The total solar eclipse that will pass directly over Central Texas is less than two months away, and hotels in Gatesville are already booked out or charging around $800 per night for the weekend before April 8.
For those considering giving visitors a place to stay by renting out a spare room, RV, or vacation home, there are a few things to consider before putting a property up for short-term rental. Alisa Gregory, a local realtor and property manager, provides a few tips on how to prepare and protect your space.
Popular platforms that allow people to turn their homes into short-term vacation rentals include Airbnb and VRBO. Regardless of where a property is posted online, Gregory recommends that potential guests fill out an application or complete a screening before owners approve their stay.
“I would definitely say that they need to do an application, and I don’t know if they’re going to rent a room out, but I would definitely do a criminal background (check),” Gregory said.
Platforms like VRBO and Airbnb provide a guest verification process that scans government IDs, names, address, and other personal information, according to their websites.
Gregory also advises making the property rental ready by ensuring everything works properly and there are no safety hazards, such as servicing the air conditioning unit or mending any leaks.
Along with investing in insurance, Gregory recommends creating a checklist of the condition of the space before guests arrive to protect the property from any damage.
“They can make their own kind of checklist to make sure those items are how they are before a renter moves in,” Gregory said.
For further protection, Gregory advises including a security deposit as well as a cleaning and pet fee in the booking.
Some rental platforms, such as Airbnb and VRBO, will provide at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance at no cost in case a guest is injured, or their belongings are damaged or stolen.
Gregory warns both visitors and renters to watch out for rental scams, which can include someone posting your property on another website and charging a different amount for the room or home. One way to avoid potential scams is to post the space on a reputable website or platform, she explains.
“As an owner, I would just watch where I advertise at,” Gregory said. “I wouldn’t blast it on a whole slew of things, so that way you can keep up with it.”
Gatesville Police Chief Brad Hunt, who has been leading public education topics in preparation for the eclipse, wants to remind owners to lock up their valuables and remove any personal items from the space that they choose to rent out to guests.
“Even if it’s a spare house, you don’t want to have things like mail or family pictures about, because even if you do know the renters you might not know who else is visiting,” Hunt said. “If they’re from out of state coming through a service you don’t know who those folks are – just to be as safe as you can.”
If someone plans to rent out a spare RV or camper, Hunt said city regulations claim it cannot be parked on public streets if someone is staying in the vehicle. If the camper is leased on private property, it must be hooked to a city sewer, according to the city ordinances.
“It can’t be on the street, but it can be on your private property if you have some way where you’re able to hook it up to your sanitary sewer,” Hunt said.
Residents and visitors can learn more about lodging options for the upcoming eclipse by visiting https://www.gatesvilletxeclipse.com/lodging-camping
“We don’t want to interfere with anyone’s plans; we just want them to do it in a safe and legal way,” Hunt said.