Renting Out Your Apartment On Vacation For Fun And Profit

Lately, thanks to our girlfriend’s initiative, we’ve been picking up extra cash whenever we go out of town by renting out our apartment.

First we scope out the local hotel room rental rates. We set our price about $50 cheaper.

Then we put up an ad on Craigslist in “vacation rentals.” When we find someone for whom the dates will work, we go and back forth with them about the arrangements and what the area is like.

We try to do the key and money swap ourselves, but if we’re going to be already gone, we ask a friend. In that case, depending on payment method, we give our friend a SASE to put the check in or they hold onto the cash.

When our guests’ stay is over, we ask them to leave the keys on the front table except for the deadbolt key. They are then to lock the door behind themselves and slide the key under the door.

Even though the practice is common in New York, most of our friends think we’re crazy. But we’ve done it three times so far and it’s worked out great. Our most prized possessions are our laptops, which we usually bring with us. We take photos of the apartment before we leave, and if there was ever any kind of theft, that’s what renter’s insurance is for, right? (let us know if we’re off-base on this point. Even if so, we have enough faith in humanity, and our own ability to weed out wackos through the email process, to not let it dissuade us) — BEN POPKEN

(Photo: amyadoyzie

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  1. Esquire99 says:

    I’m not entirely sure rental insurance would cover you in the instance. Since you were effectively operating a commercial venture by renting out your apartment, it would likely void any sort of coverage you have. I’d read your policy very, very carefully. It’s not like the people broke in and stole stuff. You let them in exchange for monetary compensation. I’d guess your carrier would deny any sort of claim, even if they burned the place down.

  2. TehRev says:

    I agree with bradg33 completely. I think the insurance would not pay for that.

    For me I would rather have my stuff safe and locked away without strangers digging through all my stuff. I can see if you have a second house.apt that you use for vacation but I know in my main residence I have lots of stuff that identifies me. Welcome identity theft if you have any form of filing system that isn’t under heavy lock and key.

    I for one know that my house has many things that I don’t want some random reading/pawing through. Also family heirlooms while maybe not hugely valuable may be one of a kind.

    Risk versus benefit I think this is a terrible idea for most people. Too much to lose for minimal gain.

  3. Jesse Pink says:

    Many apartments (mine comes into mind, specifically) expressly prohibit renting out your apartments to third parties. While they probably aren’t likely to investigate it or kick you out if they do discover you doing this, it’s still against the agreements in your contract with your property manager. If something were to happen to the property while your renting your house out, you may find yourself liable for the entire bill. (Pray that the person you rent to doesn’t start your building on fire accidentally, because any written contracts that you have with the person that you are renting out to is probably void also because of the previously mentioned breach.)

  4. Ben Popken says:

    @TehRev: “Risk versus benefit… Too much to lose for minimal gain.” – I think the same applies for any potential scammers as well. They have to go through an email exchange, pay around $250, and meet us face-to-face. There’s much easier ways if they’re really interested in ripping people off.

  5. bokononist says:

    My Allstate renter’s insurance policy explicitly doesn’t cover this kind of theft. Re-read your policy.

  6. FatLynn says:

    Does your apartment lease allow this? Even if your apartment is really a condo (I know in some places people call it an apartment even if they own it), your HOA may have something to say about it.

  7. doppler says:

    Another cool take on this idea is the “swap”. Some people are like to leave town during big events (e.g. SXSW in Austin), and they will trade apartments with you for your visit to their city.

  8. chrisgoh says:

    Even if you policy does not specifically exclude this, you do have an obligation to show due care. IE, if you open all your doors and windows and put signs up saying rob me, I don’t think your insurance would pay either.

    Personally, I would not let someone I did not know in my home while I was there, forget it if I was not there.

  9. Most Renters Insurance won’t cover theft as a result of negligence, which in this case is your granting them access to your apartment. You may be able to have the police try to recover your possessions, but the insurance company is in the clear.

  10. Landru says:

    I wouldn’t do this. We had a neighbor who was going on vacation and she rented out her apartment to someone who seemed very nice. After a few days, the tenant decided she didn’t like some of the stuff in the apartment and put it on the porch. Eventually she announced that she was not going to move out. She threatened to sue and said she was going to go to the landlord. (She also threatened to sue us and other neighbors for looking at her funny.) She demanded payment to move – and my neighbor (on advice of a lawyer) paid it; the person lived there rent free for two months. Based on conversations with her, it sounded like she did this all the time, taking advantage of tenants’ rights ordinances. It was very creepy.

  11. pestie says:

    @Ben Popken: What happens when someone uses your address as a maildrop for fraudulently purchased goods? And what if they combine that tactic with identity theft?

    Yeah, I definitely think you’re insane.

  12. kweee says:

    When I go out of town on business, I rent out my wife. I mean, I’m not using her, so there’s no reason not to! I just check out what the local prostitutes charge and set my price about $50 an hour lower. Then I put an ad on Craigslist under “erotic services.” When our guests’ stay is over, we ask them to leave her panties on the table.

    Most of our friends think I’m crazy, but I’ve done it thirty-eight times so far and it’s worked out great. My most prized possession is my laptop, and I bring that with me. I take photos of her before I leave, and if there were ever any STDs involved, that’s what health insurance is for!

  13. samurailynn says:

    @kwee

    Thanks for the laugh. That seriously made my day.

  14. Smashville says:

    This may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of…and I live in Tennessee.

  15. spidra says:

    Sorta kinda like this [www.bednbreakfastnyc.com]

    But I admit that my own worries about it keep me from doing it. I have to say that in my 20 years or so as a renter, I’ve run into a lot of dishonesty, scamming and craziness. Where’s Andy Griffith when you need him?

  16. Miguel Valdespino says:

    @ Ben “I think the same applies for any potential scammers as well. They have to go through an email exchange, pay around $250, and meet us face-to-face. There’s much easier ways if they’re really interested in ripping people off.”

    If they’re a scammer that needed a place to stay in town, then it’s a bonus to them. 1) It’s easy to make new emails. 2) If they’re scumbags, they stole the $250 from somebody else. 3) This would wash out the bad liars, but can you really say that you’d be able to beat somebody that cons people for a living?

  17. superlayne says:

    What if they fine your secret porn stash, Ben? What then?

  18. kaikhor says:

    I just could not do that. Too much worry for not enough gain. Even taking your laptops, wouldn’t you worry about everything else in your place being stolen or them trashing your apartment and leaving a mess? Or any number of things. I just cannot imagine even trying it.

  19. bastarre says:

    Worse yet, after I got back, I would be laying in bed wondering what went there while I was gone.

  20. Hoss says:

    My gawd — think of the safety of your neighbors. How do you know your “guest” is not a rapist, child molester, or any other deranged person? You could have the next 911 terrorist sleeping in your bed. (You got me sounding like my mother)

  21. doppler says:

    FWIW, I think this is a fairly sane idea. You certainly have to vet the person in some way, but I have lot of friends that do this in Chicago. This works best for brief periods like a weekend, as this helps to filter out all the “911 terrorists” that you guys are scared about.

  22. tcp100 says:

    I think this is a colossally stupid idea.

    First, you don’t only need to worry about insuring personal effects and the building, but your real issue is insuring for liability. Just wait until someone cracks their head slipping in your shower.

    You, of course, would be liable for any damage – and you’re actually operating as an inkeeper – something that requires strict regulation and permits in most states.

    Also, I do hope you checked with your landlord, as many leases explicitly forbid this, and can use it as grounds for eviction.

    But hey, seems you’re the blithe “hey, it don’t matter, life’s a sunshiney day!” type, so go with your bad selves, I guess.

  23. Pfluffy says:

    It’s a great idea if you guarantee that the occupant of your apartment won’t steal your stuff, vandalize the place, or become a reason your landlord evicts you for cause.

    Not only do you need to read and verify the terms of your rental insurance, read your LEASE. It would suck the big one if your swappers damaged the place to the tune of hundreds or thousands of dollars that YOU must pay for AND leave YOU homeless.

    The risks do not out weigh the benefits on this one. Dumb idea.

  24. groupie says:

    This is very common in the city. Of course I don’t do it because I’m anal retentive and overprotective about my belongings, but I have plenty of sane friends who do.

  25. Ben Popken says:

    Let’s not forget the risk the other party is taking as well. How do they know we’re not going to give them bogus keys to a fake apartment? I think the risk on both sides of the arrangement help make it a more honest transaction.

  26. tcp100 says:

    I find it concerning that Ben writes a very lucid article giving someone a justified talking-to for falling for a Nigerian scam, yet entrusts his apartment to any ol’ schmoe?

    Oh, and I know I didn’t clarify earlier, but I can tell you this from previous experience. Renter’s insurance will NOT cover theft in such a situation.

    My brother had an apartment and decided to throw a party; a bunch of people showed up he didn’t know. Lots of shit got stolen. His claim got denied. Reason? “Undue care” in allowing strangers into his apartment.

    And you know what, Ben, no, that isn’t “what renter’s insurance is for.” That’s an assinine comment, and the reason everyone’s rates go up.

    Renter’s insurance is for when someone breaks into your house in the middle of the night, or the place burns down. It’s issued to people who have a vested interest in protecting their own stuff and their own domecile, not for people who are transiently there for a night and have no legal responsibility for the place.

    Renter’s insurance is NOT for someone who naively lets strangers rent out his apartment without appropriate indemnity, liability, and property damage insurance for running a hotel/inn, which justifiably is more expensive.

    This is like letting random folks joyride your car for $5 a pop, and saying “Hey, who cares if they total the car or smash into a storefront. That’s what auto insurance is for!

    Seriously, after thinking, I can’t begin to underscore how off-base your line of thinking is here.

  27. Ben Popken says:

    @groupie: Good point, I forgot to mention in the article that people in New York do this all the time.

    I understand and appreciate many of your concerns and we will check in with our insurance company, but I gotta say, some of your scenarios are pretty far-fetched.

  28. lizzybee says:

    Beyond every other scenario I’ve read, there’s the “ewww” factor you haven’t considered. Ewww, what did those strangers do in my bed? Ewww, a complete stranger used my shower and my toilet! Ewww, did they do the nasty in my kitchen or on my couch?

    I think the “ewww” factor would be enough to discourage me from even remotely considering the idea.

  29. lestat730 says:

    No way in hell I could ever relax away from home while knowing strangers are living in my place. You think most people could resist the temptation to totally go through all your stuff? (even if they didn’t actually steal anything) I’m sorry, even with insurance I am just not that trusting. Curiosity is part human nature and most people would find the urge to snoop around to good to pass up. Then there’s the idea that a couple would be.. doing stuff in my bed. Ewwww. Wouldn’t be worth the extra money to me.

  30. Squishy says:

    @Ben Popken: LOL, everyone who agrees with Ben is a genius, if you disagree you’re a fool talking about far fetched scenarios.

    Ben, it’s simple. Is there exposure ($250) even close to your exposure on the deal? All your possessions? All of the damage they could do? What about if they invite some people they think will be ok?

    Seriously, you’ve not thought this out completely.

    You’re most likely not covered by insurance and are even more likely to be in violation of your lease if not local ordinances.

    5 times out of 6 your ok playing Russian Roulette but that 6th time is a bitch. Do a little me due diligence on this one dude. We expect more out of you.

  31. ElizabethD says:

    “Eww factor” FTW!

  32. Squishy says:

    Grr, make that “Is their exposure ($250) even close to your exposure on the deal? All your possessions? All of the damage they could do?”

  33. Squishy says:

    WOW, I need to read before I hit submit comment!

    5 times out of 6 you’re ok playing Russian Roulette but that 6th time is a bitch. Do a little more due diligence on this one dude. We expect more out of you.

  34. scudsone says:

    Everyone needs to chill out. Of course people who live in NY do this all the time because we don’t spend all our days worrying about the boogie man. My girlfriend and I rented out our place once last summer and I have a friend who does this a couple times a year. In fact he’s up in Vermont for a month right now while someone else is paying his rent. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the “911 terrorists” aren’t going to steal anybody’s stuff. Maybe just a box cutter. But seriously its more likely that your idiot friends will trash your apartment then some tourists are to steal your stuff.
    My main point is that most people freak out about everything, which speaking of terrorists, leads to believing our liar president’s bullshit and pissing their pants about “orange alerts” and liquid bombs on airplanes.

  35. superbmtsub says:

    You could rent it out to your buddies?

  36. zolielo says:

    Only time I have sublet is back in the college suites during the summer. And also only when one of my long term suite mates was going to stay in the suite over summer to supervise them.

    How we worked it out is of the four man suite we would rent out three spots. From the profits those of us way would pay the mate that stayed behind. Worked out well for years.

    Would I have sublet strangers without supervision – no!

  37. Ola says:

    Do the words “bad idea” come to mind? I mean, friends are one thing, but strangers are another.

    “Even if so, we have enough faith in humanity, and our own ability to weed out wackos through the email process, to not let it dissuade us).”

    Bwahahaha! Dude, ever heard the term con man? Of course the obvious psychos aren’t going to be allowed in, but what about the liars?

    Two words for you: Identity theft. Oh, and personal belongings, clothing, medications, the “eewww” factor, the food in the fridge, oh, and how about some nutso putting up cams? Maybe I wouldn’t mind – if I cleaned out the place beforehand and sent the CIA through with a debugging team afterward…

  38. Ola says:

    Oh, and also…what happens if they injure themselves in your home (actually, or just faked)? I really doubt your insurance will cover that! Paperwork…

  39. mitsouko says:

    You know guys, it’s not the problem of someone stealing your stuff that’s the issue.

    Since you’re operating what is an essentially an inn and acting as an innkeeper, you owe those people a heightened standard of care and if they hurt themselves in your apt, you’re legally liable.

  40. nycdor says:

    Yeah – I am with Ben here. I live in Manhattan, (West Village) and have done this maybe 10 times in the past 12 months. The worst thing that ever happened to me was when someone taped up a huge fold-out promotional poster of a Hyundai on the wall in my entry way and forgot to take it down. Not only have I totally covered my traveling expenses each time, I’ve met a few cool people that I keep in touch with still.

    This is definitely NOT for everyone – if you’re generally a nervous or untrustworthy person, it won’t be worth it for you no matter how much you make. If you’ve ever been a poor judge of character, don’t even think about it.

    I’m in the habit of getting cash in advance which, when I’m gone upwards of a week or two, can get to be a lot of money which I just have a hard time imagining that a commerial photographer from Berkeley, or a new NYU student from France would front just to rip me off. Don’t rent to anyone – do it smartly and you’ll be fine. Also don’t forget about Google – often you can find the photo of who you’ll be meeting ahead of time which can help to legitimize.

  41. synergy says:

    I’d never do it.

  42. laineylain says:

    What if the renters make copies of your keys and come back later to rob you (or worse)? Scary.

  43. taylorich says:

    100 bucks for the first person who can rent out Ben’s place and provide a live Webcam feed of him coming home from a trip. No bedroom cam please. UGH

  44. tcp100 says:

    @scudsone: Ah yes. The “New York” factor. Lest I forget that you are all more cultured, intuitive, and finely tuned to the world and human nature than the rest of us.

    I got my identity stolen once. They opened up a credit card and bought about a dozen IBM laptops and $1500 cigars. They had the shipment sent to an apartment fedex overnight, that turned out to just be a drop – the place was vacant the next day; cleaned out. Far fetched? No, it happened to me, and I have a thick police report and folder to show for it. Hmm, I wonder what city that apartment was in?

    Clue: it wasn’t Peoria.

  45. ancientsociety says:

    Wow. This is a colossally stupid idea.

    And if this is so “common” in NYC, I guess that’s one more reason in don’t want to visit, let alone actually live there.

    Here in Chicago (I guess that it’s part of the “flyover country” for you cultured New Yorkers), I’ve NEVER seen or heard of this. Why? Well, a) most everyone would be in violation of their lease, b) you’d be in violation of Landlord-Tenant Law, c) your rental insurance wouldn’t cover this, d) even if you were (technically) subletting your belongings could easily be stolen/trashed/pawned/etc., d) you’d be exposing your neighbors (most building are secure access) to unnecessary risk (do you REALLY know who’s renting from you?), e) you could be held liable for any damage or criminal activity that occurs while you’re gone, and f) you’d be responsible for any utility or other charges your “tenant” racked up while there.

  46. hoosierdaddy812 says:

    I would have trouble renting my place out to my own friends, not to mention complete strangers. I believe the Eww factor would do it to me, because I know what I do in my house and I’ve seen what other family members do that gross me out, just to imagine others doing small things like that would sicken me.

    Yeah, you can keep out a couple of the creeps and the occasional con-man but like someone said eariler sooner or later someone will take advantage of you and when it happens I hope you are wise enough to have taken some precautionary measures.

    Maybe get some ID before you give your keys, do a quick background checks, its very easy and cheap. Maybe get a deposit or some sort collateral if anything happens to any of your posessions. I sure you already do a couple of these and if not you should because it is these precautionary steps that could save you a horrific nightmare. You can even do something so simple as to take a picture of the people right before you leave with a camera phone if need be, then you at least know what they look like.

    If you are going to do this there is a right way and a wrong way if you continue to do this regardless. Hopefully, no one takes advantage of hospitality, because we could always use some more optimistic people in the world.

  47. wilykat says:

    @Ben Popken: “Let’s not forget the risk the other party is taking as well. How do they know we’re not going to give them bogus keys to a fake apartment? I think the risk on both sides of the arrangement help make it a more honest transaction.”

    Well, think about this rationally. If people have the option of staying at a hotel (slightly higher price, lower risk) or at an apartment that they found on Craigslist (slightly lower price, higher risk), which people are most likely to choose the second option? The economist would note that the people most willing to take your offer are the least valuable customers, much like the people most willing to buy health insurance are the sick or the people willing to sell their cars for the lowest amount are generally selling lemons.

    The more coarse and earthy respond would say that the people most willing to take your offer are those that are going to four-letter-word you.

    (to learn more, google: “George Akerlof”, “adverse selection”, “lemon economic theory”. Although I’m sure you’ve seen this before.)

    (Note that “adverse selection” as generally used describes the problem the buyer has in choosing between all the apartments for rent with incomplete information; given that, though, you have to wonder who’s willing to buy in that market.)

  48. ldt says:

    I’d rather lack “faith in humanity” than have someone steal all my stuff. Strangers in my home when I’m not there = bad, especially in a place like NYC. I thought urban dwellers were supposed to be more cynical and wary than this. It’s a metropolis, not a hippie commune or Mayberry!


    All in all, F- idea.

  49. mbrutsch says:

    My God, is it April 1st already?

    This is the most insane, irresponsible thing I have ever heard of (outside an episode of Jackass). I am shocked and appalled that Consumerist would even mention such an idea, much less advocate it. I had fallen into the habit of taking for granted that you guys know what you talking about, and that following your sage advice would keep me out of harm’s way, not put me in it.

    Be sure to let us know how it goes when you come back to an empty apartment. And remember, while you’re vetting these folks via email, that the ‘con’ in ‘con-man’ stand for ‘confidence’.

  50. kjherron says:

    Folks, there are companies that facilitate this kind of thing as a business. Check out Home Exchange for example. They even have a FAQ which covers a lot of these objections.

    • fantomesq says:

      @kjherron: The FAQ breezes over these objections. It certainly doesn’t cover them… just because their organization has never had a theft or other major problem that they are admitting (remember that they ARE selling something) that does not mean that you won’t nor will they provide for you if you do. It does not begin to cover the insurance, lease, etc issues involved in subleasing.

      Done right, subleasing can be profitable but like any other business, it requires careful consideration of the risks and liabilities involved. You CAN get insurance to cover you – but renter’s insurance won’t suffice – this is a commercial enterprise and requires higher insurance.

  51. VRBooker says:

    Having experience of the VR market in Florida there really is very little difference between renting out your own home as against your vacation rental provided you get over any insurance and licensing issues.

    If you are worried about your possessions, put a lock on a closet and use that to store them. (Whether it be your wife’s jewelry or your porn stash!)

    It is very unlikely that the tenants will trash the house. Thousands of private homes here are rented out almost continuously with high quality furnishings, electrical equipment etc and I haven’t come across one instance of a house being emptied of its contents.

    Some guests will treat the house badly but the more ‘personal’ you can make the arrangement the less likely this is to happen.

  52. SexCpotatoes says:

    I rent out my barn all the time, sure there is the EWE factor, but hey, there’s some sick folks out there who’ll pay a bunch for a sheep with a man or woman’s face…

  53. bnet41 says:

    A lot of people here in NYC do this. I think it’s just another sad example of this city being too expensive to live in, and people have to do whatever they can to make money sometimes. That’s just my opinion.

    I have never read a lease agreement that didn’t forbid this practice.

    I would just be worried about the liability angle of the whole thing. We live in such a lawsuit happy society. Ben hasn’t come back and addressed the liability worries at all, just the insurance.

    I could never do it though. I get upset when family members or even my girlfriend goes through my stuff. No way I could handle a stranger.

  54. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    Wow, harsh responses!

    I live in New York too, and three years ago this would have sounded totally bizarre–now, I kind of wish my landlords would let me do this while I’m on vacation next week. The rents we pay here in NYC are exorbitant. If you could recoup some of that money while you’re not using the place, why not?

    Maybe another reason this doesn’t freak me out– a lot of New Yorkers actually LIVE with strangers for at least some portion of their lives (I’ve moved in to two apartments with people I’d met for five minutes once before), so the idea of someone staying in my place while I’m not there is not nearly as weird as coming home to people I don’t know every night for six months.

    Honestly, I’m an extremely private person and I’m not sure that I would be down with this if I did have the option–I live above my landlords and I know for a fact that this would not fly with them, so it never ocurred to me. I wouldn’t expect renter’s insurance to cover anything while I was not there, but it wouldn’t have been against either of my previous leases (sublets of longer than one month were covered, but nothing else). I’ve had my identity stolen with no clue how someone got my information, so I don’t feel like I’m any safer not having someone stay in my apartment. I have a locking safe, and also a spare room that locks with a key. Mail delivery can be stopped, and there’s no reason to believe that every single person out there is trying to take advantage of you.

    Interestingly, I have some friends who rent out their spare furnished room as a sort of bed and breakfast to people on Craigslist. They work from home, so they put people up, feed them a couple of meals, maybe show them around and charge less than the cost of a hotel. In return, people visiting the city get companionship, tour guides, and a more home-y feeling place for much cheaper than a hotel. This creeps the hell out of me.

  55. MexiFinn says:

    Just as an FYI on filing claims with your renter’s insurance company…

    I had some items stolen out of my car one day, about $800 worth of stuff (renter’s insurance covers the items in your car, NOT your car insurance).

    That said, since I had a $500 deductible I decided I would try to recoup some of my losses by filing a claim. But before I officially did, I contacted my insurance agent. Well, they said I wouldn’t cause my premiums to rise. Instead, the insurance agency could decide instead to drop you when your term is up, especially since I only had the policy for like 6 months. So, if you are dropped and go look for another company to cover you, they will see that you are dropped and will consider you high risk.

    So, I ate the $800 in lost goods because I don’t want to deal with this… not worth it for the $300. So, save your insurance for when it really matters for a catastrophe.

  56. sushi1869 says:

    It can’t be that crazy of an idea if they have a section on Craigslist for it. Being a resident of Austin, I have thought about doing this myself for SXSW and ACL.

  57. madktdisease says:

    why would i stay in someone’s place where i could get ripped off when i could stay at a hostel for much cheaper than a hotel? most hostels now have private rooms anyway.

  58. tcp100 says:

    @madktdisease: Many areas of the country don’t have hostels, and lots of hostels are restricted by age and have other rules people may not want to deal with.

    Then again, just because people do this all the time doesn’t make it a good idea – and again, NYC folks need to get it through their heads that the rest of the world is not NYC, nor is NYC the gold standard of all things beautiful and right in the world. I have not heard of this happening much here in DC (which is the opposite of any gold standard; more like a deep rust-brown standard) and the folks I did mention it to looked at me sideways when I asked.

    I went home and checked my lease last night; subletting or even allowing anyone not on the lease to stay more than 48 hours without the landlord’s permission is technically forbidden. I’m sure most folks don’t ask the landlord when Aunt Sally stays for three days, but if your “guests” get locked out and need to ask the landlord to get in, they’ll probably be A) screwed, and B) cause for your landlord to start seeing what’s up. You could easily find yourself in violation of a lease, which isn’t a good thing in an expensive and hip city like DC, NYC, or Chicago.

    Trust me, I know about the expensive rent issue. DC isn’t cheap either. As Mr. Pants Judge can attest, however, things are a little more litigous down here – so maybe that’s the reason for some of my “harsh” responses. This would be a nice way to get your ass promptly sued in Washington.

    Nonetheless, I thought this was the consumerist, no the “really cheap folks-erist”. If the goal here is a weird way to make $200, fine – but it’s not really consumerism; it’s eccentric frugality. It is not, however, a financially responsible idea by any stretch, which I think is underscored, not countered, by the fact that so many “poor young urban folks” embrace it. They need the money, and are more willing to do riskier things.

    The vacation home rentals / exchange example is a really poor analogy, I think. When you trade houses for a vacation, you’re trading things YOU own with someone else who owns something of equivalent value. Don’t fuck up my house, I won’t fuck up yours. There’s a mutual trust, and people who own homes are generally, as a population, more financially secure than a NYC apartment dweller who “really needs to make an extra $50″. I’d say they’re less likely to be in the dire financial straits which beget scammers and the like.

    With the Super-8 Apartment Motel, you’re renting something you don’t own to somebody who’s got nothing more than $200 in cash vested in the whole deal. But hey, if you’re just gonna tell yourself it’s about faith in humanity, that’s fine – but where I come from, that’s called being naive and a sucker. Mean, maybe, but often true.

  59. mermaidshoes says:

    i think it’s an NYC thing. renting for so long for such high prices might drive me to try something similar, especially if i went on vacation for a significant amount of time. it’d be really hard to justify paying hundreds of dollars in rent PLUS hundreds of dollars in hotel charges on a two-week (or longer) vacation. as it stands, though, i think i’ll just lock up my cheap non-NYC digs when i go somewhere, and stay with friends when i visit new york.

  60. @tcp100: “Clue: it wasn’t Peoria.

    Naw, here they’d just cut you and take your money for meth. ;)

    (I kid, I kid. We leave our windows open at night and let every child in the neighborhood play our Wii unsupervised.)

    @wilykat: “or at an apartment that they found on Craigslist (slightly lower price, higher risk), which people are most likely to choose the second option?”

    Actually, a lot of folks prefer what’s called a “self-catering” accommodation in Europe — a house or apartment or condo or hotel room that comes WITHOUT maid service and WITH cooking facilities. It dramatically lowers the cost of a vacation and, particularly when you’re gone for a couple weeks, it’s nice to eat real food at home instead of restaurant food every night.

    These are fairly widely available in much of Europe, but much more difficult to find in the US (and an “extended stay” hotel really just isn’t the same as self-catering). If I were visiting somewhere for a couple weeks, I’d definitely consider this; in fact, we try to do self-catering when visiting my in-laws, but they live in a resort-y area so there are what they call “vacation condos” available, which fills the same need.

    Other than liability issues, it’s not that different than a private B&B.

  61. MasterPhu says:

    @tcp100: No NYC isn’t the gold standard for everything but people are different and do things differently here as they are/do anywhere else in the world. OMG someone doesn’t think and act the same way you do, BLASPHEMY. WE MUST CIVILIZE THOSE HEATHENS. OUR NAME FOR WHAT ATHEISTS SHOULD CALL THEMSELVES IS CLEARLY THE BEST AND THE MOST LOGICAL.

    So what if Ben and others in NYC do this, how does that effect you in anyway shape or form? He’s just giving people a suggestion to make some money with a place that will be idle when you’re not there. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it then don’t. Do you really think that many people in NYC would continue to do something like this if they got robbed?

  62. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    I would do this if I didn’t have a roommate. I think you just have to be good about weeding out the bad apples. Have phone conversations. Do your homework. If you don’t find anyone, then oh well.

  63. nachas101 says:

    Hmmm.
    Let’s see.
    A cash transaction.
    A load of trust invested in a total strager.
    Any number of liabilities you expose yourself to.
    Yeah.
    Sounds like a great idea.
    Let’s take a look at some issues:
    I own a laptop, a desktop, a 27inch tv, and a 50 inch DLP tv. I wouldn’t expect any of that to still be there.
    What if your ‘guests’ throw a party there?
    What if your ‘guests’ use your house for illegal activities?
    what if they ship drugs there?
    If someone falls and hurts themselves there, you aren’t covered by insurance if you’ve rented the place out illegally and against your lease.
    Your landlord would have grounds to evict you (potentially) based on a number of factors, including a violation of the lease agreement.
    Seriously. How is this even a little bit of a good idea. You are essentially giving someone the run of your place, with no one there to do anything about it in the event something goes horribly wrong.
    Really. Really. Really bad idea.
    DO NOT DO THIS.
    Sure, your prized possessions might be your laptops. But if some dillweed gives you cash and empties your place while you are gone, your insurance will likely not cover you. Most likely, you are underinsured (most of us are), and would end up with SOME of your stuff, but not all.
    Just imagine coming back to your apartment and finding no bed, no clothes, no tables, no tv’s, nothing in the kitchen, all the pipes removed, all the fixtures and faucets removed, no fridge, no stove, no microwave, etc.
    And all for a few extra bucks while you are gone.
    The 60′s are over, folks. if you wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker, why give a transient the keys to your home?
    Not worth it.
    Hotels in Chicago run around $210 a night.
    Am I willing to risk losing everything in my home for $160 a night? Hell. No.
    Is this the ‘ripofferist’ or a website dedicated to helping consumers? Couldn’t you conceive of hundreds of people following your instructions to the letter, only to have their lives destroyed, their property damaged or stolen, getting evicted and having their insurance claims denied?
    Bad idea, consumerist.
    Bad form.
    This exposes people to harm instead of warning them or protecting them against it.

  64. nachas101 says:

    Furthermore, this is likely a violation of your lease agreement.
    At least it is in Chicago.
    Most standard Chicago leases contain the following clause:
    “8. USE OF PREMISES: The premises shall be occupied for residential purposes only, and only by the persons disclosed in this lease and on the Application for Lease submitted by Lessee in connection with the renting of the premises.”

  65. Miguel Valdespino says:

    @Ben Popken: “Let’s not forget the risk the other party is taking as well. How do they know we’re not going to give them bogus keys to a fake apartment? I think the risk on both sides of the arrangement help make it a more honest transaction.”

    This assumes the other person is not a conman or other scumbag.

    Even assuming that you rent to a decent law-abiding citizen, how do you know they won’t invite a scumbag over. I’ve had roommates who invited people over who’ve stole me blind.

    I agree that the majority of the time you won’t have a problem. Then again a drunk driver doesn’t have an accident most of the time. The problem with both is that when it does happen it’s really bad.

    @kjherron: This is a completely different beast. Using HomeExchange, you have a third party that has the credit card and contact information of the other guy. This makes it a lot harder to scam somebody.

  66. krunk4ever says:

    i also agree that this is a horrible horrible idea.

    does meeting in person really mean that they’re not scammers. and if you’re doing a cash transaction, there’s probably no way to track them down. if you look at 419eater.com, you can see what scammers are willing to go through just to get your money.

    i’m not sure how securely you keep your stuff at home and the fact they might even have access to your mail terrifies me.

    let me put it this way. Would you ever ask a complete stranger to housewatch for you, and in the event it is a complete stranger (even if they were recommended to you by a friend), how much background check would you do? And this renting your apartment case, you’re giving a stranger complete access your entire house for a few benjamins.

  67. krunk4ever says:

    There was an article earlier talking about making money on 0% balance transfers by dumping the money into a high-yield savings account.

    You (Ben) said, “Personally, though, we don’t think it’s worth the effort or risk.

    I personally think you’re dealing with more risk with this apt rental scheme than the 0% balance transfer.

    Sometimes this blog gives good advice. Other times, I can’t believe what I’m reading.

  68. Brigitte says:

    I have successfully rented apartments from people I have found on Craigslist, who were either going away for the summer, or for the Christmas vacation.

    Since I never had enough money to pay for a hotel, or the desire to stay uncomfortably in a hostel, I found the most economical and comfortable way to spend time in Montreal was to sublet a place for a short period of time.

    This summer, I was planning on renting a place from a well known journalist. I run a respectable business, and so does my husband – so we’re pretty easy to screen, and so is she.

    I find it shocking that this thread is evoking such strong responses – subletting your place for a few days is certainly not for everyone, especially if your home has valuables that are important to you. But I personally think that if you’re responsible about who you choose, it can be a winning situation for the everyone involved.

  69. Judes says:

    It’s a good way to make your neighors hate your guts. My next-door neighbor does this all the time and it makes me crazy. First of all, we both have criminally cheap rent, so it’s not like she needs to do it. Second, she always subleases to inconsiderate morons who bug the crap out of everyone else in our very small building by acting like they’re in a hotel–buzzing all the bells to be let in, being really loud in the halls, etc.

    More effective than apartment insurance is neighbors who’ll look out for you. Good luck if you alienate them.

  70. krunk4ever says:

    @BrigitteT: There’s a major difference in a regular sublet than what this post is suggesting you do. When you rent out or sublet your apartment/house to someone else, you should be doing a full background check on the individual and taking a security deposit in case anything gets damanged.

  71. camille_javal says:

    @tcp100: Trust me, I know about the expensive rent issue. DC isn’t cheap either.

    Compared to New York it is. No, seriously – it’s one of the reasons I’m moving there (from New York) after graduation.

    I considered doing this in a period of financial panic a few months ago. I’m with Groupie, though – I’m a little too paranoid. But I, too, know people who do this all the time.

    and, @ Krunk4ever – maybe one *should* get a background check when one sublets, but most of the people I know don’t.

    (The one thing about this that would work for me – with my laptop removed, I’m not sure all the contents of my apartment total would be worth $250.)