Renting out your house, cottage or apartment can be quite simple. You post photos of the exterior and enough of the key interior rooms on one of the many rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, or Homeaway. Then, you write a detailed description of what both your home and location offer and set your house rules such as no dogs, birds or cats. Next, you set your price per night, state if any weekday or seasonal discounts or premium charges apply, decide if you want to require a refundable security deposit and if there will be any clean-up charges. That’s when you cross your fingers that renters will come—and be good guests.
But to attract renters on a regular basis and garner good reviews—which will help attract more renters—it’s important to take time and put in effort to make your home as presentable and welcoming as possible.
What does that mean exactly? It depends in large measure whether your home represents purely an investment that you rent out or if it’s a place where you live most of the time, when you’re not renting it. (Some hosts also like to stay and just rent out a room or rooms.) The number of furnishings and décor are likely to be a bit different in each of these scenarios.
Then, you’ll want to consider including some niceties that improve a guest’s experience whichever route you take. The best way to learn what these are is to think about staying in your home and making a list of what’s there and what you’re missing to improve comfort level. This list could include items such as good Wi-Fi throughout the home, clean, fresh towels and linens, fluffy firm pillows and mattress, working appliances, air conditioning, tidy exterior, and so on. Also, know that some hosts don’t provide towels and linens. They expect guests to bring their own. So be sure to let your guests know your approach to such matters in your description before you rent it out.
Homes available only for rentals
In general, homes available only as rentals are more minimally furnished. They may have some books in bookshelves and magazines on coffee tables, but they’re not likely to include years and even decades of collected tomes. They’re also likely to include some seating, end tables with lamps or overhead lighting, some throws for winter warmth, artwork, and hangers in closets. They will also typically include bathroom essentials such as a hairdryer and fresh toiletries and kitchen essentials, from dishes to glasses, pots, pans, napkins, placemats and cutlery. If there’s an outdoor area, it may include seating there, too.
Certainly you don’t need to go to the effort of providing a fully furnished home that has the patina of a house where furniture and objects have been lovingly collected through the decades or at least several years. Instead, the home and rooms are more likely to resemble a decorating effort put together from online or store bought furnishings. They will have a clean, maybe, even spare contemporary look with possibly very durable choices that renters are less likely to hurt or destroy.
The image coming to mind should be of a staged interior, ready to list and sell—with style but not too much personality. You’re trying to appeal to renters whose taste you don’t know, so it’s better not to go too Zen or too over the top Baroque. Your bottom line goal is to make guests comfortable. However, you do not need to spend all your future profit on what’s extraneous, especially since most will only stay for a few nights or weeks.
Homes that are lived in and rented out
Homes that are lived in and rented are a different story and usually have a much more lived-in look. Sometimes, they may even need some decluttering before guests arrive. This can mean: taking papers off a desk, removing some or all family photos if privacy is desired, emptying some closets and dresser drawers, throwing out refrigerator leftovers and putting away your most valuable items, including silver, jewelry and legal documents. Leaving condiments, cereal boxes, soda cans and so forth is fine, as is stocking up with fresh milk, juice and baked goods for guests’ enjoyment—and better reviews!
In fact, the name of the game is all about making money, which can also prove to be a matter of luck. You can do everything possible—even leave a welcome bottle of wine, fresh flowers and stack of leaflets about area sights for guests and—and still have guests complain about the lack of closet space or too much owner stuff in the refrigerator and an air conditioning system that’s difficult to use or doesn’t cool the house fast enough.
Where to find inspiration
Good advice to heed: Look at photos online of homes for rent and see how they’re furnished. Look at designer magazines for more ideas. Check online design advice sites such as Houzz and Pinterest. Study room vignettes in design showrooms like Design within Reach or Crate and Barrel to get an idea of how today’s rooms are arranged for style. And then become a bit imaginative. A pop of color from a toaster or Nespresso coffee machine might liven up your pristine white kitchen and make the guests swoon. Or a line-up of cushy pillows on the master bed may be just what your guests need to unwind—why they rented your home.
Finally, pay attention to what your renters say in their reviews, once you get over the fact they may not have loved it all. In this sharing economy, it’s key to develop a thick skin. For instance, you may be told that you need a full-length mirror that you don’t have and can affordably buy or need a better iron and ironing board or even the pricier investment of black-out shades to keep out the sunlight from waking them. It doesn’t matter that you love curtainless windows. In the rental world, it’s all about them, rather than you.
Here is a brief checklist to help you prepare for your guests, broken into what are essentials and what can be considered niceties.
- Good mattresses;
- Sufficient lighting in all rooms;
- Clean kitchen appliances and bathrooms;
- Adequate seating and end tables;
- Fresh towels and linens and enough pillows, plus blankets;
- Kitchen cookware, plates, utensils, spices and plastic glasses and plates if you have outdoor seating areas;
- Some artwork and books (You want to avoid the spare hotel look.);
- Full length mirror;
- New toiletries, even small size, for shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, body gels;
- Working AC or enough fans;
- Cleaning supplies, broom, vacuum, mop;
- Check of all railings, decks, stairs that they’re safe;
- Easy to work key for doors and/or alarm;
- Good Wi-Fi;
- More than one TV even if you don’t watch;
- Instructions for any appliances etc that are harder to use; and
- Printed out house rules that are succinct and not over the top but reasonable.
- A bottle of wine for welcome;
- Fresh OJ, milk, bagels, coffee capsules and maybe some fresh fruit;
- A good coffee machine such as a Nespresso;
- A good toaster or toaster oven;
- Fresh condiments such as ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper and spices for cooking;
- A few umbrellas and flashlights;
- Toys if you welcome children or teens and board games for adults as well;
- Welcome note with recommendations for area restaurants, sights, stores, doctors and a map; and
- Being there to greet your guests when they arrive and being there when they leave, if possible.