Letting out a room or doing a house swap has never been easier, says Daniela Soave
Letting out a room or doing a house swap has never been easier, says Daniela Soave.
It’s the same story every year. Barely six weeks after the first of January, I’m longing to escape – the lighter days of spring seem too far away and, for a month that only has 28 days, February feels interminable.
But the bank balance is still recovering from Christmas excess, winter fuel bills and the January instalment to the taxman, so the prospect of booking a trip to some far-off place remains in the realms of fantasy.
Taking an affordable break
By far the most expensive part of a holiday is accommodation, but what if you could find a way to erase that cost? Instantly the bill is halved. So, this year I have decided to approach vacations from a different angle by making use of my largest asset: my home.
By either swapping it for a city flat or country villa abroad, or by letting it out for a few weekends to pay for a holiday later in the year, my home can help to wave me off on my travels. Ideally, I would prefer that no cash changed hands but if I can’t find a suitable property swap I’ll dip my toe in the internet letting market.
FAQs when you want to let your home for holidays
Of course, the idea of handing your keys to complete strangers is a daunting one. What if you get the swappers from Hell? What if you return to a bare apartment or you turn up at the seaside apartment only to find it’s a lock-up garage?
1. Let the renters come to you
A friend helped calm my nerves. She’s swapped her London flat through a notice board website at least 20 times and swears by it. The trick, she says, is not to advertise your home but to reply to ads seeking a swap because you get a better sense of the person from what they’ve written.
She calls up a page on her laptop to reassure me, and indeed there’s a family of four wanting to swap their central Rome apartment at Easter for a flat in London; two couples in Copenhagen offering ether of their flats for one large flat in either town or country; a Londoner wanting to swap with someone in Norfolk and a New Yorker searching for a city break somewhere in England. There are images, too, and it feels reassuringly normal.
2. Swapping plans on Facebook
Having recently sold her business and become a consultant, my neighbour can pick and choose when she wants to work. Because she craves sunshine in winter, she has cleared her diary for the first three months of this year and booked an apartment in Portugal.
To help with her bills, she has asked her Facebook friends if any would like to rent her beautiful barn while she is away. At best, she was hoping for a weekend let here and there, but some friends who are in between moving houses have taken her home for a month. Perfect!
3. Keeping it flexible
Another friend swaps her house in Bath with a chum who has a flat in London, so they each benefit from a weekend away without accommodation costs.
If you’re not keen on handing over your home entirely, you could still use notice-boards, Facebook and sites such as Airbnb to offer bed and breakfast, which gives you the flexibility of earning extra cash for a holiday and remaining in control.
4. Making it pay
Currently you can earn £7,500 a year tax-free from renting out a room or having a lodger, so it shouldn’t cause too big a headache with your tax return.
5. The other upsides of holiday letting
Many people who become hosts swear it has added sparkle to their lives and made them new friends, introducing them to travellers from all over the globe. If you live near beautiful countryside or in a dynamic city you have a natural selling point, but seasonal festivals also put less obvious locations on the map, whether it’s literary, food, horticultural, film or music.
The notion of making enough money for an escape has certainly added frisson to my February! Up, up and away…