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:
— 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.
— 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.
— Pricing 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).
— Emphasizing 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.
— 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.”