Home for hire: Would you rent your house or bach to a stranger?

FOR the Tupou family, running a holiday rental on the shores of Lake Rotorua is a family affair.

Alex, 48, owns the house and takes care of maintenance, while sister Lani, 38, does the cleaning with her and Alex's mum Kiri Tuhakaraina.

Another sister, Seini Nai, manages bookings.

Alex, a social worker in the mental health crisis team at Rotorua Hospital, says he could not manage the holiday rental without his family. Since listing the house on Bookabach 18 months ago, he has been floored by demand, hosting guests year-round but particularly in summer.

We were going into it blind without any expectations but the turnover for the bach the first year has been exceeded by 10 to 15 per cent in the second year.


The six-bedroom, twobathroom house at Hannah's Bay can sleep 14, and rents for $500 a night during peak season.

The rate is for four people and additional guests are charged extra. There is also a $120 cleaning fee. Alex decided to make the house a holiday rental after his marriage broke up and his grown-up kids left home, saying its size was "a little bit over the top" for one person.

"I didn't need all of that," he says with a laugh.

Lani says she and the rest of the family have been only too happy to help Alex, and they all go the extra mile to make Willow Lakeside Bach, as the house is called on Bookabach, comfortable for guests.

Lani says her mother has exacting standards and every effort is made to keep the property looking top-notch.

"The house is pretty much spring cleaned every time," says Lani.

"We've all got our own separate roles to keep it going."

Guests from around the world-the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia and other Asian countries-have stayed at the house.

Alex has never had any trouble with the visitors, putting it down to the fact the property is priced at the higher end of such accommodation in Rotorua.

"The people who come in aren't people who trash the place."

He runs the holiday rental as a business, saying there are good tax write-offs to be had. In the first year, he broke even but would like to share profits with his siblings and mum in the future.

Lani, though, says running the rental together has brought them closer as a family.

"We do it for love for my brother."

Steve Baker runs two bed and- breakfast units and is about to open a third out of his Koutu Rd home. He advertises the property, called Kawaha Manor Lakeside B&B, on Airbnb, and guest reviews praise him as "a fantastic host".

Baker says it has been a great way to meet people and last week he even had a celebrity of sorts staying- Miss Hawaii 2012.

Like Alex Tupou, the 56-year-old, who is a branch manager at Vehicle Testing New Zealand, says demand for rooms has completely exceeded his expectations.

Steve Baker at his holiday rental on the shores of Lake Rotorua. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
Steve Baker at his holiday rental on the shores of Lake Rotorua. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

"I may need to give up fulltime work," he jokes.

Baker's upstairs unit is booked until February and the second is already 75 per cent full for the summer. He invested in new beds and linen before opening the units in the middle of this year, and says two large washing machines have also been necessary.

"You can still do it in your spare time but you've got to be extremely organised and never have a big pile of laundry."

His daughter Kriszia helps with cleaning and he runs the units as a business through his family trust.

"You claim what you can and pay tax on the rest. It's a pretty good return," he says.

Steve Baker is opening a third unit at his Koutu Rd property after being floored by demand from guests on Airbnb. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
Steve Baker is opening a third unit at his Koutu Rd property after being floored by demand from guests on Airbnb. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

Baker believes the key to his success has been his reasonable rates.

"Because the room rate is below the $100 mark, it's resulted in virtually 100 per cent occupancy."

Rotorua is the country's 19th most popular location in terms of the number of listings onTrade Me's Holiday Houses site. Last month, 121 houses in Rotorua were listed, up slightly from 118 the same month last year. The average nightly asking rate was $285.

While the potential for extra income is high with holiday rentals during the peak summer season, one person whose family bach is rented says it is not all roses.

"My mum always rents it out during the best months to make cash off it so we only
ever really use it at the very, very end of summer. We only ever get there when it is cold."

The work involved in running a holiday rental can also be overwhelming for some people or not possible for others who live out of town. Demand for outsourcing the job is growing in the Bay of Plenty, prompting Kristin Clarke of Mt Maunganui to launch a specialist holiday property management service called Time in a Place in March.

A former real estate agent, Clarke helps clients with everything from preparing properties for holiday letting, to customising online listings, pricing, managing bookings, vetting of guests and organising professional cleaning when they leave.

Some of her clients live out of town while others are locals.

The properties she manages are listed on the Time in a Place website www.timeinaplace.nz as well as sites such as Airbnb and Bookabach.

She says guests want comfortable beds and often look for holiday homes that offer Wi-Fi, Sky TV and a spa pool.

"A lot of people also search for places that allow pets."

Clarke, 42, says a small but important aspect is ensuring it is stocked with basic consumables such as salt, pepper, paper towels and cooking oil.

"You don't want to be buying a big container of oil when you've come away for two nights."

Kristin Clarke of Bay-based holiday rental management service Time in a Place. PHOTO/BEAUFOYIMAGERY
Kristin Clarke of Bay-based holiday rental management service Time in a Place. PHOTO/BEAUFOYIMAGERY

Demand for services such as Time in a Place reflected the increasing number of overseas tourists discovering the Bay.

"It just ties in with the growth of the tourism industry and New Zealand being a favourable place to come with what's going on in the rest of the world," Clarke says.

Trade Me advises people looking to list property to do their research.

"Make sure you're schooled up on the financial implications of renting it to the public," says TradeMe

Property head Nigel Jeffries. "It can be rewarding, but it's important to view it as an investment that needs constant care and maintenance."

Jeffries says people can help their chances of getting repeat bookings and recommendations by providing a well-presented, tidy and pleasant stay for guests.

"This includes having the property regularly maintained. No one wants to open the door to a musty and dusty stay, or stumble upon unpleasant evidence of past guests."

Trade Me also advises finding out the pricing of other properties in the area and seeing what they provide to guests as added incentives.

"[Look at] what you could do to help your bach stand out from the crowd," Jeffries advises.