Hotels? Please, that’s so five years ago! These days, travelers are looking to crash on couches or swap apartments with a local to get the ultimate authentic experience.
If you’ve got a spare room, an investment property, or a particularly comfortable couch, then it’s quite possible the concept of hosting travelers has crossed your mind more than once. And why not? It’s a great way to meet cool people, earn some extra dough, and establish a network of contacts from every corner of the world.
Before you become a highly rated host, there are a few investments you’ll need to make. Some are larger than others, but with some savvy saving and intelligent investing, you should make it all back and then some!
Ever heard of “Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos”? Go ahead, take a look and have a laugh and discover how essential good photographs are to selling accommodations.
As stellar as your iPhone is for capturing selfies, it’s not going to show your place in its best light. Potential visitors are deciding which house to rent based almost entirely on the photos they see online, so make sure your home truly shines.
A professional real estate photographer knows how to work with tricky angles and can make your house look like a million bucks. You might even consider hiring a stager to style your property; this money is definitely worth it if, say, you plan to rent out a vacation property in a popular resort destination.
A cleaner…or cleaning supplies
You don’t necessarily have to have brand-new furniture or fabulously eclectic art to earn high ratings from your visitors. Cleanliness goes a long way, and properties that rank high in clean categories tend to rent more frequently than their counterparts. Besides, it’s all part of being a good host: Your guests expect a clean, comfortable, hygienic place to stay (wouldn’t you?).
There are a few ways to go about cleaning. If you’re renting out a room in your own home, it may make sense for you to invest in some quality cleaning supplies and put in some good old-fashioned elbow grease. If you’re renting out an out-of-town second property, you will need to hire a reliable cleaner who will tidy up after guests and make your place spic-and-span for the next ones.
Even if you’re renting out a bedroom in your home, it’s a good idea to budget for the occasional cleaner. Sometimes, you just won’t have a few extra hours to deep clean your abode after your German guest leaves at 11 AM but before the Brazilian guy shows up at 3 PM.
Of course, rates will depend greatly on where you live and how big your space is. Call around now to get a few quotes, and take it from there. Remember: You often get what you pay for.
A key manager
Your awesome photos and super-clean space have earned you several bookings. Congratulations—now it’s time to consider how you’ll manage your guest’s stay.
If you’re just renting out a spare room, the management should go pretty smoothly, as long as you make yourself available. But if you’re managing from afar or you’ll be somewhere else while your guest stays at your place (say, for a housing swap), you’ll need to arrange pickup and drop-off for keys. You’ll also need a local point of contact who can lend a hand in case of an emergency—a burst pipe, getting locked out of the house, that sort of thing.
The cost of this will depend widely on your approach. Your buddy might be willing to do it for a six-pack, but will your buddy drive over at 3 AM when the dishwasher’s overflowing and your tenant is freaking out? It may be worth engaging the services of a property manager for that extra peace of mind. They’ll usually charge you a cut of your rate—say, 15% or 20%.
There are certain upgrades that you can make today that will make your property that much more appealing to renters, thus earning you more money in the long run. Wi-Fi is an easy one; if you haven’t already got it, it’s arguably a must for modern-day renters.
Consider upgrading your furniture: For instance, getting a pull-out couch means you’ll be able to accommodate a couple of extra people; suddenly, you can rent to small groups of people, broadening your appeal.
Take some time to browse comparable properties being rented in your area. Note which ones stand out to you, and why. Maybe they have funky photographs on the wall, or perhaps that fresh lick of paint makes a place stand out versus the other, tired-looking listings.
Give yourself some wiggle room to make upgrades that will amp up the wow factor of your property.
Nobody expects you to be a hotelier, but little things can go a long way in hosting travelers. Think of the little extras you’d appreciate if you were staying somewhere new. Mini shampoos and soaps are awesome, since it’s a pain to travel with those. How about a selection of local teas, or freshly ground java from the roaster down the street (and a functioning coffee maker to go with it)? Buy in bulk when you can to save yourself both money and time.
Sheets and towels
Last but not least, two upgrades you absolutely need to make are sheets and towels. You can never have too many of either, and your traveler will be relying on you to provide them. Fresh sheets—no stains whatsoever, please!—and clean, fluffy towels are essentials for anyone renting out the room, couch, or property. Pick out a few sets of each to make sure you’ve always got backups.