How to rent your vacation home

Q: Buy a weekend home by the sea or in the countryside, and you might start to wonder if you could recoup some of your investment by renting it out from time to time. But is it really as easy as listing your listing on Airbnb?

A: We spoke with 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 listing your property, check your state, county, city, and homeowners association ordinances to see if there are any restrictions that might limit your options. You might need a permit or a fire inspection, or you might not be allowed to rent your home at all. Next, make sure your home insurance policy provides adequate coverage for commercial property.

Gather your team. Decide whether you will manage the property yourself or hire a professional. Property managers often take 20-30% of rental income, so be diligent when interviewing candidates, look for someone who knows your market and has a reliable track record. If you decide to manage the house yourself, ask yourself if you are ready (and able) to be available at all hours of the day or night to answer inquiries and solve problems.

“It’s amazing what it takes to really, really support a guest,” said Alex Johnson, senior director of business operations and strategy for Vacasa, a short-term rental property manager. “You have to make sure you’re ready to take those calls and help those guests, especially if you’re an owner who lives further away.”

If you’re going it alone, you’ll need a reliable cleaning service that can get the property back up and running quickly, and a maintenance team that can respond to problems quickly. James Svetec, owner of BNB Inner Circle, a host coaching service, suggests investing in software to automate reservations, such as Hospitable or Hostaway.

Prepare the terrain. Stock cabinets with dishes, glasses, pots and pans. Get clean sheets and towels. And make wise furnishing choices, including durable, easy-to-clean pieces that can increase your occupancy, like a sofa bed.

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

“When someone books on Airbnb, the first thing they see is this cover photo,” said Mr. Svetec, author of “Airbnb for Dummies.” “You really want to help people imagine themselves in space.”

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