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Make Money From Your Home While You're Away

Wouldn't it be exciting to actually make money while off visiting relatives for a week? It used to be expected that only someone with a second home could rent out a space, but this is changing. New services have helped streamline the process, so you can set up a rental profile for your home with a few clicks of the mouse.

So instead of leaving your house sitting empty the next time you go away, consider listing it as a vacation rental — your home may be able to help you earn a little extra cash for that new sofa you've had your eye on, or even finance your next vacation. Those who rent or who own a co-op should check with the landlord or co-op board to see if subletting is allowed before renting the space. If you own your home, rent away!

Here you'll find answers to some common questions about renting out your home, plus the nuts and bolts of working with a vacation rental service.
FAQs About Occasionally Renting Out Your Home

Who would want to rent my home?
Even if you don't live in a vacation mecca or big city, you could still have good luck renting out your home occasionally. Folks traveling to your town for business or to visit family or friends may be on the lookout for a comfy, nonhotel place to stay, and your home could meet that need. Those in college towns may snag visiting professors or kids traveling with their parents to check out the local schools. And of course, if you are lucky enough to live in a beach town, vibrant city or popular vacation spot, your home listing is bound to generate interest.
How can I protect my belongings? This is an understandable concern, and there are some common sense things you can do to put your mind at ease. For starters, speak with your insurance agent and check what, if anything, would be covered if a renter damaged your property or your belongings.

When you are deciding what service to use to rent out your place, pay attention to the security deposit required and ask about any other security measures that will be taken to protect you. When it comes time to rent your place, remove or lock up anything you would be heartbroken to lose.
How is this different from house swapping? When you swap houses, you stay in your guests' home and they stay in yours — usually at the same time, although it can work differently. In a housing swap, usually no money is exchanged — you are simply trading a stay at your house for a stay at their house. When you rent your home as a vacation rental, you agree to vacate your home during the time the guests have payed to rent it; it's up to you where to stay while your house is being used!

More about house swapping
Choosing a Service

Property management companies.
If you do not want to deal with managing bookings, communicating with guests and handling problems as they arise, you may want to let a property management company do the legwork for you. Search for one locally that has a good reputation and reasonable rates.

Managing an occasionally rented, owner-occupied home may not be something your property managers are used to doing, but if you are able to work out an agreement, it could be well worth it. Property managers can handle listing your home, communicating with and screening renters, collecting deposits and payments, and cleaning.
Online services. There are several sites now offering semi-DIY rental services — two well-known companies are profiled below, though a simple search will turn up others. If you choose an online listing service, you will be ultimately responsible for communicating with renters, drawing up a rental agreement, letting renters into your place, and finding and paying for your own cleaning service between guests if needed.
Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) is one of the original sites for homeowners looking to rent out their homes, and it can work for the occasional renter as well. There is an annual fee for owners to list a property on the site, but it is refunded if you do not get a booking within a year. You have the option to require renters to purchase property damage protection, which can cover damages up to $5,000. The site also has rental agreements, pet policies and other forms available to use.

Airbnb. This relative newcomer to the online vacation rental market is designed with the average homeowner in mind — listing a property is free, and each booking automatically comes with a "Host Guarantee" that covers property damage. Airbnb takes its fee when you get a booking, and both host and guest have to pay.
Getting Ready to Rent

Make a home reference binder. Make things easier on guests and on yourself by compiling everything renters need to know about your home into one neat binder. In addition to info about your home (described in detail below), you can include maps; directions to favorite local restaurants, markets and shops; and contact numbers. Make a note if you would prefer contact by text or email for nonemergency questions.

Set house rules. If any spaces are off-limits to guests, or if you have any house rules (like a no-shoes policy), include them in your home reference binder and do what you can around the house to make it obvious what is acceptable (or not) — a boot tray and a basket of slippers with a sign that reads "Help yourself!" would be a nice way to encourage guests to remove shoes. For a room you want to keep guests out of, a lock on the door is probably best.
Label or list where things are. For kitchen items, labeling your cupboards or shelves isn't a bad idea, especially if you would prefer items be returned to the place you left them. For bigger items your guests may be searching for (the vacuum, bikes etc.) a note in the home reference binder should do the trick.

Explain how things work. Leave clear instructions for working the TV and entertainment systems, dishwasher, laundry, Internet connection (including access codes), home security system, and heat and air conditioning systems. Either include all of the instructions together in the home binder or tape up notes around the house.
Keep a separate binder for you. Make a list of the things you need to remove or lock up before renting, and you won't have to reinvent the wheel each time. It is also smart to keep a household inventory — then do a walk-through with it each time you rent your home, both before and after.

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