Victoria Hooberman is one of the founders of Scott Williams, the luxury villa company.
January is the busiest time for holiday bookings, so we asked her for her tips on villa rental in 2020.
Lucy du Cann - 8th January 2020
Victoria, which destinations are on the rise and which on the fall in 2020?
Croatia is massively popular and getting more so. Mamma Mia, which was filmed on Vis, drew a lot of people to its islands, but more recently Istria has been gaining admirers. It's got so much to offer: mountain biking, truffle-hunting, wine tasting, water sports. The water is as beautiful as Greece's and the people are fresh to tourism so everyone is incredibly welcoming.
The houses are well priced too, and access is quick from the UK, with plenty of low-cost flights. Many of the houses have heated pools which makes it a great low-season option. Our guests have come back raving – and immediately re-booking.
Waterfront Palazzo, Istria
Destinations on the wane? I’m not sure, although perhaps long haul is not top of people’s lists this year, because of the carbon footprint. For the same reason, some of our clients are driving rather than flying to French properties this year, while others are just staying longer – taking one flight and enjoying all their holiday in one place.
Maison Française, Carcassonne
What are the common mistakes people make when booking a villa?
Photos can look incredible, but it’s important to know they are a true likeness and also what the local area and neighbours are like. Our knowledge of our destinations is unbeatable – we can advise how close a house is to restaurants, how secluded it is if you want solitude, whether there are tricky steps for toddlers or if the pool is gated etc.
All the villas on your site look amazing. What’s the best way to narrow them down?
We have lots of helpful buttons to get you started, grouping houses according to who they are best for – by the sea, walking to restaurants, super-swanky, younger children, big groups etc, and also by destination. If you’ve got some ideas but haven’t made your mind up, get in touch. Let us know what you like and the style of holiday you’re looking for and we can make suggestions. We always have new houses up our sleeves and some that owners prefer not to be on our website, so we can match the best house to your holiday style.
Agnos House, Corfu
'Super-comfortable villa with no view' vs 'Quite comfortable villa with amazing view'. Which do you go for?
All our houses are super-comfortable, so you don’t need to compromise on that aspect of your holiday. Some are set in olive groves, others have knock-out sea views across infinity pools, it’s down to personal choice. Many of our clients are bringing extended family together for a special occasion, so a big pool with space for children to run and a good cook are the most important factors; for other clients, walking to restaurants is the priority, it’s so very individual.
If a group of twenty/thirty-somethings wants a luxury villa but can’t afford a premium price, where should they look?
Our Moroccan and Croatian collection offers some stunning houses at great prices, although due to this combination they do tend to sell out first.
For groups without school age children, the best time to travel is outside July and August. September is my favourite time in the Ionian, when the sea is warm and the locals are relaxed, and house prices dip dramatically after the first week of September.
Alternatively, look at Morocco, Italy or Spain for an out of season break, where many houses offer heated pools.
For absolute luxury and value for money I’d recommend Morocco.
Dar Almira, Ourika Valley, Morocco
Can people get standby or last-minute deal on the kinds of properties you represent?
As summer approaches, we can put offers to owners, but it’s not a tactic I would recommend if you are restricted by dates, as most of our houses sell out, especially in July and August. Outside July and August, larger houses often have low occupancy rates, so clients can enjoy the space a big house offers for the same price as a smaller one and live in luxury!
Most villa companies provide the option of a cook. Are they good value or a bad idea?
I can’t think of anything nicer than being served a delicious meal in the privacy of my own villa, especially if I’m away with the family! Some houses come with a cook, and at others we are able to arrange one – a lovely local cook serving traditional local meals, or a chef for something a bit more special. Good cooks are limited and in some destinations a cook needs to be booked months in advance, so it’s always advisable to book early to get the best choice.
Is there anything in the Terms & Conditions of a villa rental agreement that people should pay particular attention to?
I don’t think so – we always hold a damage deposit to protect our owners, but we rarely need to keep anything because our guests are so well behaved and appreciate their beautiful surroundings!
If clients grumble, what do they tend to grumble about?
Tricky – it’s usually something they didn’t realise but we could easily have told them – for example, there’s a difference between reading that a house is down a long lane, and the way we would describe it if we chatted over it. You can’t beat a conversation to get the full picture before you choose.
SEPTEMBER IS MY FAVOURITE TIME IN THE IONIAN WHEN THE SEA IS WARM AND THE LOCALS ARE RELAXED, AND HOUSE PRICES DIP DRAMATICALLY AFTER THE FIRST WEEK.
Is there any way for people to talk to previous renters of a villa to get their impressions and do’s & don’ts?
Our website includes comments from recent guests, and we can ask previous clients to chat if needed, although as we’ve been to all the houses, most are happy to talk to us – we are honest people! Our owners are as important to us as our clients. They take great pride and want guests to have a special stay too, so they are often happy to chat to clients before they go.
What’s the difference between an exceptional villa agency and a so-so one?
The people. We’re a small team, in a friendly office in Somerset, and have colleagues in our key destinations – every client is important to us. Once you book, you are given one point of contact, but we know all our clients, so anyone can help. My mobile is on our website and I’m always available too – I think it’s that personal relationship that sets us apart.
The Scott Williams team
Thank you Victoria!
ABOUT SCOTT WILLIAMS
Victoria founded Scott Williams in 2007 with her friend Maymie White.
Now based in Bruton, the company's portfolio includes over 250 villas in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Morocco and a small selection of yachts for charter.
For more information, visit www.scottwilliams.co.uk or ring 01749 812721.