Monday, April 23, 2012

Holiday Letting Your Home - Tips And Observations

This month I rented out our apartment when we went to London for two weeks. I wrote about the work involved beforehand in this post about Pesach Cleaning. Even though most people wouldn't have to contend with Pesach Cleaning, we would all like to leave our homes as clean and decluttered as possible for paying guests (or indeed any guests).

Maybe not quite as decluttered as this.

I found my renters through facebook as the husband is the brother of a friend and someone I've known for years. He was coming with his wife and 3yo son - perfect for our toy, book, puzzle and bike collections. It also meant that I was not embarrassed by the drawing on some of my walls and they felt comfortable letting their son loose with the crayons without fear of spoiling anything.

As we were staying with family in London, the money earned covered our trip entirely. It was a lot of work preparing the flat beforehand, as I said, but I also gained something from it. It felt great to have all my clothes sorted and neatly folded, all our books neatly arranged on the shelves, and all the clutter removed from surfaces. Add to that the clean factor and my home suddenly felt twice as big. Btw, if you are wondering how I set the price... I looked at what other letters were asking and adjusted the rate/day by comparing the apartments on offer with my own.

So what about the returning home after you've had people in your space and using your things? I must admit I was a bit worried about what I'd find. The guests were responsible, honest, capable and clean people - I knew that, but still I was a bit worried as I'd only ever done this once before and it was a disaster (space to link when I write about it one day). I was happy to read a status on fb halfway through my holiday saying how much they were enjoying the place and thanking me. This helped and after that I was only a teensy bit still apprehensive about returning home.

I'm going to be very honest here but I'm treading carefully because there is a good chance they will read this. However, in the interests of sharing useful information, I think honesty is important. We've exchanged emails since my return and both sides agreed that it was a good experience and would be willing to repeat it if the opportunity arises. So here are my tips and observations after leaving my home to 'guests' and returning to it afterwards.

1. Before you go you need to clean and declutter. You also need to free up an adequate amount of wardrobe and drawer space for the number of guests. If you fold all your clothes neatly it is often easy to double up on shelves for the duration and so leave enough hanging space and shelving free.

2. Write a list of important things they need to know. It can be detailed intructions for all appliances or less detailed if you have time before you leave to walk the guests round and show them everything (preferable). I left a street-map of the area but my guests were familiar with Jerusalem so I didn't need to explain about buses, local attractions, shopping, etc.

3. You should leave a list of emergency phone numbers such as the plumber and electrician. I didn't as I don't have a regular plumber and there's not much electrical damage that can be done - I'm pretty low tech.

4. Put away anything valuable enough to you that you'd rather not share it. I put away my laptop, our personal towels, and some of DD's smaller toys like beads and her toy computer. However, you can't  be stingy. The guests are living in your home already so you have to trust them to use your things and look after them. I knew my guests but if you are renting to strangers you might consider taking out letters' insurance.

In my dreams

5. A wealthy friend suggested I put away my fine linens and towels and buy cheap ones for the duration. I laughed to myself as my situation was more a case of throw out my old, worn sheets and buy new ones for the guests to enjoy (and for me to continue enjoying on our return).

6. Don't be stingy with household items such as washing detergents, toilet rolls, cling film and sandwhich bags, etc. Also salt, pepper, and any other opened bottles of cooking oil, herbs and spices, condiments, etc. Remember that they are paying you so it doesn't hurt to be generous. I didn't leave much as I had been using up supplies for weeks but they were welcome to anything left in the cupboards. I did put away a few rolls of toilet paper in order to ensure a supply for the day of our return before I had the chance to shop.

7. On the day of the hand-over I made sure that DD was out of the house. I think it was important that she didn't see me handing our home over to strangers (to her) and that she didn't know that another child would be playing with all her toys. DD is 3, obviously older children would understand and younger babies won't care.

8. On your return (and this is the sensitive bit) be prepared for a lot more work than if you'd had nobody to stay. We walked in to a very tidy flat and I appreciated this enormously. However, there was stuff to do.

When we left I hadn't wanted to leave my laundry for the guests to deal with so, on preparing the beds for them, I put our dirty sheets, towels, pyjamas, and the clothes we had worn the previous day, in an out-of-the-way place to be done when we got back. They had the same dilemma about what to do with sheets and towels as they left a few days before we returned. They didn't want to leave my stuff out on the line for days with the threat of sandstorms, etc. They made the correct decision and I returned to about seven loads of laundry before I could even start on what was in our suitcases. as I don't have a dryer and had to wait for each load to dry before hanging out the next, the unpacking and sorting took the best part of a week to complete.

I wish
All the toys were tidily stored in the toyboxes. However, you can't expect guests to know how many plastic bales of hay go in the Fisher Price farm or which furniture goes with the dollhouse stuff and which goes in the Playmobil box. It was actually an enjoyable afternoon spent emptying everything out and organising it according to my obsessive code. I didn't mind but it was something that had to be done.

And of course after guests you want to clean thoroughly. As I said, my guests are not dirty people, but after guests you want to clean, fact.

9. Don't go looking for faults. Luckily we had already left scribbled on walls so our standards aren't that high. Rather than find anything broken or lost I think my guest may actually have done some diy while he was here. There are definitely a couple of things that are tighter than when I left. (If so, thank you.)

10. In effect you are getting a free (or subsidised) holiday in return for all the extra housework before and after. I think that's fair and I would certainly let my flat again. Thank you Gideon, Michelle and Aaron for making this a good experience all round. We hope to see you again soon.

*All pictures from Google Images


  1. Rachel -I think you make some really good points and suggestions. We rent a house at the beach in North Carolina every summer. I particularly appreciate your ideas about leaving enough toilet paper,towels, kitchen rolls etc. We once got to a house where all the toilet rolls had been removed.I always take a roll with now in case! I also appreciate some salt and pepper and other condiments and enough space for everyone to unpack. A few bags for the rubbish bin and silver foil and hand soap are also really appreciated just to start us off,until we can get to a shop and help us to to keep the home tidy from the start.One thing I have been surprised by in a couple of homes, is a lack of brooms, dustpan and brush etc. If families want their guests to keep their home clean,they need to make sure these items are available.
    Glad you had a great trip and the renting worked out.

    1. Thanks Gilly. You are right, it should be given that the basics are provided from the start. It would be silly to buy a 500g bag of salt when you are only staying for 10 days and hardly cooking anyway. Same goes for sugar. In our case, they arrived Friday morning and we have a mini supermarket around the corner but I left salt and pepper, olive oil, soy sauce, sugar, tea and coffee, because they were there and open.

    2. And I left a stock of toilet paper, washing up liquid, washing detergent and soap - also because it would have been mean spirited to hide them away.

  2. I read your post and i really like your post.Thank you for sharing this post.
    london vacation rentals
    holiday lettings london