about Edinburgh Festival lets, then please call our office on 0131 558 1108 or you can email me at [email protected].
I hope this blog has been useful. If you have any questions, please get in touch and let me know.