You don't have to live in a big city like Austin or San Francisco to take advantage of renting your home during local events. Homeowners in Ardmore, PA, a small town of 12,500 residents, are already starting to talk about how to rent out their homes for the 2013 US Open golf tournament just under a year away. But, in order to rent your home, you need to stay abreast of local events and get up-to-speed quickly on your local rules and regulations.
Whether you're renting your home for a one-off event, or marketing your existing vacation rental, it's important to set up an informative website with plenty of photos, including rooms, amenities, and the surrounding area. Maintain your website with a local area guide and list upcoming local events, happening now and months in the future.
Find out about local events in your area
- Contact your visitor's bureau. In larger cities, this might be a convention and visitor's bureau (CVB). They should have a list of major events and conferences happening in your area.
- Check out local event directories like Eventful.
- Subscribe to your city or neighborhood newspapers and magazines.
- Search for press releases or news. Set up a Google alert to get notified by email when new items are published to the web.
- Contact local entertainment centers, theaters, and concert venues to obtain a copy of their calendar.
- Follow event companies on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Plancast as they are most likely to promote their events through these channels.
- While you may find renting your home during an event very lucrative and enjoyable, there are many things you should do before starting to advertise, especially if you're renting out your primary home or new to managing a vacation rental.
Determine short-term rental rules
Check with your city, county, state, and/or homeowner's association if there are any specific rules and regulations regarding short-term and long-term rentals during local events in your region. You need to check with each governing body to obtain information on any rules regarding minimum stays, health code inspections, permits, fire safety, and insurance. This checklist is important because some governing bodies will levy hefty fines for the first contravention, while you might find others who will waive short-term or long-term rental restrictions for city-wide local events.
Obtain insurance policies
Check with your insurance agent to see if you will need additional coverage. Ask if the additional coverage applies for one-time short-term rentals or a long-term rental, depending on your situation.
Consult your tax advisor
If your vacation rental is strictly a business operation and not for personal use, you'll need to report it on schedule E of your tax return. For those who use their home primarily for personal use, but rent it out for less than 14 days a year, you don't have to report the rental income.
Be prepared to collect sales tax
In most states, vacation rentals are required to collect sales tax, also known as, occupancy or TOT tax, on the nightly rental rate. Once you collect the tax, you are required to file the appropriate tax returns to the city, county, or state (or potentially all three depending on the location of your property). You can set up a special sales tax account with your bank to keep these funds separate and easily accessible when it comes time to pay your taxes.
Set your rates
Compare your home to other vacation rental homes (not hotels), taking into consideration your location to the event, proximity to public transportation, the size of your home, and amenities included. Search HomeAway, FlipKey, Airbnb, and Craigslist to see what others are listed for. As tempting as it may be, don't just list at the highest comparable price you see, or you may end up not renting your home at all during the event.
Promote your rental:
Contact the event organizer
Many large events have a section of their website dedicated to local accommodations. Let them know you have availability and see if you can get listed.
Update your listing sites
Change your listing site headlines to showcase event availability. If you already market your rental on sites like HomeAway or FlipKey, change the title of your current post to reflect your availability.
Create an ad on Craigslist
Whether or not you use Craigslist regularly to promote your vacation rental, it's a great idea during local events to utilize the free classified site. Make sure your title, price, and description provide details on your availability and rules during the event, such as minimum stay or price changes that deviate from your regular terms.
Get listed on niche rental websites
There are so many vacation rental listing sites now it's hard to keep track of them all, but they can really come in handy when targeting a niche group of travelers. Game Day Housing and Sports Event Rentals are great examples for sports events.
Share with your network
Send an email to past renters, or friends and family if this your first time renting, letting them know you've got availability for the big event. Post a status update on your social media profiles and ask your network to share with friends. To sweeten the deal, you might consider offering a commission to your friends (say 10%) if they refer a friend who books with you.
Pitch the press
If you have a unique story to tell with your vacation rental, contact your local news station and make the pitch. Especially if the event is already garnering a lot of public attention, the press might be eager to hear how vacation rental owners are adding special amenities (like a private chef or chauffeured transportation) in order to stand out.
Renting your home during a major event can be a great experience if you're prepared logistically and get creative on the marketing side. Talk to other homeowners in your community about what is working well for them. Even though you're technically their competition, big events can bring a lot of demand and most owners are pretty open to sharing ideas.