Although the long school holidays have nearly begun, owners of holiday homes around Britain are being forced to slash prices and offer more flexible rentals instead of cashing in on the usual sky-high peak season rates.
Alistair Handyside at Premier Cottages, which represents more than 1,000 cottages across the UK, says: “Plenty of signs suggest some over-capacity, and therefore a good prospect of discounts, particularly in the middle market.
“Location is critical too. For example, Bath is fine, while just outside Bath is suffering badly.”
The UK self-catering holiday has transformed itself in the past decade, with drastic improvements in accommodation standards.
A recent survey for the Travel Trade Gazette found UK holidays appeal most strongly to 25 to 34-year-olds and the over-55s.
But both those age groups are fairly price-sensitive, with older folk particularly keen on value for money, so high rentals for holiday homes are coming under firm pressure.
In any case, so many providers have joined the sector on the assumption that UK holidays are making a comeback, that prices are likely to be vulnerable when demand falls.
HomeAway.co.uk spokeswoman Sarah Chambers says: “We have been seeing hundreds of owners and property managers every week adding reductions to UK rental properties, with current deals up to 35 per cent and 50 per cent below standard rental rates.
“Two superb holiday homes in Cornwall have cut 50 per cent off rentals next week, taking prices down to just £1,000 and £750 respectively for five- and three-bedroom houses.
“A grand six-bedroom country house in Somerset offers half-price weekends in July for £1,135, and a three-bedroom eco-friendly holiday home on the fashionable Jurassic coast of Dorset has lopped off £75 per week through to mid-September, cutting the weekly rent to £1,175.”
At Cottages4you, many reductions are around the 25 per cent level. A holiday lodge for four in the Malvern Hills falls from £616 to £498.80 from July 29, and a cottage for four in Upper Bonchurch, near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, is down from £950 to £760 in the same week.
In the Quantocks of Somerset, a detached barn sleeping four falls from £718 to £574.40, also in early August.
Cottages4you is knocking up to 20 per cent off hundreds of holiday homes in peak summer weeks and expects to see a surge in the number of short breaks taken during that time.
Market experts think demand for UK self-catering holidays has been hit by recent poor weather and attractive short-break offers from leading hotel chains. Plunging prices on last-minute short-haul packages could also be a factor.
Rural Retreats, with more than 400 properties across Britain and Ireland from country houses to lighthouses for two, says six people who take Higher Wood Barn, a Grade-II listed holiday cottage in Warleggan, Cornwall, can save £306 on the brochure price.
And they are right on the doorstep of major attractions including the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
INFORMATION: Rural Retreats (01386 701177 and ruralretreats.co.uk); Cottages4you (cottages4you.co.uk and 0845 2681560).