If you are thinking of purchasing a Holiday Home on a Haven Park then please read my experience of being an owner at Church Farm in Pagham, and then read ALL of their small print and read, read, read again!!
Today I have finally handed back the keys to my caravan which I owned at a Haven Holiday Park, ‘ Church Farm’ in Pagham, West Sussex and I must admit I am breathing a HUGE sigh of relief.
I have had some fun times there with my son and made some lovely memories, BUT it is also the greatest financial mistake I have ever made. I paid £27,000 for it exactly two years ago including the first years site fees, today I shall be walking away with £10,500 which thankfully ‘just’ covers the outstanding finance I have on it, and have I made any kind of profit on it via rentals over that 2 yr period? NO, not even close.
- Now having battled to even receive £10,500 back from them, having originally been offered just £7000 at the end of last season, I walk into the reception today to hand my keys back (before I have even received my cheque from them,) and guess what? I see my caravan up on their ‘For Sale’ board already for a whopping £24,995 !!!!
I know that I was never a ‘hard sell’ when I first went to Haven two years ago, If I’m honest I was in a bit of a dark place and I just needed a safe place to be able to escape to and a little sanctuary to call my own.
I knew the Salesman Lee from school days and whilst he was very thorough with the tour he give me, he didn’t need to ‘sell to me’ I was in the headspace where I was simply thinking “find me the van that fits my budget, find me the plot and show me where to sign” so admittedly I probably didn’t ask as many questions as I should have done.
We did discuss rentals in detail though, both private and via Havens own letting service, I was also told that I could be issued with 10 friends and family passes each season which would give them access to the park facilities and discounts in the onsite shops, restaurant, bars etc.
I was also made aware of the park opening dates which at the time was 1st March – 31st October (now extended to 30 November) but I did ask whether owners are able to visit their caravans out of season and was told very clearly “Yes – you cannot stay overnight and none of the park facilities will be open, however if you want to come down for the day and have lunch or a cuppa in your van then that is fine”
It all sounded great and exactly what I needed and wanted at the time.
For the first part all went well although my business was growing rapidly and I found that unfortunately I wasn’t able to get down to the caravan as often as I would like. I was soon to realise that the income on Haven lettings were ridiculously low against all the outgoings which I was now paying out:
Private rentals paid a better return, but I didn’t live close enough to do the changeovers myself so Haven charged me for Linen changes, key handovers and cleaning. I appreciate they too are running a business, but £40 for a 30 minute clean is slightly extortionate (I was told it was £40 an hour but had been there twice when cleaners came in and neither stayed longer than 30 mins). Still it was a service they provided, it also meant that my rental income was a little higher and all seemed to work fairly smoothly.
But then the season came to an end and when I went down to caravan for the day expecting to be able to cook lunch, have a cuppa etc as previously discussed with the salesman when I purchased I was quickly disappointed. The gas was cut off for the winter so I couldn’t light the fire and the van was freezing. The electricity was cut off for the winter so I couldn’t boil the kettle and the water was drained down for the winter so not chance of even filling the kettle, let alone boiling it….oh and not even able to flush the loo either which we didn’t discover until after my little boy had used it! 👎🏽🙈
My son and I had a some happy times at the Caravan, the Pagham Harbour location does offer some tranquility and particularly appeared this way when we were first shown around, but then come weekends and holidays the place is absolutely heaving…and with the risk of sounding like a horrendous snob I would say that a good 80 % of the visiting Church Farm clientele can only be described as ‘chavvy’ .
The bars and entertainment area in the evening is heaving and you’d be lucky to find a seat, let alone have a conversation or hear yourself think and the food in the restaurants I can only describe as distinctly average. I quickly came to dislike the place more and more and realised quite early on that I had made a big mistake buying there. I loved the caravan but truly disliked the park and the huge expenses which went alongside being an owner.
I rented the caravan out a lot during the second season but still only managed to cover £2000 of the £5000 site fees, not to mention the other bills and £300 a month personal loan which I was paying out for it.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt I did not want a 3rd season there and was desperately wishing that I had opted to buy a Motorhome back in 2016 and not a holiday Home.
Towards the end of the 2017 season I went to see someone in the Sales Office at Church Farm to see if I could sell it back to them. The man I spoke to was incredibly uninterested and unhelpful, he told me they wouldn’t want to buy back a van of that age (2012) as they had much newer ones they could sell. He told me the maximum they could give me was £7000 so I was much better off selling it privately…end of conversation.
I was guessing no one would want to buy it at the end of the season so decided to see out the winter months and advertise it just as the spring 2018 season began and the park re-opened. I advertised it on Gum Tree, EBay and Pre-loved for £15,000, I had several enquiries from each but every time I mentioned site fees and bills of over £5500 I never heard from anyone again.
As the van was up for sale I decided not to advertise it for private rentals this year, however a very good friend of mine was in need of a break and I offered her to stay in it in May half term with her kids on the understanding that it could be sold by then, but if it wasn’t then she was welcome to take her kids there for a mid week break. I contacted Church Farm at the start of April and asked them to arrange a linen change and key hand over as they had done numerous times in the past for me, I also asked them to issue one of my Friends and Family passes to my friend on her arrival, again something which they had easily provided for a couple of my friends who had used my caravan in the two preceding seasons.
But OH – here came the blow, Church Farm had suddenly changed their policy about private lettings. No longer would they provide a linen service or key handover service, no longer would they provide cleaning for private turnarounds (albeit at the ridiculous cost of £40 for 30 minute clean – and I know it was only a mere 30 mins as I have been there myself when the cleaner has been in!)
And whatsmore they REFUSED to give my friend a privilege card which I had requested more than 6 weeks previously and could not give either her or me a reasonable explanation as to why this was!!!!
The lady who had dealt with all the lettings and privilege cards for the past 2 seasons was called Drew and could not have been more helpful, nothing was ever too much trouble for her and I have no complaints with her whatsoever. However sadly she left and appeared to have been replaced by a woman called Emma Gaffney – the contrast could not have been more different; Emma is abrupt, rude, unhelpful, uncaring and to be brutally honest ‘thick as s**t.’ The occasion when I spoke to her about trying to sort out my friends privilege card I had to tell her 5 times who I was as she could even grasp whether she was talking to myself or my friend!! How this woman ever got a job in a customer services role I will never ever know, she is a million light years away from understanding what ‘customer service’ actually is.
When I finally took a private offer on my caravan, Church Farm could not have been more obstructive, a staff member even lying to me about not being in the office on a certain day to deliberately stall the sale. I am then told that the people buying it from me could only buy it to take it off site and not keep it on the existing pitch which is what they wanted. I am then told that I HAVE to give Church Farm first refusal to buy it. (This May have been in the small print when I purchased it, however I had been into the office 6 months previously to enquire about them buying it back and they were 100% then not interested and it was they who told me to advertise it privately!!)
I ended up taking a lower offer from Haven than I would have received privately and I was left with no choice than to let down the young couple who had wanted to buy it from me. Church Farm do not care about that though, they do not care about their customers, they do not care about families on the site, it is simply a big SALES machine and sales is all that they care about.
I have lost £1000’s to Church Farm over the last two years, but I am so glad to have escaped my Haven Hell.
It is not for me to tell other people to buy or not to buy, I am sure there would be other families who could tell a more positive story. However my advice to anyone would be to just steer well clear and to read every part of the small print. The problem remaining however is that even if you are happy at the time of sale, Haven still can and WILL change the rules once you are an owner. They don’t care whether you suffer a financial loss because of it, so long as they maximise their profits.
I desperately hope that Trading Standards investigate them shortly under the Consumer Rights Act as I am sure I am just one of many who feels ripped off by their lies and sales techniques both at time of purchase and time of re-sale.
BUYER BEWARE – Your Haven ‘Sell’ may quickly turn to Haven ‘Hell’
Mums Travel Blog Rating 4/10 ( based on our overall 2 yr experience with them)