Every couple of months, I like to shake things up by taking a little weekend trip somewhere within a days driving distance (last time was to Pigeon Forge, TN). Of course, that means I have to find somewhere to stay while I’m there.

In the past, that’s meant booking a hotel for two nights. But for my next trip, since I’ll be going with a few friends, I decided to go all out and rent a house.

That got me thinking - do I even know how to rent a house for a weekend?

So I did some research, and in a nutshell, here’s what I found:

  • Decide if you want to use a local realty company or a general rental website.
  • Check out the location to make sure it's safe and offers plenty of things to do.
  • Read reviews of the property.
  • See what appliances, towels, and sheets the renter provides, so you know what to bring.

But there's a lot more to learn, so let's dig into the details below.

 

What is a Vacation/Short-Term Rental?

Renting a house for a weekend puts it firmly in the category of a "Short-Term" Rental. Alternate names I found for this category were Vacation, Transient, and Resort Dwelling Rental. So what constitutes a short term stay?

Based on my research, it looks like the consensus is that any rental period of less than 31 consecutive days would qualify as short term. There's also something called the 14 Day Rule, that says that the property owners cannot file for rental property tax reductions if they spend 14 or more "personal" days there.

In that case, it would qualify as a personal residence. Because of the rise in popularity of Airbnb and similar sites, vacation rentals are popping up all across the US. This is different than in the past when this type of offering was centered more around vacation towns and big cities.

When it comes to the specific type of lodging you can expect with this kind of rental, there are three main offerings. The first, Entire Home, is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll be renting the full house, and shouldn’t expect the owner to be living there at the time. The next option is called the Accessory Dwelling.

In this case, you’ll be renting a guest house, apartment, garage, or separate cottage. It's possible that the owner will be living in the main house during your stay. The last option is the one Airbnb has made its fortune on - the Single Room.

As you probably expect, this is a situation where you’re renting one room of a home, again with the possibility of the owner residing there during your stay.

Who are the top Vacation/Short-Term Rental players?

As of 2017, there were 125 short term rental websites operating in the US alone. Needless to say, it wouldn’t help you for me to list them all here. So I’ll just talk about the biggest players in the game, and what makes each of them unique.

First is the site most readers are likely to recognize - Airbnb. Like I mentioned above, they differentiated themselves early on by focusing specifically on single room rentals. Having said that, you can find just about any type of rental on their platform. Because of how easy it is for a property owner to set up a listing here, it's currently the fastest growing company in the industry.

Next up is a more traditional, though hugely successful company many will recognize - VRBO. Their focus is more commonly on Entire House rentals, which are listed by the property owners or managers directly.

If you can imagine the review oriented power of TripAdvisor blended with a vacation rental company, then you’ve successfully imagined my final pick - FlipKey. In fact, the company is actually owned by TripAdvisor and it's those user reviews that set it apart.

Like its parent company, renters are allowed to submit their own pictures with their reviews, which can be supremely helpful for potential renters trying to decide between options.

What're the advantages of renting a house from a local realty company?

Having now described all the "big boys" in the rental industry, there's one very important option for renting a house short term that we've haven't mentioned - going local.

I'll admit I'm a bit biased, but after looking into it I truly believe renting from a local realty company is the best choice you can make when it's an available option. Hear me out and I hope to make it clear why. First and foremost, the locals know how to treat you right.

Sure, you might get lucky to find a property owner on one of the bigger sites who's willing to go out of his way to make sure you're highly satisfied. But most local realty companies will pair you up with a realtor when you rent from them.

In other words, you're in the hands of an expert, rather than those of an amateur. This means that you’re not just renting the house, you’re also renting the years of experience this person has had living and working in that specific location.

Think about it, who could possibly know more about what a particular city offers vacationers than a seasoned realtor? That’s why I’ll be booking all my weekend rentals with local realty companies in the future.

 

What should you check for before renting the house for the weekend?

I can't imagine a worse scenario when renting a house for the weekend than getting there and finding that it's a disaster zone. So, I dug around and found some great things for you to check for before you make the decision to book a specific rental.

First, as they say, location is everything. In this case, that refers to two separate concerns - safety and things to do. You'll want to check out the area your rental is located in and make sure that it's not notorious for crimes.

You should also check to make sure there are things to do in the area, though I'm sure that'd be your reason for going in the first place. If the location checks out, you'll then want to check for reviews of the rental house.

It's not necessarily a bad sign if the place has no reviews since it could be a new listing. But you definitely want to look out for bad reviews, especially if there are multiple pointing out similar issues.

The next thing to check is whether or not the place pet-friendly. This is for two reasons. The first is of course so you know whether you can bring your pet if you were planning on doing so.

The second reason is that if you're someone who's allergic to animals, you may not want to stay in a pet-friendly rental. The last thing to check for, which I hadn't thought much about until looking into it, is what you'll need to bring from home.

By this I mean, what appliances does the rental not have that you may need during your stay? Also, will you need to bring towels or sheets for the bed? The person you're renting from should be able to answer all these questions for you.

How do you list your own house for rent this weekend?

Now that we're both a lot clearer on how to rent a house for a weekend, I've been wondering what I would do if the situation was reversed. What do I need to do in order to list my own house for short term rental?

Well, it turns out that it's a lot easier than I had expected. In fact, there's not much for me to really explain to you, because it's such a simple process. All you have to do is decide which site you want to list your property on, contact one of their realtors, and they'll guide you through what looks to be a pretty easy setup.

Again, I'll recommend going with a local realty company here. That's for the reasons listed above, plus the very important fact that a local company will be able to market your listing in their area unlike a country-wide player would.

What do you need to do to prepare your house for the renters?

But once you've gone through the paperwork to get your rental up and running, how can you make sure you're giving your guests all they need? Well, the first step is to put yourself in their shoes.

If you haven't already, go back and read the section of this article telling potential renters what to check for before renting. Then make sure your house is meeting, if not exceeding, all those checkpoints.

Next, be sure to clean up the house extremely well, along with fixing anything that's broken. You want to go above and beyond in preparing your house because that's the way you'll get positive reviews.

When you've got the reviews, the house practically rents itself. If this is something you're going to do long term, you'll also want to consider using a property management company.

That's because they'll do nearly all the work for you - including the cleaning between renters!

 


I’ve done my best to teach you what I’ve learned so far about renting a house for a weekend here, but I’m still learning. Thankfully, I’m close with a few great realtors that I trust.

They’re always happy to answer my questions in great detail, and I know they’d feel the same about helping you out. So, if you still have any lingering questions, or you’re interested in renting a house this weekend, reach out to them here!