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Mouseholing: How to have your cake (or cheese) and eat it too.

Oct 6, 2014

Posted by

David Okeke

David Okeke is the founder and director of Austin David Apartments, a well known and highly regarded vacation home rental and property management company based in North London, UK. Austin David Apart Read more

Editor’s Note:  While this article is specifically referencing a trend in the UK, it provides food for thought for anyone who is working with vacation and investment properties.  Of specific interest is the “Guardian” aspect presented by Mr. Okeke.  See sidebar:  The Guardian Experience.

If you think mouseholing has to do with little rodents, you’ve been eating too much Camembert.  Alternatively, you might have a military background and specialize in urban warfare where the term refers to moving from house to house by breaking through walls in order to keep off the streets and being exposed to enemy sight or fire.

   For the rest of us, it’s the new buzzword that is quietly sweeping through the property market, especially among the over fifties.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a really good pension to live on in your retirement years, the cost of living keeps creeping up, so maximizing one’s income is a sensible option for most.   But this doesn’t necessarily mean re-examining your investment portfolio, it’s what you do with your bricks and mortar assets that’s the issue here.

Did you know that the UK ranks eighth highest in the world in terms of its nationals living abroad?  (World Bank 2011).  Over recent decades an increasing number of the older generation have been tempted to sell up and move to warmer climes to enjoy the milder winters away from the damp and cold of the UK.  But now, the trend is to do things slightly differently.  We are living in uncertain times with troubled economies and currency fluctuations in the EU, not to mention political uncertainty in many places.   And so retirees to places like Spain – which alone has over 1m British citizens currently living there – are not simply selling up and emigrating, they are downsizing to keep a bolthole back here in the UK, and then buying something smaller abroad so they can have the best of both worlds.

 In some cases, people have even bought two small flats in different countries so they are not constrained to visiting or staying in the same place all the time. Hence the terms, mouseholing:  little homes

The same is also a trend here at home.  According to the last Census, 1.6 million people living in England and Wales have second homes here in the UK and not surprisingly the highest concentration of second homes is in London where nearly 2 in 10 people own two UK properties. 

What could be simpler than to up sticks and spend the colder months down in the sunshine, yet come home to visit friends and family in the warmer spring and summer months, with perhaps a quick trip here and there for Christmas or family occasions?  In the meantime, you let the property on short term sporadic lets which provide an income without making it unavailable for the owner to use when they want.  And the  unique selling proposition for this is having someone sensible and appreciative using your property just temporarily – not a squatter – and keeping it safe and secure and looked after in your absence so you don’t come home to a burst pipe, a cracked window or piles of mail or rubbish on your mat—just a nice little addition to your bank account.

With a second property in London you can always be assured of a tenant and you’re maximizing your income potential.  Everyone wants to come to London once in a while—even your own family—just to see everything one of the most famous cities in the world has to offer, whether it’s a national event, taking in a show or concert in the West End, or simply to sightsee and experience everything London has to offer for a great City break.

If you take advice and buy cleverly in one of the up and coming areas your investment will not only generate an income but will increase in value far more quickly than the miserly rates on offer in the banks.  The key is getting good advice and leaving your property in the hands of someone who will genuinely take an interest and look after it for you—a proper Guardian experience.  Then you can use it whenever you or your friends or family want, and the rest of the time it earns you money—perhaps to buy another mousehole somewhere else you’d like to visit from time to time.