Make Money From Your Home!
No, this isn't a paper sign posted on the side of a highway. I'm referring to a strategy for savvy homeowners to turn their home into extra money, nice vacations, and new friends . As you read, keep in mind that this is just one approach; the key is to find what jibes with your personality, lifestyle, and your home.
You may know people who shun hotels when they travel. "We like to live like the locals," they say. People like this usually rent apartments in the cities they visit. They're able to cook at home, make tea at any hour, and enjoy a more residential (and tipping-free!) experience.
Well, what if your home was the vacation apartment these travelers stayed in?
The concept is this: whenever you know you're going to be out of town, simply make your apartment available to travelers who are seeking a place to stay. You'll make money while you're gone, and if you do a good job screening people and setting house rules, your place will be undisturbed when you return.
How to find vacationers: There are a few classic vacation rental sites like Home Away, ZoomTrans. While these sites have tons of great listings, the user interface leaves much to be desired. Plus, you DON'T have to pay to post your home on their site, so it's a cost effective proposition if you only rent your home out on weekends here and there.
New start-up Zoomtrans is a great alternative. It is more community-based, with profiles of owners and vacationers. ZoomTrans has listings for anything from couches to full vacation homes all over the world. SecondPorch, a Facebook application, offers a similar, community-based service which connects to your Facebook profile. Some people love being able to see the Facebook profiles of potential vacationers.
And of course there's always Craigslist. It's free, it's accessible, and anyone can use it. If you connect with vacationers this way, you'll need to set up your own payment method--PayPal or a simple check usually work just fine.
Preparing for your vacationers: Declutter your space (a good practice anyway), and make your home as "livable" as possible. Put lighting where lighting is needed; be sure there's somewhere for vacationers to put their stuff. If you have any priceless antiques or super personal items, put them away. Put your toiletries away. Put fresh sheets on the bed and clean towels in the bathroom.
Yes, it's a bit more work, but remember that you're getting paid to do it! Plus, paring down your belongings and keeping your home immaculate are good practices to get used to anyway.
Customer service: You are effectively running a business, and don't forget it. You must be responsive to vacationers' questions and requests, even if it means going out of your way for them. Do everything you can to make their stay an enjoyable one. Not only do you want to amass good reviews (if you're using one of the listing sites I mentioned), but you don't want to be the reason someone's vacation is ruined--that's bad karma.
Final words of advice: It can be fun and exciting to meet new people and accept vacationers into your home. While you prepare your home for vacationers, don't forget to prepare the less visible stuff, too. Be sure that your vacation rental does not violate any HOA or zoning laws in your area. Check your homeowner's insurance policy to ensure you're covered should anything happen while guests are staying with you. And finally, keep track of your income through this method because it's taxable.