The accidental landlord

Our accidental landlord Victoria Whitlock gets a surprise when she advertises a room as a holiday let
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I advertised an empty room in my rental flat as a holiday let, via the website Crashpadder, and straight away I got an inquiry. Just one mind, but I thought it was an encouraging start and it got me wondering whether short-term rentals might be the way forward.

A guy who was coming to London to look for a place to live offered to pay £175 to rent the room for just one week while he searched for somewhere more permanent. As long-term renters wouldn't pay more than £120 a week for the room, including bills, that was a great price, even after deducting Crashpadder's 10 per cent commission.

However, as yet I have not received any further interest in the room. The "Crashpadder Team" sent me a chirpy email suggesting I add a photo of myself to my profile page on their website to bump me up the search results. Also, a photo of yourself means you're 40 per cent more likely to get bookings, they said. Not if you look like the Bride of Wildenstein you won't. Best not to show my face till I've got the bookings, I decide.

'I've warned my other half not to panic if he comes home from work and there's someone kipping on the sofa'

I've received a few other emails, all of them from Crashpadder telling me about travellers registered with the site who are planning trips to London. They've suggested that I contact these people and pimp my room. Among those I've emailed are an Australian painter who's coming to London for three months to visit her daughter; a Japanese woman from Battersea looking for a room for a couple of weeks for her parents who are coming to London for her wedding, and an American tourist planning five nights in the capital as part of a European tour.

So far my emails have been greeted with a deafening silence. Crashpadder, as the name suggests, seems to be used mainly by budget travellers looking for a cheap alternative to a hotel. They aren't necessarily looking for even a room, often a sofa will do.

When I search the competition, I find my double room is up against a futon in someone's Clapham living room, available at £25 a night (£10 less than my room); a small double for £32 a night in Wandsworth; bunk beds in Morden from £20 a night… and heaps more. None of the rooms listed appears to have attracted many bookings — most of those I look at don't have any yet for the rest of the summer — though some have got feedback from previous guests, which suggests they've had some in the past.

Maybe if my room was more centrally located I might have more luck. Most people seem to be looking for accommodation in the heart of London, not in Zone 3 at the end of the District line. However, I see there are lots of Crashpadders with unfilled rooms in more sought-after spots, such as Westminster and Kensington.

All things considered I've decided that short-term lettings might be a good option for homeowners to make a bit of cash, but it's probably too risky for buy-to-let landlords like me. However, I've warned my other half not to panic if he comes home from work and there's someone kipping on the sofa, though I've promised — cross my heart and hope to die — that I won't let the chaise longue at the foot of our bed as well.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London

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