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How to Use Home Sharing Websites for Extra Income

You could be sitting on a gold mine of under- or unutilized space if you have a guest bedroom—or even a comfy futon—that you aren’t renting out to budget-conscious guests on a travel sharing or home sharing website like Airbnb. But there are a few things you should consider before listing your extra bedroom and handing out your spare set of keys to strangers.

Extra Income

The first and obvious benefit from renting out part of your home is the extra income. Airbnb offers a handy tool to estimate what you could earn each month based on your location, type of listing (single room vs. mother-in-law suite, etc.), and number of nights available. With your listing—posted for free on Airbnb—you can decide how much to charge on a nightly, weekly, or monthly basis (or let the site decide for you based on other similar listings). You can also charge for extra perks like meals, use of washer and dryer, or use of a parking spot.

One of the best advantages to short-term rentals like this is you can decide how often to open up your home and host guests. You can set limits on how many nights guests can stay, decide if you accept children and pets, or list your home as smoking or non-smoking. If your schedule gets busy, you can remove your listing until you’re ready to start hosting again. No long-term contracts to worry about!

With peer-to-peer home sharing and travel sites acting as brokers to process payments from travelers to hosts, you won’t need to worry about making change. Payments are processed online using a secure online processing system, and hosts are paid 24 hours after check-in. You can be paid via direct deposit, PayPal, or a variety of other convenient options. Whichever site you use, they will charge a small service fee. Airbnb, for example, charges a 3 percent service fee.

Before creating a listing, check with your local codes, city laws, and home owners’ association to ensure it’s not illegal for you to run short-term rentals from your home. Airbnb offers some insight on local laws, but it’s safest to check local codes yourself.

Should the Worst Happen

Naturally, inviting strangers into your home, probably unsupervised for periods of time, has its risks. Personal property can be broken, damaged, or stolen. House rules may be ignored. Privacy may be violated. You should consider these possible scenarios—and how you would handle them—before opening up your home. But you should know sites like Airbnb have protocols and systems in place to prevent or lessen the chances of these worst-case scenarios.

Airbnb requires hosts and guests to provide some basic information as part of their verification process; however, as a host you can also require guests to provide additional official ID and complete Airbnb’s verified ID process. In addition to this, both guests and hosts receive ratings, which are public on the website, from one another. This system allows you as a host to turn down a guest application if you see they have received unfavorable reviews and comments from other hosts.

Here’s what you can do once guests arrive. Be clear about house rules and where they are allowed to spend time. Let them know if they are able to use the kitchen at all—if they’re allowed to cook meals, store leftovers in the fridge, etc. Be sure to show them how the shower works, how the lock on their room door works, and how your washer and dryer work if you allow them to use it. Make sure guests have a way of contacting you if you’re not home when they have questions. Let your neighbors know you’ll have routine guests at the house so they don’t call the police on your unsuspecting customers!

Insurance

Airbnb offers host protection insurance, at no extra cost, for liability claims up to $1 million in the event of property damage or guest injury. They also act as arbiter for complaints. And while this gives some peace of mind, it’s safest to also carry your own insurance against damage or injury incurred during a guest’s stay.

More and more insurance companies are offering additional riders for homeowners’ insurance. These riders usually cover property damage and replacement. Some also include guest injury. A quote can be as low as $15/month and is well worth the investment if you’ll be a regular host.

Other Rewards

Besides being a source of income, sharing your home with guests also brings with it other rewards. You will meet new people and possibly learn about other cultures as travelers spend time with you over a meal or a cup of coffee. If you live alone, it can be a fun form of companionship. If you have lived in your community a long time, you can be a local tour guide for guests. There’s the possibility of making new friends who will welcome you into their home should you decide to travel and visit their hometown.

If you are thinking about becoming a host, visit the various home sharing websites to read their individual policies and to see how to get started. It has been a rewarding experience for many of the growing number of hosts across the US and the world. See if it’s right for you!

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