Put Your (Square) Feet to Work: How to Turn Your Space Into a Short-Term Rental

by Matt Solis


De-cluttering your home and giving it a fresh coat of paint will make your short-term rental more inviting. Photo: Sigura Pro Painting ©2022

Ever since the introduction of Airbnb in 2008, homeowners don’t have to be serial landlords or own second homes to earn rental income. If you have an in-law suite or a spare bedroom, you can put those extra square feet to work. Preparing your home to rent will require effort on your part, but the extra income may well be worth it. If you’re considering turning your home or another property into a short-term rental, here are a few steps you can take to jumpstart the process:

Know the Rules

Around the Bay Area, cities such as San Francisco and Berkeley have passed regulations on short-term rentals, bringing them more in line with hotel taxation plans. Depending on your area, you may need to register your short-term rental with the city and pay “lodging taxes” on your income. Be sure to find out what your city requires before you start renting out your space.


Cleaning up your yard will allow you to offer guests coveted outdoor space. Photo: Jennifer Chan ©2019

Clean it Up

Recently, Consumer Advocate Chris Bjorklund wrote about how Airbnb hosts can go out of their way to make their rentals shine. Before you get to the actual hosting, there are many small (and large) things you can do to make your rental more appealing.

  • Clear out your yard. If you can advertise that you have even a small outdoor space, you may be able to charge higher prices.
  • Clear out the clutter. Most Airbnb guests understand that they’re staying in a home rather than a hotel. Still, giving them space in kitchen cabinets, dressers, and closets will help your guests feel more comfortable and at-home.
  • Do some basic maintenance. Make sure light bulbs work, faucets don’t drip and drains flow freely. No one actually wants to feel like they’re at home when they’re on vacation.
  • Make it safe. Now is the time to fix anything that could be hazardous to your guests. Take care of broken electrical sockets and rising thresholds that could cause falls. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms work.
  • Consider paint. A coat of paint will go a long way toward making your space feel fresh and new.

Open Up

Consider how you want your guests to enter your home. Will you meet each guest to let them into the space? If not, have a licensed locksmith install a lockbox. That way, you can simply let guests (as well as house cleaners) access the property on their own. Or, if security is a concern, consider installing a smart lock rather than a lockbox. You can change the security code on a smart lock between guests, which will ensure you don’t have unwanted extended visits.

Get Smart

Speaking of smart locks, this may be a good time to install smart technology throughout your home. A smart technology system will allow you to control your home’s thermostat and overall energy usage from a distance. This will be especially helpful if the rental sits empty for a period of time and you live elsewhere.


Hire a reputable cleaning company to help manage your short-term rental. Photo: Molly Maid of Sonoma County ©2022

Hire Help

Having a clean and inviting space is one of the top prerequisites for a successful short-term rental. And unless you plan to manage your space full-time, you’ll want to hire a cleaning company. A trusted house cleaner can work with you to schedule cleanings between guests and even put out amenities like fresh bars of soap, toilet paper, chocolate, mineral water, and wine.

Update Your Insurance

Be aware that many homeowners insurance policies have an explicit exclusion for “commercial activities,” which means if something happens to your home or your guests during their stay, you won’t be covered. Before you start renting out your home, call your insurance company and find out exactly what is and isn’t covered. You might consider purchasing an additional umbrella policy or find that you need a new policy altogether.

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