Olympic gold is not as easy as you think

Victoria Whitlock opts for a house swap to Reykjavik in August to avoid the hassle of de-cluttering and renting
Talk at the school gates this week is all about the possibility of making a killing during the Olympics renting out our little suburban terrace houses.

News that ex-England footballer Sol Campbell is letting his Chelsea townhouse for £75,000 during the Games has got folk in my neck of the woods (which is nowhere near and nothing like Chelsea) very excited.

Encouraged by reports that houses are being advertised at up to four times their normal rental value during the Olympics, friends have been excitedly posting comments on Facebook like “How much could we get for ours?”, and “Shall we do it?”, or “Let’s give it a go.”

They won’t, of course. I’ve been inside their homes and I’ve also rented out my family house twice for short periods, so I know how much effort it’ll take for them to hack the month-old cornflakes off the kitchen table, scrub children’s grubby finger marks from the bedroom walls, shift mould from bathroom tiles and nag husbands to do all those niggly repairs that they’ve put off for years.

If your house always looks like the cover of House & Garden magazine then great, this might just be the ideal opportunity to make a few grand without lifting a finger. The rest of us would have to start de-cluttering our houses now to make them presentable by July. And really, can you be bothered?

I don’t usually pass up a rental opportunity — I lie awake at night calculating how many months until my eldest leaves home so I can let out her room (67 at the last count) — but I’m not convinced there is as much money to be made out of the Olympics as people believe.

One letting agent caused a little ripple of excitement in my neighbourhood by advertising an unremarkable one-bedroom flat in an unremarkable street for £1,200 a week during London 2012. Normally it would fetch £1,200 a month max.

Now come on! Who’s going to pay a premium to rent a flat that’s at least an hour by Tube from the Olympic stadium, especially as there are still plenty of hotel rooms in London available during that period?

Don’t forget, too, agents charge a whopping commission for short lets (Foxtons takes 26 per cent plus VAT) and there’s tax to pay on your profit.

If you do fancy giving it a go, you could try bypassing the agents and advertising online. I Googled “accommodation for London Olympics” and one of the first sites that came up after the paid-for ads was holiday-rentals.co.uk, so I thought that might be a good place to stick an ad. It charges a one-off fee of £249 to advertise your property in the UK and on 14 international sites for a year.

If you don’t want to go down the DIY route to letting, then you could try onefinestay.com instead. It’s a new agency which agrees a fixed nightly rate with the owners of “upscale” properties and takes care of all the marketing (including photography), insurance, cleaning and even provides guests with fluffy towels and fresh linen. It says it has received a lot of enquiries for private homes during the Olympics, especially from families and groups who don’t want to stay in hotels.

But I’ve decided that rather than let my house during the Games and spend the next six months cleaning it in readiness, I’m going to swap it for a home in Reykjavik. For two weeks in August, a sports-mad family from Iceland are going to come and live in my messy house where not everything works quite as it ought to, and I’m going to live in theirs. Sorted.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London.

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