In these tough economic times, some homeowners are turning to their backyards into a place to grow greenbacks by renting out pieces of their property to avid gardeners and outdoor campers.
In the United Kingdom, for example, green thumbs who have no place to turn a spade can visit such Web sites as Spareground.com to learn where homeowners are renting out gardening space. One man named Harold is offering both his front and back yards for gardening at a negotiable price. Another individual is seeking a £10 per week (about $16) to rent an 18-by-15-foot slice of their backyard.
Other homeowners, however, may prefer to rent out their backyards to campers, either short- or long-term. That was the choice of Karla Gottschalk, who lives on an acre of land in a remote area of the Big Island in Hawaii. Gottschalk, who advertises her backyard on Single Spot Camping, says she created a couple of campsites on her property several years ago, and went as far as installing a solar-heated hot-water shower and a barbecue area. She even throws in wireless Internet access.
"Most places around here charge $15 a person to camp, but I charge $15 a tent," Gottschalk says. To date, her fledgling side business has generated a decent amount of income. She's had a couple campers, one of whom stayed five months and paid $200 a month because that was all he could afford.
But Gottschalk says she makes the most money selling incidentals to campers such as charcoal, paper plates, bread for sandwiches, candy bars and drinks. "With one person, I can make half of what I charge for rent. With two people its the same as rent, and with more people its more than the rent," she says.
The economy, however, has affected her campsite income. Two years ago, she had her five-month camper and another camper. But last year no one called to inquire about campsites, and this year, she's only had two or three nibbles.
It Takes the Right Temperament ... and Insurance
Before jumping into the backyard campsite business, homeowners should ask themselves what type of personality they have. Says Gottschalk: "It will take away some of the peace and quiet in your house. You need to be an extrovert, but also someone who is willing to leave someone alone. Sometimes people want to come here and contemplate in silence. You have to be sensitive to their needs, as well as an extrovert."
And folks considering renting out their backyards should be aware that it could cost more to bump up their homeowners insurance than they'd make in additional income, warns Loretta Worters, vice president of Insurance Information Institute.
"There is no insurance under your homeowner's policy for them camping out on your property," Worters says.
She suggests homeowners ask potential campers or gardeners to show they have their own medical insurance should any injury arise while on your property, as well as showing they have renters insurance or homeowners insurance that would cover their personal belongings while traveling.
"This not only provides them with protection, but will prevent tenants from trying to sue the landlord (you) if there is a fire or other disaster that could affect them," she says.
Check out more about the potential pitfalls of renting a slice of your property.