Most homeshare hosts that treat renting their home like a professional business do so to make a profit. And that’s terrific! The tricky part is for those of us (and there are many) who sometimes rent the home that’s also our primary residence. It’s a balancing act. You want to relax, spread out, and leave your dirty socks lying around when you’re home, but when you’re not home and someone else in enjoying it, you want it to be neat and tidy, you want your stuff to be safe and valuables put away, and you want it to be a nice experience for guests. That takes some effort (could be a ton of effort depending on the degree of your natural state of messiness). Plus, you have to make sure that you don’t spend so much on taxes, homeshare insurance, and marketing that you aren’t actually making any money. So how do you pull it off? How do you make sure the reward is greater than the work? Here are a few ideas to make sure you protect your home from loss of income, while also keeping your place feeling “homey” for guests, and how to walk that line of not letting the business end of it ruin all the fun.
Be the wo(man) with a plan
You have a life. You may have a full-time job, kids, pets, bills to pay, constant fires to put out, et cetera, et cetera. How on earth will you find time to do the leg work to get your home ready for the short-term rental market? Give yourself some runway. Do as much as you can before you list your home, and the idea is, you only need to do it once. Take as much time as you need to research and prepare before launching into action. Sure, there will be some “teaching moments” along the way that will make you adjust your plan, but the idea is to avoid common mistakes from the onset for fewer headaches down the road.
Answer questions preemptively
Start a binder for guest with house rules, local attractions, your contact info, the Wi-Fi password, and all the other important information. Do this once and you’ll have fewer questions you’ll need to answer later and you’ll avoid giving the same answers over and over again. Again, you can adjust as you go. Maybe you didn’t think about telling people where the recycling bin is, or where the closest grocery store is, but after one guest asks, you can add the answer to the binder and never have to answer that question again.
Have an escape route
Set up a system that you follow before you leave. Have a closet or room that locks so you can quickly lock away your valuables. Have extra linens clean and ready to go so you’re not doing loads of laundry the night before guests arrive. Hit Costco and stock up on shampoo, soap, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. Consider having a house cleaner come once a week even if you’re not renting out your place that often just so you’re ready to take off on a moment’s notice without having to scrub a toilet first. Once you get your system down, it won’t feel like such a chore to prepare for guests, it’ll feel like second nature.
Cover yourself now
Don’t wait for an accident to happen. Know what’s covered by your homeowners insurance or the platform(s) you’re listed on and what isn’t. You don’t want to get to the end of the year thinking you made bank on your place and then suddenly all your income has to go to some kind of weird disaster clean up because so-and-so’s friend stole your TV, or broke something, or left a nasty smell and now you can’t rent your place anymore. Get yourself covered with comprehensive, on-demand homeshare insurance, and keep good records of dates and expenditures so you’re not scrambling come tax season.
Remember, it’s your home not a hotel, and that’s the appeal
Guests don’t expect things to be sterile and perfect. Otherwise they’d stay at that chain hotel downtown if that’s what they wanted. They want the local flavor. They want a glimpse into your life (as slightly unnerving as that may be, it’s true). They want to experience life in your town, a little bit like how you live it. So don’t worry too much about packing things away or erasing every bit of character from your home. You live in it, so live in it! Those are the parts people will love, and it’s easier on you to not stress about every tiny thing. So have fun! Enjoy! And make some money!