Having your home as a rental property while you’re traveling is a great way to make some extra money!
There are several things to do to prepare your property when you’re planning to host short-term guests in your home.
We’ll share everything you should plan for and consider in your preparations, including a checklist on how to set up your home. We’ll also share our experience having short-term renters in our home this past year while we were out traveling. And, you can take a tour of our home to see how we’ve set it up for renters in the video titled “Tour the Nubern’s Short Term Rental Home”.
1.Ensure You Can Have a Short-Term Rental in Your Home
Before you start making big plans for a short term rental, check in with your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) and your local government to make sure a short term rental situation with companies like Airbnb or VRBO is allowed for your property. Recently, many local governments have been changing laws and policies to restrict the amount of short term rentals in areas to protect business for local hotels. While you’re checking in with the local government to see if a short- term rental is allowed, check to see if there’s a permit or any other requirement you need to get.
For us, we don’t have an HOA but our local government recently put new policies in place. They require each short-term rental to have an annual permit to have short term renters on the property. The permit is $119 a year and includes an owner’s self inspection of the property to make sure the property is up to code.
2. Find a Property Manager
Finding a good property manager is key to having freedom to be away from your home while also having several different renters have access to rent your property. It’s great to have someone local a guest can turn to with questions or if something goes wrong. Also, the property manager can coordinate cleaning and flipping the property between renters so you don’t have to worry about those logistics while you’re away. With short term rental situations, property managers normally take 15%-25% of each booking.
Our property manager is a local company named Hoste. Hoste currently takes 15% of each booking. They handle every part of our rental including the pricing each night. They took professional photos of our home and created the property’s profile on Airbnb and VRBO. They also do all the communication with guests before and during their stay. Hoste also coordinates the cleaning crew between each renter. The great side to this is we do zero work in renting out our home and we receive a check each month. The negative side to this is we have no idea who is staying in our home while we are away. Also, we have access to our home’s calendar and can see when our home is booked while we’re away and we can block off dates that we want to be in our home.
3. Damaged & Missing Items
With your new property manager, make sure you have clarity on how they handle keeping an inventory of the items in your home and how they handle replacing missing or damaged items. If you plan to be gone for several weeks or months and several different renters use your home while you’re away, but you notice something is missing when you return, you want to be clear with your property manager who is responsible for replacing the item. Is it the guests (but which guest)? The property management company? Or you?
We’ve only had a few items go missing like the first aid kit, a kitchen table cover, and a few steak knives. It’s been a back and forth thing with our management company on them replacing the items since they didn’t catch which guest took them. Also, a guest paid us for breaking a coaster. These aren’t huge items, but replacing each small item adds up.
4. How Will Guests Have Access to Your House?
Connect with your property manager to see what they prefer. They may prefer meeting renters and giving them a key for their stay, or you can get a keypad for the lock on your door and your renters get a specific code for entry while they stay.
We changed out our front door lock to have a keypad so renters have a specific code during their stay. By having a code, they can arrive at any time and the management company doesn’t have to be there.
5. Where Will You Put Your Things When You’re Away?
While you’re traveling and away from your home, where will you put your personal belongings so renters don’t have access to them? Do you have closets you can put a lock on or do you have a spare room, or the basement, or the garage you can store your personal belongings in?
When we transitioned our home to a short-term rental, we were starting out with an empty home and starting fresh. The reason was, we were returning to our home after four years of traveling and a long-term renter had just moved out with all of their furniture. So, as we set up our home to both live in and rent to others for short periods of time, we set up two closets in our home that was the “home” to all of our personal belongings. We wanted to make sure when we wanted to head out and travel, we made it easy on ourselves to make the transition of preparing the house and packing to go super easy. So, all of our personal belongings are in these two closets that we lock when we are gone and renters don’t have access to. The easier you can make the transition between being home and taking off to travel, the more enjoyable the lifestyle will be.
6. Personal Photos
Where will you put all of your personal photos that are around your home when you’re gone and short term renters come in? With short-term renters, you want your space to feel cozy and lived in, but you don’t want your personal photos on display. Create a plan to easily pull them out and put them away while you’re transitioning your home between your space and a rentable space.
You can take a tour of our home that we have set up as a short-term rental in the video titled “Tour the Nubern’s Short Term Rental Home”. Currently, we don’t have any personal pictures up even when we are home and I don’t like that. When we’re home, I want personal photos up because it makes your home feel more like home. However, I have plans to get creative with how to have personal photos up, but also make it fast and easy to take them down. For example, instead of spending an hour before and after your trip taking down frames and flipping pictures, put personal photos in frames that have clips or on the fridge with magnets or on photo boards where you can easily stick photos up and take them down. To fill that space when we’re gone and don’t have personal photos up, I plan to put up postcards in the photo’s place.
7. Checklist for Preparing the House
You want to make sure each room in your home is renter friendly. Here’s a checklist we received from our property manager, Hoste, on how to prepare each room and what to make sure we had set up before we started renting out our home to short term renters.
Before each trip, make sure to put your mail on hold with your local USPS. You can only put your mail on hold for up to 30 days at a time. We recommend going into your local post office and notifying them. We don’t recommend putting your mail on hold with their online option. Each time we’ve tried to hold our mail by submitting the request online, it doesn’t work.
Also, we recommend getting a mailbox that locks so if you’re gone for a short weekend, your mail can stay safely in your mailbox without someone having the opportunity to take it.
After getting a locking mailbox, we felt more at ease with our mail situation if our plans happened to change and we came home a few days later than our mail hold situation with the post office. Also, one holiday season we left for two and a half months and the USPS let us extend our mail hold for 60 days. To do that, I went into the post office and they had me speak directly to the mail distribution manager who gave me permission. The other two weeks we were away, a friend graciously picked up our mail for us.
Since you won’t always be home to put out or put away your trash and recycling bins, ask your property manager if they do this for you. If not, set up a walk up trash service with your trash provider. A walk up service is where you pay a little extra a month for them to walk up, grab your trash can, dump your trash, and put your trash and recycling cans back where you store them. The first week you’ve paid for a walk up service I recommend you being home, so when they come, you ensure they’ve been notified of the change and you can show them where to find your trash and recycling cans.
To get walk up trash service, we pay $5 extra dollars a month. Our trash cans sit on the side of our house, so when we first started we had to show our trash service guys where to find the trash cans. And, we live in Colorado with bears so we pay extra for a bear proof trash can, too.
10. Keep Neighbors Informed
Make sure you inform your neighbors of your plans to rent out your home to short term renters for different parts of the year. Email them or leave a letter in their mailbox and let them know the dates you’ll be gone and the dates they can plan to see strangers and cleaners going in and out of your home. Also, share your contact information with them and your property manager’s contact information so they have someone to contact if something goes wrong.
Before every trip, we talk to all of our surrounding neighbors and let them know of our travel dates and contact information. This is because we totally forgot to let our neighbors know the first time we set out and our house was being rented to short-term renters. Our neighbors noticed strangers coming in and out without us and freaked out because they had no idea what was going on. Understandably, they were confused and upset.
To make matters worse, our property managers took drone photos of our home (without us knowing) and they also captured our neighbors’ yards and properties and posted these to Airbnb and VRBO. Our neighbors also saw these and were upset that we were sharing their properties on the internet. Terrible situation. We returned after a month with every neighbor around us angry at us. That’s a terrible way to return from a trip. Our neighbors felt disrespected. We had a lot of apologizing to do. So learn from our mistakes, and keep your neighbors informed of your property’s situation with each trip.
11. Where Will You Put Your Food?
Check in with your property manager about the food situation while you’re gone. Our property manager likes to have the fridge and pantry completely empty of food for liability reasons so guests don’t eat expired food by accident and get sick. Plan for a place to put food from the fridge and in the pantry somewhere while you’re gone. Maybe in a fridge in the garage or basement? Or your RV?
When we leave, many times we’re taking off in our travel trailer to go explore the country. So, we’ll take all the food with us in our camper. If we’re not taking the camper, we put all the fridge food in our camper’s refrigerator and have it running while we’re gone. I also put the dry goods either in the camper or in a locked closet with our other personal belongings.
12. Maintenance & Fixes
Fix anything and everything in your home that needs maintenance and make sure your home is a safe space for others to be in. Also, make sure a handy man’s available while you’re away through your property management company that can fix anything if something goes wrong.
Our property management company has a handy man that’s fixed a board on our deck and a couple other things in the house while we were gone. Also, with our local government’s permitting system, before we started renting our home we had to make sure we had smoke detectors in certain areas, have certain electrical outlets in certain rooms, that all door areas and stairs are clear of anything, and other things to make sure our renters have a safe living situation while they’re in our home.
Call your insurance agent and let them know of the new situation happening with your home and renters coming in sometimes. Make sure you’re fully covered with your belongings and if a guest gets hurt on your property.
Our local government requires proof of a certain level of insurance for short term rentals and we also got an umbrella policy so if something happens that goes beyond our current coverage, that umbrella policy will kick in and cover us.
14. Give Yourself More Time to Prepare for Trips
Now that you have to pack for a trip and prepare your home for renters, give yourself more time to prepare for a trip.
I give myself a full day to prepare for a trip now. I find it’s easier if I pack my bag first and then prepare the house. This way, when the house is totally ready to go, we are too and we can take off in the camper or off to the airport.
To get the house ready, I put our mail on hold, inform the neighbors of our travel plans and give them our contact information, I tidy the house, put food away, and lock the closets. The cleaners come in after we’re gone and clean our home for the renters coming. We pay a cleaning fee each time we leave, but we always return to a clean house, too!
15. You Determine the Calendar
Make sure to fully plan out the next several months on the calendar in Airbnb and VRBO. This is to make sure that you dictate the calendar of when you’re in your home and when you’re not, instead of guests dictating it for you and you have to leave because they’re coming.
If you’re not sure if you’ll be gone or home for a certain period of time, keep it blocked off that you’ll be home. As you make your decision and if you want to leave, open it up for guests. This way, you’re in control and you can be home if you want or open it if for guests if you want.
This suggestion comes from our experience. We left the calendar open and a guest booked our home for a full week. This meant we had to be gone for that week, but we stressed about where we’d go because we had to go. Preparing to leave when we didn’t want to was frustrating and didn’t start off our trip well.
This taught us that we want to be in control of our calendar and we suggest you do this, too, so this set up works well for you and what you want.
You Got This!
It takes a lot of steps to prepare your property for short-term guests to rent. Use this guide and use the supplemental checklist on how to set up your home and take it step-by-step. You’ll make progress and you’ll be on your way to more freedom soon! We’re cheering you on!
Long Term Rental?
If you’re curious about setting up your home as a long term rental, read our article How to Prepare Your Home as a Long Term Rental: 11 Things to Consider.
Do you have any advice from your experience with your home as a short-term rental? Please share in the comments below!