Should I abandon plans to buy a home to let on Airbnb? Dave Fishwick replies

I am in the process of buying a small one bedroom cottage in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which I plan to rent out as an Airbnb. 

I’ve managed to buy it for a decent price. I believe it’s because the house is quite quirky and therefore ideal for Airbnb but not so good for living in. I’ve had to get a holiday let mortgage on it which isn’t cheap.

I’m concerned about the cost of heating it for guests with higher energy bills. There is also the issue of renting it out given a potential recession on the horizon potentially leaving people with less money to spend.

Opportunity knocks: Should I stick with it and purchase my holiday let, or pull out given the economic turmoil? Dave Fishwick replies

I want to go ahead with it but feeling insecure about buying property at this time as I’m using all my savings for the deposit and initial costs, and the thought of starting a business in these times. 

On the other hand I think it’s important to move ahead with dreams as there’s always something to use as an excuse like Brexit or Covid. Should I stay on course, or abandon my plans? Via email.

Ask Dave Fishwick a business or career advice question

Self-made millionaire and entrepreneur Dave Fishwick is our new columnist responding to your questions about business and careers.

Dave has a hugely successful minibus and vehicle business based in Lancashire and rose to fame with his BAFTA-winning television series, Bank of Dave, which saw him battle the big banks.

He is ready to answer your questions, whether you own a business, thinking about starting one or have general career questions. 

In his spare time, he likes to give talks to inspire people to be the best they can. 

A Netflix movie about Bank of Dave is set to air at the end of the year/start of 2023 and he has been a friend to This is Money for the last decade. He now wants to impart some of his wisdom and advice to our readers.

If you would like to ask Dave a question, please email him at 

Dave will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won’t be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.

Dave Fishwick, This is Money business doctor, replies: Firstly, there is never a perfect time to start a business. 

An old saying I use plenty is: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 25 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.’ 

Over my lifetime, I have built many businesses here in the UK and US, and there has never been a perfect time to start. 

Owning a holiday cottage in a lovely location is a dream for many people, So let’s crack on and plant that tree and make it grow.

Dave Fishwick

I think it could be a significant business venture if you approach it with a realistic mindset and don’t let emotion overrule your better judgment. 

However lovely the cottage is, always bear in mind the numbers must add up. In business, you only have to do a few things right, so long as you don’t do too many things wrong, like over-borrowing or spending more than you need to.

I think quirky is good for a holiday cottage. Kerb appeal and styling will be essential factors alongside location in competing for custom. It sounds like an ideal choice for a holiday let.

I was involved in helping set up a holiday let Airbnb in Dover, Kent, as part of a business mentoring series I filmed for Channel 4. 

I remember having quality photographs taken of the property inside and out was essential, including some of the picturesque areas surrounding the property. 

Employing a professional photographer is definitely worth the investment. We teamed up with many local attractions and organised discounted tickets to local events for anyone staying at our Airbnb.

I suggest you take plenty of trips to St Albans to meet other Airbnb business owners, and I found speaking to the landlords about the problems they faced and solutions they found were essential and incredibly helpful.

Also, I suggest you take plenty of trips to St Albans to meet other Airbnb business owners, and I found speaking to the landlords about the problems they faced and solutions they found were essential and incredibly helpful.

While there are certainly some challenging times ahead, I think this industry is not going away and could even benefit from foreign holidays becoming too expensive for some, the short UK breaks providing a more affordable alternative. 

You might find some of your custom comes from wedding guests, business travel and many other types of visitors to this area too.

If possible, I think it’s essential to have some funds in reserve when starting any new business, and you can almost guarantee there will be unforeseen expenses, whether it’s repairs, alterations or just a quiet spell when you’re just getting started.

Maybe you could have another look at your finances to see if you can build in a reserve fund. Make sure you are earning some money as soon as possible after completion. 

Build a website for the property and begin marketing on social media and get the word out about it in as many ways as you can. This Includes local websites and attractions and things to do there. 

All aboard: Dave with the spitfire museum bus in Dover

All aboard: Dave with the spitfire museum bus in Dover 

The more valuable and unique content on your site, the more visits it should attract. 

In the Dover Airbnb, I got involved with a fantastic double-decker tour bus, making trips to the local spitfire museum, which we plugged as an activity on the accommodation website.

These activities look amazing on your blurb  and generate free publicity. 

My advice is to also do plenty of research in the area and include loads of local history.

Research other properties in the area as if you were going to rent one yourself and price match yours to suit. 

You should pick up some tricks of the trade from people who already have websites.

I wouldn’t worry too much about heating. The daily rates for holiday accommodation are generally high enough that utilities shouldn’t be your most significant expense. 

Perhaps having a log burner or open fire could help here. I think having one would add to the experience, and you might be able to source a little free fuel.

Fixed overheads, in particular mortgage payments, will likely take the top spot in your outgoings, so void time where the property isn’t occupied will probably be a more significant concern. 

In the long term, property is generally a good investment, and short-term rental is often the best way of getting the best return from it.

Some companies specialise in marketing holiday properties, and some will buy up the whole season and resell short stays. 

This might take some of the uncertainty out of it for your first couple of years, though they don’t do this for free, and the rate you get might be less than if you host it yourself. 

Maybe a mixture of both, perhaps selling some of the seasons to the holiday, let the company and perhaps market the peak times yourself to maximise profit and eliminate any worry of being unable to pay the mortgage.

In the long term, property is generally a good investment, and short-term rental is often the best way of getting the best return from it. 

My main concern is you may have some early cash flow issues without having a bit in reserve. 

Carefully manage your budget during your first year, and I think you will be fine. Let’s get planting that tree. Good luck with it if you decide to push ahead.