Even when prices are falling, your house can be hard at work making you richer

From running a B&B to opening your doors to a film crew, there are many ways in which bricks and mortar can earn their keep. Laura Howard reports
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The Independent Online

Over the past decade, many homeowners have become accustomed to watching their property earn more than they do. House prices soared and bigger loans with which to upsize were fairly easy to come by.

But times have changed. According to the latest house-price indices from the Halifax and the Nationwide building society, the rate at which prices are falling is accelerating.

Climbing to higher rungs of the property ladder is also more difficult as the grip on mortgage lending holds fast. Figures published last week from the Bank of England revealed that just 33,000 new mortgages were approved in July – a staggering 71 per cent drop on the same month the previous year. But homeowners can take heart that there are still ways and means to make your bricks and mortar earn their keep.

The most obvious method of generating income is to rent out a room, or two. According to recent research from Abbey, more than 18.2 million homeowners have at least one spare bedroom. And with average room rents at £289 a month, that's an income boost of £3,468 a year. What's more, the first £4,250 of income is tax free under the Government's rent-a-room scheme.

"With income squeezed in so many ways, those looking to raise extra money may find that freeing up their spare room is the answer," says Phil Cliff, director of Abbey Mortgages.

With the rise in the number of Britons taking holidays on home turf, turning your home into a bed and breakfast is also an option. But there is a lot more to this than sticking up a sign, warns Karen Thorne, proprietor of Hopton House B&B in Shropshire and course leader at the Bed and Breakfast Academy.

"You will have to consider your own suitability for B&B in terms of your personality, location and the property itself – if it has en-suite bathrooms, say. You will [also] need to check with the local planning office to see if your home needs planning permission or alterations to meet building regulations. You will then need to carry out a fire-risk assessment, which means installing mains-linked smoke alarms, which will cost a few thousand pounds. You will also need to take out specialist insurance, such as public liability, in case one of your guests falls over your vacuum cleaner."

Andrew Montlake, partner at the mortgage broker Cobalt Capital, adds that as your home will be undergoing a "change of use" to commercial purposes, you will need to inform your mortgage lender: "If you don't inform your lender, it could be considered a breach of contract. [The lender] may decide it does not want to lend on the new basis, it may put you on a higher rate, or it may do nothing."

There is also a Monday-to-Friday market for B&Bs – if your home is near a large employer, it can attract business clients. But, says Mrs Thorne: "[They] will want wireless broadband, power showers and somewhere to eat an evening meal."

You can find information on setting up a B&B in The Pink Booklet (available at pinkbooklet.co.uk). You can also sign up for one of Mrs Thorpe's B&B courses at bedandbreakfastacademy.co.uk. A one-day course costs £150 per person and a two-day course £250.

For a more temporary arrangement, you could rent out your home to photographers, film and TV companies for location work. "All kinds of homes are required," says Kell Gatherer, head of the location agency Location Works. "Currently, though, large loft apartments, Victorian properties with bare brick, and slick modern apartments with great views are popular."

He adds that practicality is key. "For example, a tiny country kitchen is only good if there is a large conservatory in the background for the film crew. Parking availability is also important."

Renting your home out for a day's photo shoot could earn you from £200 to £400, while a nine-week stint for a film or TV series could earn up to £2,000 a day, although the location agency will always take a cut.

You shouldn't rely on the income, says Mr Gatherer. "It can be sporadic." But if you want to try, send high-quality pictures of your home to locationworks.co.uk.

Or, if you don't want to hand your house keys to strangers, why not just rent out the drive? Parkatmyhouse.com is a website set up two years ago to introduce people with empty driveways to motorists looking for a reliable, regular parking space. The site has 16,000 registered users but just 10,000 driveways.

Anthony Eskinazi, founder of the website, said that the financial return can be very rewarding – especially in popular areas such as near Tube and train stations or sports stadiums. "You can charge anything you like ... we let the market decide – but between £15 and £20 a day for a space close to the Emirates stadium in north London is typical."

Residents near the lawn tennis grounds in Wimbledon or the Open Golf championships have long known the value of a few square yards of tarmac where someone can park or a trader set up a stall. In fact, homeowners are increasingly turning their driveways into mini businesses.

"Residents close to Heathrow and Gatwick are offering lifts to the airport as well as their driveway for the car," says Mr Eskinazi.

You will need to be able to legally rent out the space, though – you can't resell residents' parking permits. To get started you can list your details free of charge, but Parkatmyhouse.com will take 10 per cent of anything you make.

Your home does not have to provide a service at all to generate cash, if you are aged over 55 and eligible to apply for an equity release scheme. The most popular is a lifetime mortgage, whereby a loan is taken out against part of the property and paid as a lump sum or monthly income. It is not repaid until you die or go into a care home, but the accumulated interest could leave your children with no inheritance. This is not a step to be taken lightly, and independent financial and legal advice is essential.

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