One of the biggest success stories of the sharing economy has been property rental services. Airbnb is probably the poster boy of the movement but there are a number of rivals such as Onefinestay.com and HomeAway.co.uk.
Earlier in the summer we looked at these companies from a renter’s perspective: but what if you have a flat, house or just a room you would like to rent out on a short-term basis? In theory, short lets can generate a fair amount of extra cash, particularly if you have more space than you need or if you are away regularly, for example on business.
So what do you need to know to be a successful sharing-economy landlord?
1. Pick your platform
The first step is to work out which service would suit your property best. Airbnb has the largest number of listings but its reputation is built in having rentals in urban areas where “real people” live – not necessarily in tourist areas.
Onefinestay is aimed squarely at people who want to stay in more luxurious homes in London, Paris, New York and LA, while HomeAway concentrates more on traditional holiday properties such as villas and coastal apartments.
2. Think about what will appeal to potential visitors
If you don’t live in a tourist trap or by the sea, that doesn’t mean your property won’t appeal to anyone. With Airbnb in particular, much of the attraction is being able to stay off the beaten track and to live “as locals”. When you’re marketing your property, think about what could make your neighbourhood a good base for visitors.
3. Look at the competition
Have a look to see if there are already other properties in your area listed, and pick up marketing tips from them. This should also give you some idea of how much you might be able to charge – and comments from previous visitors could highlight potential selling points.
4. Get reviews
One of the key aspects of many sharing economy services is trust – and in order for potential guests to trust you, you need to build up a history of positive reviews, just as you do on eBay, for example.
The more reviews you have, and the better they are, the higher you’ll appear on the site’s listings. Consider charging a lower rate than your competition in the early stages – this could compensate for your lack of reviews and help you build up a reputation.
5. Be the perfect host
The key to getting positive feedback is not just the quality of your accommodation and location, but also the service you provide. Your property should be clean and well-stocked, and you or a friend should be available to deal with any problems. Remember, being a successful landlord can be a significant obligation.
6. Check out potential guests
As they will check up on you, it is important to run the rule over potential guests by assessing their feedback from previous rentals.
7. Consider your insurance position
Think also about your position if anything is damaged by a guest: your home insurance policy is unlikely to have accidental damage cover as standard, but some rental sites have their own policies for landlords.
However, if you are renting out space, your current insurer may need to be informed even if no claims result: check your policy’s small print. You could also consider getting extra cover to protect against injury or losses suffered by guests.
The sheer numbers of people taking advantage of accommodation-sharing services – Airbnb has more than 1 million listings now – show just what a good idea it can be. But it’s vital to do your homework in advance to give your rental the best chance of success.