Home Sharing: Is it right for you?

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Home sharing is a great way to leverage your extra space into additional income, but it’s not as simple as you might think. And even with large companies making it easier for you to share your home, there are still some risks to consider first.

Here are four things to think about before becoming a home sharing host.

1. Have you got the space?

Your schedule and the layout of your home will influence how much space you have available to rent out. If you’re regularly away from home, even for a weekend or two each month, you could rent out the whole home. Or, if you plan to be in town while you have guests, you can just list extra bedrooms and other space you have free. Different areas of the country offer different hosting opportunities–some travelers might be looking for a docked boat or even a tent to rent–but if you haven’t got the space, you won’t get many visitors.

2. Are you comfortable hosting strangers?

You’ve also got to decide if you’re okay with having people you don’t know regularly, or irregularly, staying in your home when you’re there.

Safety is a real concern and you need to walk through various scenarios until you figure out what you’re comfortable doing. This might be more of a concern if you’d be in the house at the same time, but if you’re uncomfortable with the idea in general it might cause more stress than it’s worth.

My husband, Sam, had a favorite Aunt Judy, and she lived near Boston University. She owned a big house and for decades rented out rooms to college students to help make ends meet. She loved it and grew very close to her students over the years, and many of them stayed with her for several years.

That was twenty and thirty years ago, and times are a bit different. So, be sure to think through who the renting population is in your area and be picky when interviewing renters.

3. Are you a hands-on or hands-off host?

Being comfortable with guests in your home is one thing, but being a source of information and being an entertaining host is another. Consider whether you’ll feel a need to provide for anyone staying in your space or if you’ll leave them be.

You’ll also want to think about whether you’re organized enough to handle these responsibilities. If the guest has issues unlocking the front door, can you be available to answer questions and solve the problem? Or, is there a technical solution, such as a Wi-Fi-enabled mechanism that would allow you to unlock the door remotely? (The quick answer is, “Yes!”) If a traveler reserves your space at the last minute, you’ll need to be on top of your host duties enough to ensure they have a great stay.

4. Are there any financial or legal hurdles in your way?

More communities are starting to draft rules and regulations for short-term home sharing websites, like Airbnb. There has been pushback in cities like Austin, Texas, as party groups rent out large homes in upscale neighborhoods and then throw rowdy all-night affairs.

You’ll need to look into your rights as a homeowner in this situation, as your town might have laws in place to restrict this type of renting. If you live in a condo or you rent your home, you’ll have to check with your condo association or landlord to see if there are any rules or lease terms that prohibit home sharing.

In addition, there’ll be some initial and ongoing costs involved with home sharing, like sprucing up and cleaning your home, ongoing and additional maintenance and buying supplies for the space you’ll be renting out (extra toilet paper, for one). Then there are tax and insurance issues to think about.

While you may be able to offset these costs by charging more for your space, you’ll still need to be financially prepared before becoming a host.

Here’s what you should know:

Opening up your home to others is a wonderful way to meet new people and earn extra money, but it’s not for everyone. I’m always in favor of getting as much value as you can out of your property, but everyone has to draw their own line as to what they’re comfortable with. If you’re considering becoming a host, mull over these questions and weigh the pros and cons. It’d be great to pay off your mortgage faster, but you’ve got to feel safe doing it.


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About Ilyce Glink

Author of 13 books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Writer of the nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters.” Top-rated radio host in Atlanta. Writer for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog.
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