Summer Moneymaker: Rent (or Swap) Your Apartment
If you rent out your apartment, the money you save can go toward a dream vacation abroad or a journey home to see family. You can still embrace adventure, even in these financial times.
Using your apartment might be something you never thought to do, but short-term sublets and apartment-swapping is becoming more and more popular. And it's simple, too.
In the Kurt Vonnegut book "Cat's Cradle" the lead character has a nightmarish sublet situation in which he returns to find his apartment trashed and his beloved pet dead: That's not what we're talking about here. A little bit of research and preparation will allow you to travel, keep your apartment safe and save money too.
Recently a friend went out of the country to shoot a self-financed documentary and he got someone to stay in his place, covering rent and utilities. He told his landlord about the arrangement, and the landlord was fine with it. And with the money my friend saved on his rent that month he was able to make his dream project possible. It can be that simple.
In his case he had a friend who wanted to come to L.A. for a short period, so that worked perfectly; it's always great to have someone you know stay in your place. You can also put out the feelers to friends of friends. (You never know if someone just wants to hang in NYC for a month). Or else Craigslist it.
If you rent to someone you don't know, a lease (for longer periods) or a deposit is a good way to ensure your home will remain as you left it.
Even if you aren't trying to pad your pocket, and still think an adventure isn't possible, think again. You could do an apartment exchange as shown in the movie "The Holiday," in which Cameron Diaz stays in Kate Winslet's English cottage (pictured) and Winslet heads to Diaz's L.A. pad. This might not save you money but does allow you to vacation without paying hotel fees. So instead of being in Chicago for July, you can head to Charleston. But if you do an exchange to a smaller town, you are likely to save money on living expenses.
Many websites exist to facilitate home swaps, such as homeforswap.com. This website says that they have had only a "few" problems over the years, but admits that problems have happened. So be careful about the site you go to and make sure it's reputable.
Most landlords will approve of these arrangements, especially these days with so many apartments empty. Depending on the amount of time, however, they may want a sublease drawn up. Different states and cities have different laws on this, so check with your landlord about your arrangement. Usually if it's just a few weeks you won't need paperwork.
Just make sure that you check your lease: Some leases say that if someone is staying there for a specific amount of time, even just two weeks, you must tell the landlord.
See summer rental homes in our listings.