How to avoid getting ripped off by hotels

21 02 2012

Hotels are expensive places to stay with costly extras and hidden charges. An increasingly popular alternative is a serviced apartment which offers far more space, a home from home, privacy and better value for money. The nightly rate is an all inclusive price which usually includes free wi fi broadband and a free secure parking space. There are a number of other benefits of staying in serviced apartments which are increasingly becoming the preferred accommodation choice for travellers over hotels.

Most people would agree that staying in a hotel is an expensive option. Hotels have costly extras such as charges for broadband and car parking. Some do not even offer tea and coffee making facilities in your room! The number of TV channels is usually very limited. Everything is expensive such as the mini bar, the hotel restaurant, the bar, beauty treatments etc. Added to this is an often sterile atmosphere, limited room space, lack of privacy, no self-catering facilities and so on.

Whilst there may be advantages such as a gym and a swimming pool in a hotel these facilities do not make up for the fact that you’re usually paying through the nose for the privilege. Some hotels will even make you pay for charging up your mobile phone if you’ve forgotten to bring your charger with you! It does make you wonder what they will dream up of charging you for next. Personally I’ve never enjoyed staying in hotels. I’ve always considered them to be a bit of a rip off.

An increasingly popular alternative to hotels are serviced apartments. For those of you unfamiliar with serviced apartments let me explain what they are. A serviced apartment is self contained accommodation, usually an apartment, furnished to hotel standard which is generally let out for a short stay of between 1 night and 6 months. Unlike a hotel a serviced apartment provides full self-catering facilities. Broadband, Sky TV and secure car parking is usually provided free of charge. You have a lot more space than in a hotel room. In addition to a kitchen and bathroom and an ensuite (in most 2 bedroom apartments) you have all of the necessary white goods such as washing machine, dishwasher, fridge freezer etc. The kitchen is fully stocked with all of the necessary crockery, cutlery, glasses, kitchen utensils, pots and pans etc. A weekly maid service is provided which includes an apartment clean and a change of bed linen and towels.

Many serviced apartment companies offer additional extras such as low cost gym membership, discounts at local restaurants and other shops in the locality. Some will even give free telephone calls to guests for up to an hour to UK landline numbers and 0845 and 0870 numbers after 7.00pm and at weekends. Other services which may be offered include the hiring of games consoles such as Wii and X Box, continental breakfast, ironing services and so on. Whilst these companies do not usually have an in-house restaurant or gym they are able to offer alternatives because the apartments are usually based in the city or town centre.

Where serviced apartments come into their own is for the following types of guests;

1. People relocating.

2. Business people especially from abroad or who live a long way away from their place of work in the UK.

3. Recreational users for leisure trips such as weekends away or even holidays.

4. Guests visiting relatives and friends who don’t have enough space to put them up in their own house.

5. Insurance claimants as a result of an accident, fire or flood in their homes who need somewhere to stay short term.

The cost per night of a stay in a serviced apartment asppears to be broadly similar to that of a hotel but it usually actually works out 30% cheaper overall because of the all inclusive nightly rate based on the apartment type, not the number of guests, the ability to self-cater and the lack of hidden extra charges. In addition to this you get far more space in a serviced apartment and a “home from home” feeling about staying there.

Where you have more than one individual staying in a serviced apartment such as two business executives the cost of their stay is effectively halved because the nightly rate is based not on the number of guests but purely on the type and size of the apartment.

Serviced apartments meet the gap between hotel stays and tenancies. Hotel guests tend to stay relatively short term, ranging from one night, 3-4 nights a week, if on business, or maybe up to 2 weeks for a holiday. Serviced apartment guests on the other hand will typically stay longer for perhaps a few days, several weeks or even a number of months. As Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements are usually for a period of at least 6 months the best choice for a short stay is a hotel or a serviced apartment.

How do you find a serviced apartment? Well the best first step is a Google search using keywords such as serviced apartments, apartments, accommodation, hotels, city apartments, executive apartments and places to stay followed by the town or city name of your destination. If you work for a large nationwide company you may have no choice other than to book via the booking agent or travel management company used by your employer. Alternatively, ask someone you know for a recommendation. Choose a company which is a member of ASAP, The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers, which is the professional body for serviced apartment companies in the UK. This guarantees you better levels of service and standards generally.


The Growing Attractions Of Serviced Apartments

21 02 2012

It never ceases to amaze me just how far behind we are with the rest of the world, especially the New World, in so many ways.  Take serviced apartments for example.  This is a sector which is starting to grow fast in the UK but it is years behind other countries worldwide.

Just look at the benefits serviced apartments have to offer.

  1. Much more space than a hotel room.  Typically 2 to 3 times.
  2. Self contained accommodation so more privacy.
  3. Cheaper than hotels especially taking into account the extra space.
  4. Many providers offer free unlimited Broadband and Sky TV.
  5. Many offer free evening and weekend telephone calls to 01, 02, 03, 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers for up to an hour per call.
  6. A maid service, at least weekly, for the duration of your stay.  A daily service is provided at extra cost.
  7. Fresh linen provided at least weekly.
  8. Many offer free parking including private gated parking.
  9. A more relaxing and comfortable stay than in a hotel.
  10. Many are based in City centres located close to restaurants, bars,  shops and train/bus stations.
  11. Ideal for business travellers staying for a few days or even several weeks.  Particularly useful for the frequent traveller who regularly visits the same area for business or leisure.
  12. A home from home.
  13. A private study may be included.
  14. No extra charge if more than 1 guest is staying in the apartment.  The cost is per apartment not per person.  This can reduce the cost per person to a fraction of what a hotel would otherwise charge.
  15. Flexibility to either eat out or self-cater in the fully-equipped kitchen provided.

Are there any disadvantages?  Well of course.  Serviced apartments aren’t for everyone.  What are some of the disadvantages?

  1. There is no room service.
  2. There is no restaurant.
  3. There is no bar.
  4. No daily maid service unless you pay an extra daily charge.

Serviced apartments are not for everyone but neither are hotels.  It really depends on what you are looking for.  If cost is no object and you want everything on tap then maybe a hotel is a better choice for you.  If you are staying away for one night only again a hotel may be a better choice.  On the other hand if you really appreciate the privacy and spaciousness of your own accommodation and you are staying away for a longer period of a few days or several weeks you might just prefer to book into a serviced apartment instead.

If you prefer to stay in a serviced apartment then the next question is how do you find a good one?  Well, whenever I research products or services on the Internet I like to check the reviews.  Particularly good sources for reviews are Google directory listings, Laterooms and Tripadvisor.  Alternatively, you may use any one of a number of nationwide accommodation websites such as GBstay.  Equally useful are local City or Town guides such as my local one MK Web’s Accommodation Guide.  Of course word of mouth recommendations are probably the best source of all.

Personally I don’t set too much store by a website’s own marketing blurb.  It’s all too easy to claim that your serviced apartments service is the best thing since sliced bread.  It’s far better to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth i.e. the guest.  Having said that, a website containing lots of high quality photographs of the rooms and the external location and which lists all of the services provided in a clear and informative manner will always give it a head start over other websites.  If testimonials are given they should always give the person’s name and preferably the place where they live e.g. town, village or city.

The benefits of serviced apartments are so great that hotels are becoming increasingly worried about the competition.  So much so that major hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton have started opening up serviced apartment blocks to meet the demand and reduce the loss of business to their competitors.  This is no bad thing because competition is healthy.  It means everyone has to increase standards and give better value for money.  This is particulary important during the current recession.

We may not provide a bible in our serviced apartments but we do offer the option of hiring a Wii console!  So if you’re looking for somewhere to stay which is relaxing, spacious, luxurious, private, refreshingly different and far better value for money than a hotel, look no further than a serviced apartment to meet your accommodation needs.


30 01 2012


Solutions to avoid chain breaking in property selling

10 01 2012

Chain-breaking refers to the chain of transactions that the sale of a property depends on. Statistics show that as much as a third of all property sales are unsuccessful as a direct result of chain-breaking.

Experts hold that there are at least 3 transactions – or links in the so-called property chain – that are integral to a successful property sale. If one of these transactions is unsuccessful, or if a link in the chain breaks, the entire sale falls through and the seller is left back at square one.

Essentially, chain-breaking causes complications, stress and delay.

Common causes of Chain Breaking include:

  • Inability to secure a mortgage
    • Survey result issues
    • Fickle Buyers – changing their mind
    • Change of circumstances e.g. redundancy /divorce
    • Failure to find a new property to move into
    • Anxiety about the property market and economy
    • Gazumping
    • Timing; see below

For many house buyers and sellers, chain breaking occurs purely because they need to vacate their current home before their new one is ready. For many, a traditional 6 month AST rental agreement is the best option for short term accommodation needs, however for others this is simply not a workable solution; they may only need temporary accommodation for a few days or weeks.  This is where serviced apartments can be a compelling choice and make the difference between a house seller/buyer being forced to break the chain and being able to move into their new dream home.

Serviced accommodation can be a cost effective option, as they can be booked on a nightly basis, ranging from 1 night upwards, and can usually be extended/shortened as circumstances dictate.  Pricing often differs according to the length of stay (typically the nightly rate drops as the number of nights increases) and is reduced drastically after the first month as VAT drops from 20% to 4%.

Visit us online & get more details about serviced apartments & short stay accommodation in Milton Keynes.