Letting your home can pay for a holiday

Letting - or swapping - your home can subsidise annual getaways
Kate and Jack Sissons
Kate Sissons (with her 13-year-old son, Jack, and their dogs) has been renting out her four-bedroom home in West Brompton since 2009
Somehow, a nice holiday sounds particularly enticing this summer. For many, avoiding the Olympics would be another plus.

Kate Sissons will shortly be heading off with her 13-year-old son, Jack, for two weeks in Cape Town. When they return, a relaxing stay at a Cotswold holiday cottage is on the cards as part of school holiday fun.

Yet Kate is not a banker, nor independently wealthy. She is a freelance interior designer and stylist (insiderchic.net) who lives in a four bedroom Victorian house in West Brompton.

Since she bought the house in 2009 she has set about making it work for her taking in lodgers and by letting it out whenever she goes away. "I have a mortgage so I have to pay even if I am not there," she says.

The letting income subsidises her holidays — she and Jack visited Los Angeles at Easter, and their South African trip is being paid for by an overseas Olympic athlete who needs somewhere to stay during the Games.

Over three years eight sets of strangers have occupied Kate's house — in one case for a month. She uses letting firm onefinestay.com, which organises it all, from finding tenants to insurance and cleaning.

Kate Sissons home
Kate Sissons rents out her home to guests for an average £200 a night whenever she wants to take a holiday
It charges a percentage and rates vary (Christmas commands a premium), but Kate reckons she makes about £200 a night on average. She also collects air miles on her credit card, which helps pay for her and Jack's trips.

Swapping the costs


Another Londoner using her home to help fund family holidays is Kate Wellings, 41, a PR consultant married to James, 44, who works in marketing. Four years ago she decided to try swapping the family home for holidays. "We live in Shepherd's Bush and our friends just laughed, saying no one wanted to come to this area, but people really do, it's very central," she says.

The couple and their children Alfie, seven, and Poppy, four, have swapped their three-bedroom end-of-terrace home for a flat in Sardinia, a period farmhouse close to Toulouse, a flat close to the Eiffel Tower, a three-bedroom house in Provence, and — during last October's half term — a six-bedroom stone cottage on the Jurassic Coast.

In terms of preparation, the house must be clean and tidy. The Wellings clear cupboard space for guests. Other than that Kate works on instinct, avoiding swapping with anyone whose own home looks chaotic. "You can tell a lot about people from the pictures," she says.

Top tips: letting and swapping


* Most house-swap agents charge an annual fee: you then get a web page to market your property. You need clear and truthful pictures.
* Major swap sites include: homelink.org.uk; intervac-homeexchange.com and exchangeholidayhomes.com. Some sites specialise in top-end homes — visit luxehomeswap.com.
* Before a swap, agree about phone bills, accidental damage and food: leave milk in the fridge. Warn your insurer about your plans.
* Leave information about everything: how your heating, burglar alarm and cooker work. Local information is also helpful.
* Don't stop at just swapping your house: you could swap baby buggies, bicycles or even cars.

See how much extra cash you could make from renting your flat or room out

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