Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Turning your spare space into extra cash

If you have extra space in your home, and you’re looking for a way to make additional income without the commitment of having a roommate, listing your space on a vacation or short-term rental website might be an interesting idea to look into.

I personally love staying in vacation rentals and apartments because they’re much more interesting than a hotel, and they’re often cheaper. Plus, they’re always in way cooler neighbourhoods.

When I was visiting New York City a few years ago, my friends and I rented a 1-bedroom apartment from someone on VRBO.com. He worked and lived in the unit below the apartment. In Budapest, my boyfriend and I rented a spare bedroom from a woman who lived in the heart of downtown for just €12,50/night each. And in Switzerland, we used AirBnB.com to rent a room in a house for less than half the price of a hotel.

It’s a really interesting way to earn money. Because I mean, why let the space go to waste if you’re not even using it? I know of people that rent parking space in their driveway to people living in apartments close by, and I know a couple who rented out a small corner in their garage for someone looking for storage space. It’s something I will definitely consider when I eventually move into a home with more than one bedroom. :)

Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking of turning your spare space into extra cash:

  • The ability to pick and choose your schedule. You are in control of your space, so you can decide if and when you want to take on renters based on your personal needs, or your financial requirements. For example, if you are a freelancer, and you know the summer months are slow for business – but big for tourism – you might decide to rent your extra bedroom for only a couple months out of the year until business picks up again. Or if you are going away for a week, list your space online for the exact time you’ll be away. Not only will you earn a bit of extra cash, but someone will be there to water your plants and collect your mail (if you ask nicely).
  • Make sure you’re in a desirable location. If you want to succeed at earning cash, you need to be located in an area where people want to be. This includes easy access to public transportation, proximity to a tourist attraction, or an area of historical or geographical importance.
  • There are up-front costs. There’s more to renting out your space than throwing up a picture on a website. You will need to clean the room and any common space, buy bedding, and fix any quirks your home might have – like a washing machine that squeaks, or a door that doesn’t lock properly.
  • You need to be a people person. If you’re renting out a room in your home, you will need to be able to get along with all different kinds of people – even in the event you get a “problem” guest, it is up to you to solve the situation.

There are also ways to make your home more appealing to renters, and to attract repeat customers. Here are a few that I have picked up along the way:

  • Create a guide to your neighbourhood. It’s a great idea to leave a short information sheet for your guests. Whether it’s the address of the nearest convenience store or ATM machine, or a collection of the best restaurants in the neighbourhood, the added touch of a neighbourhood guidebook will make your guest more comfortable, and it also shows that you have pride in your home and your neighbourhood.
  • Provide your guests with towels and linens. Some people who rent out their apartments ask that guests provide their own towels and linens. But with today’s airline baggage restrictions, that just isn’t reasonable anymore.
  • It’s the little things that count. Since most people are used to staying in hotels, they might have forgotten to bring personal items like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hair dryers. Having these little things available to your guests can make all the difference – and saves them from running to the nearest drug store.
  • Be accessible. It’s important that you can trust your guest, and your guest can trust you. Respond to e-mails promptly, and provide your cell phone number in case you need to get in contact for any reason. Offering to help them get acquainted with your neighbourhood will go a long way to help your guest feel comfortable, and you might even make a new friend in the process.

Have you ever considered renting out space in your home?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


Comments

  1. Pauline says:

    I love Airbnb! Have used it over the last year and met awesome people. It is kind of difficult to use with last minute plans though. When I settle down and have a spare room, I am definitely considering renting it out.

  2. It’s a cool idea! My wife and my’s house doesn’t really fit as something we could make money on. But the next time we travel, it might be a neat thing to try. Here in our own country even. I mean, we go on little roadtrips to hike with the girls, and to stay in a room or an apartment could really make those trips even cheaper!

  3. Andrew Ostos says:

    Hi Krystal,

    I think turning spare space into extra cash is a great idea. You’re right. The space isn’t being used, so why not try and make the most out of it by having it produce income? Also, the guide you provide is a good starting point for people who have never thought of doing this before! Thanks for sharing Krystal.

    Andrew from TD

  4. eemusings says:

    I definitely am NOT a people person! Ginger Won’t Snap seems to have done really well for herself with renting out space though.

    But we want to go traveling soon so I may be signing up to Staydu, Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders etc and hosting some people this summer.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I’d definitely be interested in how you find Couchsurfing and Global Freeloaders. I’ve stayed away from websites like that because I like the officialness of paying for my own space – even if it is just a room in someone else’s house. Plus, I can’t host anyone in Vancouver because my place is too small.

  5. Michelle says:

    We rent out a room to my sister. Easy money!

  6. Kelly K says:

    Intesting idea but I’m wondering about any implications on your insurance. Do you know if you have to declare you are renting and making a profit? In one way it is no different than having a roommate, but I’d be concerned about needing extra liability insurance if someone got injured and sued you.

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