Does your dream holiday involve spending the night in someone else’s garden shed? While for many this may seem like a form of torture, if the answer is ‘yes’, you are probably one of the growing number of holiday-makers on the lookout for quirky boltholes.
Many people have dreams of throwing in the day job and moving to the countryside, growing their own veg, and setting up a bed and breakfast in an idyllic rural village or seaside town. While being an unrealistic option for most, this quirky bolthole trend has upped the chances of it becoming a serious option. It is easy to dip a toe into the hospitality industry via websites like Airbnb or Wimdu. Increasing numbers of these sites are springing up, essentially allowing you to rent out your house or flat while you’re away on holiday or staying at a friend’s. You also don’t even need to leave if you don’t want to – you can just let out a spare room. They are designed for those who are new to lettings or only want to let their home for a few weeks a year, although there are some professional bed and breakfasts that advertise through the sites. The great thing is that these websites actively encourage people to let out a caravan, boat or garden shed – the quirkier, the better. So, if you’re feeling creative, there are lots of opportunities to pull in the punters without having to vacate your home.
The sites make their money by allowing you to list your house, or space, for free, and take a percentage from each booking. Homeowners are insured against any accidental damage caused by people staying in their property. Your home does not have to meet any particular standards if you are renting it out, but obviously if it is untidy and dirty, you are unlikely to get many takers. You also need to remember that the key to success is usually good feedback. So if you are thinking of bringing in paying guests to your home or garden, make sure you think carefully about how you will manage this with other people living nearby.
Before you start:
- Don?t forget to check out planning rules
- Before you start ? ask yourself is it worth it? You will be allowing strangers to stay as guests in your garden
- It can be very difficult working out planning or tax obligations and your insurance costs will rocket
- It is very complicated ? setting it up isn?t easy
- Beware of the rules ? although you won?t need the specific licence or qualifications but you will need things like fire exits and smoke detectors
Where to start:
- You could either go down the DIY route or enlist professional help.
- Don?t forget ? bargaining can work. Offer free holidays in return for a finished product.
- eBay is a good place to find old furniture and caravans and companies like Tree Top build can help you through the design process
Planning ? what do you need?
- Don?t waste thousands of pounds of your hard earned cash on a project your local authority will not permit
- You will need permission from the council
- Do everything for the book
- You will also probably need to apply to your local planning office
Tax ? don?t forget to pay:
- The big one you need to remember is registering with HMRC for tax purposes
- Make sure you are covered ? most insurers will continue to provide cover as long as the letting has been organised through an agency
- Spend an afternoon ringing around for quotes
Gas & Safety
- Whether you are renting a caravan or a room ? you must have a landlord?s gas safety certificate.
Will you serve food?
- It?s likely that if you are renting out your outside garden space you will offer a full food service, you will need to follow the rules on food safety.
- Get a health officer round to inspect your kitchen early on in the planning process
Tips for converting a shed:
- Although many sheds already contain wiring for a light or two, a guesthouse also needs several electrical points.
- If the shed does not have any windows, plan to install at least one. Two windows, placed opposite each other, provide for extra light and the movement of air. The shed may also need a window air conditioner for the summer and a space heater for the winter.
- Put in any plumbing pipes before beginning insulation.
- Install insulation in the walls and ceiling; many sheds have open framing, making this part of the job easier (if the wall and ceiling studs are already covered, think about applying blown-in insulation).
- Once the electrical, plumbing and insulation is in place, you can close up the walls and ceiling with panelling or drywall.
- You may choose to install a bathroom or even a small kitchen in the guesthouse. These require not only a water supply but also a way to safely and legally dispose of sewage.