Who doesn't dream of a career break?
The freedom. New experiences. Living life on your terms.
It’s been ten years since my husband and I and various combinations of our sons took our career break.
Ten years and the memories and impact of that trip are as if it was yesterday.
Long term travel is fabulous. It’s important. It’s why I host Meet Plan Go in Toronto every year. The event helps people address the challenges of taking a career break so that they can set out on the road.
One of those challenges is money. To help pay for our trip, we rented our home for the ten months we were away. With four bedrooms (two in the basement) that rental brought in $25,000 which, as you can imagine, was significant in helping pay for our trip.
However, it’s work to rent your home. And it’s stressful. In fact, after trying to rent our home for months, we didn’t find our rentors (we rejected other prospects) until two weeks before we left. And then the work really began.
Was it perfect? No. We returned and there was some minor damage to our home. But it was the type of damage that could have easily happened with our family living there so my conclusion: overall, it was a good experience.
I learned a lot from that experience. Here are some takeaways that may be of help to you.
Is renting your home right for you?
Renting out your home is not for everyone. You need to decide if it is right for you.
- Do you get stressed by the idea of someone living in your home and using your stuff? Then it's not for you.
- Are easy going about your things? If you will travel and not worry about your home, go for it.
- Are you allowed to rent your home? If you rent or live in a co-op, you need to ensure that you can legally sublet.
How to find the right tenant.
To take the work off your shoulders completely, you can hire a property manager to handle the renting and maintenance of your home. They'll collect the rent and pay the bills and do the occasional drop by… whatever you want. But, it will cost you. I am more a DIY gal. I do things myself whenever I can. If you want to do it yourself, here are some of the steps to follow.
Identify the type of person or people you want to rent your home.
- Specify your criteria regarding smoking, pets and any other detail that is important to you.
- Decide what you will include in your rental. What utilities and technology?
- Remove items that you will not include in the rental before showing it to prospective tenants.
- Clarify whether you are willing to rent to a number of people on a short term basis or if you are only willing to work with one renter for the entire time you are away.
Once you know the type of person you want to rent your home:
- Create a mini website that shows off your home. Google “make a free website” and you'll find that you can do this yourself at no cost.
- Let friends and family know that you are looking to rent your home. Let them know your criteria and share your website with them.
- Use an online service like SabbaticalHomes.com to list your home. If you want to stay in one place, consider trading places with a service like Home Exchange.
- Post your home with a faculty newsletter or notice board of a local university or college to find academics on sabbatical.
- Many neighborhoods have websites for local news, shops and classified. Post your listing there.
- Try Craig's List and Kijiji. They have been successful for some people.
- If you’re not having success or not comfortable managing the process yourself, find a real estate agent to do the job for you. Unfortunately, they'll make more from a sale of a house than by renting yours so they are not going to work at it very hard.
When you've found a prospective tenant, check them out thoroughly. You're going away. You don't want any headaches. You need financial, business and personal references.
- Do a credit check. Read How to Run a Credit Check.
- Confirm that they are employed and talk with their boss. You want to find out how reliable and responsible they are. Don't do this by email. Chat with them by phone long enough that they start to care about you before you ask the tough questions. Leave pauses in the conversation. People tend to fill dead air and you may find out more this way. You should always ask: if you were the type of person who would rent your home, would you rent it to him/her.
- Try to get more than one business reference. Personal checks can be valuable too but friends say nice things anyway. A second business reference is more valuable.
How to prepare for your tenant.
Make sure that the lease you sign with your tenant is airtight in terms of what utilities are covered and which are not, responsibilities for repairs, insurance requirements and more. You will want to keep your insurance on the property and your contents. Editors note: and, as reader segacs adds in the comments below “…Here in Quebec, things like damage deposits and last month's rent are very, very illegal. When you sublet, you're essentially becoming a landlord for a short period of time; read up on all the local laws and make sure you don't violate them or else you could come home to a nasty surprise in the form of being dragged in front of your rental board.” Now, back to the tips…
- Take a damage deposit and last month’s rent.
- Arrange for automatic deposits of their rent payments into your bank account.
- Arrange for automatic payments for all expenses that you are covering from your bank account or credit card.
- Check with your insurance broker to ensure that you don’t have to change your policy.
- Arrange for a local representative to manage problems should they arise. This person should be able to authorize repairs to your home. I chose my brother rather than a professional as I knew I could trust him completely to protect my interests.
- Divert your mail to a friend or family member.
- Arrange for someone to take care of regular details like checking to make sure that your mail is not accumulating (which it can do even if you have requested a redirect), cut grass, rake leaves, shovel snow… This time, I hired my eldest son who only traveled with us for a couple of weeks.
- Request a disconnect of your landline phone and a hold on your number so that you can use the same number on your return.
- Talk to your neighbors. Give them the contact numbers for your local representative to call if they see something amiss.
- Put away all personal belongings. This is a great time to purge things you don’t really need. Rent a storage unit if necessary.
- Clean everything.
- Take photos or, preferably, video of every detail of your home. Keep a copy and give the tenant and your local representative copies.
- Make copies of the keys for yourself and two local representatives.
- Give your representatives multiple ways to get in touch with you in case of an emergency.
- Introduce your new tenant to a neighbor or two. This can be seen as you being helpful. In fact, it let's your tenant know, subtly, that they have moved into a community that sees what is going on.
There are a lot of details involved with renting your home but the effort is well worth it. It can be the difference between taking that big trip and not. And, if you've read “Should I Stay or Should I Go“, you know, I think you should go.