Welcome to Dream Cottages
As the largest holiday property agency in Dorset, we are experts in achieving excellent levels of bookings for all types of cottages, houses and apartments. We offer a personalised and tailored service to meet your needs; from full management of your property whilst guests are in residence to offering a comprehensive booking agency service. The secret to our success and longevity is our evolving over our years in business, all the time listening and adapting as a company in order to fulfil the needs of both our owners and the guests who book with us.
About Dream Cottages
Dream Cottages are a locally based company established in 1989. Our offices are in the heart of Dorset’s main resort town of Weymouth, located in a prominent position in Hope Square; as popular area for tourists, this results in excellent exposure to visitors. From here we are in close contact with many of properties we manage, most are reachable in under an hour.
In recent years, at the request of existing owners, we have expanded our catchment area to market properties in neighbouring counties. We now have an ever growing number of properties in locations including Devon and Cornwall.
The company, originally a mother and son team, is owned by Zachary Stuart-Brown, Managing Director and has been built on an ethos of traditional business values. We forge strong long-term relationships with both our owners and guests, engaging in ethical business practice. Dream Cottages with Zachary heading the company, having over 20 years direct experience, now has over 20 specialist staff. Our innovative sales and marketing department is headed by Joy Sangster, Sales and Marketing Director, a proven marketing specialist who is highly motivated and results driven. Joy has hand-picked sales and marketing professionals on her team who have cutting edge experience ranging from social networking to sales skills. This includes of course all staff getting to know each property personally. Our Senior Property Manager, Kirsty Parker started as a graduate over 12 years ago during which time she has honed her customer service skills to the point where now no situation is unchartered territory to her. Kirsty and her team of property managers do their very best to ensure guests have maximum holiday satisfaction whilst taking care of our owners’ best interests. Administration and support staff work extremely hard to make sure all the back office systems and procedures work as efficiently as possible at all times. Our growth over the last 25 years has been organic and sustainable. We work closely with our owners in order to ensure our properties will be attractive to as wide an audience as we can and then market them strategically in order to gain the maximum number of bookings.
Why Choose Dream Cottages?
- Dream Cottages are the largest and most established holiday cottage agency in Dorset.
- Having been running for 25 years, we have an unrivalled wealth of local and holiday letting knowledge.
- Testified track record of excellent booking rates for our owners.
- Tailored service to suit each owner – we can handle only bookings, or arrange housekeeping and look after guests while they are in residence.
- No restriction on owner usage, chat to us about your likely needs to ensure it will work for both parties.
- Out of hours emergency contact number for weekend arrivals at managed properties.
- Continual investment in marketing -including a new website every few years with increased functionality and user experience.
- Personal owner log in section on our website, giving owners more access to information.
- Knowledgeable and friendly booking staff; with at least one member always available who has visited each property so guests receive a personal perspective.
- Extensive and comprehensive online and offline marketing.
- VisitEngland independent rating for your property, coordinated by us in order to help you achieve the best rating possible.
- Prestigious high profile offices situated in the historic old harbour area of Weymouth favoured by tourists.
- Over 20 dedicated staff including booking agents, marketing professionals and property management experts.
- Our office is open seven days a week to take bookings and handle guest queries.
- Website offering guests a 24/7 opportunity to view and book online in real time.
- Professional stills photography plus a unique virtual tour shoot of your property so we can present your property to guests to its full potential.
- Every property has at least a 1/3 page listing in our glossy coffee table style brochure.
- We have a dedicated health and safety coordinator to help give you peace of mind when letting to the general public.
- Expanding property portfolio throughout Dorset and the surrounding counties via sustainable and ethical business practices.
What makes a Dream Cottage?
Nowadays perceptions of a Dream Cottage are very varied. The archetypal ‘roses round the door’ thatched character cottage is still very popular, but so too are properties with modern clean lines and a contemporary look. Cottages, houses and apartments with a lovely view, either sea or country are keenly sought after. Having a good location near a beach or in a village, with shops and attractions close by are attributes also considered by many as key components. Properties offering single level accommodation or a ground floor bedroom and bathroom, enabling greater access for guests with restricted mobility are increasingly popular – bungalows for example might not be what most people consider to be a ‘dream cottage’ but these are some of our most popular lets; especially ones with a view.
Guests’ expectations increase year on year; now holiday properties should match if not exceed what guests have at home. Providing bed linen, towels and conveniences like Wi-Fi internet access is increasingly being seen as a pre-requisite when booking.
Ultimately having ‘curb appeal’ is important; following on from the external appearance of the property and after looking internally, is it somewhere you and the people you know would like to stay for a holiday?
We continue to keep abreast of an ever changing holiday marketplace, assessing and reviewing whatever our guests feel is key to providing their ‘dream cottage’. We couple this with working closely with and supporting our owners to meet guest expectations.
Our Services to you
Our service is tailored to our owners’ needs and ranges from offering a marketing and booking agency service, through to fully managing each booking. This includes organising cleaning, laundry and dealing with any problems or issues guests may have regarding the property, before, during and after their stay.
Let us know how you would like us to work with you as we can nearly always tailor our service to your needs.
We are also here to help before you purchase a property. Knowing the business of ‘holiday lettings’ as well as we do, Dream Cottages can provide free advice regarding the suitability of a property to purchase within a specific price range as well as what you could do to optimise bookings. Whilst you are searching for the perfect holiday cottage we are happy to advise on possible rental yields based on individual properties.
Prior to commencement of lettings, we will give advice and if required assistance with:
- Furnishing, fixtures and fittings to help achieve a wow factor and make your property look as attractive as possible to potential guests as well as keep wear and tear down to a minimum.
- Room configurations including how many and what arrangement of bedrooms and ensuites or the best use of additional living space; an extra den, bedroom or playroom?
- Structural improvements and additional building work.
- Building trade contacts and specialist companies relating to insurance, taxation and health and safety requirements.
Additional Service Options
- We are flexible in our service approach and so are happy to work with owners who would like to take their own bookings; whilst we are not able to work with other agencies we understand that some owners would like the opportunity to generate their own bookings along with ours.
- A number of our owners live abroad and have little contact with their property; we are happy to be as involved as you would like us to be in terms of managing your property whilst guests are in residence and when the property is vacant via a Property Guardian Service. For an additional fee we can check your property on a regular basis according to your requirements (some insurance policies insist properties are checked periodically) and produce a periodic inspection report if needed.
- Health and Safety compliance – if you would like us to arrange some areas of your compliance (including gas safety and fire risk assessment) we can do this for a fixed fee.
- Trades Contacts – finding a reliable and reasonably priced tradesperson can be difficult. We are happy to provide you with a list comprising contacts from areas as diverse as plumbers, insurance brokers and compliance specialists. Our contacts list has been made up by recommendations from owners over the last 20 years. Whilst we cannot guarantee any of these contacts, we do find word of mouth suggestions the most reliable. You can use these contacts to arrange your own work or we can take care of this and oversee it for you for a fixed percentage charge on the value of the work done.
- Helping arrange your annual VisitEngland rating is part of our service regardless of the level service you have chosen.
- We are very much hands-on experts in the field of holiday letting; do chat to us about any holiday cottage rental related issue you have – we would be happy to help.
Our Levels of Service
As with most agencies, ours is primarily a commission based fee so it is in our interests as much as yours to maximise the number of bookings you receive from us. Our commission rates range from 18% – 24% plus vat and are dependent on the level of service you require plus the profile of your property and if you have more than one property to let. We charge no annual contract renewal fee and provide office support for free (we do not charge you for writing letters/emails and making phone calls on your behalf – other agencies may do this). Ours is a 12 month rolling contract where we simply ask you to give us the required notice so that we do not confirm provisional bookings taken for the following year.
We have four components of service that can be mixed and matched to provide the perfect level and blend of service for you:
Level 1: Booking Agency
Level 2: Booking Agency plus Housekeeping (cleaning and laundry) service
Level 3: Booking Agency plus Property Manager Service
Level 4: Booking Agency plus Housekeeping and Property Manager Service
Our Booking Agency service includes:
- Advertising and Marketing.
- Dealing with all availability and property enquiries.
- Processing bookings and payments issuing receipts to guests. Sending out notifications to guests, owners, cleaners and key holders. Making monthly payments to owners with a detailed statement of activity.
- Dealing with all pre-arrival customer service queries.
- Providing you with feedback from guests stay via our feedback questionnaire.
- Personal owner log-in area on our website where you can review bookings and feedback.
Our Booking Agency Service plus Housekeeping service includes all items listed in Level 1 plus:
- Finding, co-ordinating and paying a housekeeper for you who will take care of all the cleaning duties, consumables, (toilet rolls, dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid etc.) bed linen and towel provision. The actual cost of the cleaning and laundry is additional to the commission we charge.
- Supervising and checking the cleaning in order to maintain a high standard.
- Providing complimentary refreshment packs (tea, coffee, milk, biscuits) should an owner wish to provide these for the guests.
Our Booking Agency Service plus Property Manager Service includes all items listed in Level 1 plus:
- A dedicated Property Manager who will act as the point of contact between you and guests who stay at your property.
- We will continue to take care of all the customer service aspects once your guests arrive at the property so you do not have to.
- Your Property Manager will field all the guest queries whilst they are on holiday dealing with any issues as directed by you.
- Should an emergency arise during a guests stay; such as flood or leak, we will manage the situation and help resolve the issue.
- You will be advised of any maintenance issues that arise during a guests stay (or via feedback questionnaires). You can attend to these matters or ask your Property Manager to take care of them a – 10% plus vat surcharge is added to any invoice/purchase paid for by Dream Cottages on behalf of an Owner.
Our most comprehensive service Level which is a combination of all three service levels above:
- Booking Agency plus Housekeeping and Property Manager Service.
Our Standard Fees
In addition to our standard commission fees, we also charge:
- A one off registration fee of £150 plus vat.
- An initial fee of £75 plus vat for the compulsory virtual tour facility (thereafter £25 plus vat per year hosting charge).
- A compulsory annual property inspection fee which is currently £97.50 plus vat.
- Security deposits; although damage is rare, if you wish, we can take refundable security deposits for all bookings. There is a £10 charge for our administration of this service or we can inform guests that a security deposit will be payable on arrival if you wish to administrate this yourself.
- We do not take any fees or costs up front; these will be deducted when we have started taking bookings and holiday payments for you.
Our marketing encompasses a number of multifaceted strategies. We proactively strive to seek out and maximise opportunities to secure bookings for our owners throughout the year.
- By continually investing in our website we ensure maximum functionality and a user friendly experience so that browsing and booking is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
- We use the best and most reliable booking software available in order to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
- We have links and advertising with numerous other websites such as those related to a specific geographical areas in the South West or special interest groups such as walkers or dog owners; these links greatly increases traffic to our website.
- Our unique Virtual Tour offers a 365◦ view of every room in a property, giving guests greater confidence in booking.
- In-house photography is taken by trained members of staff using professional camera equipment with wide angle lenses. This means photos can be updated quickly when owners require it due to property updates or when we belive something can be improved.
- We work with owners to promote properties with special deals such as late availability discounts and seasonal incentives over festive periods and at specific dates in the year.
- We run competitions with prizes such as a weekend in one of our cottages.
- Our new loyalty scheme for our top 500 guests aims to recognise and reward our best guests to help ensure their continued business with us.
- Our Facebook page, Twitter account and Blogs are all used to promote properties and Dream Cottages. With over 10,000 ‘likes’ and counting on Facebook, our reach on this medium alone is around 50,000 people per posting.
- As well as appealing to our UK customers, aspects of our website are also written in German, French and Dutch so significantly widening our reach to a potential customer base in the European markets. Having identified Germany as one of our key overseas markets we have been working closely with a German based Agency over the last twenty years and this has helped secure hundreds of bookings.
- Search Engine Optimisation – we invest in specialist SEO to ensure good organic search engine listings on Google and other key search engines. In particular we concentrate on both general terms and niche terms such as short breaks Dorset, where for this and many other terms we have first page listings.
- Direct mail – as we are so well established, we have a very extensive customer database who we contact by post, with special offers, news, events and notification of our brochure being available to order.
- Email direct mail – as this increasingly becomes the medium of choice and convenience for people, the numbers of guests who sign up to our e-newsletter is getting bigger all the time. We regularly email over 10,000 guests and potential guests throughout the year via our email direct mail programme to promote events, the South West area, special offers and properties. Using complex software we are able to analyse and hone our email offering to ensure maximum success.
- Our website is full of rich content such as our ‘inspiration area’ which entices guests with holiday ideas and reasons why they should book your property.
- Partnerships – working closely with companies and associations who have synergy with us we are able to maximise bookings via particular interest groups and regional areas, Kayak Tours, Cycling holidays and the regional tourist offices being just a few examples.
- Google AdWords advertising is an acknowledged (but costly and complex) lead generation model in which we invest a large budget and spend considerable time evaluating and adjusting in order to get the best results.
- Automated emails requesting guest feedback – guests are sent a questionnaire a week after they arrive home from their holiday. The simple to fill in and return email questionnaire asks for a rating on our service and the holiday property and gives guests an opportunity to give any feedback they desire. This feedback is analysed in order to improve our service and owners properties.
More Traditional Marketing
- Event sponsorship – sponsoring events such as Weymouth Victorian Night and working closely with the Dorset Seafood Festival enables us to reach thousands of new visitors and guests; promoting Dream Cottages and our property portfolio.
- Our full colour brochure produced annually is glossy and eye catching, it is considered to be one of the best of its kind. This is because it offers a minimum 1/3 page detailed text and up to seven colour photos of each property plus easy to use guides on price, location and accommodation.
- We advertise periodically and strategically in the national press plus key publications and magazines such as The Lady.
- We have an acknowledged PR specialist in-house rather than outsourcing, because we know about our properties and their unique selling points. Using a variety of mechanics to promote our cottages and the area results in national, regional and online coverage.
- Innovative marketing including introducing niche brands including ‘DoggyCottages’ under our main Dream Cottages brand allows us to market directly to guests who would like to take pets on holiday.
- Specialist advertising in key areas, such as the National Sailing Academy at Portland – targeting the sailing fraternity.
- Brand protection – we recognise the value of our strong Dream Cottages brand which thousands of guests trust each year and have trademarked our logo and brand name to ensure we keep this exclusive.
Our generous marketing budget ensures our properties have extensive prominence across web and other mediums such as key regional events, visitor attractions, tourist information centres, magazines and Newspapers.
Our in-house long term residential lettings department offers the flexibility and convenience of having all letting options under one roof. This is particularly useful for a six month long term winter let should you wish to try this alternative option during the low season.
Contact our Residential Lettings department for information on their services on 01305 789 000
Not all Agencies are the same, with large national companies you are often more of a number rather than a client, if you are lucky you may see a regional manager from time to time. Dream Cottages is different because it is large enough to have the resources needed to get results yet small enough to still give a personal service.
Our service begins the moment we start chatting to you about the possibility of taking on your property and does not finish until our guests arrive home from their holiday, even then we contact them to ask for feedback on their holiday in terms of our service and your property.
Our guests can book online easily or chat to our knowledgeable and friendly booking advisors. This is unlike guests who book with a web based agency who may make contact via a call centre with personnel only able to repeat whatever information is on the computer in front of them. Our staff will know all about our properties including local visitor attractions and recommended pubs and restaurants because they more than likely will have been there themselves.
We have learned from experience that the tried and tested model of appointing a housekeeper to a specific property is becoming harder and harder to facilitate as good housekeepers / cleaners are difficult to find. Dream Cottages is one of the few agencies that can give owners peace of mind as we have our own affiliated housekeeping company so that you do not have to be concerned should a problem arise at any time. Problems such as what happens when your cleaner is sick, or decides they cannot clean for a particular week or if they don’t do a good enough job or there is a dispute of some sort? We will help take care of any of these issues should they arise. If you also engage the services of our property managers, one of our team will be personally allocated to your property and they will make it their business to know your property inside out. That way maintenance issues are dealt with how you want them to be so you do not have to pay a visit or worry about what is going on.
We have tried to look at every aspect of the holiday letting process and streamline the process both for owners and guests, offering the best owner and guest experience possible. We are continuously looking to improve what we do and one of the best ways of doing this is by listening carefully to what our owners and guests say and refining our business accordingly.
Rather than list carefully chosen quotations here, if you would like to speak to one or more of our owners we would be delighted to arrange a call in this regard for you.
What to do next?
We would love to hear from you; do ring us on 01305 789000 or email us at email@example.com.