Money & Career

6 steps to turn your home into a vacation rental

Want to make a few extra bucks renting out your home when you’re out of town? Here's how to do it.

wicker chair with linens summer cottage decor

Photo, Sian Richards.


1. Your sales pitch

Before you can rent your place, you have to get noticed. Sites like Cottage Country and AirBnB offer one-stop spots for listings, but you still need to stand out from the crowd. Start by writing a detailed description of your property that flaunts the features of your place and highlights local amenities and activities, says Mark Bordo, founder and president of Cottage Country. Crisp high-quality photos are key. Make sure rooms are cleared of clutter and well-lit.

2. Make sure you’re covered

“Once you start offering your property for rent the standard home insurance policy won’t apply,” warns Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. If renters damage your property you may not be covered. Before you rent, call your insurance company to add appropriate coverage (usually called a rider or endorsement), he says. You also need to be aware of any local or provincial laws that could restrict short-term rentals.

3. What should you charge?

AirBnB suggests researching nearby hotels and other vacation rentals to get a sense of what the market will bear. Low prices are a good way to get people through the door initially and will help you build up reviews. There’s money to be made: The average place on Cottage Country goes for about $1,500 a week. The major sites accept credit cards from renters and pay you directly so you don’t have to worry about a renter skipping out on the bill. Typically the money is transferred to you via PayPal when the renter leaves.

4. Avoiding problem guests

Worried your place will be trashed? Ask your renters for references and look them up on Facebook and LinkedIn — a professional is less likely to punch holes in your walls. Rental sites can tell you if anyone has lodged a complaint about them. If you’re really worried, try meeting the renter in person or chat by phone. As a final protection make sure you ask for a deposit of between 15 percent to 20 percent of the rental fee to pay for any damages.

5. Dropping off the keys

All property owners have their own rules about handing over the keys, says Bordo. Some hide them under a rock, others have secure key holders near the front door that require a pass code. Some even take the time to meet with renters in person and walk them around the property. Returning the keys can be as simple as tossing them through a mail slot in the door.

6. Go the extra mile

“Marketing your property doesn’t end when your renter signs up,” says Bordo. You need to offer the same level of hospitality as a hotel. “Leave a bottle of wine or chocolates as thank-you gifts,” says Bordo. Doing so will help ensure they’ll rent from you again and they’ll give you a great review.”


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