The business of holiday rentals

Would you rent your family home or bach to strangers? Juliet Rowan looks at the pros and cons of holiday rentals and speaks to owners of properties listed on sites such as Airbnb, Bookabach and HolidayHouses.co.nz.

Kamni Raju-Russell lives in Maungatapu in a five-bedroom house with her husband and three daughters.

They have a pool and water views, buying the house 2½ years ago after moving to Tauranga.

The girls are aged 3, 5 and 7, and sleep in upstairs bedrooms close to their parents, leaving two bedrooms downstairs vacant for now.

Raju-Russell initially rented the rooms to boarders but after differences in opinion on issues such as cleaning, she decided to try short-term, bed-and-breakfast type stays.

Six months ago, she listed the spare bedrooms on Airbnb and Homestay.com and says she has not looked back.

Raju-Russell says not only has the move paid off in terms of income, but also in enriching her family’s life.

“It just brings the world to our home instead of us going to the world.”

The 43-year-old says she and husband, Mike Russell, travelled a lot before having a third child made it too expensive, and they are enjoying hosting guests from around the world.

“That constant stimulation, meeting people, this is the way to go,” she says.

Guests have their own bathroom and private access downstairs, but share the upstairs kitchen and dining area with the family.

“We eat early and it’s just a matter of being organised and courteous,” says Raju-Russell.

“[Also] our bedroom/bathroom area is totally separate so the girls can retire at night leaving the guests to mix and mingle however they like.”

Raju-Russell charges $100 a night per room in peak season and allows children and pets, the family having two dogs and a rabbit of its own.

She says she is selective about guests and at the moment, a surgeon, her partner and the couple’s dog are staying for two weeks while between houses.

Raju-Russell runs the homestay in addition to two other businesses, one as a lingerie stylist and the other doing online training programmes for companies.

She says having paying guests in her home involves a little extra housework and arranging bookings, but she laughs off any suggestion that it is too much of a juggle.

“They say if you want something done, you give it to a busy person.”

Shelley Hobson-Powell has also found renting out a downstairs bedroom in her family’s Mount Maunganui home to be a winner.

The mother of two listed the bedroom with super-king bed and bathroom on Airbnb in August, and charges $50 a night on week days and $60 on weekends.

“Since then we’ve had five nights that we’ve had nobody in there.”

Hobson-Powell, who has a background in motel management, says by pricing the room reasonably, it guarantees close-to-full occupancy.

“The only hassle is we’ve got to do lots of washing.”

She says the income has helped pay the mortgage and eased the pressure as she has been unable to find work since the family moved to Tauranga for her husband’s job in July.

Guests have ranged from retired couples to backpackers, politicians, police and Defence Force officials, and businesspeople who have missed planes and needed last-minute accommodation.

Hobson-Powell says there is growing awareness of sites such as Airbnb and her family also enjoys the company of overseas guests, with her 5-year-old daughter, Isabella, practising German and Spanish with people who have stayed.

The market for holiday rentals in the Bay is also strong, with listings on sites such as Bookabach and HolidayHouses.co.nz up from last year.

Bookabach had 582 listings in Tauranga District this week, and Holiday Houses had 120 houses listed in the city last month, compared to 95 in the same month last year.

The average nightly asking rate on Holiday Houses in Tauranga is $249.

Mount Maunganui is the third most popular location on Holiday Houses in terms of the number of properties listed, preceded only by South Island hot spots Queenstown and Wanaka.

While the potential for extra income is high with holiday rentals during the peak summer season, one person whose family bach is rented says it is not all roses.

“My mum always rents it out during the best months to make cash off it so we only ever really use it at the very, very end of summer … We only ever get there when it is cold.”

The work involved in running a holiday rental can also be overwhelming for some people or not possible for others who live out of town.

Demand for outsourcing the job is growing in the Bay, prompting Kristin Clarke of Mount Maunganui to launch a specialist holiday property management service called Time in a Place in March.

A former real estate agent, Clarke helps clients with everything from preparing properties for holiday letting, to customising online listings, pricing, managing bookings, vetting of guests and organising professional cleaning when they leave.

She manages 17 properties at the Mount, Papamoa and Omokoroa, some for out-of-town owners of holiday homes or investment properties, and others for locals.

The properties she manages are listed on the Time in a Place website www.timeinaplace.nz  as well as other sites such as Airbnb and Bookabach.

Clarke organises photography and provides advice on specifics such as furniture placement for listings, and says guests want comfortable beds and often look for holiday homes that offer Wi-Fi, Sky TV and a spa pool.

“A lot of people also search for places that allow pets.”

Clarke, 42, says a small but important aspect of making a place comfortable for guests is ensuring it is stocked with basic consumables such as salt, pepper, paper towels and cooking oil.

“You don’t want to be buying a big container of oil when you’ve come away for two nights.”

Her staff take care of restocking such items for her clients and she says demand for services such as Time in a Place reflects the increasing number of overseas tourists discovering the Bay.

“It just ties in with the growth of the tourism industry and New Zealand being a favourable place to come with what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

Trade Me, which operates Holiday Houses, advises people looking to list property to do their research.

“Make sure you’re schooled up on the financial implications of renting it to the public,” says Trade Me Property head Nigel Jeffries. “It can be rewarding, but it’s important to view it as an investment that needs constant care and maintenance.”

Jeffries says people can help their chances of getting repeat bookings and recommendations by providing a well-presented, tidy and pleasant stay for their guests.

“This includes having the property regularly maintained. No one wants to open the door to a musty and dusty stay, or stumble upon unpleasant evidence of past guests.”

Trade Me also advises finding out the pricing of other properties in the area and seeing what they provide to guests as added incentives.

“[Look at] what you could do to help your bach stand out from the crowd,” Jeffries advises.

NZ Herald