Guardian: Ten ways to boost your finances in 2012
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During previous ages of austerity, renting out a room has been a mainstay for many families wanting extra cash. So I decided to see just how easy it was by listing my own property on Wimdu.co.uk.
The only part of my house that can be easily rented out is the attic conversion, which comprises a separate bathroom and my bedroom. I spent a whole weekend cleaning and clearing out books and all the personal stuff from surfaces ready for the Wimdu photographer to take pictures. I set up a tray with a kettle, tea, coffee and hot chocolate so my guests could help themselves in the morning without having to parade through the house in their jimjams. I also decided to offer access to my kitchen too, even though the ground floor is open plan, as it seemed mean preventing guests from having access to a fridge and cooker. After looking at other rooms on the site, I set the price at £40 a night all in.
An adviser helped me through the registration process, suggesting what rules other people tend to stipulate (setting check-in and check-out times, no smoking, taking care not to let the cats out of the front door).
Once the photos were taken and uploaded to the net, my listing went live, and the next day I had an email saying someone wanted to book. This was suspiciously quick, so I contacted Wimdu to make sure they weren’t sending one of their own staff. But no, they assured me the booking for Tanja from Germany and her Italian partner was genuine.
I have to admit I was nervous. It is weird having complete strangers in your house, even if you are there to keep an eye on things. We tiptoed around, spoke in hushed tones and jumped on the cats every time they yowled.
But I needn’t have worried. I saw Tanja and her partner (I’m afraid I didn’t catch his name on arrival and never had the chance to ask again) for about five minutes when they arrived on the Thursday night, and for three minutes when they left on Monday morning. The rest of the time they were complete mystery guests. Their shoes left in the hallway were the only clue we had as to whether they were in the house.
The payment – £160 minus Wimdu’s £4.80 commission – arrived in my bank account the day after check-in and was a nice fillip before Christmas. It’s tax free too – you can earn up to £4,250 without incurring tax through the government’s rent a room scheme.
Hosts and guests review each other. I said Tanja was quiet and considerate: she said the cats and I were friendly, the facilities very clean (phew!) and added: “It was very quiet in the house, so it was possible to sleep long in the morning.”
My one criticism of the website is that it doesn’t provide you with any details about any prospective guests – the only information you get is what you glean from emailing each other during the booking process.
So would I do it again? You really need a spare room to make this work properly – I don’t want to be running up and downstairs with my clothes all the time, or sleeping on the sofa bed forever. But if all paying guests were as fuss-free and considerate as Tanja, then the answer has to be yes. You literally make money while you sleep.