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The Case for Short-Term Renting Your Primary Home

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

How an extended vacation helped our family simplify, and make some money

Cliffs on Ireland's west coast
Ireland's tallest sea cliffs, off the western coast

Last week, I returned from a month-long trip to Ireland with my family. This was our first international trip together. As my kids are just four and seven years old, it was an extraordinary gift to be able to explore another country with them. It was also an opportunity to play out a little experiment I had been toying with since I started planning the trip back in March.


As a real estate investor, I find it hard to take a "regular vacation". Because of my mindset that my properties are my assets, I couldn't shake the thought that traveling for four weeks with a vacant house left behind was a missed opportunity. While planning our trip, I started to become fixated on two goals: First, I wanted to find a way to make money on our primary home when we embarked on long (5+ days) vacations. Second, I hoped to streamline our possessions and create a system that would allow us to leave at a moment's notice, rent out our house, and explore the world. The answer: convert our home to a short-term rental (STR) while traveling.


Sounds pretty enchanting, doesn’t it? Well, now that I’m home recovering from jet lag, and trying to redirect my soda bread cravings, I’ve run the numbers and can confidently say that this experiment is something I would certainly repeat, but not without a few major changes.


I had some concerns that having guests in our home would cause me to be distracted during our vacation. While I couldn't entirely disconnect from this latest STR project, I’m glad to report that I spent less than 30 minutes in total responding to guests through the Airbnb app, coordinating with our cleaners, and answering questions from a trusted neighbor who helped bring the trash up and down our driveway on trash day. This communication was quite easy, and the peace of mind it provided was invaluable.


Girl cleaning a freezer

However, the real challenge lay in the preparation before the trip. The organization effort was nothing short of exhausting. For a couple of weekends, we were all-hands on deck. As my husband and I worked to declutter, pack, and relocate items, our kiddos helped with a lot of the cleaning. They were excited to be a part of the action, and especially to be paid for their effort (right into their IRAs!). Through all this, I was determined not to hire someone (outside of our family) to help, and this stubbornness added unnecessary stress. Rule #1 for next time: hire an organizer to help make this process smoother!

Similarly, I spent several hours deep-cleaning my home, wanting to offer renters a pristine experience. I hesitated to hire professional cleaners, fearing it would eat into our profit margin. I can’t fault myself for having this reservation, but Rule #2 for next time: hire someone to deep clean the whole house before we leave!

Anxious to test out our systems, I wound up listing our home starting before our trip. My family had a few weekends of camping lined up before we left for vacation, so we decided to rent our place during these weekends. I absolutely recommend doing a test run like this if you’re planning to try hosting a short-term rental while you’re abroad. It’s always nice to work out the first kinks while you’re an easy drive away, and while you still have time to fix, replace, or buy things. However, it was stressful and time-consuming to keep the house in order between these trips. My Rule #3 for next time: have one single clean-out, then rent it for a single duration; no coming back home for a few nights in-between!

As for the trip itself, it was a glorious adventure.

Trail runner in the mountains on west coast of Ireland

For the first ten days, it was just my husband, our two kids, and me, sleeping in, letting our faces soak up the salty sea mist of the coast, savoring fresh-baked soda bread every morning, and exploring the rugged beauty of Ireland. We hiked mossy hills, explored castle ruins, and leaped over waves on sandy beaches.

Family hiking through mossy beach trees in Ireland

Eventually, we were joined by the rest of my family, and our journey led us to Dublin, where we celebrated my brother's wedding, in true Irish fashion, dancing into the wee hours of the night, a few nights in a row.


Girls playing on the beach in Ireland

As the trip grew busier, my cup that had felt full within the first days of the trip, was spilling over by the end. I might not have loved every moment (there were, for sure, some hard ones), but I soaked in so much joy. When we returned home after a month, I was curious about what awaited us. To our delight, our house felt just like home, everything in its place, and surprisingly cleaner than it would have been without renters.



 

So, what are my findings? I'm thrilled we embarked on this experiment. We invested a huge amount of time purging, organizing, packing, cleaning, and setting up. In addition to the profit we made, the simplification of our lives, and the systems we put in place, we checked off all the items on our "honey-do" list. It's remarkable what can be accomplished during the hustle and bustle that starts the moment the Airbnb app chimes with a "New booking request!" notification. As our plane lifted us over the pond, we had an amazing feeling of having tidied up our home, our minds, and our lives. And, we made some money.


 

Renting my house out short-term, by the numbers:


⏱ Hours spent cleaning/organizing/shopping - 45


📆 Total days rented - 24


💸 Dollars spent setting up for list (soap, towels, linens, etc.) - $816

💸 Dollars spent on cleaning - $1600

💸 Dollars spent on gifts to cleaners and friends who helped - $620

📸 Photos taken - 35,734,294,106


💰 Gross profit - $8,792

Net profit - $5,756



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