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Home Exchange or Rental Services Can Help You Save or Earn Extra Cash

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With summer vacation just around the corner, you might be looking for ways to finance your own travels and make sure your house has that lived-in look to deter foul play. Or maybe you have a vacation home in a desirable destination and you have considered renting it when you are not using the property. Or you have thought about renting out a room in your house to independent travelers looking for a deeper connection to the locale.

Enter online services that enable consumers to rent out or swap their homes (be it a vacation property or your primary residence). It can be a great way to supplement your income or help offset those mortgage payments. But the services aren’t always free – and inviting strangers home isn’t something everyone feels comfortable doing. Here’s what you need to know about home rental or exchange services.

Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) and Homeaway

One of the original online vacation rental services, HomeAway (which owns VRBO) offers owners an easy way to list their properties and book reservations. For a flat fee of $299 a year, owners can post up to 5 photos on their page, as well as an online calendar and links to their own property websites.

Users search the database by destination, and can narrow the search by travel dates and property features. Comes in handy when looking for apartments in Paris or San Francisco, with many different neighborhoods to choose from.

Inger Rarick, who manages her family vacation rental in the Florida Keys, has been a VRBO member for eight years. She finds the yearly fee is paid for with just one listing and credits the success of her listing to the personal reviews from past guests, which she keeps current. In addition, listing local attractions and providing a complete list of amenities has helped boost her bookings.

Airbnb

Billed as a social network for people with space to spare, the upsides of this service include online credit card payments, getting to know your guests before they arrive and free listing service. You pay 3% once your listing is booked, no need to pay anything up front.

Airbnb takes the stuffiness out of the vacation rental market by encouraging direct communication between owners and guests, inviting hosts to be transparent, communicate quickly and accurately and provide great customer service.

Hosts can list any sort of accommodation from a spare room in your house to your little island castle in the south sea. And the best part is making connections with fellow travelers, which is bound to be useful for your next vacation.

Independent rental agencies, Craigslist, home exchange services

A teacher in Seward, Alaska, rents out her charming cottage to tourists in the summer, decamping herself to an Airstream trailer she parks in her son’s backyard. Doing this allows her to supplement her income and meet travelers from around the world. She lists her home through a local vacation rental agency and manages cleaning and repair work herself. She even provides a keyless entry system, enabling guests to arrive at any time of day.

Craigslist is another way for the independent owner to offer their property to the public. Listings are free to post, except in New York City, where the charge is $10 for each brokered apartment rental listing. You can post up to 4 photos per listing, although you need remember to update your listing as they do expire. And Craigslist does not offer any protection between host and guest, so you would need to do your homework before signing rental contracts with a guest.

Home exchange is a popular concept established in the 1950s, offering homeowners the opportunity to exchange their home for a stay in another part of the world. Established in 1992, HomeExchange.com allows homeowners and vacation home seekers to connect easily online. For a yearly membership fee of $50-$200, owners list their homes, including location, amenities and desired exchange locations. Once the connection is made, the two parties handle the details of the exchange directly. Ideal situation for folks with flexible travel schedules!

Keep in mind

First off, you need to determine if your home is really vacation home material. Is it in an interesting location, close to attractions, destinations and even public transportation? Is it clean enough to accept guests? And are you comfortable having strangers in your home?

Do you have the time to manage your rental property or would you need to hire a local property management company and cleaning service (which adds extra to the cost)? What kind of work would you need to do to your home to make it ready for guests? The funky shower that only works with a swift kick is not going to be a big selling point.

Determine the pros and cons of renting your place as a short-term vacation home and find out if this might be a viable option for you (and your budget).

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