Whether you’re an empty-nester, a frequent traveller, or lucky enough to own a second home, you could be making considerable additional income by renting out your property as a short-term let.
From Homestay to Airbnb, new agencies have mushroomed over the past few years, encouraging punters to set up shop and rent out their homes, but how can you achieve the best return and make sure the arrangement is right for you?
Do plenty of research before you start
There are several short-term letting agencies that can help with the rental of your home. Airbnb is undoubtedly the biggest and best known. There’s no fee for signing up and hosts pay a minimal amount per booking to be part of this worldwide enterprise.
However, agencies such as Homestay are hot on the heels of Airbnb, and there are new agencies setting up all the time, so carry out plenty of research before signing up too quickly.
If you want to maximise your income, you could consider listing your home with several agencies. However, do bear in mind that managing the various listings can be time-consuming and if you sign up to too many at once, it could feel almost like a full-time job.
Set up your account
Creating an account with one or more agencies is usually fairly straightforward.
You need to: take some pictures of your home (some agencies offer a photography service, but quality can vary, so you may do better with your own snaps if they’re good); write a description of your house explaining why it’s a lovely place to stay; give background information on the local area, and basically provide as much information as you can to persuade a potential guest to book your home.
Write an attractive listing
Compose an informative but, importantly, honest description of your home, as you don’t want guests to feel disappointed or cheated when they arrive.
Check out similar listings in the nearby area and set your price accordingly. It’s a good idea to offer a competitive price at the outset; as you start to get more bookings, you can consider increasing the price.
Also decide on your house rules and then make sure guests stick to them. If you’d prefer people to smoke outside, then state it clearly; if you’d like guests to remove outdoor shoes inside your home, then make sure you include this in your guidelines.
Pimp up your home
Declutter as much as you can – it will make your home look more inviting. You can also see it as an opportunity to get rid of stuff you don’t need.
Try to give your home a bit of a makeover. Make sure you fix any snagging issues, ensure you have working light bulbs throughout, consider daubing on a fresh coat of paint, as this will always make a home feel more inviting, and new cushions for the sofa will quickly add a bit of oomph to your living space.
Take some good pictures
Once you’ve spruced up your home, next you need to think about the composition of your shots (click into some of the images chosen to feature on the Houzz stories homepage for inspiration).
The images don’t need to be professional – photos taken on your phone are absolutely fine – but put yourself in your guests’ shoes and think about what they might be looking for.
Areas such as a lovely dining space where they can enjoy leisurely meals are popular, as is a well-laid-out kitchen and a chilled-out living space where they can relax after a day’s sightseeing.
Don’t bother including parts of your home you don’t like as, chances are, potential guests won’t be too keen, either.
Find a good cleaner
Finding a reliable cleaner and providing a spick-and-span home are both essential if you’re planning to rent out a property to paying guests. If you have plenty of time on your hands, you can do it yourself, but you’ll need to be painstakingly thorough.
There are plenty of cleaning agencies out there that will provide a cleaner, gardener or handyman at short notice. However, generally it’s best to find your own cleaner, someone you can train up to consider every eventuality.
A friendly, reliable cleaner can also be a godsend when you’re stuck for someone to meet and greet guests.
“It helps to have a passion for cleaning,” says stylist Catherine Woram, who markets three houses, including her own home, through HomeAway and other sites, as well as renting them out for photographic location hire.
“When we go to the supermarket, I get my own trolley for cleaning products and my husband Michael gets one for food.”
Put systems in place
Getting ready for paying guests can be stressful at first, but should become easier as you get used to being a host.
Keeping a couple of separate sets of doona covers, sheets and towels for guests is always a good idea. Consider little extras, such as investing in good-quality shampoo and shower gel, and make sure you have plenty of basics, such as loo rolls and a bathroom bin.
Offering shelf/hanging space in bedrooms is always appreciated, and make sure there’s room in your fridge for your guest’s groceries.
“I try to think of everything that would annoy me if I were booking somewhere,” says Yvonne Foster, who’s been renting out a studio flat through Airbnb for three years.
“I try to ensure guests have absolutely everything they need. I provide a variety of adaptors, ensure the wi-fi is working perfectly and also leave out a hairdryer.”
Keep guests happy
Home-baked goodies always go down a treat, a bottle of wine can go a long way to smoothing out potential problems, such as a broken appliance, and always make sure you leave out essentials, such as tea, coffee and sugar. Also keep a folder offering suggestions for local restaurants, cafés, bars and shops and leave it out for guests to use during their stay.
“I think a personal service is really important,” says Foster. “If guests are arriving by train, I will offer to collect them from our local station. I always put fresh flowers in all the rooms and I also make a point of being available all weekend for queries without being too salesmanlike about it.”
Manage your listing
Once your account is in place, you’ll be responsible for answering all enquiries – a quick response will help you to secure more bookings – and vetting the guests. You (or a reliable representative) will also need to be on hand to welcome guests and offer a guided tour, deal with all queries during their stay and also with any possible fallout on departure.
Guests tend to love a personal tour, but if you can’t be around, you’ll need to have someone you trust on standby. Alternatively, consider installing a smart home key box, which is easy to set up.
Develop a sixth sense
Most guests will leave your home exactly as they found it – if not sometimes even tidier – but occasionally things can go awry. If there’s a nagging little voice in your head saying something’s wrong, then tune in and act on it.
It’s important to enter into a written dialogue before accepting a booking and be wary of last-minute requests, as this can all too often prove to be a rowdy party.
“You usually get a sense of things by how a guest words their email, and you can tell if they’re dodgy,” says Woram.
“Sometimes, we turn down bookings just because of a gut feeling, but it’s difficult to get it right all the time. Once the vodka gets opened, they are not necessarily the same responsible professional who made the booking.”
Rent out a single room
You don’t need a palatial home to make some extra money out of your home. If you have a spare room, ideally with its own bathroom, you could list it on sites such as Airbnb and Homestay and take in paying guests to stay with you.
On the plus side, you’re at home to manage the situation, you’ll know straight away if any problems occur, and many homeowners find it’s a sociable exercise, even meeting new friends into the bargain.
However, it can be invasive and you may prefer to rent out your home in its entirety while you’re away, or move out for the duration, lock, stock and barrel.
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By Amanda Cochrane