As you book your holiday and winter travel plans, putting your home up for rent while you're away might be a good way to make extra money.

Renting can help cover costs such as your mortgage and property taxes, freeing up your budget for your own vacation.

But it’s important to think through the costs, preparation time, and potential pitfalls of renting out your property before jumping into it, says Henry Bennett, the co-founder of Airbnb rental-services company YourWelcome.

There are additional issues to consider, such as whether you have a plan in place if the plumbing breaks down on, say, New Year’s Day, for example.

“It's a viable way to pay for your holiday,” says Bennett, who has rented out his 260-year-old London home. But, he cautions, homeowners should be prepared to invest money and time when they initially put their home up for rent. 

Homeowners can earn thousands in rental income over the holidays, according to TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, which notes that the average December weekly rates are $1,576 and $1,643 in Washington, DC and Boston, respectively.

That calculation is often what convinces homeowners to try home-rental services such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Airbnb offers a calculator that predicts what your property could earn on average, based on local rates.

While the income is appealing, don’t ignore the paperwork that may come with renting your home.

Owners can rent their properties for 14 days within a calendar year without paying taxes, but renting for 15 days or more will require filing with the IRS. On top of that, some cities, states and counties have occupancy taxes.

Don’t forget that rental services take a cut of your earnings, ranging from about 3 percent to 5 percent of the listing price. Lastly, check what type of property insurance is provided by the rental service. If it’s not enough, you may want to consider buying commercial coverage.

Make It Easy to Rent

Most homes require some work before they're appealing to renters, says Bennett. There are a number of steps you should take:

Declutter your home. Set aside several hours to pack up personal belongings. Decluttering helps make any home look larger, which adds to a property’s appeal, says TripAdvisor Vacation Rental spokeswoman Laurel Greatrix. She recommends storing valuables in a safe or in a locked closet. Lastly, hire a professional cleaning service to give your home a deep cleaning, Bennett recommends.

Check the quality of your linens and towels. If they aren’t in good shape or of good quality, you may want to replace them, since most guests will expect clean, quality sheets and towels. 

Be accurate in your description and photos. It’s better to be honest about your home than to overhype it, Bennett says. “If you misrepresented your house, it’s going to be awkward to have someone unhappy in your home,” Bennett notes. Providing accurate information when you put your home up for rent, such as which basic amenities you own—like coffee makers and hairdryers—is essential. Don’t forget to provide detailed descriptions about how to work appliances or anything that’s tricky, Bennett notes.

Think through holiday pitfalls. Ask a friend or neighbor to take care of problems if you won’t be nearby. For instance, that friend or neighbor should have an extra set of keys in case your guest loses theirs. If anything needs fixing, take care of it before you put your property up for rent. Remember to have a list of service providers on hand in case something breaks down. Budget for the worst, since you’ll have to pay more if a service provider needs to come to your home on a holiday, evening, or weekend.

Use pricing tools. Several online tools can help you price your home appropriately. First-time hosts will likely have to rent for a below-typical rate because they won’t yet have ratings from guests. Online tools include BeyondPricing, which recommends pricing based on local rates, seasonality, and demand, and rival Everbooked. Both charge small fees for their service.

Remember the extras.
Leaving a fruit basket or a bottle of wine is optional yet is often mentioned in positive reviews, says TripAdvisor’s Greatrix. Other low-cost touches that can help create a positive impression are seasonally appropriate extras such as holiday cookies or hot chocolate mix. Such small gestures can be “very important to encouraging future bookings,” Greatrix notes.