When Sandra Zuluaga, rented out a room in her Mexico City flat to a couple over the winter holiday, she opened her front door to find an unexpected guest.
“They booked for two people, but showed up with a baby,” said the 39-year-old publicist. “The baby was lovely, but it was a surprise.”
It’s one of the many surprises part-time landlords face when they rent their homes or part of their homes temporarily, be it weeks at a time or just for holidays. As short-term rental sites make it easier than ever to rent out property occasionally, many find it can be a good way to generate extra cash to offset mortgage payments or earn extra money for a holiday.
The largest peer-to-peer rental websites including Airbnb, Flipkey, Homeaway operate in more than 140 countries. But no matter where you are, the threat of damage to your home or unexpected hiccups in the rental process can make it seem daunting to get started.
“It’s easy to come up with scenarios of what could go wrong,” said Chip Conley, head of global hospitality at Airbnb. But with 550,000 people renting out homes to more than 10 million users via Airbnb since it launched in 2008, many consumers already see the benefits.
This year, Zuluaga, expects to earn 130,000 pesos($10,000) by renting out her entire two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment when she and her husband Enrique travel and leasing the spare bedroom when they’re not away from home. Aside from the unexpected visitor, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive, she said.
“So far, so good,” said Zuluaga, who started renting out her flat via Airbnb last winter. Approximately 40% of Airbnb users rent out a spare room in their home, according to the company.
If you’re thinking of joining those half-a-billion people renting though Airbnb — and the many more using other services, it pays to prepare yourself and your property before you leap into the world of sometimes landlord.
To help users prepare, most peer-to-peer rental sites offer insurance protection for property owners and make it simple to hold an additional security deposit for the property. For example, users are automatically insured for up to $1 million in damages through Airbnb, while Flipkey and Homeaway allow users to purchase insurance for $35 to $89 per contract for coverage of up to $5,000 through a third-party insurer.
Singapore-based Roomorama, which operates across Asia, North America and Europe, does not provide insurance for hosts, but the company encourages renters to take a security deposit. Both Flipkey and Airbnb say the majority of users take a deposit from $100 to $300. Often times, the deposit is held via credit card or PayPal until guests complete the checkout process.