Christchurch owners let houses to quake-stricken residents - and found their lives changed.

It was a no-brainer. After the Christchurch earthquake struck in 2011, many people needed accommodation in the city while their homes were being fixed.

Sue Harrison owned several long-term rental properties so it made sense, as they became available, to let them to short-term tenants in their hour of need.

"A lot of these were people who had to move out for maybe eight weeks while their houses were repaired and painted. Often they wanted to stay in the same area – the kids still had to get to school – and it was good to be able to help out when they'd been through such an awful situation," recalls Harrison.

Making the switch to short-term rentals opened her and partner Richard Turnbull's eyes to the potential in catering to the holiday home market – and changed their lives.


Harrison gave up her job as the alumni relations co-ordinator at the University of Canterbury and they joined forces with Clare Taege, who had previously worked in the accommodation and hospitality industries. They set up a holiday rental business and advertised on Bookabach.

Some of those short-term properties were recently used by grieving families following Christchurch's latest tragedy, the mosque terror attacks.

"A lot of people came to Christchurch for the funerals and to support family; short-term rentals were perfect for them," says Harrison. "We were pleased to be able to help out again."

"Bookabach is great because it is really easy for people to use and to find places that are just right for them. From our point of view, the staff are brilliant and offer really good support."

Bookabach listings also make it easy to see what each holiday home can offer when it comes to amenities, as well as proximity to Christchurch attractions.

For property owners, it's a useful exercise to talk to a company like Bookabach to see what your property could be earning as a holiday home and compare that to long-term rates, says Harrison. If the figures stack up, it could be well worth switching from long to short-term lets.

"Often you can get higher returns than you can for long-term rentals," she says.
In Christchurch, the high demand over the summer months and the July school holidays can see some properties earning in a night or two what they might get in a week as a long-term rental.

"You have to look at your income over the year, but if the property does the heavy lifting in those popular months it can work out better financially over the year," she says. "That's money that can be used to pay off your own mortgage or as your superannuation scheme."


Having the property as a short-term holiday rental can give owners more flexibility, she says. "You can get more access to the property than you can if you have long-term tenants."

It's also a very useful way of earning income if you decide to sell the house. Long-term tenants will often move out once they know you are planning on selling but, if you rent it on a short-term basis while it's on the market, you are still able to make money from it.

"I did that – having one of my houses as a holiday home while I was selling it. It means you are still getting an income and it is a lot easier to take people through it than when you have long-term tenants in."

Harrison finds people booking a property for a short stay in the Garden City have four specific needs that have to be met: "Being in the city, they want good parking that is free.

They also want wifi, to keep the teenagers happy, and they want the property to be clean. Nobody wants to put up with other people's dirt. The other thing they are looking for is something that is economical."

Harrison finds that bigger houses are particularly popular with groups and families. For people travelling with children, houses are often a better option than hotels or even motels – where the children can end up on their own in separate rooms or units: "You can all be close together in a house or apartment, far more suitable for a family."

Having access to a kitchen for self-catering is also a huge bonus if you have children or if you have special dietary needs and want to be able to cook for yourself. Not having to eat out every night keeps holiday spending down. Laundries also make life easier with children. Some properties have gardens – another plus if you've got kids – and some are pet-friendly.

Renting a short-term holiday home can also work well during busy times like a concert or sporting event: "There are also lots of tournaments here in winter; we get pretty busy then," says Harrison.

Demand is often high in the July school holidays plus from overseas visitors heading to the South Island to make the most of winter activities (like skiing); they often start or finish their holiday with a couple of days in Christchurch.

"There are a lot of moving parts in this business and you do feel a responsibility to provide the best accommodation you can," says Harrison, who is passionate about sharing her city with visitors. "But it is a good business to be in."

Bookabach, provides everything you need to rent out your property for the first time. You'll gain access to an exclusive set of tools that enable you to optimise pricing, bookings and communication and receive educational material on how to market your property to high-quality travellers.

You'll also be eligible for $1m Liability Insurance cover for bookings accepted on the platform. If you are interested to see how much your home could make click here and receive an instant estimate of your property's rental potential based on nearby comparable rentals.

Bookabach is powered by the world class technology of HomeAway, a world leader in the holiday rental industry.