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Originally published Friday, January 11, 2013 at 7:00 AM

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Turning a home into a vacation rental

Make money by renting to visitors, through a rental agency or website such as VRBO.com

The Orange County Register

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In January, many folks look to make some extra income and focus on a goal other than losing weight or reducing their carbon footprint.

Right after the turn of the New Year, some homeowners start preparing their homes to rent out as vacation rentals for the spring and summer.

To attract vacationers who prefer homes to hotel rooms, homeowners can work with a vacation rental agency or market properties themselves through websites such as VRBO.com or iTrip.net.

Barbara O’Hara Hamilton, a Southern California real estate broker, regularly rents out two properties of her own as vacation homes. She said screening prospective renters has left her with no complaints.

“I’ve never had any problems,” Hamilton said. “Nothing broken, nothing stolen. People are usually very respectful.”

Hamilton started using her first property — an upper unit in a duplex in Corona del Mar, in the Newport Beach area — as a vacation rental after she experienced trouble with a full-time tenant who rented annually, she said. Now she markets the unit as a weekly vacation property. Hamilton said she’s making more income, upward of $6,800 on a fully booked month, much more than the $1,600 per month she netted when the property rented annually to one person. The business has proved so lucrative for Hamilton that she is now renting out a house in Dana Point, Calif., as a second investment property.

“It has just been a win-win,” she said.

About 40 percent of vacationers who rent Hamilton’s property are visitors from other countries. Since the rental agency handles the property, it is turned over and cleaned in between renters while Hamilton collects her income.

Paul Aubin, president and owner of Newport Beach (Calif.) Vacation Properties, said his company typically gets a rush of people looking to rent out their properties in January. With the spring break market starting in late March and lasting through the end of April, homeowners need to start now to get homes listed and ready to rent to vacation renters.

“If you’re a homeowner and you’re trying to prepare your home and market it for those time periods, you really need to get it up on the websites in January,” Aubin said.

—Establish a possible financial forecast. How many weeks out of the year will it be rented out and at what rate?

—Apply for a business license with the city.

—Depersonalize the home and remove clutter.

—Remove personal items and confidential files and papers.

—Ensure the home has Wi-Fi Internet access.

—Stock the kitchen with the appropriate tools and cookware; stock bedrooms with an extra set of linens.

—Remove medications and personal toiletries from the bathroom; provide beach towels.

—Prepare an instruction sheet for home electronics.

—Inform neighbors that the property will be rented out for a period of time.

Cleanliness and amenities — modern bathrooms, king-size beds, wireless Internet access and hardwood floors — increase rental rates, Aubin said.

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