How to Make Extra Cash for the Holidays by Renting Out Your House

by | BiggerPockets.com

My husband is active duty, and we have no kids. With family thousands of miles away spread across the county, I feel like we are always gone over the holidays and long weekends. Every since we moved out to California in 2013 and had to couch surf, I’d always wanted to do a vacation rental, but it never seemed to be the right time. This past April when we moved, we left one of the houses fully furnished.

Owning a furnished rentals has had many learning moments. One of the biggest lesson I learned is that I was an idiot for not renting out our house whenever we left.

The thing I learned is over long holiday weekends, during special events, and at peak season (for us, that was summer), people will pay a MUCH higher per night price than typical. This means that we can get 50% to 100% more than on our typical nights. While this doesn’t necessarily support a full-time rental, this is amazing for “bonus money.” As someone who loves to travel, a few extra hundred or a few extra thousand makes a big difference on the affordability.

For example, I just booked Dec. 23-28 for $1,515. I have another inquiry for Dec. 23-31 for $2,200.

For me, this is a game changer because it allows me to travel while still saving up for rental #9. Living while investing, in my mind, has never been more affordable.

Related: 6 Tips to Craft a Highly Coveted Rental — Without Over-Improving It

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5 Tips to Remember Before Renting Out Your House

#1: Remember, you are renting out your home.

This is your home, and you have things that you would be devastated to lose. The reality is, things get broken, unauthorized dogs chew tables, etc. If you are going to be devasted if anything happens to something, you need to either remove it or not rent. I personally designate a garage or closet to valuable or breakable items. I also have no furniture that I would be devasted if it were to be ruined, and a house is just a house.

#2: Never leave high liability items lying around.

I would never leave guns, weapons, animals, or anything on the property that your guests could use to hurt themselves or others. I have seen listings where people talk about leaving cats there and the tenants being responsible for their care. To me, that is not only dangerous for your animal, but it is way too much liability in a sue-happy world.

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#3: Double check your home owner’s insurance.

You need to check your owner’s insurance, as every insurance has different coverage requirement and allowances.

#4: Be wary of local regulations.

Many areas have VERY strict rules, and some completely ban this practice. So make sure that you are completely following local ordinances and that it is allowed.

#5: Keep Murphy’s Law in mind.

Over the years, I have always heard stories of the houses that has been trashed. Something always goes wrong, and there will be “that” tenant. So know when you are going into this that you will have issues, things will gone wrong, and your house might get destroyed. So be ready for the up and the down moments!

How to Figure Out Your Price

While you are not desperate and this is bonus money, there are still costs and stress involved in this process. The biggest thing about renting out your personal home is knowing that there is going to be a high cost in expenses. You are going to have to work hard to empty your stuff out. Things will break, and there is always risk. Since you are already paying the mortgage, you are not desperate. Still, it is important to make sure you are picking a number that makes sense and takes into account all the other expenses you will experience.

Your utilities will be higher.

People on vacation don’t conserve, and they set everything at a temperature that is comfortable to them. So while you might live at 80 degrees in the summer, they probably want 68.

You have to pay for another place.

Since you are leaving your house, you will have to live somewhere else. If you are already leaving, that is not a big deal, but if you weren’t planning on leaving but got a great price to rent your house, it is important to make sure it make sense for you to live somewhere else.

You may have to pay for pet sitting.

If you have pets, you will have to pay for them to leave the premises. This  could very well be very expensive. For example, we pay a 12-year-old $50 to come petsit for 2 weeks. If I had to put my pets in the kennel, it would be $40-65 a day.

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Related: 6 Factors to Consider When Deciding to Sell Your Home or Rent it Out

Your items will wear more quickly.

You will be replacing bed sheets, towels, dishes etc. more often. So make sure that you are making money.

Look at other listings and see how many are available. Pick a high-ish number, and if there is no interest, lower it. My house numbers are almost double what they are traditionally over these times, and we get a ton of interest. Play with it until you get the booking that makes all of this worth it to you. Also keep in mind that multiple tenants are harder to handle than one long, 10-day listing during your 10-day vacation.

Where to List It

There are many different sites. Personally, I love Airbnb. It is easy to use, free to list (you pay the fees as you get bookings), and I get 80% of my traffic from there. I also love VRBO and HomeAway, but the fees are significantly higher. In addition, if you deny too many bookings, they will cancel you. My VRBO listings, while significantly fewer, do tend to pay out the best.

What has been your experience? Do you rent your house out while you are away? Why or why not?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Elizabeth Colegrove

Elizabeth Colegrove is a passionate "buy and hold" investor who specializes in turning her once-negative transient lifestyle (Military) into a positive lifestyle. She self manages her entire real estate portfolio from long distance while holding down a full time job. When she isn't finding new real estate deals, she enjoys traveling, hanging out with her awesome boat-building husband, playing with her mischievous kitty, or writing on her newest project, her blog.

3 Comments

  1. Jerry W.

    Elizabeth.
    I have always enjoyed your posts on BP and was delighted to be able to read an article by you. Thank you for taking the time to contribute. I really enjoyed your article, it had a lot of common sense suggestions.

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