Escape to Lovejoy country

Posted: June 5, 2017



Escape to Lovejoy country

Looking for an away-from-it-all, romantic break in Suffolk or Essex? The owner of Belchamp Hall tells Jan Wade it’s now all about luxury and decadence.

Letting a property for holiday rental can provide a useful source of income while allowing ownership of the property to be retained – but it’s not as simple as putting up a ‘To Let’ sign. Jan Wade has been speaking to Charles Raymond, owner of Belchamp Hall, who lets three holiday properties located on his estate.

Opposite the pretty brick and flint, St Mary’s Church in Belchamp Walter is the entrance to Belchamp Hall – home of Charles Raymond and his family. Like many landowners, Charles has accepted the need for diversification and The Hall is currently offered as a venue for bespoke weddings as well as a wide range of corporate events. The fascinating history of the house and estate also attracts requests for tours from many interested parties, including the Georgian Society, Fine Arts Groups, U3A and National Trust.

Bwelchamp Dragon

Some years ago, Charles took the decision to convert three farm buildings into holiday lets. Although he openly admits that he has made mistakes along the way, with the help and support of a boutique holiday rental agency offering properties in Suffolk and Essex, he thinks he now has a winning formula.

“Finding the right agent for your property is essential,” says Charles, “and Mark Scott of Grove Cottages has been superb. The vast majority of his clients are couples seeking a romantic break and he knows exactly how to ensure that the properties he offers not only meet, but exceed, all of their expectations”.

Charles has invested large amounts of time, and money, ensuring that his properties meet Mark’s criteria. The romance factor is already there thanks to the history and location of the estate. In a totally private and very rural location, but with easy access to local towns and facilities, it was used in the filming of Lovejoy, the BBC series based on a loveable but roguish antique dealer. At present, Charles’ rental properties comprise Lovejoys, Lovejoys Mill and The Lovejoy Studio. All are beautifully appointed with individual characters and impressive attention to detail. Charles gives great credit to Grove presentation of the properties. “What I came to realise,” he told me “is that the priorities for those renting a property in the short term are very different to those for long term residential lets. There needs to be less emphasis on practicality and far more on luxury and decadence.” This was evidenced by the extremely high standard of furnishings and fittings, from individual pieces of art to expansive king size beds. Charles’ rule of thumb is: “if we don’t covet it ourselves, then it doesn’t go into the cottages”.

As he drove me around the estate to see the cottages, I was struck by the passion with which Charles talked about them – and his plans to expand the portfolio by a further three properties, including the conversion of the old stables overlooking a wide expanse of water meadows. “It’s true” he agrees, “I am passionate about them but I mustn’t lose sight of the fact that they form part of my business. I know that if the cottages provide the perfect holiday venue, and we enhance this with the best possible customer service, they will contribute financially to the estate”.

So far, this policy is clearly working. Grove Cottages have secured well over 90% occupancy year-round for these three properties, and almost 50% of the clients are returning for further stays. Such levels of business are not unusual for Grove Cottages. Mark Scott is extremely selective about the properties he offers and, although there is no shortage of hopeful landlords applying to join the agency, he currently turns down more than half of them because they do not meet his criteria. He has established a reputation and his clients rely on the fact that any of the holiday lets on his books, while being individual in character, will meet the same exacting standards. Another advantage of a small, location-based agency such as Grove is that they know every property offered, inside out, and can, therefore, advise clients according to their specific tastes and requirements.

Recent years have seen a steadily increasing demand for holiday rentals in the UK and, with the current drop in the value of the pound, it is likely that even more of us will swap overseas trips for that perfect home-from-home experience. This is likely to result in more people seeing holiday rentals as a potential boost to their income. But Charles made it clear that this is not a decision to be taken lightly. To succeed, landlords must be willing to make a considerable investment in both preparation and ongoing maintenance. However, with sufficient commitment and a willingness to go the extra mile, it can be a profitable and very satisfying option.

 

Details of Lovejoys, Lovejoys Mill and The Lovejoy Studio at Belchamp Walter are available through www.grove-cottages.co.uk 

Photography credits to Lovejoys

Header Image: Belchamp Hall


As featured in David Burr Rooftops Winter Edition

Article extracted from David Burrs Rooftops Winter 2016 Edition