Have you ever thought of making money renting spare room in your home? I have been toiling with this idea, as I used to be one of the many foreign teenage students renting a room for three to four weeks at a time when I used to come to UK to improve my English.
And I remember those days fondly. I have always craved to give the opportunity to a young person to immerse themselves in the multicultural British experience in the same way as I did. So, I started looking around, and found out that there are so many different opportunities to make money. You can get a lodger on a more or less long term, you can rent your spare room. But by spare rooms, I don’t mean solely renting out your spare rooms, but also a garage that you may not use, or the drive at the front of your house.
The opportunities are truly endless, all you need is a bit of imagination. Let me talk to you about but a few of them, and how to achieve them.
The benefits of renting spare room – Initial small costs
Often we are reminded what a good source of regular income it is to invest in properties, which you can then rent out to tenants, whose monthly rent not only will pay for a mortgage repayment, but will leave a surplus which can become a regular earner. A few years down the line you can then sell the property for a small profit (or sometimes a larger one, depending on the real estate market trend), and you can reinvest part of it in purchasing more properties.
The problem with that is that initial investment. With any other home based venture, you are never required to cough up in the region of the £10,000s for a deposit. If you don’t have that initial cash (and let’s admit it, most of us will not have it!), then the whole plan goes to pot.
Renting spare room does NOT require any previous investment of tens of thousands of pounds, or dollars, or whichever the currency of the country you live in. It comes with the territory of having spare space in your home that you do not use as surplus to the needs of the household.
When an investment is required, it will be of a reasonable amount. So, for instance, you may have an unloved shed in your garden, or even an old summer house. Well, with a lick of paint and a good spring-clean, you can convert that shed and advertise it for rent as:
- storage space – you provide the tenant with a safe padlock and key and can arrange for free access;
- B&B bedroom – ideally with an en-suite, depending on available space and utility services, and with a little bit of extra money to spend initially;
- work space – yes, just like Roadl Dahl, who used to work in his shed.
Once you have converted your space, all that remains for you to do is advertise your space on the local paper or on business and touristic websites. Again, you may want to take into account the money that you may have to pay for advertising purposes, but on the pro side, you have also to remember that maintenance costs and time are virtually inexistent.
Rent your spare room to foreign students attending courses of English
When I first came to UK, I was a student who wanted to improve on her English, and was most appreciative of the welcome the two families I stayed with gave me. I was in my teens and my English teacher (for clarity, Italian teacher teaching English class in high school) used to organise stays of three weeks in partnership with schools of English for foreign students, who for a fee provided host families and the classes as well. It was my first close up encounter with British culture, and possibly the experience that sowed that seed which encouraged me eventually to move back, develop my career and stay for good!
Renting your spare room to young foreign students as a host family would entail just that: providing a bedroom with access to the facilities, where, depending on the package the student purchases from the school of English, may include you having to provide breakfast and dinner, and sometimes a pack lunch.
Normally students come in the summer holidays or during school holidays, such as Easter. Remember that schools in other countries not often have half-terms, but they have longer summer holidays. This means that you could have a couple of students in a course of a summer, each staying for up to four weeks in a space of three months.
When I last was a guest in one of the families that hosted me, I was 19 years old – this was nearly 30 years ago!!! But, I remember at the time in Brighton the family charged £80 per week. This included a half board arrangement, and the use of the bathroom of course. But my landlady would also do my laundry, and in the evening if I wanted, I could sit with my hosting family watching telly with them whilst taking part in the end of the day family general conversation (this was deemed to improve my English enormously).
On a couple of occasions I remember being invited to visit my family relatives and to go to a day out in the country with them. This is what you will have to be prepared to offer the young guest student, although the school of english the student attends may organize a lot of days out and excursions.
In order to be considered as a host family for a young foreign student, the best way is to get in touch with local schools for foreign students, or university campuses. Alternatively, you can also contact foreign bodies organizing summer stays in UK for young students. The one renowned Italian one I can think of is EF, but all you have to do is google the information up.
Get a lodger
Getting a lodger is more long term commitment. The requirements are not much different from the ones you need to provide when hosting a young foreign student, but this time you are likely to deal with adult guests who would want to rent your room out and the shared facilities as their permanent address.
For this reason, you need to be prepared to virtually have somebody living with you as an additional member of the family.
The other difference is that, as an adult, your lodger will require free access to your kitchen and to your laundry and ironing facilities, as (s)he will be wanting to do their own laundry and might want to do their own cooking and purchase their own food. (S)he will also expect access to WiFi and possibly a TV in their room.
The other thing to consider is from an income tax point of view.
Whilst with a student staying for short periods of time your taxable income is not likely to change dramatically to grant the Tax Office to increase the percentage of your income tax, having a lodger effectively means a regular additional income, which in UK may become taxable under HMRC law. In this case it is always best to be safe and to contact your local tax office to seek advice.
In order to get a lodger, again you may have to consider advertising costs. You may want to advertise online on specialized forums and platforms, which may charge a small fee. Or you may want to use the local papers and the ones of surrounding areas, to attract potential business people who do not want to – or cannot afford to – rent self-contained accommodation and have to pay the relative bills.
Rent your spare room as a B&B bedroom
This is by far the option I prefer. As far as UK is concerned, flocks of tourists visit and all parts of UK. But nowadays a lot of tourists will prefer to visit a city or a sight of interest on a budget. People, who are attracted to low fare airline deals, are the same people who will want a cheaper accommodation without deterring from an excellent customer experience.
And that’s where you can help with your spare room.
Renting to tourists normally entails renting your spare room on a B&B basis, i.e. room, breakfast and sharing bathroom facilities, for very few days, and possibly for no longer than a week or two.
Again, your room and your house must be welcoming and of good livable standards. Remember, unlike with the other tow options I mentioned before, at the end of the day by appealing to tourists you compete with registered B&B businesses. So, whilst your selling point is the fact that you do not charge as much, your guest(s) will expect good decor, cleanness and an overall welcoming attitude by yourself and your family. Your guest(s) will equally expect access to the internet and their own TV set.
The customer base you are looking at is possibly a couple wanting to spend a long weekend doing local sightseeing, or a business person needing to attend a meeting or conference locally.
For such purpose, the best way to advertise your room may have to be online, where advertising costs are reduced.
There are several reputable platforms you can register your room with as guest. These platforms are the same starting point for tourists wanting to find accommodation. The payment of your rental fees are handled directly from the rental sites, who however will retain a small percentage.
The most renowned I can think of are:
But there are ever so many others that you can find by doing a bit of online browsing.
When I first mention this idea to my family, both my husband and my son immediately saw the negative part of this venture, and raised concerns about the safety aspect. Quite bluntly they brought to my attention that, at the end of the day, we would entrust strangers with our house keys. And yes, they may be right, nothing would stop an individual from getting copy of your house key cut, and to then break in and steel from your home.
There are measures that you are advised to take. For short stays, and with younger students, you may not need to give keys out altogether – but you must also ensure that you are going to be around to enable your host to gain entrance to the property.
Another measure you can put in place is seek advice from your house insurance broker. Many insurance policies will make note of the fact you are having paying guests or a lodger staying for a period of time, and will not charge you any additional fee. However, by advising your broker of the temporary changes in your household, you enable the policy holder to process eventual claims for damages.
The safest option, once again, is to advertise your room with online rental sites. Such sites offer free insurance which covers for last minute cancellation and for damage at the time of your guests staying or as a result of their past stay. Again, good search for a reputable rental site, and checking reviews, is always advisable.
I shall be honest, I cannot talk from experience as yet, as I have not yet advertised our spare room.
Why not? Because we are still doing renovation works in our home. And, no matter which use you want to make of your spare room, you need to make it habitable and to tick as many comfort boxes as possible.
The reality of it is that the boxes you need to tick to make your room more appealing to a potential lodger or to tourists or a school of english, are not any different from the requirements you would have in your own home. So, mouldy walls are out of the question. But legal safety requirements should be implemented too, such as ensuring your boiler is inspected regularly every year.
Do I think this type of business has potential? Absolutely!!! Otherwise, I would not have written in excess of 2000 words talking about it.
In fact, I am pretty sure I shall be able to report on this time next year, after hopefully we are going to be able to rent our spare bedroom to tourists wanting to visit UK in the weeks leading to Christmas or in the immediate aftermath.
If you are already renting out spare space in your home, of if you are thinking of doing so but have concerns, it would be brilliant if you could leave your comment giving me a taste of your experience (good or bad may it have been), or so that I can help with your questions.