Do you yearn for more spending money? Have you always wanted to visit Barcelona? Or perhaps you enjoy meeting new people. Whatever the reason, you might consider opening your home to strangers through a vacation rental like Airbnb, VRBO, or a host of other online rental agencies.

My husband Jerry and I purchased a lake property four years ago with two small cabins on it. We spent a summer renovating the smaller cabin to live in while we built a home on the site of the larger one.

We worked our fingers to the bone, but since we were both retired, we had more time than money. After devoting hundreds of hours of sweat to the project, we had ourselves a cozy little nest.

Becoming Airbnb Hosts

Though our cabin was small, it served us well while we built our dream home, a project that stretched us to the limits of our resources – or lack thereof.

Once we moved into the main house, we discussed the possibility of renting the cabin. It isn’t winterized, so year-round rental wasn’t an option, but Jerry suggested we check out Airbnb.

“We’ve enjoyed renting Airbnb’s. Why not do it ourselves?” I pulled up the website, and within an hour we’d set up a profile, decided on a daily rate, and popped in some photos. It was simple. That evening we had our first reservation.

Our first guests this year were a young couple from Paris who arrived in early May with a two- and a four-year-old. Neither child had ever seen snow, so they were immediately drawn to the piles of snow behind our house.

I taught them to make snowballs, we made a miniature snowman, and Jerry emerged from the garage with two garden trowels so they could dig in the snow.

The parents spoke excellent English, and we invited them in for wine one evening.

When I asked why they’d come to Minnesota in early May, a chilly time before the leaves emerge, they explained, “We have national holidays now in France, and we love the movie Fargo. We wanted to stay in a cabin and experience the north.” Well, they sure did.

We still had ice on the lake, and the trees didn’t even have buds yet. They’d driven 600 miles from Chicago, and they headed off to log another 350 miles to Fargo, North Dakota, a trek that boggled our minds. They wrote later that their time in our little cabin was their favorite part of the trip.

Things to Consider When Renting Your Home

If you have a spare room you could rent, fixing it up for Airbnb might be a grand adventure. We’ve stayed in other people’s homes a few times, and both situations were delightful.

In New Zealand we rented a room with a shared bathroom and enjoyed getting to know the host couple. The other situation was in a nearby city, where we had a private suite within the house. We still spent over an hour chatting with that couple in the dining area.

It’s important to check with your local government to find out whether it’s legal to do a vacation rental in your home, and if it is, they’ll fill you in on the tax requirements.

In addition to paying income tax on our earnings, we pay a 13% sales and bed tax, some to the state and some to the county. You may also be required to get approval from a Health Department, again depending on local regulations.

How Airbnb Works for Home Renters

Airbnb carries a million-dollar insurance policy for their participants, and we particularly like their review policy. We always ask for information about our renters, though we have yet to refuse anyone.

People who have been using Airbnb already have an online profile, and I always feel safer knowing a little about the people we’ll host.

Both renter and rentee are required to write a review after each rental. One thing I learned the hard way is that if someone requests a rental and you don’t respond within 24 hours, those dates are blocked permanently.

Our first year we went on a week-long kayak trip with no cell coverage, and we got caught in that situation. I learned that when we’re unavailable we need to pull our listing while we’re gone then repost it on our return. Just one of those things!

Benefits of Using Airbnb

We’ve loved Airbnb, and this is our third year. The first summer’s rent helped us finish our garage, and the second funded a trip to visit family in Australia and New Zealand.

This year we’re planning a service trip to Puerto Rico to help people rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Maria. It seems only fair to use our good fortune to assist those not so lucky. Of course, we’ll do some playing there as well.

Our income from the Airbnb has been wonderful, but even better – we’ve met interesting people from all over the area, the country, and overseas. I highly recommend it.

Have you ever used Airbnb, VRBO or other online agencies as a host to rent your home out? Have you ever rented from an Airbnb host or used an online rental agency instead of booking a hotel? Please share your experience, from whatever stand point you have gained it!

Ann Marie MershonA retired English teacher, Ann Marie Mershon lives on a lake in northern Minnesota with her husband, Jerry, and their two dogs. She’s published three books as well as numerous articles and columns. You can read about her years of teaching in Istanbul on her blog.

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