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Design Your New Home for Rental Income

Design Your New Home for Rental Income
This coastal cottage is stylish and appealing.
Unless you’ve been living been in Antigua for three years – must be nice -- you’ve probably heard the stories about people making nearly enough money to pay the mortgage by renting out a room, or their entire house. You might want your next home to give you that option. But what kind of plans should be looking at? As anyone who has used Airbnb or VRBO knows, it’s possible to make nearly any extra bedroom work as a rental, especially if your home will be located in a resort destination or major city where people often travel on vacation. Oh, and the reports about the income potential are true. One study showed that the host could expect to clear about $20,000 by renting a room in the 15 most popular cities for shared rentals.

There may be many ways to skin this lucrative cat, but six stand out when studying house plans. The first decision, of course, is whether you want to rent an entire house or a room or two. Many designers and architects specialize in beach homes that you could rent now and maybe live in later. You’d want to make sure the plan includes a large locked closet to store essentials for your occasional visits. You may also want to maximize the bedroom and bathroom count to generate additional income. Bedrooms could always be converted to other uses later on. The other basic option is to build a house with a semi-private room that you could rent. That’s often the better option for destination cities where visitors prefer to rent rooms. The rental could be in the basement, over the garage, standing alone in the yard, or even attached to the main house. The key is to provide privacy for you and convenience for your guests.

1. Build a beach rental
Let’s consider the whole-house renting option first. Most homes by Geoff Chick are designed as rental properties at the beach. A home décor blogger who stayed in one of his homes in Watercolor, a Florida resort community on the Gulf of Mexico, recently generated a lot of buzz with a post about putting up 10 friends in the smallish house, which happens to be his Plan 443-14, shown at the top of this post and here.

“If you had to pick one, this one is best,” says Chick of the 2,900 square-foot, four-bedroom plan that sleeps 10 to 13. “It has two masters – one on the first floor and one upstairs -- so two families can rent, with two additional guest suites and built-in bunks. The floor plan is open with a pretty kitchen.” The gourmet kitchen, with built-in seating for six, might not be great for a family living there full time but it works for a large group sharing the home for a beach vacation. So does the big dining table with seating for 10, a screened porch with a fireplace (not shown on plan), and a big front porch. Several other Chick plans stand out for their rental potential, including this one, Plan 443-13, that features a bunk room, 

perfect for sleeping a gaggle of grandchildren, and two levels of wrap-around porches. The main living areas in this plan are upstairs (here's the great room), where beach views might be better. 

2. Rent a garage apartment
Renting a guest room over a detached garage is another great approach to this opportunity. You might have trouble getting local government permission to put a full kitchen in the accessory apartment. But you could always include a microwave, hot plate, and other small appliances. Dan Sater has designed several homes that are doing well on Airbnb, especially smaller ones that look right at home on the beach. “I know of a number used for that purpose from Ocean City, MD to Watercolor, FL to the 

Caribbean and many more,” he says. One of the best performing is the 6796 Megan’s Bay plan, shown here, with two levels of great rooms and bedrooms, and an apartment over the garage with 

separate entrance. A comparable Sater design, Plan 930-21 with Tuscan detailing, features a guest 

 suite and a casita in front of the house (layout shown here), an ideal location for a rental.

3. Build a cottage by the sea
Several plan designers report sales of cottages, either standing alone or next to a main home, that are doing well on apartment sharing websites. This cottage, Plan 479-8 designed by Peter Brachvogel & 

Stella Carosso, with a wrap-around porch and four bedrooms, would be ideal for family retreats. A bonus room over the garage would be a good place to house renters or your own teenagers. If your lot is large enough, you might be able to build a smaller rental cottage on the property. Here’s a tiny 

home by Tumbleweed with a front bump-out that would make a nice sitting area and an option for a full loft over the “great room.” It would be the perfect rental for a single person or a couple, especially if they wanted to experience a “tiny house.”  

4. Carve out a walk-out basement rental
Another approach to creating a rental apartment in your home would be built a walkout basement on the lower level. The approach often works best on a lot that slopes to the rear. Inside, the lower level could be separated from the rest of the home with a simple locked door at the top of the stairs. Ideally the downstairs space would have a kitchenette, but a wet bar in some plans could be expanded to create one. 

This Don Gardner design, Plan 929-2, provides not only a private entry but a large, private back porch. Two bedrooms in the basement, separated by a rec room, make it ideal for a family, or two renters.

5. Create an apartment within your home
If you are building in a metro area where professionals visit for longer periods of time, you might consider building a full-fledged apartment in your home, neighborhood covenants permitting.

Oakhurst Plan 926-3 includes a lower-level apartment, complete with a kitchen, bath, living room, and two walk-in closets. Another option would be to rent a bedroom and bath off the service area of the house, zoned away from the other private areas but with access to the kitchen. Guests could enter through the garage or a utility room – maybe by using a keypad by the side of the door with custom codes -- to reach their rental suite. The second floor could be reserved for the family.
          
6. Allocate space to a rental now, an in-law suite later
The many plans marketed these days with in-law suites would also make for good room rentals. Case in point is this contemporary farmhouse plan by Wayne Visbeen, Plan 928-13, with a large guest suite 

over the garage complete with a kitchenette. The suite is accessed via a private entry so that guests could let themselves in. Here’s an even bigger version of the over-garage rental, Plan 51-574, with 

two bedrooms and a kitchenette, done in a Craftsman style. A large 17x18.6 living room would certainly invite guests, whether elderly parents or renter, to stay a while. The bedrooms, each with a walk-in closet, conveniently share a hall bath.

The in-law/guest suite in Plan 17-207 is located on the first level of the house with a private entry and bath.

Guests could easily access the kitchen. Family bedrooms are located on the opposite side of the house. A side turn-in garage creates driveway space for guest parking, with in-law suite by garage            

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