Last November, London resident Joanne MacInnes got to thinking. The 2012 Summer Olympics were coming to town, and her four-bedroom, four-story Kensington Brook-area home was centrally located and larger than a hotel. If she could rent out her house, she would have the money to leave town and take her own vacation. And after all, she'd been letting friends and friends of friends stay in her house for free for years.
"I've got lots of people I can stay with. Rather than knock around this big house, I can make money off this house and justify holidays," she said.
So that's just what she's doing: the single mom is taking her kids to Vancouver during the Games. Her house will earn her 7,000 British pounds over two weeks of the Games.
"It covers our own holiday and a bit more. It's an income supplement," she said.
That's something Guy Samson can relate to. He's between jobs, and renting out his London flat – a second home – helps pay the bills until he finds a new job.
He's rented his Westminster home for a total of four weeks over the Olympic and Para Olympic Games and is charging 1,200 British pounds per week, a price he considers reasonable.
"I didn't gouge the way some people are," he said. That may contribute to the flood of inquires he's received. Since listing his home on HomeAway.com in September, he said his biggest problem is sorting through all the requests.
HomeAway.com said inquiries for London properties have risen 700 percent compared to last year, no doubt spurred by both the Olympic Games and the queen's Diamond Jubilee earlier this summer.
And Londoners are wise to the financial possibilities of renting out their homes, whether it's their primary home or vacation home. There's been a growth in London listings to the tune of 333 percent.
The types of properties run the gamut, from Samson's flat, which he describes as "the smallest flat you ever wish to see, but perfectly well-formed," to MacInnes's large, multi-story home. Some, like Samson's, are secondary homes, while others, like MacInnes's are primary homes.
The bottom line: Both are serious money makers during a major event.
While an event on the scale of the Summer Olympics only comes around every four years, happenings of all sizes are going on around the globe every day of the year. And with a spike in interest in vacation rentals in general – HomeAway.com said demand has grown 62 percent in the last 12 months – anyone with a roof over their head has an opportunity to make money.
"In recent years, renting out personal space has become more popular either for a special event," said Emily Glossbrenner. She and her husband Alfred run a website called FullyBookedRentals.com and wrote a book called "How to Make Your Vacation Property Work for You." She also rents out her Bucks County cottage in Pennsylvania.
Though vacation rentals have traditionally been people's secondary homes, she said many of the same issues apply.
Glossbrenner said one of the most important things a homeowner needs to do to prepare their home is to clear away their clutter and personal belongings. "If someone is coming to rent your place, they're coming with stuff. You have to clear spaces in closets, dressers, and on surfaces," she said.
And of course, don't forget to protect your own belongings. "Locking away certain items like jewelry and important documents is extremely important," she said.
Besides locking up your personal belongings – likely something that's top of mind for a first-timer renting out their home – there are several more steps to successfully rent out your home.
Glossbrenner's top tips: 1. Be very careful about occupancy. Ask yourself questions like: Number of beds? How many cars can be parked? How many people can sit around the table? Do you have adequate room for people to store their stuff? "Don't assume you have to pack them in," she said. "You can choose to rent only to couples and not to singles. You set the rules."
2. Collect a damage deposit and make sure people understand the house rules. "It's customary collect refundable damage deposit," Glossbrenner said. "It's your main recourse if the guests don't follow the house rules."
3. Get everything in writing, but don't go overboard. "Newbies tend to try and include every single possible scenario, but it's much more important to have a short agreement that people will actually read." Most important to include are cancellation rules, deposit, rules pertaining to smoking and pets, and the condition you expect the house to be in when the guests leave.
4. Have a phone call. "If you're turning over an asset, you need to establish a personal connection, and that's only possible through a phone conversation. I've had conversations with potential renters and we've come to the agreement that it's not right for them. It has to work for everyone."