How to Rent Out Your Vacation Home

Q: Buy a weekend house at the shore or in the country, and you may start to wonder if you could recoup some of your investment by renting it out from time to time. But is it really as simple as posting your home on Airbnb?

A: We spoke with some vacation rental experts about how to break into the short-term rental market, what you need to get started and how much work you can expect to do.

Know the rules. Before you list your property, check the ordinances in your state, county, city and homeowners’ association to find out if any restrictions exist that could limit your options. You may need a permit, or a fire inspection, or you may not be allowed to rent your home at all. Next, make sure your homeowner insurance policy has adequate coverage for a commercial property.

Assemble your team. Decide whether you will manage the property yourself or hire a professional. Property managers often take 20 to 30 percent of the rent revenue, so be diligent about interviewing candidates, looking for one who knows your market and has a reliable track record. If you decide to self-manage the home, ask yourself if you’re willing (and able) to be on call at all hours, day or night, to respond to inquiries and address problems.

“It’s amazing what is needed to really, truly support a guest,” said Alex Johnson, the senior director of business operations and strategies for Vacasa, a short-term rental property manager. “You’ve got to make sure that you are prepared to take those calls and help those guests, especially if you are a homeowner that lives farther away.”

If you go it alone, you’ll need a reliable cleaning service that can quickly turn over the property, and a maintenance crew that can respond to issues promptly. James Svetec, an owner of BNB Inner Circle, a host coaching service, suggests investing in software to automate reservations, like Hospitable or Hostaway.

Set the stage. Stock the cabinets with dishes, glasses, pots and pans. Get fresh linens and towels. And make wise furnishing choices, including pieces that are durable and easy to clean, and that can increase your occupancy, like a sofa bed.

Add flourishes like a basket of board games, and a folder with information about nearby attractions. Store personal items in a locked cabinet, have the property deep cleaned, and then hire a professional photographer to take the listing photos.

“When a person is booking on Airbnb, the first thing they see is that cover photo,” said Mr. Svetec, who is an author of “Airbnb for Dummies.” “You really want to help people envision themselves in the space.”

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