June 2023

How to transform a residential home into a successful short let business (AirBnB)

“I am considering purchasing a 7-bedroomed property in Salisbury. Please could you advise what the financial returns might be on AirBnB?”

It was a typical Wednesday morning in September 2021, when I took the call that would ultimately shape the future of ‘Host with Grace’, a short-let property management company offering tailored service packages for homeowners around Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Clicking the link to the listing on Rightmove, I considered the potential of the property, in terms of location, presentation and specification, to piece together a financial projection and my thoughts on the proposition. The house was quite dated and would certainly need a lift before being ready for the short-let market, but it definitely had great potential.


Croft House isn’t a conventional 7-bed house. It had previously been occupied as three separate dwellings, so had 3 kitchens, 3 living rooms, 7 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms/WCs, as well as various outdoor spaces, hot tub, Japanese garden, lawns, orchard and outbuildings.

The buyers had experience of letting a flat on AirBnB and knew there was demand for larger properties to accommodate groups, as they had struggled to find something big enough to accommodate their own large family on AirBnB.

But what would work best on the short-let market? As this was a significant investment, the owners wanted my advice and input from the outset. Drawing on my experience of successfully managing other properties in the area and my analysis of booking platforms & professional back office data, I was able to give a realistic indication of potential demand and return on investment.

As a rule of thumb, smaller units do better during off-peak winter months or mid-week compared to larger units which are more popular over weekends and school holidays. To optimise potential therefore, the decision was made to set the house up to operate either as separate smaller dwellings (a 1 bed annexe, 2 bed apartment and 4 bed house) or a 7-bed house depending on the day of week and season. Our key aim was to ensure that we could maximise the versatility of the property, providing separate units that would also open up to create one coherent 7 bed home for larger groups. This largely dictated our interior design decisions.


Fast forward to Spring of 2022. The purchase is complete and it’s time to give the property the ultimate face lift. The only catch… “we are operating to a tight budget.”

When preparing any property for letting it is surprising how much costs can build up, just in terms of decorating, furniture, furnishing, appliances and setting up a kitchen. I shared a comprehensive list of everything needed to ensure our guests’ stays run smoothly. At Croft House, we knew we would host bigger groups and wanted to ensure they could enjoy cooking together with everything they needed at hand.

Croft House had many rooms to overhaul.  

At the time of purchase, the rooms varied in colour from an aquamarine kitchen to a bright peach living room. Step one was to repaint and neutralise the palette, providing a fresh, congruent base throughout. When redecorating any house, it’s important to consider the character of the property. It wasn’t a modern house; the doors and skirting were pine, so earthy colours (creams, taupes and stone) were selected.


Next was the mammoth task of sourcing all other furniture. Where does one start to find furniture for a 7- bedroomed house, which works together whilst keeping to a tight budget? It was clear from the get-go we must try to source quality second hand items wherever possible. We agreed we would rather invest time, energy and creativity on sourcing high-quality second-hand furniture rather than buy new poorer quality furniture. Reuse, recycle, repair… much better for the environment than new furniture built for disposability.

We created scale floor plans of each room on squared paper with cut out scale representations of sofas, chairs, tables etc, so we could quickly visualise whether a piece of furniture would fit before viewing it. We put together mood boards for each space, choosing colour schemes which gave the rooms individual character but felt like one connected home. Then the task of visualising potential pieces of furniture, art and decoration which would be perfect for the space and then waiting for them to be manifested, which happened miraculously over and over again!

  • Facebook Marketplace - A goldmine for quality second hand items at affordable prices. We racked up hundreds of miles driving around Wiltshire to collect the bargain pieces; coffee tables, wall art, mirrors, rugs, lamps and more. It’s remarkable what we managed to fit into a 3-door Ford Ka, including an immaculate solid oak coffee table, which cost over £200, that we negotiated to buy for £30, as new.
  • Second-hand furniture stores – we picked up some incredible bargains from the British Heart Foundation and the Trussell Trust in Salisbury. We got to know their helpful staff and they notified us to time our visits just as new stock was being delivered. A lovely 3-piece Next sofa suite in mint condition for £200 was a huge win and had barely landed on the shop floor before we nabbed it!
  • Home Stores – throws, cushions, kitchenware, appliances and decorative items were purchased from Ikea, Dunelm, The Range and Homesense to make the rooms ‘pop’.

From the ‘Nordic’ twin room with its stag art and pastel blue throws and cushions, to the ‘Botanical’ double room with vibrant wall art and green colour scheme, each bedroom has a distinct identity through carefully chosen soft furnishings and complementary colour palettes. We were keen to avoid the feel of a generic impersonal hotel and wanted to create a comfortable boutique feel, where guests could really slow down and enjoy some peaceful, connected time to relax together.

Our aim was to create a relaxing, welcoming space that would feel like a home away from home.


Taking on a project of such scale is no easy feat. Our photographer was booked for mid-June so we had a fixed deadline to get the house finished.

Prior to restyling and refurnishing the property there had been builders and decorators reconfiguring the space, doing repairs and upgrades, and repainting the whole property to give us a fresh, neutral canvas. It was really important that the space could be transformed easily to host 14 guests, so we carefully selected matching, extendable dining tables for each unit, which work together providing space for up to 24 people to eat comfortably together in the orangery, whilst enjoying amazing views of the countryside.

Evenings were spent dashing around the shops, gathering beautiful items to finish the makeover, like an episode of Changing Rooms to get all we needed before closing time. With tradespeople coming and going; handymen, plumbers, plasterers, decorators, electricians, cleaners, gardeners, Croft House frequently resembled Piccadilly Circus as the deadline approached and activity intensified!

The night before the shoot we were still purchasing last minute decorative pieces, ironing bedding, and hanging pictures on the walls until the early hours. The morning of the shoot we were flower arranging and dressing the rooms and it was so incredible to see and feel the transformation.

It was right to the wire, but seeing our client’s reaction to the finished result made it all worthwhile. Everyone who had been part of the journey came back to Croft House and they were stunned to see the transformation. We welcomed our first guests a few weeks later and haven’t looked back.

At Christmas time we decorated Croft House ready to accommodate a family who were wanting to spend precious time together, some of whom live overseas. Their glowing reviews, beaming smiles and stories of the memories made together were so fulfilling, knowing we’ve truly created a special space for relaxation and connection…

“Croft House was the perfect weekend getaway to host a ‘post-pandemic’ reunion between friends. The house was absolutely beautiful, and the photos did not do it justice. There was plenty of space for us all and felt very cosy and homely. Grace who helps Megan with the management was always a quick message away and always responded promptly no matter what the question was. As well as providing useful information and ensuring our stay was as comfortable as possible. Highly recommend staying at Croft House and I’m sure at some point it will be used to host another reunion in the future! Thanks again for helping to make some great memories!”


Croft House has welcomed hundreds of guests through its doors, and we are proud to be recognised as a ‘Superhost’ by Airbnb. In addition to being a successful short-let holiday spot, the versatility of the space lends itself to being ideal as a venue to host retreats, workshops and residentials. The possibilities are endless!

If you are interested in booking Croft House for a break away or retreat, please email Grace at crofthouseretreats@outlook.com or call 07444 720 729.

Are you currently managing a short-term rental property on Airbnb but finding it too stressful or time consuming? Perhaps you are struggling to respond to guest enquiries in a timely manner, optimise your property’s potential, or wish to hand over cleaning responsibilities to a trusted partner? Perhaps you have a property with the potential of becoming a short-term rental but are unsure of where to start? If this is you, give us a call today on 07444 720 729 to find out what Host with Grace can do for you.

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