Renting Your Home During a Special Event in Your Area

    renting your home for special eventsRenting your primary home for a one-time special event can be lucrative and enjoyable. But you'll want to take certain precautions to ensure the safest experience for yourself and your rental guests.


    What type of event is worthy of being featured?

    Unfortunately, only one city gets the Super Bowl, but surely your area hosts some special events. Whether it's perusing your city's Chamber of Commerce site or joining some event sites to find out about interesting activities in your area, it's possible to find those extra special events you can feature in your headline. Whether it's a golf tournament or a craft show, a state fair or a sporting event, smaller, local events can have just as enthusiastic of fans as the big events that draw thousands. All you really need is one guest, right?


    What types of properties are ideal for event travelers?

    The size of the properties sought out by event travelers varies depending on the type of group, and to some degree, the type of event.  This is good news for owners because you shouldn't feel limited in your marketing options simply because of the size of your house. Larger, luxury homes could easily accommodate a corporate group or large family, but a two bedroom apartment could house a group of old friends reuniting for the Super Bowl or a college bowl game.  Even efficiencies would be ideal for a couple on a budget that would prefer to cook their own meals while on vacation and save some money — especially when compared to hotel rooms or larger properties.


    When should you start promoting the event on your listing?

    Many travelers will seek out accommodations early on, especially when they know that demand will likely far exceed supply. Once you start to hear buzz about an upcoming event, it's fair game to include some information in your listing. Vancouver homeowners could easily have started promoting the 2010 Olympics within their property listings 2 years in advance.

    What Legal Consideration Should You Keep in Mind?

    • Short-term rental rules. Your homeowner's association, city, county, or state/province may have regulations specifically regarding short-term rentals. Check with each governing body to find out if there are any rules for minimum stays, fire safety, health code inspections, or permits. Some governing bodies charge steep fines even for the first violation, while others waive short-term rental restrictions for big events, so it's always a good idea to do your research before renting.
    • Sales tax. Collecting sales tax (also called lodging, occupancy, or TOT tax) on the rental amount from your guests and remitting it to your county and/or state is required in most states and provinces. Your local sales tax office may even be perusing websites like and Craigslist before a big event to find owners not in compliance. Setting up a sales tax account is easy and well worth it to avoid fines and enjoy your rental income.
    • Income tax. According to the IRS, “If you use the dwelling unit as a home and you rent it fewer than 15 days during the year, do not include any of the rent in your income and do not deduct any of the rental expenses.”
    • Insurance. Check with your insurance agent to see if you'll need any additional coverage for a one-time short-term rental.

    What Do You Need to Do to Get Your Home Ready for Guests?

    • Lock away personal items. Walk through your home and remove any irreplaceable or valuable items. Either place these items in a locked closet or arrange for alternative storage.
    • Remove clutter. Likewise, make sure the space throughout your home is relatively free of clutter.
    • Consider new linens and towels. Consider purchasing a set of quality linens for each bed and a set of towels specifically for your guests.
    • Make room for your guests. Clear out space for your guests in a closet or dresser and don't forget to empty your refrigerator.

    How Much Should You Charge?

    Due to the scarcity of lodging in some cities during special events, most hotels and vacation rentals elevate their rates. It's the simple principle of supply and demand: A large number of travelers seeking a smaller, somewhat fixed number of rooms will drive up prices to a rate that only the most motivated travelers will pay.
    • Research hotel rates. When setting your rental rate for a special event like the Olympics, you should first research hotel rates in your area. If a hotel comparable to your home is charging $300/night during the event, you can likely charge at least $300/night for a one-bedroom home. If your home is two-bedroom or larger, you can probably charge at least an additional $200/night per room. When comparing your home to the hotels in your area, keep in mind that your home likely offers considerably more living space and amenities like a kitchen, big-screen television, etc. that could justify charging slightly more per night than a hotel room.
    • Factor in your location. Location is another factor to consider when pricing your home for an event. If your home is within walking distance to the event venue, you can likely command top dollar for a stay. On the other hand, if your home is located in the suburbs thirty miles away, you probably can't charge the same as vacation rentals and hotels right in the thick of the action.
    • Determine your emotional price point. Your emotional price point is the minimum amount of income that will quiet your qualms about renting your primary home and is often higher than the going rate for accommodations. If you don't feel comfortable renting your home for anything less than $1000/night, set your rate at $1000/night. But if you're charging more than the average price for lodging, be sure to temper your expectations for all outcomes, including not finding anyone to rent your home.

    How Do You Create an Ad That Will Attract Guests?

    • Craft a compelling headline. Your headline is your chance to grab a traveler's attention. To more quickly grab those looking for event accommodations, be sure to list the event in your headline. Ex: Ski in/Ski Out Penthouse w/ Pool, Hot Tub, Wifi - Open for Whistler Olympics.
    • Be thorough in your descriptions. Make sure your descriptions paint a clear picture of your home and all the extras it offers.
    • Take well-lit photos. Display high quality digital photos of each room in your home (living area, kitchen, bedrooms) as well as your view and the exterior of your home, building, or complex.
    • Make sure your rates are clear. Price is one of the most important factors for travelers when choosing accommodations, so it's important that site visitors can easily discern your rates and compare them to other vacation rentals and hotels in the area.
    • Sell the event and your city. Get your potential guests geared up for a stay in your town. If your home is in the location of a football championship game, showcase an aerial photo of the stadium or an action shot of one of the teams in contention. Note: All photos have copyrights, so be sure to purchase stock photos from a site like rather than take them from the event webpage or a Google Image search.

    How Do You Ensure a Safe Transaction?

    • Put everything in writing. The best way to protect yourself and your guest is to require all renters to sign a rental agreement well before the rental date that includes specific rules regarding cancellation and refund policies. Do NOT accept deposits without having signed copies of your documents in hand (faxed signatures are acceptable).
    • Take a security deposit. Many homeowners require a minimum security deposit of $200 or 15% of the total rental, whichever is greater. Be sure to process all deposits right away. Bounced checks signal trouble.
    • Only accept safe, traceable methods of payment.The safest methods for accepting payment from your guests for a one-time event are ReservationManager, PayPal and personal checks. Certified/cashier's checks, money orders, and untraceable wire transfers are commonly used by scammers and should be avoided.
    • PayPal: Many travelers like the convenience of this service, since money is transferred automatically over the Internet, directly from their credit card or personal checking account. This service does require you to open up your own account, but the process is quite simple.
      Personal Checks: If your guest chooses to pay by personal check, cash the check immediately. Make sure you give the check ample time to clear  before giving that guest access to your property.
    • Get all monies before sending directions or keys. The final balance should be paid 14 — 30 days prior to the rental date. This provides plenty of time for funds to clear before you send directions, keys, or lockbox codes.
    The Bottom Line: Prevent potential disasters by getting your proverbial ducks in a row before renting your primary home for a one-time event.