What’s your biggest asset?

Most people would say their home.

If you travel a lot, or would like to, you can rent your own home to other vacationers on a short term basis. There’s cash in your bedrooms! You can either do it in conjunction with a vacation rental you own and rent your own home out as you spend time in your second home, or as a way to fund your travels.

There are two different models for vacation rentals or home sharing. Let’s talk about which one is best for you. We’ll finish with a free way to travel.

My husband and I are officially “digital nomads” and so I can speak from our own experience as well as from friends who have cashed in on turning their home into a cash machine.

Whole house vacation rental

Here- most common on HomeAway, VRBO and FlipKey- guests expect an experience where they will be the only ones in the home, and there will be no owner’s clothes or personal items (toiletries in the bathroom, food in the kitchen, etc.). Guests booking on these platforms expect a hotel experience with the spaciousness of a home.

Guests will pay more for this kind of experience, and if this is still your primary residence, it makes sense to go this route if you are going to be away for a long time.

If you have a garage or storage shed, you are in luck, as you can use a lot of that area for your personal items. In one of our houses, we have put deadbolts on selected closets that aren’t essential to the guests’ experience, labeling them owner’s closets, and provide armoires or make other arrangements for the guests’ clothes and shoes and other items.

For our own items, we have a portable holder for our toiletries and simply move them all into the owner’s closet when it’s time to leave.

Nothing- no food or pictures or personal items are left out. We simply lock everything away in the our private storage and the guests have a clean experience with lovely furnishings and are none the wiser of the bit of chaos going on behind closed doors.

To list your home on the above websites, you can either choose to pay a fee, or, let them take a commission from every booking you make- which means you can list for free- absolutely no risk to you.

Home Sharing

Home Sharing is much more common on Airbnb. In fact, they are the ones who popularized it. People can rent out a couch, a shared room, a private room, or an entire house. People on Airbnb have a much higher tolerance, even an expectation, of sharing a closet, a kitchen, and a dresser and bathroom with other people. Even if you aren’t there, just clearing out 10 hangers in the closet and a drawer in a bedroom would be acceptable on Airbnb.

This opens you up to share your home even if you are gone for a week, as you don’t have to uproot your whole life. And, that week could pay for you to stay somewhere you have always dreamt about.

Home Exchange

The last method is free to both parties, you just pay a small, yearly fee to www.HomeExchange.com. Like Airbnb, there’s no expectation that the house will be free of personal affects. Although they have added a second category, vacation rentals, where you would not have to do a simultaneous exchange and you would get a home free of personal items.

You create your listing, just like you do on all other platforms, then you start shopping for homes you want to visit and hope there are some that want to come to your locale. They are starting a program where you get a credit called a “balloon”, and you get one credit for hosting someone, then can use your balloon anywhere in the world. So you are not tied to going to that person’s home.

Summing it Up

The pros- you are making money or getting a free trip when you are not staying at your home.

The cost- nothing to list on HomeAway, VRBO, Flipkey or Airbnb, although they will take a commission and/or traveler fee. There is a small fee on HomeExchange for unlimited number of exchanges for the year.

The risk- it’s your home, and you have to make sure your home owner’s policy and HOA and county are okay with short term rentals. You can really get to know your future guests on Airbnb and HomeExchange by seeing what other owners say about them. On HomeAway, you can see an overall score, not personal comments.

Whether you keep your clothes, toiletries and kitchen items in the home or not, I would definitely  make plans to store valuable or sentimental objects elsewhere or behind locked doors. While it’s rare, things can go missing or get damaged.