It’s Saturday morning which means it’s time for the next post in my ‘How to Make Money’ series and this week it’s all about how to make money from your spare room. Just as with last week’s post about tutoring, I’ve asked someone with much more knowledge than me on the subject to share their personal experience of making money from their spare room with you all.
Over to Jane from Shoestring Cottage….
How to make money from your spare room
Hosting International Students
When one of my daughters went to university I decided to make some extra cash by contacting the local language college to offer my services as a host mother to their international students. I didn’t want anyone full time at that point as my daughter wanted to come home sometimes! I took students for a week or two at a time. I was paid £136 per week and for that I offered bed, breakfast and an evening meal, when we would eat together and chat about their day in order to improve their English. At the weekends they would nearly always go on an excursion and I would send them on their way with a packed lunch. Occasionally they would stay home and join in with whatever the family was doing.
We had students from all over the world – Japan, Angola and from right around Europe. Some could speak English well already and a couple could barely say anything. This made for some hilarity in communication at times and Google Translate proved a handy app!
We did this for about four years and forged some lasting relationships . One Italian girl has been back four times as she is now one of my youngest daughter’s great friends. They bonded over a mutual love of Harry Potter and One Direction! I have many of our past students as Facebook friends and we still chat.
If you have your own young children at home you are likely to have tears on both sides when their international friends depart! It is enriching for both the paying guest and your family as you learn about other people’s lives and the countries they come from.
The experience was almost entirely positive, with one or two exceptions. We had one strange Spanish lad who disliked every meal I put in front of him unless it was all brown. He ate burgers, nuggets and chips but very little else. I also had a few who were under 18 pushing the boundaries and rolling in drunk at 3am. I had to set them right very quickly about my rules and acceptable standards of behaviour. I would advise setting your boundaries straight away, particularly if you agree to taking under 18s. I always told them what time dinner would be and to let me know if they would be late or if they decided to eat out, where they needed to put their washing and when I would need them out of their room to clean, what time I expected them home and what time I wanted them up and out of bed!.
If you don’t have a language school it is still possible to find organisations looking for host families. A Google search will show a number of possibilities. I also hosted with a French organisation called LEC, who hired an arts venue in town for their classes. The students were younger – 12 and up. Having younger students felt like more responsibility and I ended up driving them around more rather than making them take the bus to their classes until they found their feet. It was lovely seeing them grow in confidence, though, and was amazing to see their English skills develop in just a few weeks.
If you are hosting children you are likely to need a DBS check, which the organisation usually arranges. You will also require a gas safety certificate and to let your household insurers know that you are taking in paying guests.
Taking in a lodger
When my daughter left home I decided to rent the room out on a more permanent basis. I advertised through www.spareroom.com and was lucky enough to find a young lady who just wanted a Monday to Friday let, so we still have the weekends to ourselves. She has slotted in well. I don’t have to worry about cooking her meals as she caters for herself and I chose to turn our small dining room into a private sitting room for her so we don’t have to fight over the TV remote!
There are various options you could offer depending on the amount of space you have, the age of your children, etc. I have just one daughter at home now, but she felt uncomfortable about having a male lodger so we specified a working female. I had some approaches from shift workers but decided that might be disruptive to family life. I stated that I would take a smoker as long as they didn’t smoke indoors.
It is really important to make sure the room is clean and nicely decorated to get the best rental price. Take several good photographs to put on your advert.
You can use SpareRoom to see what others are charging to set your rates. You can also use the site for advice. I used their template to write up a tenancy agreement. It is vital that you do this to protect yourself. You should state the rent, how often it should be paid, the notice period on either side, etc. I asked for a months rent in advance plus a £200 damage deposit but you need to decide what will suit you. .
There is a lot of good information on renting out a room at www.gov.uk/rent-room-in-your-home, which I strongly recommend you read first. This explains the government’s rent a room scheme, which allows you to earn £7500 tax free. You will need to complete a tax return if you earn more than the allowance – the details are outlined on gov.uk. Again, you need to notify your household insurer to see if they allow tenants and make other arrangements if necessary.
So far my experience has been good because we found someone we thought we could rub along with. I would say you need to be tolerant and relaxed so that your tenant is happy – after all, your home becomes their home too. They are a great income stream for you so look after your tenants!
Jane blogs about saving and making money, bargain hunting and finding discounts, frugal cooking and general thrift at www.shoestringcottage.com.
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