Quintessential Luxury Apartments
PUBLISHED: 16:17 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:20 03 March 2014
© Thousand Word Media
Meet Tina Carroll, the Queen of Montpellier, and discover the story behing her serviced apartment empire in Cheltenham.
With 30 properties, including 28 serviced apartments across the smartest areas of Cheltenham, Tina Carroll’s Quintessential Luxury Apartments offer tired visitors and businesspeople some of the most comfy beds in town, for a night, month or even a year.
But actually, she whispers, she’d rather stay in a hotel than a serviced apartment (when going on holiday anyway), because she likes a bit of pampering. “It costs about the same to rent one of our luxury apartments as it does to stay in a hotel, but in hotels there are bars, restaurants and often leisure activities. We have people staying for a week to a year or more. They are mostly corporate customers, but there are some tourists and holidaymakers. What our apartments offer is space, privacy and home comforts, which is probably why we attract the business market who want to come home at the end of a stressful day rather to than a busy hotel.”
The evidence backs up her views – last year Quintessential reported a 75% occupancy rate.
However, Tina’s current business is a far cry from her previous life. “I left school at 17 and moved to central London. I got a flat in Kensington, a job in Knightsbridge and I loved the London life.”
She married, had two children and the family moved to Wales – a bit of a shock to the system after her busy life in the smoke. So Tina enrolled on a four-year degree in teaching, which led to second career in education. She then moved to a new teaching job and new life (sans husband) and the next few years were fabulous.
Her move to the Cotswolds was made when she met her second husband who lives here, though she spent a few years commuting between the Cotswolds and Wales. On her move to Cheltenham she had, however, spotted a lovely old house for sale and persuaded her husband to help her buy it.
“I’d always liked doing up houses and we signed on the dotted line before my husband had seen it.” When he did take a look inside, she found herself in a spot of bother. “Outside was beautiful but inside was a shed, and he almost had apoplexy. It was a real mess but we did it up and let it as bedsits.”
By then the property bug had bitten Tina and she was well into her third career. She bought another building on Lansdown Terrace, equally as squalid as the first. This time it took a year to get planning and another year to do the work. “We bought it for less than £½ million in 2002 and spent the same doing it up.” But there was a problem. Because of the restrictions on the buildings, they were not suitable for bedsits so Tina potentially had a large white elephant on her hands and needed income to pay the mortgage. “I had these lovely big buildings but they needed high rents, then I heard about the concept of serviced apartments and discovered a demand for all-inclusive properties.”
Now Tina owns and manages more than 30 properties across the town. Her office manager, Shelley Faulkner, does the day-to-day work and Tina keeps a strategic view on the business.
“I pick up my emails and correspondence at home so that I know what’s going on, and keep control of the financial side. Shelley and I talk daily on issues with the buildings and housekeeping. Recently we had stock go missing so we had to sort out how and where to store cleaning goods securely, and then of course buildings always need work, whether that’s the building itself or upgrading and replacing furniture and fittings. Serviced apartments are high maintenance, you can’t just set them up and leave them.”
Expectations are certainly higher than before. “Each apartment is different, we try to find out what people want and match them with the right apartment.”
It’s almost a full-time job, but at 65 years old, Tina is also finding time for the other things she enjoys. “Both my husband and I love music and go to a lot of classical concerts. We see friends, go to the theatre here, in Bath and in London and we also enjoy our holidays – Italy is our favourite place. And of course we’ll visit my family and grandchildren who all still live in Wales.”
But is that enough? The signs are that Tina might just be launching herself into a fourth career. “I’m loving going to auctions and looking for old furniture, especially mirrors and chandeliers.”
She certainly has the right properties to show them off.