Choosing your dream holiday home
Buying a holiday home brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘leisure’. You’ll have your own place in your favourite location – for holidays, short breaks, weekends… Whenever you wish.
A holiday home is a passport to a completely new leisure lifestyle. Your place in the country or close to the coast. Your base for a whole raft of activities. Your secluded haven for quiet breaks. And your base for major family gatherings.
It’s easy to see why so many families and couples are buying leisure homes, and that number is increasing every year. A home-from-home in a favourite place enriches your total lifestyle. It can be your weekend refuge from a hectic city work environment. A place to relax, unwind and recharge. It can be your go-to location for all of your holidays – or just some of them.
You’re pretty much bound to make new friends on the park, whether you’re a couple or a family. Think sundowner glasses of wine on your decking, barbecues, conviviality – and fun.
Convinced? That’s easy! The holiday home lifestyle is quite simply brilliant.
But where do you start?
Location is key in a number of ways. Many holiday home buyers go for a park that’s not too far from their main home, so that they can easily get there on a Friday evening after work and can be sitting down to dinner at a mid-evening time.
Ideally, you’ll choose a park in a region that offers you plenty that aligns with your interests – walking, cycling, golf, fishing, perhaps.
Maybe not too far from a city, so that you can dip in and out of some culture when you want to do so. Maybe you favour somewhere within easy distance of the coast.
Wherever you choose, you have to be sure that there is enough in the area to satisfy your tastes and leisure needs – places to revisit time and time again. If you enjoy eating out, you need to make sure there is a variety of restaurants and pubs within easy distance.
So, you’ve chosen the region. Now you need to pick your perfect park.
Unless you know your chosen region very well – in which case you’ll probably know all of the parks there – an internet search is your next step. Draw up a shortlist of parks you think will satisfy your on-park criteria. For example, those with playgrounds, a restaurant on the park, dog-walking opportunities, a swimming pool, a gym, perhaps, a shop... Now, go through your list, creating a shorter list – and then go and visit them.
Spend a day on each of the parks, observing, taking in the atmosphere. And, if the park you think is right for you rents holiday homes as well as sells them, book a short break on the park. That way, you can ‘pretend’ you’ve bought your dream home there – and live the dream for a couple of days, before buying. If you can, visit more than once. If your first visit is on a gorgeously sunny day, that’s fine – and if you still feel happy on the park on a rainy day, then that’s even finer!
THE HOLIDAY HOME
Your budget, the number of bedrooms you need, the layout that suits your lifestyle and your personal taste all play a huge part in your selection as you begin the process.
First, your budget:
A great way to buy your first holiday home is to buy a pre-owned one. That way, the outlay is a lot less than buying new. And there’s another advantage. There is always a chance, if you’re unfamiliar with holiday homes, that you could choose one that turns out to be not quite the perfect layout or size for your needs. If that happens, and you want to trade it in and choose something different, the financial loss is not going to be as great as if you make a mistake with a new home.
Another advantage in buying a pre-owned home is that, after a couple of years, perhaps, you might want to upgrade to a new one and, by that time, having spent a lot of time in your holiday home, you’ll be very certain of the elements of the layout that are important to you. So you’ll buy your first new home with a lot more confidence.
HOLIDAY HOME OR LODGE?
Lodge is the term used for a double-width holiday home. It is transported on two lorries, in two halves, and put together on its plot. Holiday homes are smaller, typically 12-14ft wide. Lodges are more luxurious – and, of course, they cost more than smaller holiday homes.
HOW MUCH TO SPEND?
You can, if you’re lucky, find pre-owned holiday homes for around £15,000 or even less. New ones can be bought from around £25,000. At the other extreme, holiday lodges are upwards of £100,000. Some are three times that figure and more. These are super-luxury lodges on parks in stunning areas where demand is high. In between those extremes, in very round figures, you can buy a luxurious holiday home for between £60,000 and £80,000.
So, there really is a holiday home or lodge for every budget.
Whatever your budget, you’ll need to decide on the layout that might appeal to you. Crucially, the number of bedrooms is a good start point. Most have two; many have three. Second and third bedrooms have either double or twin beds. Check the size of the twin beds – in particular the width – because many are narrower than normal domestic size and, while ideal for young children, they’re much less ideal for teenagers and adults.
RUNNING COSTS TO CONSIDER: Pitch fees
These vary enormously depending on location and the facilities which the park offers.
Typically, they’re around £3000- £4000 per year although some stunning locations attract a higher cost. Examples include the New Forest and Lake District. Parks with a vast array of facilities – swimming pools, restaurants, a gym, family entertainment, for example – will charge even more for your plot, reflecting the quality and range of facilities. On very comprehensive parks, fees can be up to £7000 and more per year – but, remember, that fee is buying you the use of brilliant holiday facilities.
In most cases the pitch fee covers grounds maintenance, park security and rubbish collection.
Many parks offer finance packages, enabling you to pay for your leisure home out of income rather than capital, and over a period of up to 10 years.
This is a legal requirement on most parks – and it’s also a very good idea! Just as you would protect your home and its contents, your car, a touring caravan or motorhome, a good insurance policy is key when owning a holiday home.
On most parks, electricity use is metered and is usually paid quarterly or monthly. Some parks include the cost of electricity in the annual plot fee.
Some parks have gas piped direct to your holiday home from a central tank; this will be metered. On others, bottled gas is used; bottles can usually be bought from the park.
LENGTH OF SEASON
Some holiday home parks are open all year. You can’t live there, though; holiday parks will ask for proof that you have a main residence elsewhere. Some parks close for two or more weeks during the winter. Check if the park you’re interested in is open at Christmas, if you think you might want to spend the festive days in your holiday home.
LIFESPAN OF YOUR HOLIDAY HOME
Every park has a system of licence agreements that specify how long you can keep your holiday home on the park. That’s all about keeping the park’s standards high – by, to put it crudely, eliminating dilapidated, old holiday homes! Periods vary widely; 15-20 years is common. And many parks operate a system of annual inspection after the end of the specified time – so, if your holiday home is kept in good order and still looks great, the park operator will be happy for you to keep it on the park.
Some parks don’t allow you to let out your holiday home; others positively encourage it. If you want to offset some of the costs of holiday home ownership, sub-letting is a fantastic opportunity.
COSTS INVOLVED AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE
If you buy a show home, already sited on a plot, the price you pay will almost always include the cost of transporting the home to the park, the siting of it and possibly also decking.
If you choose your plot and then order your holiday home, you will almost certainly have to pay the cost of transporting it from the factory to the park, plus the cost of siting it. You’ll then need to factor in the cost of decking. That, understandably, varies according to the type and size of decking you choose.
Some decking can be bought in DIY form; more commonly, buyers choose to have it installed.
A quick internet search revealed DIY kits for a simple front decking at just under £1000 and decking that wraps around one side and the front, at around £3000. There’s a wide choice of decking types and styles out there; shop around!
WINTER PROTECTION SERVICES
You will need to drain your holiday home’s water system for winter, to prevent any frost damage. Some parks offer a winterisation service, doing the drain-down for you.
So, you’ve now got the basics - enjoy learning more as you read on...