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Make money by turning your spare room into a holiday home


1st Jan 2015 Managing your Money

Make money by turning your spare room into a holiday home

With a spare room in your home, you could unknowingly be sleeping next to a goldmine. Here's how you can turn your spare room into a holiday hotspot and make money in the process. 

How does it work?

air bnb

Several online communities have sprung up in the last few years that allow homeowners to easily list their spare room as holiday accommodation for tourists. 

Not only is this a great way to find short-term lodgers for your spare room, but it can also be hugely lucrative, especially if you live in an area attractive to tourists. There's also the added benefit of meeting a whole host of interesting people from around the world. 

Hosts need simply fill in a description, take and upload photos and select their listing price. Your potential guests can then view your room and availability and book in at a time that suits you. Most websites give hosts the option to vet their guests before accepting their booking, so you can read through their reviews from previous hosts before making your decision.

These websites make money by taking a commission from each booking. One of the more popular sites, Airbnb, takes a 3% commission from hosts and between 6% and 12% from guests. This tool will help you to estimate how much you could make from your spare room. 

Before you rent out your room, it’s imperative that you check that it's legal to do so in your area. If you rent your property, it's vital that you check with your landlord before posting your spare room. Otherwise, this could count as sub-letting and be in breach of your contract. 


Which site should I use?


Here are three of the most popular sites for listing your spare room. There are many alternatives, so it's worth browsing before you make a decision about where to list. 



This is the most popular website to list your spare room through. As of 2016 the site can boast 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries. They charge a 3% commission to hosts and they charge guests between 6% and 12%. 

Airbnb has a simple, intuitive interface and places a real emphasis on communication. Hosts are rewarded with higher search rankings based on how fast they respond to messages from potential guests. 


Home Away

Home Away is nearly as large as Airbnb with over 1,000,000 listings available on the site. The site charges their hosts 10-13% commission but guests don't pay Home Away anything. 

If you plan to host regularly, Home Away offer annual packages that could save hosts money on listing their rooms. 


Flip Key

As of 2015 Flip Key listed 300,000 properties in 179 countries worldwide. Each host is verified by a member of Flip Key staff, who also offer virtual tours of some of their more popular properties to give potential guests more of a sense of the room they intend to book. 

Flip Key charges hosts a 3% commission and between 5% and 15% for guests. 



5 steps to becoming the perfect host:


1. A picture is worth a thousand words

beautiful rental apartment

Ultimately, most guests will decide whether they do or don’t want to stay in your room based on the photographs you provide.

Airbnb offers a photography service for its hosts. Their professional photographers will come and take the photos that populate your profile and even upload them for you, all free of charge. This service will also add a ‘verified’ badge to your profile, which tells potential guests that Airbnb approves of your listing. This will result in more bookings and so more earnings.

When taking photos, make sure you give a sense of the room and amenities the guest will be able to use, but don’t go overboard. Take just enough that you express the amenities, character, location and appeal but stop at a maximum of 10. You need to leave your future guests wanting more.


2. Get insurance

home insurance

Most holiday rental companies offer some form of insurance. Airbnb’s ‘host guarantee’ for example, covers hosts up to £650,000 worth of damages, should something go wrong.

It’s worth reading the fine print, however, and ensuring you get extra cover to top up what they don’t provide. Airbnb’s cover doesn’t include cash and securities, pets, personal liability and shared or common areas, for example.

The best option is to inform your insurer of your plans. They may increase your cover on a short-term basis, charge you one-off fees or increase your premium. Certain insurers have policies specifically designed to cover this sort of lodging, so it’s worth shopping around for a competitive offer.


3. Set your house rules

pets on the furniture

While you shouldn’t go so overboard that nobody wants to stay with you, setting some clear boundaries is very important.

Would you prefer your guests not to smoke or bring pets for example? Or maybe your neighbours would appreciate it if they kept noise to a minimum after 10pm? Perhaps you don’t want them wandering into other areas of the house, like your living room?

Whatever your requirements, adding them to your profile is the best way to ensure that both you and your guests have peace of mind during their stay.


4. It's all in the details

small touches

Nobody wants to stay in a dirty room, especially if that room belongs to a stranger. Make sure your room is spic and span before you even think of renting it; that might mean hiring a cleaner before your first guest arrives. 

Try sleeping in the room you plan to rent out. What did you enjoy about the experience? What would have made it even better? It's now considered standard to include WiFi, so make sure it's set up and that your guests have clear, easy-to-understand access to it if you're not around to talk them through it. 

Consider putting together a short guide to your area, including your favourite places to eat, nearby pharmacies, supermarkets and attractions. This could mean as little effort as compiling selected leaflets or as much as creating your own typed-up guide. The amount of effort you put in is up to you, but your guests are sure to appreciate it and review your property accordingly.


5. Be around

key between hands

It's no good renting out your spare room if you'll be completely out of contact during your guest's stay. While this doesn't mean you need to be home every night, or at all, it does mean you need to have your phone and emails constantly available just in case they need to contact you. 

This is particularly true if your guests are staying from abroad. If they've arrived from a foreign country, you might be their only port of call if something goes wrong!


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