A couple who previously owned a garden room business in Manston have changed direction to partner with a property management firm.
Rachel and Spencer Wichall have joined Pass The Keys property management, meaning the London-based business has now expanded to the isle.
The parents-of-two, from Sandwich, had previously run their Manston business for some 20 years before selling and striking out on a new venture.
Pass The Keys manages properties on short-letting sites like Airbnb.
Rachel says that although holiday let properties are a controversial subject she believes there is a positive side to consider.
She said: “I am aware of the current local controversy over second homers/AirBnBs but there is another side to explore. Many second homers leave the properties empty in between personal visits – AirBnB brings people into the properties and the towns.
“I have personally already given work to local electricians, plumbers and cleaners as we prepare these properties. Money is coming out of London into local people’s pockets. The next year isn’t going to be easy for anyone but encouraging visitors to our towns and providing local work and employment for local people has to be a positive.”
A Kent Housing Stock report published at the end of last year said Thanet has 67,903 dwelling stock with 3,049 council properties; 4,690 private registered providers; 225 ‘other’ private sector and 59,939 private sector.
Thanet has the highest number and proportion of empty dwellings in the county (2,533, 3.7%) This represents 14.1% of the total vacant dwellings in Kent. It also has the highest number of long-term empty dwellings (1,129). This was 153 more than the previous year (an increase of 15.7%) the biggest increase seen in Kent.
The district also has the highest proportion of vacant dwellings which are long-term empty with 44.6% being empty for six months or more.
Some 2.5% (1,670) of the total housing stock in Thanet are second homes, again the highest rate in the county.
Data from Visit Kent shows a growing Airbnb sector with Thanet recording 1,089 active rentals with a rental growth of 373% between 2016 and 2019.
Last year a motion proposing planning restrictions on short term lets and a 90 day per year letting limit for entire homes in Thanet on Airbnb was brought to Thanet council but failed to secure backing for debate.
Cllr Rob Yates had proposed the action over concerns that whole property rentals on Airbnb are impacting on the supply of long-term lets for residents.
The Margate councillor said those with entire property rentals are using the isle as an investment opportunity while residents struggle to find accommodation.
Thanet holiday rental business owners hit back saying the restrictions would not only ruin people’s businesses but also impact on employment and the wider supply chain – such as pubs, launderettes and restaurants.
A 5 year plan to boost tourism in Thanet presented to council in 2020 said tourism is worth £320 million per year to the local economy and supports, directly and indirectly 7,950 jobs. The report said nearly one in five visitors are from London with a key market being in their 20s to early 40s and among suggested actions were: “upgrading existing B&Bs and supporting new serviced accommodation such as midrange hotels, lodge and camping pods and high-quality independent B&Bs.”
Rachel and Spencer say their role is to manage properties and boost tourism in Thanet.
Rachel said: “We are always telling people how Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs are transforming and we love seeing tired buildings brought back to life and made available for holiday makers.
“The renaissance of our towns is bringing money and employment to the area and we are proud to be part of the reason people come and stay in our towns and enjoy the hospitality of Thanet.
“We think that a single property can take as much as 10 hours each week to manage, and that is assuming that nothing goes wrong! Most people do not have this kind of time spare and, hopefully, now this will not matter.
“We do everything, from creating the listing, and finding the guests, to checking them in and then cleaning up after them. It has been great to partner with Pass the Keys as they already have 7 years experience, and have already learned how to deliver a high-quality service, in what is a very complex environment.”
For anyone looking to find out more information about holiday home management or Pass the Keys Thanet visit: www.passthekeys.co.uk/thanet