Renting Out Your Home Short Term

Parent Q&A

Leaving house vacant for a year to avoid becoming landlord Oct 18, 2019 (22 responses below)
Renting out our house vs. Airbnb rental Aug 11, 2019 (6 responses below)
Short term, Airbnb type rentals in Oakland Jan 22, 2019 (1 responses below)
Advice on Renting out Our House Furnished (Sabbatical?) Sep 28, 2018 (7 responses below)
Property manager for my home while I'm overseas May 8, 2018 (2 responses below)
Hire property management for Berkeley home while we're overseas? Apr 10, 2017 (4 responses below)
  • I'm helping make a decision whether the risks and costs associated with becoming a landlord in Berkeley are worth it as opposed to leaving a house empty for a year.  The place will only be empty for a year and the owners will absolutely need to move back then.  I heard scary horror stories about people's experiences being landlords in Berkeley and that getting tenants out after a lease is often tough and very expensive if they don't want to move at end of lease and that evictions take forever etc.  Many recommended avoiding becoming landlords at all costs!  It seems like a waste (and expensive, due to lost rental income) to just leave the place empty for a year, but if the horror stories are true it seems that any income will potentially be eaten up by damage and attorney fees and costs to rent alternative housing while dealing with evictions, etc.  Anyone who was away from home for about a year or slightly more made the decision to not rent out the home and instead leave it vacant to avoid these issues?    

    I had a similar situation in San Francisco. I chose to do short term rentals. Although in retrospect I think that I’d try to find slightly longer term renters such as a professor coming for a sabbatical, short term corporate housing, or a family doing a house remodel. I’d probably leave a buffer of 1-2 months between the last renter’s last day and your return day. 

    hey there --

    we didn't know this at the time (only found out after our former tenants sued us for evicting them to return back to our house as owner-move-in, and had to talk to a lawyer, etc.) -- but there is a clause in leases that specifically states that owners have previously occupied home and will have right of return. I don't remember the exact language. Ironically, we had asked the property manager if we should disclose that we might (it was uncertain) return to our home, and she advised us against it as she thought would impede rental. But, if you find a short term tenant (some people are looking for low commitment leases) -- you could have this explicit in your lease. Leaving a house empty sounds unfortunate and risky. Sorry don't know how that clause/option is worded, but sure that you can google/do some research to clarify.

    I also want to know the answers.

    Two ideas: rent to a family who is renovating their own home. They'll be ready to move out when their home is ready. Rent to university-associated people who will only be in town for one year.

  • Renting out our house vs. Airbnb rental

    (6 replies)

    My wife and I own a two bedroom house in the Temescal area of Oakland which we have rented to others for several years. The current tenants have purchased a house and will be leaving in about two months. It has occurred to us that we might make some small repairs and upgrades, furnish it then rent it out by listing the house on the Airbnb website. Before we do, however, we would very much like to have the advice of those in the community who have taken the same or similar path and would be willing to share the benefits as well the the shortcomings of such an endeavor. Our main concerns are that we would not be able to average the same level of income from periodic rentals with Airbnb as it would probably be rented only part of each month, we would have to spend a considerable amount of money to furnish it and would have to deal with reservations, multiple visitors and perhaps calls while people are there to deal with small issues which might come up even thought the house in in very good shape. These type of calls do come up from renters but are very infrequent  We would be very grateful for any thoughts, both positive and negative. Many thanks.

    You and your neighborhood will be better served if you were to rent to a local family.  There is not rent control for single family homes so I don't know what you have to lose. It does not sound like you would be a good candidate for an airbnb host given all of your concerns. You are better off vetting a good tenant to take care of your property and pay you consistent rent.

    The average occupancy rate is about 60%-70%.  It also takes a lot of effort for cleaning.  Each visit may cost at least $60.  The people may also abuse the place.  If you do decide to rent it on Airbnb, be more selective about the tenants if you are worried about abuse, such as only agree to the people that verified their IDs, and who had positive reviews from the past. You do need to run it like a business, and it takes time and effort.  Check out the listings around your area, see how much they are asking for, and look at their calendar to understand how booked they are.  From there, you can estimate the income to see if it makes sense for you.     

    We have an apartment which we tried Airbnbing 3 times.  First time our long term tenant was moving to Europe and left us with a fully furnished apartment.  We cleaned and listed on Airbnb.  For the first month we hit what appears to the average a guest 20 nights per month.   Some guests were there 2, 3 nights so it becomes a hassle.  Up side we have on guest which stayed for 3 months and we received $1200 over monthly rental.  But then there are dry spells with no gests for weeks.  We've talked to other Airbnb hosts and the 1, 2, 3 night stays are just killer in terms of checkout, cleaning. fixing, making everything nice for the new guest and meeting the new guest.   It becomes a full time job or you pay someone to do it and then they are the ones making the money.  And remember you need to get a business license, $$$, might need different insurance $$$$ and the city might have a short stay/Airbnb tax. $$$$ (Not sure about Oakland, Berkeley does and Airbnb takes the money from your account.

    Then  you have the hassle of Airbnb web site making pricing mistakes.  We Airbnb for $80 to $130 per night.  Airbnb's web site was messed up and a guest was able to book and pay for 5 months at $35 per night.  It took over a weeks working with Airbnb to get this figured out and then the guest was furious with me for Airbnbs mistake.

    Most Airbnb hosts are doing 7 or 14 day minimum. 

    Then you have the horror stories.  We had a guest who was from out of town for a medical procedure.  (Not a problem.)  Guest checked out at 11 and we had a new guest coming at 2.  We went to clean only to find the pillow covers, sheets and pillow all had blood and had to be replaced.

    We threw in the towel about 5 months ago after the third attempt.  Yes we were making $800 to $1,500 extra per month which sounds Uber nice.  But then when we looked at the amount of time we were spending I don't think we were making minimum wage.  My advice....  don't do it.  Oh, and there one more thing you have to fight.  Airbnbs ratings.  We had one guest complain about something stupid like water in the sink came out too slow.  (Yes, because it's a water saving faucet required by law.)  I think we were given 3 stars which placed us low on the preferred list.  (Don't expect Airbnb to have any sympathy.)  Took I think about 9 months of renting 5 star reviews for us to appear on the search list. (ther hosts scam the system to get higher ranking.)

    Bottom line, we have no plans to Airbnb every again now that we are super-hosts.  If you decide to do it, forget Airbnb and go with VRBO.  (Which I have been told is really Prceline or one of the Priceline like web site companies. 

    Hope this helps

  • Hi all - I am confused and wondering if anyone here can help out - really hoping for someone with actual knowledge and expertise vs just an opinion or a desire to interpret what's posted, please.  We used to rent our house when we'd travel, and we'd love to do that again this summer. We had the city license required to rent our home and paid taxes to the Fed, State and City. Our rental timeframe was usually 6 days to about 3 weeks, with most renters coming for 1-2 weeks. However, I heard that Oakland's Short Term Residential Rental Regulations have changed, so I read them, and just don't get it. One section states that rentals must be 7 days or longer ... another says no rentals for less than 30 days unless in hotel zone ... and then it gets more vague. I looked at all the sites that typically have house rentals - VRBO, Airbnb, HomeAway and so on - and there are tons of house rentals in Oakland, available for almost any amount of nights including just 1-2. I'm sure most of those folks are homeowners just trying to pay the bills and not wanting to be doing anything illegal. Many of the travel sites collect and remit taxes direct to the city, which the city accepts ... so what is really legal nowadays?   Thanks in advance ... 

    The East Bay Rental Housing Association may be able to help. 

    https://www.ebrha.com/

  • My family has the opportunity to move to Copenhagen for a year, and we will need to rent out our home, which is in a desirable section of North Berkeley. We are hoping to rent it out furnished, ideally to a family, and thinking a sabbatical situation would be the best way to go. I would love to hear from others who have done this! Do you include all the utilities (water, garbage, Internet, etc.) in the rental price? Do you get a special lease drawn up (and who do you consult for this)? What kind of yard maintenance can be expected from renters (mowing, etc.)? Do you package up ALL personals, or can you leave books on shelves, toys for kids, etc.? What else should I be considering that I might not be thinking of? I'd love to hear about positive and negative experiences others have had... Thanks in advance! (And I'd also love any advice on Copenhagen neighborhoods, schools, etc. if anyone has it! :) 

    Hi there, one word of advice, having learned the very very hard way -- please be sure you include a clause in your lease that the place was previously owner occupied. We had asked our property manager if we should inform our tenants that we might return to our house, when we moved cross country for an indefinite length of time, and she advised against it. Please include the appropriate language (I don't know exactly what it should be since we did not do it and were then exposed to a potential eviction lawsuit...). 

    Copenhagen is amazing. Have not lived there, but our friends moved there from CA to Nørrebro and we've loved it when we've visited. Renting in CPH can be challenging. I can put you in touch with our friends if you're interested in expats' experiences.

    In the international school world, Copenhagen International School and Rygaards are pretty well known.  I don’t personally know much about them except that it International school teachers are usually pretty happy to land at either of the schools. 

    Sounds like fun!  The only thing I’d say at this point is that should Prop 10 pass, your single family home falls under rent control in Berkeley again, as far as we can tell. (One reason to consider voting no on 10...)

  • I'm looking to rent my 3 bd / 1 ba 2 story home in North Berkeley Hills for a minimum of 1 year. This has been my private home for over 20 years and I will be away overseas. In search of your *BEST* recommendations for Property Managers able to handle everything from start to finish: 

    Advice on how to prepare home.

    Place property on market/place qualified tenants.

    Handle contract, ongoing maintenance, and financial transactions promptly and with integrity.

    Excellent communication.

    Able to deliver property in condition it was rented upon my return. 

    Anything else? 

    Please no direct commercial responses. First hand personal recommendations only. 

    Before you rent out your home, you should really do your research. Depending on the laws in Berkeley, you may have to pay your renters relocation fee to reclaim your home. In Richmond and San Francisco, these can be into the 5 digits and it may take many months or even a full year to do an "owner move-in eviction"  It is much more difficult to relocate someone who is elderly or disabled - more time and more money. Right now, Berkeley is rent controlled. While rent control itself, does not apply to single family homes, eviction laws do.  It is not enough to have a lease and then simply not renew it. Find out exactly how and under what circumstances you will be able to legally ask your renters to leave.

    Also the state law that exempts single family homes from rent control will likely be challenged in the fall election in a measure being touted as "state wide rent control" - totally inaccurate BTW.  However, exemptions (like single family homes) in rent controlled areas (like Berkeley) are definitely at risk of coming under these incredibly punitive laws.

    Additionally, since rent control involves an expensive bureaucracy, the Berkeley Rent Program will charge you for renting. I don't know how they do it in Berkeley but in Richmond we pay an inspection fee, a rent program fee, a business license fee all are annual. The Berkeley Rent program is one place for answers, Berkeley Property Owners Association is another. 

    Good luck

    A suggestion from a renter, not a homeowner, for what it’s worth: We rent a house in North Berkeley managed by Bay Cities Property Management, and from the renter’s side of things, they’ve been very reliable, responsible, and professional. We pay rent each month automatically through on online portal, which works well for both us and, I imagine, the house owners.

  • We are moving our family overseas for a year, possibly longer. We want to rent our Berkeley home and are debating whether it's worth it to hire property management. We would prefer not to deal with the legal hassles and background checks etc..., and are also just loathe to become landlords at all. Does anyone have any insight or experience with this, or do you have particular property managers to recommend? 

    Hello,

    Though I don't have an answer for you about property managers in Berkeley, I will say that I'm interested in possibly renting your place. My spouse will be on sabbatical and we're looking to relocate to Berkeley. Thanks for being in touch.

    We moved away and kept our house, uncertain if we were going to return or not to the Bay Area. We initially tried to rent the house without a property manager, and we even found tenants on our own. At the last minute they decided it wasn't right for them. Luckily it was still a couple of months out from the time we were moving. We hired a property manager, and she rented the place out within the weekend.

    We've now been away for a year, and we are planning to return. There were a number of surprises with this property manager. Most recently we discovered that there are now 4 tenants, not just 3, living in our house. When we asked why we didn't know this, the property manager informed us it wasn't necessary to inform the landlords that there was a 4th person and it didn't affect the lease. Though we would have likely not objected, it made me very uncomfortable that she had unilaterally decided not to let us know how many people are living in our house. 

    The upshot (I'm not doing the best job at detailing the back and forth and various frustrations of using the property manager) is that though she's been frustrating at times, I am still glad we had someone managing the house, as we were multiple time zones away, and it really would have been an immense stress to manage remotely. I've tried to be an absentee landlord while I was in graduate school, and at the time I couldn't fathom affording a property manager. It was really stressful to deal with tenants' sometimes unreasonable (like needing a lightbulb unscrewed, or a "beeping" that was the fire alarm that needed a new battery) panics, and although I think I'd be wiser about choosing my tenants now, I think being a landlord is generally a stressful undertaking. Better to outsource if you can. Also, do lots of research about managers' rates -- we found them highly variable. We are paying 5% but found managers with rates as high as 9%!

    Yes, absolutely get a property manager. I rented out my home when I was overseas, and when the furnace broke I was sooooo glad I had a property manager. I think I paid about 7% of the rental amount. The tenant they found was so great that I ended up selling the place to her directly rather than putting it on the market.

    Don't feel bad about being a landlord unless your goal is to be a slumlord. Think of being a property owner who is providing a service to someone who needs a place to live.

    As I renter I have rented from http://www.kands.com/. The original owners retired, but I think I would still recommend their services. They run a tight ship and have a great network of repair people.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions

Renting out our furnished home for a year

Nov 2014

We are planning on taking a year long trip in a few years (summer 2018-summer 2019) and would like to rent our home - furnished - for the year that we are gone. Has anyone here had experience with this before and found a great way to do it or is it just Craigslist? I feel like we have a great home for a visiting professor with a family (Alameda, four bedrooms, two baths, good public schools etc.)...is there a good place to list our home for this purpose? thanks! CHS


We had good luck listing our furnished home for a year (while we were on sabbatical) with sabbaticalhomes.com. There is a small charge to advertise, but we found the site easy to use. We got a good number of serious replies, and ended up renting to a visiting academic and family for the year. RK


Renting our house for a short term

May 2013

We are contemplating renting our house while we are away for my husband's work this summer and fall. If we decide to rent it, we are considering two options: renting the house on airbnb (and pay a friend to check in/out the guests, check for damage, schedule the cleaner, etc) or rent to one family for the entire time.

I would love advice from people with experience owning rentals (where to get rental agreements, how much deposit to require, special clauses for a short term lease), from anyone who has experience renting on airbnb, vbro, etc. and from anyone who has rented out their entire home for a few months (if we rent to one family for the entire time, do we pack up our dishes and pots and pans, etc.?)

Our plan is to remove valuables from the house to a safety deposit box and store clothes and personal items in one of the bedrooms. Thank you!


We rented out our house for 7 months and had a positive experience. We rented it furnished but removed our most special/breakable things. The thing that made it most do-able was finding a family that needed it for the right length of time that were home-owners and who knew someone we knew..so there was some personal reference ( through my husband's work). Both of us had young children so they LIKED all the toys and kid gear, so that was also great.Because it was clear to us that we wouldn't worry about them as renters, we dropped the price by, maybe, $200 a month. We also paid for our maid and gardener to keep coming 2 times a month..and they kept us informed of how the house was doing. This was a winning experience. We got the rental agreement at a business store. Oh, and they didn't smoke. They were moving from the East Coast so they/we knew their dates. By contrast the( local) prospective renters who were looking for a short term rental because of a big remodel were harder to work with because they kept trying to change the dates and kept trying to make their dates provisionally based on where the contractor was..which didn't work with our firm dates for being away. Good luck. J


Airbnb or vbro rentals are a lot of work! People usually use those for terms of a week or less. That is too much work for a friend! If you are going to be gone six months, then I would suggest you do a sublet through craigslist. Sublets are generally fully furnished, including sheets, towels, dishes, etc. You may want to check with Berkeley Property Owners Association for information about leases. Make sure your ad has all the details and good pictures. Anon


It is a LOT less work, not to mention wear and tear on your house, to have one tenant or family, rather than a hotel type situation. Be sure to go through all the formalities, such as complete application, credit check or credit report, and check references before the tenants move in. Be sure to have a lease. See the Nolo Book on Landlord Law, (it is at the Library). It has a CD with forms. You will still want your friend on standby to handle tenant issues and answer questions, since you will be far away. Lynn


Renting out our home while on sabbatical

May 2013

We have a lovely 3-bedroom home in Berkeley and might be taking a sabbatical for a year or possibly, even 2. Rather than moving our furniture & things, we are thinking of renting out our place furnished. Does this lower the possible rent that we could get? What kinds of things should we consider while we rent out our place furnished? Also, I've heard that tenants rights are very strong in Berkeley -- when we want our home back in a year (or two) is it possible for the tenant to refuse to move? Wondering what the best thing to do is... anon


My husband and I rent properties, some in Berkeley. Financially you can do very well with it if you understand the work involved. The nice thing about a single family home is that Berkeley does treat that differently than a larger complex in terms of rent issues. That said, I would still try to rent to someone who you are very clear with that you will be moving back at a set time. I would put that in the lease. Start by getting the NOLO press landlord/tennant book. Also - you have to be prepared for if they move out early, or don't pay rent, or have a problem with the house and you aren't in the area. You will need a relative or friend, or a property manager to deal with anything that happens while you are gone. Often something that does not act up when you are in the house (like your plumbing) all the sudden starts to clog when renters are there. You need to be OK with real wear and tear. The first time we rented our Berkeley home and had just redone the floors, I almost cried when I saw how scratched they were after a year and a half. It would have been different if we ourselves had slowly caused the scratches, you know? If you leave it furnished, you would need to be prepared for that with your furniture as well as the home. I haven't seen much difference in price for furnished or not, but it will affect who applies to be your tenant - maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way. So I would think about that more then the impact on the rent. Because who is in your home is the most important thing. Enjoy your sabbatical!


Check with the faculty housing office. Another family on sabbatical would be ideal for your home. If you make the lease term less than 12 months, most tenant protections will not go into effect. If you work with the university, the family that takes your home will be better vetted than if you random-access through Craigslist. Amelia the Realtor


Yes, tenants are well-protected in Berkeley, as landlords must have ''good cause'' to evict. But if you are leaving your home temporarily and it is understood you will return, you have good cause to evict your tenants if they do not leave as agreed. From the Berkeley Rent Board website, here is the provision (one of the good causes in Berk. Municipal Code sec. 13.76.130 A.):

''10. A landlord or lessor seeks in good faith to recover possession of the rental unit for his/her occupancy as a principal residence, where the landlord or lessor has previously occupied the rental unit as his/her principal residence and has the right to recover possession of the unit for his/her occupancy as a principal residence under an existing rental agreement with the current tenants.'' anon


Look at sabbaticalhomes.com. It costs a small amount to advertise, but potential renters can view for free (the opposite of the Ca housing office, which reduces the number of potential tenants who will see your ad!).

It's intended primarily for those associated in some way with academic institutions, so tends to be people on sabbatical, most of them looking for furnished places to spend the year. You can also look for a home exchange there, which might also suit your needs. R.K.


Thinking about renting out our home while we're away

Feb. 2004

We're considering moving to China with our 9-month-old daughter for at least a year but don't want to give up our Bay Area home. What are the pros & cons of renting our home in this market? Some say we should sell and invest the money rather than put up with the landlord headaches from thousands of miles away. We do have some relatives here, but we can't expect them to keep a constant eye on things. How much work would an agent do on our behalf? Thanks! Sean


I strongly urge you to get someone to manage your rental. A property manager will advertise the house, screen potential tenants and run credit checks, select a tenant, collect the rent, handle any problems with either rent collection or household maintenance and, if necessary, evict the tenant. You will get a monthly check minus a certain percentage and beautiful records at the end of the year for your taxes. If your house is in Berkeley a good property manager will know to pay interest on your deposit each December to your tenants, among other things. If your house isn't in Berkeley, it is still good to have someone who is knowledgeable about state laws, because laws are changing all the time.

Plus, should your tenant leave while you are still out of the country, there is now a law that they are entitled to a walk-though prior to vacating in order to give them a chance to mitigate any deductions from their deposit. It therefore is a great idea to have a specialist who can handle doing this so you don't have to come back to do it.

Also, you should be aware that you will pay a significant tax to the State of California should you decide not to return and you sell your rental house. Talk with a tax specialist about this. Been there, done that


1. You can register with eHousing.com, Metrorent and Homefinders. They all allow property owners to list properties for free. The Montclarion and East Bay Express also work. Try the UC Berkeley housing office. They have listings that are viewable only to faculty (e.g. professors teaching at Berkeley for just a year).

2. The two most important things to check with renters are their credit rating and their references (i.e. current landlord). If their application is incomplete or information is inconsistant, that is a bad sign.

3. The NOLO books are pretty good. Also consider joining the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County. Then you have access to lease forms, information and advice from the California Apartment Association, and credit reports.