Rent­ing Out Your Home? 5 Things You Need To Know

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - BY JOHN WASIK, FORBES CON­TRIB­U­TOR FOL­LOW JOHN WASIK AT www.forbes.com/sites/john­wasik

For some long-term va­ca­tion­ers, some­times the best idea is to rent out their homes.

That’s what au­thor/jour­nal­ist Deb­o­rah Ja­cobs did with her Brook­lyn home when she wanted to take a dream trip to France and Spain with her hus­band. In her su­perb new book, Four Sea­sons in a Day: Travel,

Tran­si­tions and Let­ting Go of the Place We Call Home, she de­tails what you need to know when con­sid­er­ing this process.

What does rent­ing your home en­able you to do? For one, it will help fi­nance your va­ca­tion, es­pe­cially if you plan to be away for a month or so. Pro­vided the peo­ple you rent to are re­spon­si­ble—and you price your home fairly—that’s one fi­nan­cial worry off your ta­ble.

Tak­ing that longer va­ca­tion also takes the pres­sure off of try­ing to see every­thing you can in a short pe­riod of time. You’ll have some breath­ing room to ex­plore.

In Ja­cobs’s book, she was able to soak up the cul­ture of France and Spain, en­gag­ing in things like a Loire Val­ley grape har­vest; an “ex­u­ber­ant chili pep­per fes­ti­val” in Spain’s Basque Coun­try and the pin­txo bar crawl in San Se­bas­tian, where she de­vel­oped “an affin­ity for sheep’s milk cheese and cul­ti­vated new friend­ships.”

There’s a lot you need to know be­fore you rent out your home, though. Find­ing the right ten­ants is key, along with con­tracts that will pro­tect you from bad ones. Here’s what Ja­cobs sug­gests:

1. How To List Your Home. “We listed our house on three plat­forms, the most im­por­tant of which were HomeAway (VRBO) and Airbnb. Over the past sev­eral years, I have spent at least 40 hours pe­rus­ing com­pa­ra­ble prop­er­ties on these sites, tak­ing pho­to­graphs of my own house in var­i­ous sea­sons, writ­ing pro­mo­tional copy and up­dat­ing our list­ing to cut down on in­ap­pro­pri­ate in­quiries.”

2. Write A Strong List­ing. “For the de­scrip­tion, I be­lieve in full dis­clo­sure. I play up what makes our house ap­peal­ing, and to some ex­tent our list­ing is a work in progress. For ex­am­ple, one evening, when our din­ing room ta­ble was set for com­pany, I took a pic­ture of it and added it to our ex­ist­ing list­ing on shar­ing econ­omy sites.”

3. Price It Right. “With pric­ing, I look at what own­ers in other de­sir­able New York neigh­bor­hoods are charg­ing and ad­just ac­cord­ingly. For ex­am­ple, we can charge as much as peo­ple get for a small two-bed­room apart­ment close to tourist at­trac­tions in Man­hat­tan. With our house, renters get a lot more space for the money and prox­im­ity to Prospect Park (which at­tracts fam­i­lies).”

4. Em­pha­size Ameni­ties. “These are all ad­van­tages for renters: De­sir­abil­ity of lo­ca­tion and prox­im­ity to public tran­sit (if ap­pli­ca­ble); Flex­i­ble sleep­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions for more than four peo­ple; Washer/dryer on the premises; Air con­di­tion­ing and free park­ing.”

5. Full Dis­clo­sure Is Im­por­tant. “Though I work hard to show the house to best ad­van­tage, I don’t try to hide any­thing. For ex­am­ple, our house does not have a bath­room on the first floor, and I say so in the list­ing. It also has a lot of stairs, and I want peo­ple with young chil­dren to un­der­stand that.”

Of course, you’re bound to re­ceive some in­quiries that won’t re­sult in suit­able ar­range­ments. That means you should re­view sev­eral of­fers and be able to say no if they don’t pass the smell test.

Ja­cobs had to turn down “movie pro­duc­ers who wanted to use it not only is lodg­ing while they were on lo­ca­tion, but also as a place where a staff could work dur­ing the day while they were shoot­ing in New York. I also make it clear that we don’t rent for less than a month, though we still get in­quiries from short timers who seem to think that’s ne­go­tiable.”

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