My parents-in-law came to holiday-home letting by accident. A few years ago, when my husband’s grandmother sadly passed away, the whole family wanted to keep her old cottage on the Isle of Wight. The only way they could do that was to make it a holiday home, and rent it out throughout the year. So began the mammoth task of turning an old family home into a rental property.
Although the physical work was hard (my hands still bear the scars from stripping a hundred-odd years of wallpaper!), marketing the cottage and getting customers in was even harder. None of us had experience in sales or marketing, so the older generation asked friends for advice, and the rest of us got onto Google. Between us we gathered together the basic rudiments of marketing a holiday property, and deciding we would be best off learning on the job, we launched the house into the lettings market.
Initial uptake was slow, and mainly came from friends and family. Gradually a few more people showed interest, and we had our first few bookings. Reviews were excellent, and everyone who stayed at Ferndale loved it, but the bookings were not increasing. Short of spending a fortune on advertising, we were a little stumped as to what to do next. I re-visited some of the Google searches from the start of the project, and kept coming back to one concept: the USP. Ferndale is a beautiful house in a lovely location, but there are plenty of those in the Isle of Wight, and even more in the rest of the UK. So what made Ferndale different from all of them? What was our Unique Selling Point?
It was only after staying at Ferndale for a week in the summer that I finally realised what it was – the garden. Ferndale has a large plot of land, tended carefully with no pesticides or weedkillers used for fifty years, and planted half as a beautiful English garden, and half as a wildflower meadow. There could not be a better environment for butterflies, insects, birds and other wildlife, and surely no lovelier place for a naturalist to spend a summer’s afternoon.
I dived into the garden with my macro lens in hand on my first day there, and so intoxicating did I find it that my husband had a hard job to coax me away! I was a confirmed bird-watcher and lover of wildlife, but I knew very little about the tiny creatures that inhabit the undergrowth, and which we rarely notice unless they land on our picnic. By the end of that week I was obsessed. I ordered a butterfly and moth guide, and a field guide to British insects. I took hundreds of photos, and saw dozens of new species. I was thrilled to discover that some of them were quite rare, and certainly difficult to find.
And when I shared my photos on Twitter, and people started asking me where I had found all these creatures, it eventually clicked: this was the USP. The astounding wildlife, small and large, and the gorgeous wildflowers, these were things that no other holiday home had. Whether you want to sit on the patio with a cold drink and watch the rabbits grazing in the warmth of sunset, whether you want to see a red squirrel as you sip your morning cup of tea in the kitchen, or whether you want to get down on your hands and knees and hunt for bugs, Ferndale is a nature-lover’s paradise.