How do I outfit a spare room? How do I rent it short-term? Should I?
May 10, 2013 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I live in a university town, and there is a healthy market for spare rooms over the summer for students doing research and alumni on football weekends. Somewhat shabby two-bedroom apartment, common areas are simply but attractively/neutrally furnished. What do I need to consider?

See profile for location. I have a friend who has done this locally, but I'd like a broader pool of advice before I invest the cash in furniture, etc. Having a nicer place for friends/family to stay is an added benefit. Having a full-time roommate is not appealing to me.

Some questions I have so far:

Full or queen bed?
How do I protect myself from damage renting to folks I don't know?
What sort of boundaries should I set up front?
Should I use a template rental contract or could that cause issues with my (off-site) property manager?
I'm expecting to get paid mainly in personal checks - if I report this income (hopefully a few thou), are there tax implications beyond simply making more money?
posted by momus_window to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Consider using AirBnB -- some of my friends do that and have been very pleased with it.
posted by cider at 8:40 AM on May 10, 2013

It's a little unclear to me about what your current status is - are you a renter? Are you in a multiple unit building? Are you keeping this under your manager's radar?

I don't mean to be that guy, but if I were your neighbor in your building I would be pretty annoyed if you were handing out copies of your keys to randos off the internet, especially if you have a key to your exterior door. I know the risk is low and anyone could get in the front door anyway, but I and my girlfriend would be just feel less safe because of it.

Apologies if that's assuming too much about your situation.
posted by Think_Long at 8:59 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

AirBnB will overcome most of your concerns. They protect you against small damage via a deposit system and against guest-caused catastrophe via insurance. You can get a sense of the visitors in advance (user reviews, correspondence and photos). Payment is via PayPal and AirBnb will send you a 1099.

Things to think through include how to transfer/collect the key, whether pets are ok, if you plan to offer kitchen access/breakfast, and if you want to buy a tv for the bedroom. Re furnishings, a queen bed if it will fit, side table, a dresser and a chair/love seat for putting on socks. Desk if it will fit. Curtains/shades. Simple alarm clock. Nice linens. Extra blankets and coat hangers in the closet. Mirror. Iron and ironing board. Spend the night in your guest room and see what's missing or irritating.

Check your lease to be sure it's ok. You may need to pay hotel and/or sales tax in your jurisdiction but many exempt small operations like yours. If that's too large a burden, there's a service that will manage it for you. MeMail me if you need more info.
posted by carmicha at 9:02 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

In term of beds, I was about to suggest that you get the largest bed that will comfortably fit in the space. However, if you'd strongly prefer to have one person staying there rather than a couple, then definitely get the full bed, because that will be a great way to help encourage that to happen. (Not that couples won't share a full bed, just that there are plenty who would prefer a larger bed.)

So, if the room is large enough, I'd say bed, nightstand (this is critical) with an alarm clock (also critical), a smallish dresser with towels in the bottom drawer and shampoo/soap/toothpaste/toothbrush in one of the top drawers, a wastebasket, and maybe one of those Ikea Poang chairs if there's space. Add a reading lamp to the nightstand and throw a couple of outlet-to-usb plug converters into the drawer of the nightstand and you should be good to go.
posted by KathrynT at 9:02 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd get the full bed, a small desk and chair (Wal-Mart will have the desk and chair) nice, white, cotton bedding that can be bleached, a dresser, etc.

If you want to attract University students, you might want to contact the University Housing office to see if they have an on-campus website/bulletin board where rooms can be advertised.

I'd recommend a 26" TV with cable on it. It can pearch on the dresser.

If you want a quiet grad student, advertise for that. Make it known up front that you want a quiet roommate with no drama.

I would NOT invite Southern Football Fans into my home. Of course YMMV, but that's a line I won't cross.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:08 AM on May 10, 2013

Response by poster: I rent half a duplex on a street with many similar units. There is no common entrance, etc. Management is very hands-off.
posted by momus_window at 9:19 AM on May 10, 2013

Renting out the room may violate your lease (or at minimum really piss off your landlord if they get word), and/or may violate city and state laws about short term rentals. In my city you need a special license which you pay for to make it above board. There have been instances where AirBnB renters have been sued thousands or more for running "illegal hotels" because it is 100% on you to determine if it's ok to rent out the space, they do not check or provide advice. Proceed with caution.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:27 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

We have two ottomans in our spare room that fold out into twin-size sleepers, so if our guests prefer not to share a bed, they can have their own. Similarly, if a couple are staying with us, it's easy enough to push them together and make the bed that way.
posted by evoque at 9:41 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have the same ottomans, from Boconcept. I agree, having stayed in several Airbnb rooms, that they'd be perfect for a small room.
posted by sweltering at 9:52 AM on May 10, 2013

On the purely practical side, based on my experience with an apartment I offer to personal guests:

This type of hanging shelves can be very useful if you have enough room in the closet.

Protect the pillows and mattress from spills, drool, and whatever other fluids might end up on them. I use dedicated pillow covers, but doubling up on pillow cases would probably be enough. My mattress pad is quilted and substantial.

Table and dresser tops can take a lot of abuse. It's best if they're easy to wipe off and if they can't be damaged by various liquids. A lot of inexpensive furniture has raised grain or a matte wood or stained surface. You can add a coat of semigloss sealer pretty easily. Plastic laminate/melamine is very easy to take care of.

The bed spread or other cover should be machine washable. (I was surprise to find out that many people eat chocolate in/on bed.)

Everything in the room should be very hard to break, damage, or knock over. Don't assume that someone will be careful of the things around them, because they're not going to be thinking about that.

Window shades and curtains need to be easy to use. I made a mistake and used a roman shade...bad idea.

If they're using your bathroom, get a few towels that are different from your own. Provide a place to hang towels in the guest room.

Hooks are very useful and easy to install.

Don't be shy about boundaries -- it's your home. If you want them to keep their toiletries in their room, make it easy for them to do so and don't worry if you're being reasonable. It's okay to ask them to wash dishes immediately after using them. If you want to go in once a week to empty trash, say so. You should to inform them of your preferences before they decide if they want to stay there.

It's good to have various information printed out -- washing machine and microwave instructions, for example.
posted by wryly at 3:35 PM on May 10, 2013

If you're expecting your market to be a lot of grads/uni students/research students, make sure you include a desk in the room. It's easier and more comfortable for a lot of people to study/read in private.

Seconding the comment above about a bed on the smaller size encouraging single occupants - including avoiding temporary overnight guests who may not be part of a couple. Aka, avoiding your guest bringing home hookups/one night stands.
posted by Ashlyth at 12:32 AM on May 11, 2013

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