Have you rented out your place as a vacation home?

By: Bart SpeelmanCC BY 2.0
My husband and I are considering putting our home on a vacation rental site for a huge summer event in our town. Escaping the crazy and getting paid for it sounds great, but I gotta admit I'm worried about having strangers in my house. Have any other Offbeat Homies rented their home to vacationers? What tips do you have for making everyone comfortable with the arrangement (yourself and guests)?

I'd love to know how you give yourself peace of mind your home won't be trashed, nothing will go missing, etc. What questions should I ask my insurance company? And, just on the hospitality side, what could I do to make our home awesome for out-of-towners? -Chris

We suggest you check out our copyeditor Caroline's post on how to be an awesome host for travelers via sites like Airbnb. Anyone, like our darling Caroline, have good advice on renting out your pad?

  1. From the side of the tourist who has rented a lakehouse from people who live there part of the year:

    1. directions on how to use all electronics (TV, stereo, internet password)
    2. driving/walking/public transit directions to local attractions
    3. a locked room to stash family pictures and valuables- maybe even rent storage. you need to clear out a LOT of stuff
    4. clear directions on cleaning expected of guests vs. weekly cleaning help
    5. comments, if appropriate, like "this is a family neighborhood, so no loud parties or lewd behavior"
    6. emergency information
    7. menus for local take-out places
    8. rules for parking/how many cars fit in the driveway
    9. where your property ends and your neighbors' begins to avoid angry neighbors

    Hope this helps!

    5 agree
  2. My parents regularly rent their condo and have also done home swaps over the past four years. The majority of their renters are really great, but they have had some who have really made a mess and damaged items. Here are a couple of tips:

    1. Anything that would hurt your soul to have broken or stolen, remove or lock up. My parents have one closet in the condo they installed a deadbolt lock and they put personal/sentimental/valuable objects in it. Or you could always ask a friend to store things if that doesn't seem safe enough.

    2. Seriously think about WHO you want to rent. Do you want a bunch of rowdy college students? Do you want to allow families with kids? You run the risk of having slobs no matter who is there which leads me to…

    3. Make them pay for cleaning. Find out how much it would cost to have a professional cleaning service come through and charge a cleaning fee (even if you're going to clean yourself.). On the opposite side of this, makes sure that when your renters arrive everything is clean for them. The nicer it is when they arrive, the better care they'll take throughout the rental.

    4. If you're really worried, you can always have the renters sign something that says they are responsible for any damage beyond normal wear and tear. I would talk with your insurance company since everyone's policy is a little bit different.

    2 agree
  3. If you have a condo, or are part of an association, check with the by-laws about renters. Some are very strict about this. For example, my association allows for owners to have tenants sign a lease of 6 months or longer. This is specifically to prevent the unit from becoming a "hotel".

    1 agrees
  4. Disclaimer: I haven't hosted, but have been an AirBnB guest, and have always had a lovely time in gorgeous places. The vetting process can be as involved as you want: you can see the person's profile, who they've stayed with before and any feedback they've gotten; you can message or call them beforehand before you make a decision on whether you want them in your house or not.

  5. It really depends on the renter. My family has been renting out some of our old properties for years. These are not vacation properties but it is still a similar situation. Just be aware that some people will have a mentality of, "Oh, it's just a rental" and look the other way when they spill stuff/break objects/make a mess. It can be a little disheartening to come back to your place and find a giant stain right in the middle of your carpet or a giant rip in your couch.
    That being said, it can be a good source of income. Fill the house with objects that can be easily cleaned or replaced. Anything you are attached to should be taken out of the property. Always get at least a sizable deposit or all money paid upfront. It can be a nightmare when someone cancels or neglects to send a payment that you were counting on.

  6. My family has been renting out a few vacation properties for the last 20 or so years, and I was just an Air BNB renter over the weekend, so this is fresh in my mind!

    Everyone else gave GREAT advice, so I'll just add a few things:
    * Though this is your home, if someone is renting the ENTIRE place, not just a room, there are certain things it should have. Think about going to a hotel. What are the standard things every hotel room (should) have? Make sure you include them.

    Example 1: My partner and I used Air BNB to rent a room in CA 2 years ago. It was from a very nice couple and we loved their hot tub, but I was a little more uncomfortable sharing their bathroom, so I stayed in the room a lot of the time. They provided awesome extras (hot tub! Computer!) that enhanced my stay, but what I remember most was not having any tissues or a trash can available. Weird, but basic things I needed.

    Example 2: A friend just used air bnb to book a room in Texas. He shared with me that he liked the place and people, but when he got up in the early morning to use the toilet, it clogged. Being no stranger to a plunger, he looked for one, and when the host came to see what was amiss confirmed there was no plunger available. He had to go out and buy one….So even if you've never had plumbing issues, make sure to have these types of things obviously available. I would also say have very obviously placed cleaning supplies too. Again, even if you don't use a lot of paper towels, or toilet paper, have many extra of everything and make sure it's easy to find. People are more likely to clean up if they have the right supplies.

    Example 3: The house I rented this past weekend with a small group of friends was perfect, except for the kitchen. In the listing photos there was a coffee maker, and the host described the kitchen as "gourmet". We LOVE to cook on vacations, and were happy to have a fully-stocked kitchen – except that it wasn't. No coffee maker, only 3 plates and very limited utensils, no oven mitts though there were plenty of pots and pans. We ended up drinking out of kids cups all weekend and had to resort to using plastic plates & utensils because the dishwasher wasn't running right. So, if your place sleeps 4 or 6, make sure there are an adequate amount of those basic kitchen things based on that number.

    1 agrees
  7. We're landlords to a furnished appartment and here's a couple of things the previous owner did and decided to keep doing or decided to do:

    -No left over food! We clean the pantry and fridge between every tenants.
    -Leaving comments of appreciation (best pizza! worst fries!) on take out pamphlets.
    -Have rechargeable batteries for controls and fire alarms (and tell them where is the charger).
    -Leaving a post-it with major radio station on the stereo.
    -Have a full list laballed "Inventory" of EVERTHING in the house. Yes, even the number of forks. Disclose it to the tenants and make sure nothing is missing when they leave.
    -I totally agree with the cleaning product availability: it's very important that they can clean their own mess.
    -Take away anything that you consider could be a hazard: ashtrays (if non-smoking apartment), bleach, etc.
    -Leave your emergency phone number!!!

    Finally, don't hesitate to google/facebook/linkedin your potential tenants, it will tell you a lot about their caracters. Maybe the young green hair girl is a very studious law student and the clean cut guy is a dangerous party animal!

    Good luck 🙂

    1 agrees
  8. I would take anything of value out of the place. I read of an airbnb rental where the rentals broke through a wall to gain access to a locked area in order to steal things. Mind you, I love airbnb, but I would never take the chance of losing something or having it vandalized.

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