How to make money from your home

Renting a room for a few hundred pounds a month is all very well. But could your house earn you money in a far more fun way?

Chantal Borciani
Friday 11 August 2017 16:11
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Lights, camera, get your house in on the action
Lights, camera, get your house in on the action

Hollywood may feel a far cry from family houses in London, Cumbria or Kent but around 60% of sets we see on TV in the UK are filmed in regular homes.

While some homeowners may not quite have the nerve or spare time to jump on the Airbnb juggernaut, an increasing number of people are renting their properties to film crews and photographers for magazine shoots, adverts, TV shows and the latest blockbusters. Homeowners can typically make between £500 to £2500 per day depending on the type of shoot and get a fresh lick of paint while they’re at it.

Natasha Courtenay-Smith started hiring out her Edwardian terraced family home in north-west London a couple of years ago. After setting up her digital marketing business, Bolt Digital Media, she found herself searching for locations for clients. “I was previously a journalist and had always thought it was a nice way to make some money,” she says. “When I set up my business there were a few clients who needed a place to shoot. I searched around but it became apparent my house was the easiest option.”

After using her home for a few more clients Natasha contacted location agencies in London and signed up with Lavish Locations, Fresh Locations, Carol Hayes, and Location Works. Agencies act as the middle man and typically take between 10 and 25% commission.

“I just Googled the agencies, applied to all of them and around half took us on. I also built my own website for the house. We get a lot of cookery book shoots and chefs as our kitchen is big, bright and open plan but we’ve had all sorts here from B&Q to vloggers and Joe Wicks ‘The Body Coach’.

TV and film shoots generally have larger crews, so more footfall and upheaval and thus command higher rentals.

Depending on the type of shoot, walls may be painted, partitions erected, rooms changed around, gardens taken over by catering tents and furniture moved in and out of your house. However, once the shoot is finished the crew are required to put everything back as it was found.

“B&Q once painted our living room bright orange and put up a stud wall. It wasn’t a problem – we were being paid for the days and my grey walls were back good as new by the end of it,” explains Natasha.

“Factor the disruption into the fee,” she advises. “Renting our house works really well for us. After a homeware shoot our house was basically redecorated for free. My home now looks newly painted pretty much all the time – no mean feat when you have kids. We don’t get to keep any props but sometimes we get lovely food left after the shoots. An Indian YouTube channel came to shoot and left us delicious curries every night and huge sacks of rice when they left.”

Other renters are a little more cautious when it comes to the makeovers.

Amy Griffiths has been hiring out her home to film, TV and editorial crews for 15 years. Her 1930s house in Honor Oak, south London, has a contemporary décor throughout and has been used by brands including M&S, Ikea and Livingetc.

“The house is put back by the teams but I would say it’s never quite as you had it. When you’re redecorating your own home you take a lot of care over it. It’s always been fine but perhaps not the same level as I would do it,” Amy explains.

Amy started renting the family home out as a location house after she had her first baby as it let her work from home. She tends to do more editorial shoots as the house doesn’t have a huge amount of room for film crews to store their kit.

“The biggest crew we ever had was for an estate agent’s commercial. They packed the entire contents of our house and shipped it away in lorries. We were on holiday so didn’t have the upheaval but our neighbours did mention all the vans but thankfully were fine about it,” Amy adds.

Flexibility seems to be the name of the game in this line of rental work. “I’ve always found it quite fun to have shoots in the house,” adds Natasha. “The kids love seeing their bedroom on the TV but you have to be willing to have people traipsing through your house. We’ve only had a couple of instances where things have been damaged or walls scuffed and it’s always been sorted out with no fuss.”

Natasha’s house is very stylish, clean and modern and she clearly has an eye for interiors but is keen to stress it isn’t some grandiose show home. “There are lots of houses that are larger and grander than ours. Our kitchen is bright, light and wide, which suits cookery shoots well but its not decked out with super-expensive kitchen units and our paint isn’t Farrow & Ball, it’s B&Q. Crews often just want a house that looks like a bright, family home. I don’t tend to like much clutter anyway, which helps I think, but our home isn’t that different to many London properties.”

It’s worth noting that background noise is fine for photography and magazine shoots – so kids can be playing upstairs or elsewhere – but it’s a big no-no for TV, film and commercials.

“The larger the crew, the more disruption but higher the fee,” she continues. “Again, we can be quite flexible and I can organise for us all to be out of the house if required.”

Crews aren’t just looking for homes straight out of the pages of Elle Décor; quirky homes, properties with traditional features, retro properties, event avocado bathroom suites and ‘every day’ homes with lots of space, good parking and access can be just as successful.

Josh Jones is CEO of JJ Connect, a peer to peer platform similar to Airbnb that enables homeowners to list their property for a fee of £5 a month or £50 for the year. “Opening up your home to the TV and film industry is a great way to make some extra money. If you’re home isn’t quite Downton Abbey don’t let that put you off. All types of properties and original sets are needed for shoots everyday.”

The company has previously supplied locations to household names, films and videos including Bridget Jones’s Baby, Rita Ora’s Sigma music video, BBC’s Mary Berry Cooks, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. Interested clients contact and negotiate with the homeowner directly and agree the dates and rates for the shoot and JJ Connect takes no commission.

Though many shoots happen within the M25, Josh claims it’s not all about London properties. “We get requests for countryside locations – particularly in the summer for fashion editorial shoots and clothing companies. The country locations that are most popular are the ones that offer the most idyllic backdrops and props. For example, one of our properties in Kent has gypsy caravans, tumble-down shacks and a pair of friendly horses that have featured in several shoots.”

According to JJ Connect, the most popular locations currently tend to be modern properties, with a good indoor/outdoor feel and locations with a botanical feel and lots of greenery inside have been a hit for a while now.

So it seems any house could now be a cash cow, with shoot locations becoming more diverse and requests all the more interesting. “I was recently asked if we minded a horse being in the house for a betting commercial,” Amy says. “I was assured the horse would be wearing rubber booties to protect our wooden floors!”

Top tips to make your home a star

  • Large spaces, such as kitchens and living rooms, are often highly sought after
  • Older properties and those with unusual features are always of note
  • Wide hallways and a large front door often help with logistics
  • Be prepared for stylists to come round scouting at short notice so keep things fairly tidy
  • Crews prefer uncluttered rooms that are easy to stamp their mark on
  • Negotiate the fee based on the size of the crew and potential disruption. Editorial photo shoots have smaller crews while TV and film shoots have larger crews and can often takeover the entire house and garden
  • Be considerate of your neighbours, shared parking spaces and issues such as traffic that may affect properties close by
  • Check if your council offer parking permits – the more parking spaces at your disposal the better. 

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