14 things to consider before buying a holiday home
From idea to dream come true – all you need to know about buying a holiday home
Buying a holiday home starts you out on a new lifestyle. Finding your perfect home and ideal location is intensely exciting, and it can also seem a little daunting – until you know more.
That’s where this magazine comes in. Let us be your guide every step of the journey, from the first thought that you might like your own home from home in which to spend your leisure time, to stepping inside your dream holiday home.
Where do you start?
Let us take you through the journey to owning a holiday home. It’s tempting to start by being wowed by gorgeous holiday homes online, in brochures – and in this magazine. That’s the glossy bit – and, in many senses, the easiest bit.
You need to do some detailed foundation work, though – first, to make sure you buy your holiday home in the right place… Your guide starts here!
1 The right location
Most families and couples who buy holiday homes choose a park which is within two hours – or in some cases a lot less – of their home. That way, you can get there on a Friday evening after work and arrive in time for dinner.
Not having a long distance to travel means you can use your holiday home more often. And, if you’re considering fuel cost, it also means that each visit costs you less than if you were driving a long distance.
It’s very tempting to dream of owning a holiday home on the south coast, for example. But, if you live in the Midlands or further north you won’t get there as often as you would like because of travel time.
You also might like to consider the journey to your holiday home location. If it’s possible to avoid routes that become traffic-choked, that will also avoid frustration, and will ensure that, as far as is possible, you know your arrival time – and you also know how long it will take you to get home at the end of your stay.
So, step one: Draw a ‘two-hour circle’ around your home and explore what holiday home parks there are in that area.
2 What’s in the area
Do you enjoy walking? Cycling? Golf? Fishing? Tennis? Going to a gym? Consider an area that offers things that match up with your pursuits of choice. And if walking and cycling are your preferences, consider the terrain. Do you want challenging cycling?
Off-road or road? Is your style of walking a full-on hill expedition, or an afternoon stroll with a coffee shop en route? Do you enjoy spending time in towns or cities? Eating? Shopping? Exploring historical interest?
By considering these things you will quickly build a picture of your ideal location.
3 The right park for you
Full-on family fun? Or quiet and remote? Each park has its own character and its facilities play a big part in creating that.
Do you want a location in which you can escape from the realities of work life for a while? Somewhere quiet, where the only sound is birdsong and breeze rustling through leaves. It’s an enticing prospect – just arrive, relax and unwind in your own home from home…
Much will depend on whether you’re a couple or whether you have a family. Or maybe you’re a couple with a ‘part-time’ family – grandchildren who may come and share your holiday home retreat occasionally.
Do you prefer a park where the focus is firmly on family fun? A swimming pool, a restaurant, play areas, entertainment, perhaps. Somewhere to which the kids will be really excited to go, for things they can’t do at home.
And that, is the essence of holiday home ownership – a home where life differs from that at your main home, however you define it.
Between the two extremes of tranquillity and family focus there is a large choice of types of park. What suits you is so individual – and, until you research, and then visit parks, you may not have a clear idea of what suits you. Sometimes, a park just feels ‘right’, indefinably.
Now it’s time to look at individual parks, and to draw up a shortlist.
Maybe three, or four. Then visit – more than once. One of those visits should ideally be on a rainy day – because, if a park still appeals to you in the inevitable reality of rain, then the chances are you will be happy there.
Also, if you’re starting your search at any other time than summer, see what the park looks like when there are no leaves on the trees. If it still looks good then, it’s a very good-looking park.
4 All year or most of the year
Some holiday parks are open all year. Others close for a period of between two weeks and four months.
This is a major influencing factor. There is a distinction between the holiday home lifestyle in summer and winter. Summer equals barbecues and sitting in the sun. Winter equals cosy evenings in, with television and music as your focus.
Both can be equally special. If you want to use your home at all times of the year, pick a park that doesn’t close, or which closes for a minimal period.
For some parks, the closure period doesn’t involve Christmas. That’s something to consider when you are picking a park, if you fancy spending some Christmases in your holiday home. Maybe it’s an ideal place for a family gathering.
Maybe you want Christmas in seclusion. Either way, it’s important!
5 Holiday home or lodge – what’s the difference?
Holiday home? Static caravan? Lodge? What do these terms mean? It’s afair question.
First: lodge. That’s straightforward.
A lodge is almost always what they term a double-width unit – that’s usually 20 feet wide. It’s in the luxury category with a price to match.
Something to consider if you will spend much of your time in your holiday home, so it’s worth buying a large unit with lots of luxury.
The distinction between the terms ‘holiday home’ and ‘static caravan’ is slightly obscure. That’s because of two factors. At one time, all caravans not designed for towing were called ‘statics’.
Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, the marketeers got hold of the static caravan concept and decided the term ‘holiday home’ should replace ‘static’, deemed to make them sound more appealing. So the industry switched its terminology.
Then the internet arrived and, with it, the concept of keywords. People search for ’statics’; the term ‘holiday home’ can mean a stone cottage or an apartment – anything that’s not your main residence. So the term ‘static’ remains alive and well and online, at least!
Holiday homes are usually 12-14ft wide and 28-40ft long or more.
Both lodges and holiday homes have either two or three bedrooms and a few have four.
6 Standards of insulation and heating
Before we take you any further on the journey to finding your perfect holiday home, allow us to clarify one factor. Thoughts of using your holiday home in winter provoke thoughts of heating – and standards of insulation.
Most holiday homes have central heating, in much the same way as a domestic home. For those which don’t have central heating as standard, it’s an option.
They construct many holiday homes to residential standard, which means their level of insulation is suitable for use throughout the year. For some others, it’s possible to upgrade to residential standard at the time you place your order. That’s, in official terms, Residential Specification BS 3632: 2015.
The official standard for holiday homes is EN 1647. This is the European standard for static caravan holiday homes. They usually intend models built to this standard for seasonal use.
Holiday homes built to BS 3632 standard have residential standards of insulation to all walls, the floor and the roof.
7 How much to budget for
Anything from £15,000 to £250,000 and more… Puzzled? When you break it down, it’s not puzzling at all.
You can buy a pre-owned holiday home for around £15,000 or less. That’s a good place to start. You can then, perhaps, upgrade to a new one after a few years.
That’s when you’ve settled into the leisure-home-versus-main residence routine and discovered exactly how much time you are spending at your leisure home – and therefore how much it’s worth investing in upgrading.
New holiday homes start at around £23,000 and climb in price commensurate with a level of luxury and size.
The park on which your caravan stand governs the amount you pay for a particular new holiday home. That’s for three reasons.
The first is location. A park in a prime location will charge more for holiday homes because demand is high and people are prepared to pay more to get a leisure home in that location.
The second is the park’s facilities. The more facilities, the higher the cost, as the park needs to recoup its costs in providing those facilities.
The third is about transport and siting costs. Often they include these in the purchase price. So, too, will be a connection to mains and wastewater services and to the park’s electricity supply.
Sometimes, you may have skirting around the base of the home, and also decking, included. Decking gives you steps up to the door and a patio area at the front and/or side.
8 What influences pitch or plot fees
The vast majority of holiday home parks charge an annual fee for the pitch that your holiday home occupies. The rare exceptions are a few parks on which you purchase the freehold of the land on which your holiday home sits.
Pitch or plot (as they are sometimes called) fees differ. There are two factors. Just like the price of holiday homes, one is location; the other is the facilities on the park. The influence of location is all about what the area offers.
If the park is in an area which is not regarded as a holiday region, the plot fees are going to be lower than on a park in a prime holiday location such as Dorset, Devon and the Lake District.
And facilities? If the park has a swimming pool, a restaurant complex and other attractions, the plot fee is likely to be higher than on a park with minimal facilities. As a rough guide, expect to pay between £1,500 and £6,000 a year; more for parks with an exceptional array of facilities.
9 Why insurance is important
Just like any other major purchase, insurance is vital. Indeed, park operators insist that you provide, on an annual basis, proof that your holiday home is continually insured.
Our advice is to go to a specialist insurance provider; those companies who are knowledgeable about holiday homes offer policies specifically tailored to your needs.
We’ve got some examples here, together with a flavour of coverage you can expect.
Shield Total Insurance, for example, offers cover for loss, damage and theft as well as fire, lightning, subsidence, and even landslip. Fixed exterior storage boxes, balconies, steps and skirting are also covered, as is loss or damage from flooding, trees, fire and storm.
Among other specialist companies is Leisuredays, whose cover includes a new-for-old option. Adrian Flux also offers new-for-old cover on ‘newer holiday homes’. Towergate Insurance’s cover includes new-for-old on holiday homes up to 20 years old and you can choose to include ‘homecare emergency’ as an additional product with your policy.
Paul Baker Insurance Services is among other well-known specialists in the field of holiday home insurance, offering flexible insurance policies for a wide range of values. Coast Insurance includes cover for a wide variety of problems that may occur while you are staying in the holiday home or during periods it is left empty.
Shop around, just as you would for home insurance, and find a policy that best suits your needs.
10 Renting out your holiday home
Some parks forbid you to rent out your holiday home.
Others positively encourage it. Renting out makes it possible for you to recoup some of the investment in your holiday home, or even buy one purely for investment.
Some parks have very specific schemes for this. One example is Ladram Bay Holiday Park on the south Devon coast, which has a sublet scheme that includes everything from collecting payment to cleaning your holiday home, and also offers a guaranteed income whether or not the park fills the designated letting dates.
Another example is Aria Resorts, which has a specific Aria Investments scheme. Parkdean Resorts is also an example of a parks group which has a lettings scheme.
11 Age of holiday homes
Parks vary in the number of years you are allowed to keep a holiday home in a park. Many parks allow you to keep your holiday home for 20 years; others more, with the proviso that you keep it in top condition. A few, though, insist that you replace it after 10 years; some 15.
Very clearly, the idea of all holiday homes on a park being reasonably new is so that the park always looks pristine.
The licence agreement to occupy a pitch states the specific period of time that your holiday home can be kept on the park.
With a very few exceptions, you can’t get a conventional mortgage to fund a holiday home purchase – but you can get finance. In many cases, a park can arrange finance, or you could go to your own bank, or shop around, of course.
The Holgates group of seven parks in Cumbria and Lancashire, for example, offers specialist holiday home funding plans, backed by Black Horse which specialises in providing finance for holiday homes. You will be able to choose monthly repayments that you are comfortable with, generally up to seven years.
Among other examples of parks that offer finance schemes is Parkdean Resorts, which works with Black Horse and Barclays. And Away Resorts is a licensed credit broker and can put you in touch with specialist lenders in this field, among them Black Horse.
Manufacturer, Willerby, has a list of parks and dealers which participate in its finance scheme – go to willerby.com/finance through Hitachi Capital (UK).
13 The home
Obvious start points in choosing a holiday home are your budget and the number of people who will be using the home. Price relates to size of the home, of course – so-called ‘double’ units are much wider than ‘single’ units, which are 12-14 feet wide. Price also relates to the level of luxury, as you’d expect.
So, a first factor to consider in picking a holiday home is the number of bedrooms. Go for a three-bedroom home if you are likely to have plenty of family members or friends joining you on a regular basis. Some holiday homes have sofa beds in the lounge, so that you can accommodate extra people on an occasional basis.
The next factor to consider is layout. The majority of holiday homes have open-plan layouts. Some, though, are more open plan than others. In some, the kitchen is almost a separate entity yet integrates with the living space, so that the person cooking can still be involved in conversations.
Consider whether you want a breakfast bar; many high-end holiday homes have this feature – and it’s a focal point of coffee conviviality.
Some holiday homes have just a toilet and washbasin en suite to the main bedroom; others have a shower, too. All have a main bathroom, which may have a bath with an over-bath shower or a shower cubicle. These are points to consider as to what suits your family.
Also consider the amount of storage space. The longer you are planning to spend in your holiday home, the more storage space you will need. Look at the widths of wardrobes and the number of drawers. Some larger, luxurious homes have walk-in wardrobe-dressing rooms.
There is so much choice in layout that it’s quite easy to find something that suits your requirements. Once you get a clear idea of what layout will suit you, it’s time to consider four-legged members of the family!
On some parks you buy gas in 47kg cylinders; on others there is a central supply and the amount you use will be metered.
Dogs are a major reason why people buy holiday homes. Anyone who has ever tried to rent a cottage or any other form of holiday home will know that finding pet-friendly accommodation is not easy.
So, with your own holiday home, that problem goes away.
Dogs, though, do need a bit of thought when it comes to choosing the right layout. If you can avoid a layout in which muddy paws can get to a carpeted area before they’ve been cleaned, that will avoid a lot of stress.
Think about the flooring. Laminate is easily cleanable – and some holiday homes have that as standard, with lounge carpet as an option. Some manufacturers cater in very specific ways for dogs.
Very few homes have dog showers; that’s the pinnacle of pet practicality!
One manufacturer caters in a very specific way for four-legged friends. Willerby’s Simply Pawsome Pack is a range of specially designed equipment to make holidaying with dogs easy.
The option pack offers an outdoor tap, so that you can wash off the mud from your pooch’s paws before they come inside; a retractable or rigid dog gate (pictured) to keep dogs out of the lounge, and a stable door (pictured) so that you can open the top half of the door to let some air in and know that the dogs can’t get outside.
All pictures courtesy of Willerby Holiday Homes