Summer's basically here, and with it the eternal question: "Can I make money on my empty place while I'm away?" There are legalities to consider, of course, but if everything in that department is good to go, then the question should really be: "Why not?" We worked with Booking.com to analyze the more than 1 million apartments, beach homes, and houseboats listed on their site (yes, they list short-term vacation rentals, too!) to see what makes the difference between a cash cow and a money pit when it comes to renting out your place while you're away.
Make It Picture Perfect
A picture is worth a thousand words, and maybe thousands of dollars over the long-term. Photos will be the first impression for potential guests, and it's easy to make it a good one. A professional photo shoot shouldn't set you back more than $200 and you'll quickly make that money back after just a few bookings.
Know Where to List
Exposure is key, and you'll want to maximize the number of potential guests browsing your listing every day. With 1.2 million room nights reserved daily, Booking.com isn't a bad place to start. They also advertise your place on sites all across the internet, but all you have to pay is a commission once your guest has completed their stay. At all phases of your booking, from listing to hosting, Booking.com provides 24/7 support with a real human if you need any help.
Make Sure the Price Is Right
If you're just starting out, find comparable listings in your neighborhood and take note of the price, then drop it by 15% to establish your starting rate. This competitive pricing will get you some quick bookings. Once you've got 3–5 great reviews, you can feel confident enough to raise your price to be on par with your neighbors, knowing that the bookings will still roll in thanks to your good reviews. On the subject of great reviews, one feature of Booking.com's that caught our eye is that only verified guests of your place can leave reviews. Sorry, trolls.
Speaking of good reviews, think like a guest when setting up your listing and prepping your home. Make sure you include practical information like directions and building access codes in a pre-stay email. Also, stock your place with basics (coffee, tea, a local treat you love) and leave a note with your favorite neighborhood spots. These little personal touches will cost you less than $5 per guest and will go a long way in getting a great review.
Maximize Your Deductions
Familiarize yourself with tax laws like the 14-day rule and keep flawless records of all your business expenses related to renting out your place. You'll thank yourself at tax time, when you may be surprised that you can avoid paying income tax on your earnings altogether or claim deductions that you otherwise wouldn't.