holiday home owner tips

Meet Rebecca Winke, owner of a historic stone farmhouse close to Assisi

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holiday home owner tips

Rebecca’s Brigolante in Assisi

Rebecca WinkeThe sun has definitely come out for May; things are hotting up as we move towards those all-important summer holidays. With many of us booking this year’s getaway right now, we have been introducing you to some of our holiday-home owners to give you an insight into what it’s like to be ‘on the other side’ – and share some holiday-home owner tips. We’ve been finding out why our owners started to rent their properties out, and why they love the areas they’re set in so much.

This week we are meeting Rebecca, owner of a charming guest house apartment in Assisi, Italy, which she renovated from a dilapidated state, and transformed into a beautiful rustic holiday apartment. Want to meet Rebecca? Carry on reading!

How did you decide to buy or own a holiday rental home?

The grounds of Rebecca's 'Brigolante' or farm house

The grounds of Rebecca’s ‘Brigolante’ or farm house

Rebecca Winke: It was more by accident than by choice! This old family farmhouse had been abandoned for years and was slowly crumbling, so we decided that we either needed to knock it down before it collapsed on someone, or restore it. So, without a lot of forethought as to what we would do with the house once finished, we began a years-long process of rebuilding and renovation. As it happens, this coincided with the birth of the agriturismo, or holiday farm, in Italy. So, that’s what we ended up with: a historic stone farmhouse divided into rental apartments here on our farm called Brigolante.

How and why did you choose the location?

Assisi from the castle

Close to views like this, out over Assisi

RW: Again, serendipitous accident! It just happens that Brigolante is located just a few kilometers from the Medieval hilltown of Assisi, one of the most popular destinations in Umbria (and, with the popularity of the new Pope Francis, Italy). If we had been located somewhere more remote or less likely to be able to attract visitors, we probably would have thought twice before making such a big investment in restoring the farmhouse!

What advice would you give people if they are thinking about owning a holiday home?

A warm reception with fresh local produce

A warm reception with fresh local produce

RW: A warm reception makes all the difference for your guests. If you don’t live at the property yourself, which is ideal but not feasible for many, make sure you will be able to find someone not only trustworthy but friendly and helpful to be able to play “host” during your guests’ stay. Nothing is worse than having a lovely property, but a keyholder who is cold or hassled who ruins a hard-won guest’s stay.

What’s the best/most enjoyable part about renting out your holiday home?

holiday home owner tips

Take a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset

RW: Being able to share this gorgeous region I call home with people who are discovering it for the first (or second or third!) time. I live here by choice, and love it with all the passion of the newly converted. I really enjoy suggesting off-the-beaten-track villages to visit, or setting up cooking lessons or wine tours, or pointing out the best hiking and walking trails, and having guests come back at the end of the day raving about their experience.

What’s the most challenging part of renting out your holiday home?

Step inside and see the kitchen and dining room

Step inside and see the kitchen and dining room

RW: The bureaucracy of running a business in Italy. Another piece of advice I would give to those considering owning a holiday home is to think long and hard about the hurdles—legal, financial, architectural—you will have to jump in the country where your property is located. Italy is an extremely expensive, complicated, and frustrating place to own a home and business and is the source of many woes!

How long have you advertised on HomeAway and why did you chose the website?

Assisi Brigolante

Assisi Brigolante

RW: We started advertising way back in 2006! It seems like a lifetime ago, and was one of the first experiences I had with online advertising. Then and now, HomeAway seems to be at the forefront of search technology and homeowner tools to bring out the highest possible visibility and turnover from enquiries into bookings.

How have you managed to maximise the performance of your listing?

Guest house in Assisi

Guest house gardens

RW: I notice that wonderful photos, a very detailed description with a bit of personality (we live here, after all!), and a frequently updated availability calendar combine to give the impression of an active property and friendly owner, and attract more enquiries.

Have you any wonderful stories of renting out your holiday home?

Romantic breakfasts in Assisi

Enjoy breakfast outside in a romantic setting

RW: Now that we’ve been renting for almost 15 years, we’ve had a number of return guests who came to Brigolante looking for a romantic holiday the first time around, then got engaged on a subsequent visit (we’ve had a number of “questions popped” here at Brigolante), returned as newly-weds, and then over the years with a growing family. It has been a joy to see so many families form and grow in pace with our own journey from a couple to spouses to parents over the years of renovation and hosting guests.

Who knows…maybe we’ll still be around to see guests’ grandkids!

Rebecca Winke is a holiday-home owner, travel writer and blogger. You can find out more about Rebecca and her agritourismo adventure on her blog, as well as check out Rebecca’s guides to holidays in Italy in our Holiday Ideas section.


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