We have made good use of our spare room since my daughters started to leave home. We have got to know some lovely people and our experiences have been almost 100% positive.
1. Taking in language students
It might be that you want to make money from your spare room but can’t, or don’t want to, share with someone full time. This was our position initially. One daughter was at university but came home during the holidays so needed her room back some of the time.
We have a large language college where we live. Students come to learn English and stay anything from a week to a whole year. They are often looking for host families. You provide a room, breakfast and dinner during the week with lunch as well at the weekend. This is usually a packed lunch as they often go off on organised excursions.
You also clean the room and do the student’s laundry. I never found any of this to be a problem as it was only what I was doing anyway.
You are expected to sit together at the table for dinner to give the students the opportunity to practice their English skills. We had some hilarious conversations at times and were only saved by the use of Google Translate!
We have had students from all over the world – including Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Angola, Slovakia and Macedonia and have enjoyed learning about their lives.
As well as the college I discovered a couple of other organisations locally that bring in school parties from Europe. They also need host families. The students are younger, of course , which feels like more of a responsibility. It generally involves driving them to their learning base for the first few days whilst they find their feet and get to grips with the bus system.
You can expect to be paid between £120-140 per week as a host family.
Pros: you get to know lots of interesting folk from around the world and forge some lasting friendships. Cons: the students tend to be under 20 and can cause some worry. We had one 17 year old who didn’t come home until midnight on her first day with us, spent much of the night throwing up and then missed college the next day! They are supposed to be in by 10.30 so this was a little awkward, but we made it clear there was to be no reoccurrence. You need to be firm from the start.
The best way to find organisations seeking host families locally is to do an internet search.
It is possible to make money from your spare room through AirBnb. We have never done this but we have used several now between us. Me and Mr S stayed in one in Wales which was basic but extremely cheap. My daughter and her friends have rented several whole houses and flats between them for weekend breaks. She and her boyfriend also stayed with a lady near their flat whilst it was having some work done. We have all found it a generally positive experience.
But what about welcoming guests in? I would be nervous about allowing complete strangers have access to my whole house, but would consider doing the odd bed and breakfast weekend. Nikki Ramskill from the Female Money Doctor did it several times and she says ‘I had no issues with anyone as I vetted them all before I agreed to let them stay. I turned down a few people because I didn’t trust them. New profiles, unverified, are ones I avoided. I tried to put in couples and women. I didn’t allow pets or children and there was a strict no smoking policy. You can set up a deposit limit which is taken in the case of a problem. The interface is really easy to use. The calendar is fully controlled by me, and I also blocked out weekends I didn’t want people staying, like Christmas and new year.’
Although problems are rare, Sara from Debt Camel has come across someone who let his flat out for a long weekend but came back on Sunday evening to find the ‘guests’ were still there and had changed the locks! She recommends you check the terms of your tenancy or mortgage, your insurance policy and that you aren’t breaking any planning laws with the local council. She says you should consider that there is a risk of theft or of having your place wrecked, albeit very small, if you rent your property as a whole.
You can find information about how to become an Airbnb host here.
3. Renting longer term
Once two of my three daughters had moved out more permanently we decided to take a longer term approach and take in a lodger. We were a bit anxious. What if we didn’t get on or they tried to move the boyfriend in? What if they were really messy or noisy?
Set clear parameters
In the end we decided that we would set clear parameters for prospective lodgers and if they weren’t happy they could look elsewhere. We only accept females as we all feel most comfortable with this. It is a single room so no, they cannot bring their boyfriends home every weekend. They are welcome to have friends round and have had the odd girlfriend staying over with no issues.
They have their own cupboard in the kitchen and cook for themselves but do need to tidy up afterwards, the same as we do. They are responsible for keeping their bedroom clean but I do the rest of the house.
Our own space
We are lucky in that we have another small room downstairs that we have made into the lodger’s sitting room, so there is no fighting over the remote. Whilst I like having chats in the kitchen I don’t want to sit with them every night – I like my own space. It might be worth getting a TV set up in the lodger’s room if you feel the same.
In city areas there is also the possibility of renting your room on a Monday to Friday only basis, so you get the house to yourself at the weekend.
We found our lodgers through www.spareroom.com. I tried a couple of other sites but didn’t get much of a response. It was worth taking a paid ad for a couple of weeks as the number of contacts I received increased dramatically.
I purchased a lodger agreement through spareroom.com for just £7.50. It is worth doing this, as a formal agreement protects you both. Because you are renting out a room in your own home it is much easier to get rid of your lodger if things don’t work out.
Get a deposit
Always ask for a damage deposit and a month’s rent in advance. It is worth getting references too, but our last two lodgers had never rented before so they weren’t available. They aren’t easy to verify either!
I personally think you need to trust your gut when interviewing prospective lodgers . Our first one is now my eldest daughter’s best friend – they hit it off from the moment they met. Our current one is absolutely lovely and starting to feel like another member of the family already!
Paying tax on your earnings
You will need to check with your mortgage provider that they have no objections to you renting a room. It is also very important to make sure your household insurance allows for this.
4. Supported lodgings
A slightly different way of making money via your spare room is to ask your local social services department if the run a supported lodgings scheme. This is a whole new ball game. It isn’t just a way to make money from your spare room, it is more of a career choice.
What is supported lodgings?
A supported lodgings scheme is where you provide not just a room but family support for a young person leaving care. You need to be a caring family and willing to overcome some frustrations and difficulties to help a vulnerable young person move on with their life.
By providing a safe and nurturing home, you can be instrumental in helping the young person become more confident. Some young people will have experienced a lot of trauma and upheaval. They may need help with finding better ways to manage their behaviour.
You receive full training and support to do this job. Your earnings vary depending on the needs of the young person you take in. This is the most difficult of the options to make some income from a spare room by far, but will suit some people I am sure.
Have you found ways to make money from your spare room? It could be a great asset to up your income!