Sunday, 4 September 2011

Day 15, in which we consider an investment

There's a ruin of a chateau not far from where we're staying.

We'd seen it from the road and thought (as my Dad would have said) it had "potential".  We drove along a few lanes and trudged along an overgrown path to take a closer look.  It's perfect.  Granted it would probably have cost at least a million and probably three times that to restore and return to holiday home condition avec le piscine.  This, not insignificant, financial hurdle hasn't prevented us from consistently and constantly referring to it as our future holiday home.  We've toyed with renaming it from Chateau Longas to Chateau Cardus (there's a wine called Chateau Cardus from a vineyard west of Bordeaux) or Dave's favourite: Chateau David.

The trouble with all of this is that we've already invested in a raft of holiday homes by investing in Holiday Property Bond.  I don't want you thinking that this whole series of holiday blogs has led up to a sales pitch because that wasn't my intention.  I wanted to blog about our accommodation, not because I want to brag, but because the type of accommodation we have is a little different from the norm and requires an explanation.  Tomorrow's blog may well be an honest appraisal of our holiday transport.  I haven't decided yet.

I've spoken to some people about Holiday Property Bond (HPB) and the first thing I say is "It isn't timeshare" because it isn't.

Firstly I must explain that I'm not a financial advisor, nor am I on commission, but I am a "customer", "owner", "investor".

The way I think about HPB is like a syndicate or co-operative who have pooled resources to invest in holiday properties in the UK and rest of Europe.  This means that everyone who has invested in the Bond owns a little bit of the whole property portfolio.  It is an investment and I can choose to cash it in, at which time it may have lost or gained in value.  Equally I can ensure my children, and grandchildren inherit my investment, if I choose to keep it.  I invested a sum that had been left to me by my Auntie Margery because she loved travelling and it seemed to be an appropriate use of the money.

My investment entitles me to points and points can be spent to book properties that are a part of the portfolio.  So, for example, a £10,000 investment might be the equivalent of 10,000 points which will book two weeks in a two bed cottage in Constant in the Dordogne.  The properties require maintenance and there is a maintenance charge for the period of the booking.

Normally when one books accommodation the cost is seasonal and rises dramatically during the school holidays.  Because the HPB maintenance charge is just that, for maintenance, it remains constant throughout the year and is significantly lower than a high season charge for similar accommodation.  The thing that is used to even out demand and supply is the number of points required to make the booking.

HPB sites usually have at least one pool and sometimes the larger properties will have their own pool.  There is usually a games room, DVD library, a clubhouse with games library, children's play area, tennis courts, a reception office and often an onsite shop and/or restaurant.  We've also found giant chess/chequers, mini golf, boules, bowls, WiFi, onsite PC, bar, croquet, gym, sauna, steam room.  It's all very middle class.

The self-catering properties are generally of a good standard and you know what you are getting before you arrive.  When travelling with young children we arrived to find our property didn't have a stairgate.  We asked if it was possible to install one and it happened, within hours of our request.

We have now stayed in properties in Spain, Portugal, La Gomera, Anglesey, Brittany, Dordogne, near Paris, Madeira and Turkey.  Sometimes the HPB development is wholly built and designed for HPB whereas at other times HPB has bought part of a bigger development.  In our experience the bespoke developments are better.

There is a downside to the arrangement and that is that if you want to get the pick of the properties in peak season you can't book at the last minute.  You do need to plan ahead.  But this downside also has an upside.  There is a points free booking system, 28 days before departure for UK properties and 56 days before an overseas departure  This means that if you aren't tied to school holidays you can often pick up a holiday at short notice without dipping into precious points.

If you decide you don't need points for a year you can elect, in advance, to take a return on your investment instead, about 2.5% I think.  And your investment can be used to book a holiday for anyone.

I think I've covered the main points but if you have questions I can try and answer them, or you can look for information yourself, if you're interested (HPB do tenancy propoerties too but that's too much to digest).  It's worked for us and could work for you too.

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