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How to Rent your Home Out on Airbnb or VRBO

Thinking of renting your home out on Airbnb or VRBO? Find out everything you need to know, from researching local government guidelines and preparing your home for rental to hosting your first guests. Plus, gain insight into my personal experience and who I think would be a great candidate for this income potential.

In my “How Can I Afford to Travel” video I mention renting out your home on Airbnb or VRBO because doing this basically pays for your accommodations elsewhere. But, is this a great idea for you?

If you prefer to watch a video with this information, click here.

If you already watched the video and want the free checklist click here PDFVRBO.pdf.

VRBO and/or Airbnb Vacation Rental Preparation

How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 1 

Research local regulations and government requirements - when we began renting our home, there were no regulations in our county. But, after our first year of rental, I received a letter in the mail from our local government stating they would be regulating this, and I would need to comply if I wanted to continue renting our home. Because I already had reservations for the coming year, I took the necessary steps to gain a permit for short term home rental.

This process will vary by county, however, to legally rent our home on a short term basis I needed to obtain a

Montana Department of Revenue Sales and Use Tax Permit 

Short Term Residential Permit - To obtain this we needed

  • Fire extinguishers mounted on both levels of our home

  • Emergency exit signs posted by the extinguishers

  • Carbon monoxide detectors

  • Floor plans submitted to the county

  • Site plans submitted to the county

  • Water heater temperature set to the level indicated

The local fire inspector and city inspector also came to our home to verify that we had completed the items listed above.

The approximate fees to prepare our home for short term rental were $438

$100 initial application

$125 water inspector

$75 fire inspector

$108 - 2 ABC rated fire extinguishers

$30 - 2 Carbon monoxide detectors

Remember to file taxes quarterly. This is the hardest part for me, because we don’t rent our home very often. The local bed tax for Montana is 7%, which we include in the tax fees on our VRBO and Airbnb listing. The bed tax must be sent to the government each quarter along with the tax form even if the amount is $0.00.

Remember to file taxes quarterly.

How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 2

Once you’ve completed the local government regulations for short term rental on VRBO or Airbnb, the fun part begins. Declutter and clean your home, and take great photos for your listing. Be sure beds are made, lighting is good, dishes are done, etc.


How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 3

Now, you’re ready to list your home on Airbnb, VRBO, or any other short term rental website you desire. Creating a listing is easy, and both major sites offer support if needed. You will need to choose to pay the listing company a yearly fee for your listing, or pay per rental. 

You will need to choose to pay the listing company a yearly fee for your listing, or pay per rental.

Because we don’t rent our home very often, we selected the pay per rental plan. You will also need to research comparable rentals in your area to be sure you have a competitive price. Rates for our area are very high in Summer, low in Fall and Spring, and mid range in Winter. We set up different nightly rates based on the season. We also set up a weekly rate which saves guests a small amount when they book a 7-night stay, and set our minimum night stay at 3 nights.

How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 4

Once you’ve created your Airbnb or VRBO listing it’s time to solicit reviews. No one likes to make a purchase without reading rave reviews. For us, this was easy because family and friends had already stayed at our home and visited local attractions. If you haven’t had any guests, invite a few to stay and request an honest review in return.


How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 5

Set up your rental calendar. VRBO and Airbnb allow you to add blockout dates as needed. If your home is multi-listed you will need to update your rental calendar regularly to avoid double bookings. 

If your home is multi-listed you will need to update your rental calendar regularly to avoid double bookings.

Because we rent out our primary home, we block most of the year and only open the weeks when we plan to be out of town.


How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 6

A nice touch for your vacation rental is a welcome book with local recommendations, maps, and guides. This is one of our favorite parts about staying in a vacation rental when we travel, and it never hurts to leave a local food item or wine for your guests to enjoy as well.

How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 7

Now that your home is ready to rent and listed on the vacation rental site, you will want to install a keypad or smart home entry device. Most VRBO or Airbnb homes in other countries greet us with a key and give us a tour, however, when I did that in the U.S. guests found it strange. Plus, it is quite easy to replicate a house key, so the coded entry is a safer option.

How to Rent your Home on Airbnb or VRBO - Step 8

If your vacation rental is also your main residence, you will want to invest in a second set of sheets and towels for your guests. This makes it easy to prepare bedrooms and bathrooms when your home is rented, and also creates a seamless transition when you return home. Plus, it’s nice to keep some things to yourself. Am I right or am I right???

You may also want to consider installing a pantry lock, master closet lock, and/or office lock to prevent guests from accessing certain areas, and create a space to put private or valuable items.

Once Your Home is Rented on VRBO or Airbnb

Congratulations!!! You have your first vacation rental guests booked and can almost feel the money in your pocket. What now?

Once Your Home is Rented on VRBO or Airbnb - Step 1 

It’s time to hire a cleaning company or plan your schedule accordingly to allow time to clean your home from top to bottom, change bedding, etc before your guests arrive.

Once Your Home is Rented on VRBO or Airbnb - Step 2

Create a unique lock code for your guests, and be sure to change this after their departure.

Once Your Home is Rented on VRBO or Airbnb - Step 3

If this is your primary residence, you will have a few extra items to complete before your guests arrive. 

If this is your primary residence, you will have a few extra items to complete before your guests arrive.

It helps to create a checklist and follow it each time you rent. Here are some of the items on our list of things to do.

  • empty closets and drawers in bedrooms

  • empty bathroom drawers

  • empty coat closets

  • clean out refrigerator and freezer

  • clean hidden places (under sink, toothbrush drawers, dust high spots)

  • make sure large trash can is accessible

  • hide key to garage in a place guests can find if breaker blows

  • clean up dog poop in yard, vacuum dog hair off of the sofa

You will also need to lock up no access items. Some sample items may be

  • jewelry box

  • electronics

  • high value or sentimental items

  • weapons or dangerous items

Click here to download my free checklist. PDFVRBO.pdf

Once Your Home is Rented on VRBO or Airbnb - Step 4

Contact your renters a week before their stay to give address details, lock codes, etc. VRBO or Airbnb will send you a reminder.

Once Your Home is Rented on VRBO or Airbnb - Step 5

Collect your check and enjoy the fruits of your labor. It really is a great way to recoup some travel costs and enjoy more destinations!!!

Who is the Ideal VRBO or Airbnb Host?

While this varies greatly, there are a few items that make the process much easier. Anyone who has a guest house or second home to rent is an ideal candidate. If you want to rent your primary residence, and do not have children or pets, this is an incredibly easy way to make some extra money. If you have kids or dogs and want to rent your primary residence, you really need a reliable cleaning person and/or a supportive partner.

If you have kids or dogs and want to rent your primary residence, you really need a reliable cleaning person and/or a supportive partner.

It can be done, however, it is very stressful. If you aren’t sure, do a trial run. Plan a trip, pack up the family, and prepare your home for a rental. If you still have your sanity, congratulations...when you return, list your home on Airbnb or VRBO and start raking in the cash. If however, you or your family members said a few choice words, and began your vacation exhausted, it may be wise to save this revenue opportunity for another season. Head on over to my “How Can I Afford to Travel” article for some other great ideas.

Have you rented your home out on Airbnb or VRBO? If so, leave a comment below with your recommendations or thoughts.

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