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Reinvent then rent! How to turn a former bank, church or pub into a popular holiday let

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Where have all the old public buildings gone – the post offices, banks, churches and pubs – that used to line the High Street and be our local landmarks?

The answer is that, in many places at least, they have been converted into holiday lets.

‘Holidays in the UK have become the norm since Covid made travelling abroad so difficult,’ says Kate Eales, head of regional residential with Strutt & Parker. 

‘So, instead of renting a cottage in August, many people create their own holiday homes and recover some of the costs by letting.’

Historic: A two-bedroom apartment in the former Royal Navy building, Brewhouse at The Royal William Yard, Plymouth, is £575,000 with Knight Frank

Historic: A two-bedroom apartment in the former Royal Navy building, Brewhouse at The Royal William Yard, Plymouth, is £575,000 with Knight Frank 

There are several advantages to converting an old public building, according to Eales. 

‘You get a lot of property for your money, there is often car parking and you seldom have a garden to maintain — good news if you are letting,’ she says.

 ‘Above all, an old building in a brochure catches the eye. Families love the idea of holidaying somewhere quirky — in, say, a converted lighthouse, a school or a pub.’

You’d be hard pushed to find a more eye-catching holiday property than the four-bedroom, 3,800 sq ft Bath House in St Leonards, East Sussex, for sale for £1.5 million with Fine & Country.

This surreal conversion of the town’s old Turkish Baths is a homage to fairground art and glitz. 

It was created by music agent Solomon Parker who spent three years scouring the South’s antique shops looking for sufficiently gaudy ‘objets’ to match his vision.

The result is a cavernous room with a bowling alley (reputedly once owned by Roman Abramovich) running down the side, flashing signs saying ‘Carnival’ and ‘Dodgems’ and a gigantic clown’s face grinning from the wall.

A mezzanine hangs like a cage from the ceiling while the original tiling from the swimming pool can still be glimpsed. Parker is proud of his creation and defends St Leonards, which has had a bad press for its social problems over the years.

The converted Bath House in St Leonards is on the market with Fine & Country for £1.5million

The converted Bath House in St Leonards is on the market with Fine & Country for £1.5million

‘Since the pandemic a lot of London people have moved to the south coast and that’s been a good thing,’ he says. ‘The town now has a thriving arts scene and some fabulous restaurants.’

Making holiday lets from battered old buildings can make sound financial sense.

Twenty years ago Derek Thomas bought the abandoned chapel in Llanrug, North Wales for £85,000. He converted the building into two homes — Capel Mawr and Basement 19 — at a cost of £300,000.

Having at first lived in one of them himself, he now makes £60,000 a year letting them to holidaymakers who are attracted to the cottages for their proximity to Snowdonia and Anglesey. 

The properties’ value today is £800,000. ‘This place is my masterpiece,’ says Derek, who lets the homes through Sykes Cottages. ‘It’s the culmination of all I have learnt about building over the years.’

It would be wrong to assume that holiday lets only pay off in seaside locations. Other areas can attract visitors all year round. 

In Bath and North Somerset, for example, tourism contributes £470 million to the local economy. Martin Fahie, 65, makes about £12,000 a year from running the former Ebenezer Chapel in Wellow, Somerset as an Airbnb. 

The chapel, which still has many of its original features including the stained glass windows, was first converted in 1990.

‘Bath is a big attraction, both with tourists and parents visiting their children at university,’ says Fahie, a musician. ‘And Wellow itself, with its pub and old manor house, is the quintessential English village.’ Chapel House, Wellow is for sale with Knight Frank for £650,000.

Anyone contemplating investing in a holiday let would be wise to inspect the small print on the sales details. 

There is a stipulation, for example, that the three-bedroom flat for sale with Winkworth for £695,000 in the converted synagogue in Devonshire Place, a short walk from the seafront in Brighton, may not be used as a holiday let, perfect though it would be.

Pubs can also pose problems. Local planning restrictions usually state that a conversion can’t be carried out unless the owners are able to prove the pub cannot be profitable.

No such problems at the Nag’s Head, Avening in Gloucestershire for sale with Murray Estate Agents for £595,000. This former 18th-century inn is well placed for tourists.

‘We are in the middle of the Royal Triangle — the homes of Prince Charles at Highgrove, Princess Anne at Gatcombe Park and Badminton — so we get lots of royal watchers,’ says owner Nicole Sabine, a journalist. 

‘It has an easy-to-maintain terraced garden so it would make an ideal holiday let.’ 

On the market… Reinvented buildings

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Leaving Cert may end up as traditional exam as ‘school profiling’ ruled out

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The Leaving Cert may end up as a traditional exam this summer with additional choice for students after officials ruled out the use of “school profiling” for a hybrid model.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and other party leaders were informed by senior officials earlier this week that a hybrid or accredited grades model – based on teachers’ estimates – might need to draw on schools’ historical results in the Junior Cert exams.

This is due to the absence of exam data for about 25 per cent of this year’s Leaving Cert candidates, who did not sit the Junior Cert in 2020 when it was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns.

This data is regarded as crucial in the standardisation process, which aims to ensure teachers’ estimated grades in different schools are equitably awarded.

However, Government sources said the use of this data has now been ruled out in the event that some form of accredited grades is used because it could prove to be as “too problematic”.

A decision on the format of this year’s Leaving Cert is likely in the next week or so.

The Government had planned to use school profiling in 2020 when Leaving Cert exams were first replaced by a system based on teachers’ estimates.

However, it dropped the plan following opposition claims this could penalise students attending school in disadvantaged areas.

Officials are now understood to be examining whether it is possible to generate accredited grades in a different way that is fair and equitable.

One Government source said it was their understanding that Leaving Cert options have now narrowed. “It seems to be edging towards traditional exams this year, with greater choice for students,” they said.

Disruption

While additional choice in questions in the forthcoming State exams were announced last August, officials have been exploring ways of going further due to the level of Covid-related disruption which has occurred since.

This could see a similar level of choice incorporated into the summer exams as was used last year.

Another Government source said all options were still being considered and nothing had been ruled out. “Things are still at a delicate stage,” they said.

Students are calling for the introduction of a hybrid Leaving Cert on the basis that many have experienced significant disruption to their studies due to the pandemic.

Teachers’ unions are opposed to grading their students for the purposes of the Leaving Cert and say further adjustments to the exams are needed.

It is understood Mr Martin, along with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, were briefed on potential options for the format of this year’s exam on Monday by Minister for Education Norma Foley and her officials.

The decision to omit school profiling in the 2020 Leaving Cert was at the centre of an legal challenge taken by Belvedere College student Freddie Sherry, who argued that the decision impacted unfairly on his results.

However, the High Court ruled that the Government was fully entitled to make changes to the standardisation model which they considered to be in the public interest.

It found that Mr Sherry had not shown he, or Belvedere, were subject of an unfairness arising from the final approach taken and had “certainly not” established an unfairness that would lead the court to conclude the system was unlawful.


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Voco Hotels debuts in Germany

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IHG Hotels & Resorts, acting in partnership with Hotelite Management, has opened its first voco hotel in Germany; voco Dusseldorf Seestern. Located in the Lorick district of the city, voco Dusseldorf Seestern is a great premium option for those visiting Dusseldorf for business or leisure. The hotel is within walking to distance to the banks of the Rhine river and a short drive from the airport and the city’s main shopping and business districts.

 

With 160 rooms, voco Dusseldorf Seestern, embodies the brand’s design ethos by creating a warm and inviting space with playful and bold decorative touches throughout. The use of bright, warm pops of yellow give voco its distinct identity. All the rooms include signature voco touches, such as high-quality bedding made from 100% recycled materials and eco-friendly large size bathroom amenities from Antipodes, an award-winning plant-based organic skincare company. Guests will also have access to a fully-equipped onsite fitness area including a sauna and steam room, perfect for those looking for a bit of me-time.

 

Offering all-day dinning, the hotel’s ‘Restaurant & Bar 38’ offers a great selection of meals all prepared with the finest organic ingredients. For breakfast, guests will find anything from a continental breakfast to a full English breakfast, as well as an assortment of healthy snacks to choose from. For lunch and dinner, Restaurant 38 offers an a la carte menu filled with local and international dishes. Come evening, Bar 38 is the perfect place to unwind from the day. Whether it be enjoying a cold drink whilst watching live sports on the screens or enjoying a cocktail on the terrace with friends, family, or work colleagues – there is a space for everyone.

 

For business travellers, voco Dusseldorf Seestern has five modern meeting rooms with a capacity of up to 140 participants – all fitted with the latest technology to enable hybrid meeting requests.

 

Oliver Walzer, Cluster General Manager of Hotelite, commented: “We are proud to be the first voco hotel in Germany and are looking forward to inviting our first guests to come and experience what the brand is all about – especially in Dusseldorf, a city where fashion, culture and commerce meet. Whether it be a short city break or a business trip, our onsite hosts will make sure that visitors will have a charming, unstuffy and playful experience that brings out the very best in them.” 

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Detached homes see average values up £60k during the pandemic says Halifax

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The pandemic property boom has been driven by a surge in demand for larger homes, new research has revealed.

The average value of a detached home in Britain has risen at almost twice the rate for flats, according to the data from Halifax and IHS Markit.

Buyers can expect to pay on average £425,177 for a detached property, which is an increase of £60,556 or 17 per cent since March 2020.

Buyers can expect to pay on average £425,177 for a detached property, which is an increase of £60,556 or 17 per cent since the March 2020

Buyers can expect to pay on average £425,177 for a detached property, which is an increase of £60,556 or 17 per cent since the March 2020

It compares to an increase of around 9 per cent for a typical flat during the same period, where values have risen on average £13,325 to an average of £158,992.

At the same time, the average price of a terrace property has risen 15 per cent or £27,715 to £213,798, while semi-detached also rose 15 per cent or £36,841 to £280,090.

HOUSE PRICES BY PROPERTY TYPE
All Houses All Buyers UK Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 15.40% 9.10% 14.90% 15.10% 16.60%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £33,820 £13,325 £27,715 £36,841 £60,556
Average price Dec 2021 £276,091 £158,992 £213,798 £280,090 £425,177
Source: Halifax/IHS Markit        

The data also highlighted the widening of the gaps between each type of home, with flat owners expected to spend an extra £54,806 to upsize to a typical terrace house, compared to £40,416 in March 2020.

At the same time, those currently in a terrace would need a further £66,292 to own a semi-detached home, compared to £57,166 in March 2020.

Meanwhile, home movers hoping to switch from a semi-detached to a detached property need an additional £145,087, compared to £121,371 in March 2020.

REGIONAL HOUSE PRICE CHANGES BY TYPE
% Change (since Mar ’20) All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
East of England 13.00% 7.40% 14.20% 14.80% 14.30%
Northern Ireland 14.30% -2.40% 15.20% 16.70% 13.40%
South West 18.40% 10.90% 19.00% 19.50% 20.20%
London 6.40% 0.70% 6.80% 7.60% 12.40%
Scotland 12.10% 9.60% 14.20% 13.70% 16.30%
West Midlands 14.60% 7.10% 12.60% 15.50% 17.40%
East Midlands 15.50% 12.10% 16.50% 17.50% 19.00%
North West 18.20% 13.40% 18.80% 17.00% 21.90%
Wales 21.90% 11.70% 25.10% 21.20% 24.40%
North East 14.40% 14.30% 19.80% 11.80% 15.50%
South East 13.10% 7.40% 13.70% 13.80% 15.40%
Yorkshire 16.50% 4.30% 15.40% 17.00% 18.30%
Source:  Halifax/IHS Markit        

Wales and the North West saw the greatest increase in detached home prices, up 24.4 per cent and 21.9 per cent respectively.

The most expensive detached homes are in London, at an average £910,568. The 12.4 per cent increase is almost double the average of all property types in the capital.

Russell Galley, managing director, Halifax, said: ‘Record numbers of moves have been taking place throughout the pandemic, with the demand for detached homes now greater than for any other property type, meaning the competition for those looking to buy an often larger property is fierce.

‘As employers began to crystalise longer-term plans for home and hybrid working, buyers have been able to consider homes further afield as the need to commute falls away, with properties previously considered too remote now giving families extras like garden rooms and home offices.

This trend means Wales, with its beautiful countryside and lower relative property prices, saw the strongest growth in detached homes over the past two years.’

REGIONAL HOUSE PRICES BY PROPERTY TYPE DURING THE PANDEMIC
East of England All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 13.00% 7.40% 14.20% 14.80% 14.30%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £36,767 £13,340 £34,669 £45,351 £63,141
Average Price Dec 2021 £319,447 £192,721 £279,087 £352,699 £505,379
Northern Ireland All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 14.30% -2.40% 15.20% 16.70% 13.40%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £21,448 -£2,327 £14,027 £22,012 £25,600
Average Price Dec 2021 £170,946 £94,922 £106,105 £153,917 £217,226
South West All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 18.40% 10.90% 19.00% 19.50% 20.20%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £44,773 £17,038 £38,716 £49,973 £76,380
Average Price Dec 2021 £287,774 £173,502 £242,285 £306,171 £454,133
London All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 6.40% 0.70% 6.80% 7.60% 12.40%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £31,724 £2,657 £33,159 £44,891 £100,525
Average Price Dec 2021 £525,351 £371,744 £520,359 £635,422 £910,568
Scotland All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 12.10% 9.60% 14.20% 13.70% 16.30%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £20,795 £9,789 £18,433 £23,357 £39,783
Average Price Dec 2021 £192,988 £112,075 £148,224 £193,975 £283,214
West Mids All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 14.60% 7.10% 12.60% 15.50% 17.40%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £29,778 £8,625 £20,532 £33,265 £57,685
Average Price Dec 2021 £234,263 £129,851 £184,061 £247,881 £389,553
East Midlands All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 15.50% 12.10% 16.50% 17.50% 19.00%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £30,275 £13,536 £24,346 £33,919 £57,186
Average Price Dec 2021 £225,106 £125,563 £171,686 £227,336 £358,441
North West All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 18.20% 13.40% 18.80% 17.00% 21.90%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £32,591 £14,070 £24,426 £31,917 £63,229
Average Price Dec 2021 £211,954 £118,979 £154,308 £219,294 £351,887
Wales All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 21.90% 11.70% 25.10% 21.20% 24.40%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £36,917 £11,570 £30,111 £34,639 £62,688
Average Price Dec 2021 £205,579 £110,318 £149,966 £197,768 £319,492
North East All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 14.40% 14.30% 19.80% 11.80% 15.50%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £20,162 £11,527 £20,071 £17,666 £37,373
Average Price Dec 2021 £159,694 £92,214 £121,187 £166,876 £278,863
South East All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 13.10% 7.40% 13.70% 13.80% 15.40%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £43,298 £15,502 £38,704 £49,203 £78,220
Average Price Dec 2021 £374,454 £223,610 £320,944 £404,648 £586,781
Yorkshire All Flat Terraced Semi-Detached Detached
% Change (since Mar ’20) 16.50% 4.30% 15.40% 17.00% 18.30%
Price Change (since Mar ’20) £27,192 £4,708 £19,442 £29,624 £50,192
Average Price Dec 2021 £192,210 £114,535 £146,081 £203,805 £324,581
Source: Halifax/IHS Markit         

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf said: ’Soaring demand for detached homes is not surprising as we are seeing buyers prepared to stretch themselves to purchase properties which they regard as for the longer term, rather than settling for smaller houses or flats. 

These buyers are often using money saved during lockdown by not going on holiday or other spending, to contribute towards their deposit. They are also taking advantage of continuing low interest rates even though the threat of higher repayments and inflation is looming.

‘Detached homes have long been the pinnacle in terms of what people aim for when buying property. They are popular because they offer flexibility, privacy, control and independence, which isn’t always the case with semi-detached or terraced properties where there is an element of shared space or boundaries, increasing the risk of conflict.

‘Price growth has been strongest in Wales because often affordability is greater in those markets in the first place. We have noticed the drift from the centre of towns and cities to the suburbs, country and coastal areas as people get more accustomed to hybrid working and not having to spend as much time in the centre. They are looking for higher-quality outside space and the ability to work comfortably from home.’

Separate research by Coutts found that demand has also been high for luxury leafy lodgings in the capital.

It said that sales for super prime homes worth £10million or more jumped from 56 in 2020 to 106 in 2021.

Peter Flavel, of Coutts, said: ‘For many investors these prime and super prime properties provide the opportunity to put funds into assets that offer the space they need as hybrid living continues to influence lifestyle choices.’

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