Make your home pay its way: a dozen top tips


Is your home losing more than you are earning? Then it's time it earned its keep. Put it in the movies, rent out a room, lease that parking space or, if all else fails, search for hidden treasure. Alanna Gallagherand Justin Comiskeytell you how

1 STAR TURN:Let your home express itself by hiring it out as a location for a film, television series or commercial. Most commercials will require a minimum of one day to shoot while you also need to factor in prep and wrap time to that, which means a minimum of three days disruption to you and your family, says freelance producer Margo Tracey.

Even if they are only shooting in one room of the house they will end up using every part including your toilets.

The crew will probably come equipped with a generator so you shouldn't have to worry about your electricity bill.

Moneywise the amount offered will depend on the size of the house and number of rooms they're using, says Tracey. "I don't think it's worth any homeowner's while unless they offer €1,000 a day and you need to be paid for prep and wrap days also."

"We're always looking for clean, well-presented kitchens," says Celine Cawley of commercials production company Toytown Films. "And rooms with interconnecting doors are good. They afford us the space to run the camera back to create depth, adds Donnacha Brady, another locations manager.

Size matters, continues Cawley. "We need to be able to house a crew of at least 15. Crews on films can rise to 80. We can always make a room look smaller with camera lenses."

For your house to qualify it really needs to be within a 40-mile radius of Dublin, says locations manager Mick Swan. "It also needs to have ample parking for up to three technical trucks," he explains. Presently he's looking for farmhouses.

Christopher Grey is owner of Higginsbrook House, which starred in the 2007 film Becoming Jane, a biographical portrait of a pre-fame Jane Austen and her romance with a young Irishman. The house then reprised the Jane Austen period for a Granada Television series of her novel Northanger Abbey.

"There are tax implications and the fees for television are considerably smaller than for film," Grey says. "The experience is very disruptive. The film company took out all our books and furniture and it took us months to get the house back in order."

The Irish Film Board runs a database of locations. If you think your house might have the x-factor register it at:;; and also see

2 SWAP YOUR HOLIDAY HOME:The credit crunch has made everyone adopt cost cutting measures to keep on top of things. And the new vogue in houseswapping is to offer your holiday home, rather than the family home, up for scrutiny.

Swapping a holiday home is a growing sector of our business, says Maria Murphy of Homelink. "It's less disruptive as the house is already in letting mode."

The basic cost of a subscription to the website is €100 and this offers great interactivity, she says.

Liam Patel and his family have holidayed in Seattle, California, Lyon and Germany on the strength of their holiday home in Kilmuckridge, Co Wexford. They bought the showhouse holiday home seven years ago and rent it out for a few weeks every summer to fund their holidays abroad and help with its upkeep and mortgage.

It facilitates a two-week house exchange that is devoid of the frenzied clean-up required before you let complete strangers cross the threshold.

Patel admits the holiday experience isn't always weighted equally.

"You can come across chateaus in France and architectural temples of modernity in California's Napa Valley," he explains.

A pool definitely swings it for the Patels. But wherever they choose to go they know that they don't have to spend weeks beforehand getting the house visitor ready.

"The holiday house is in a permanent state of being ready to let so it makes the move very easy and unintrusive for us," says Liam.

Car insurance to cover the foreign driver is a must.;; and

3 RENT A PARKING SPACE:Do you have a parking space you're not using? With parking like gold-dust in the capital this can net a tidy sum for city centre and central southside dwellers. The main demand for car-parking spaces is close to the concentration of office buildings, particularly Dublin 2 and 4, says Caroline Duffy of The hotspots are Fitzwilliam and Merrion squares and command annual rents of €3,500 per annum. Demand radiates out from there, she says.

"The IFSC and south docklands, while large office environs, also have excellent public transport links so prices are lower - in the region of €3,000 per annum.

"The Northumberlands, a small development off Northumberland Road, will rent at €2,400 per annum while Leeson Street Upper will command an annual rent of €2,250-€2,500." charge a commission of 10 per cent and there is a one-month break-up clause. Expect a minimum licence agreement of six months to a year. Your parking space needs to have easy access and good public lighting.

4 BASEMENT FLAT:OK, basement flats went out of vogue during the boom, as owners of tall Victorians reclaimed their bottom floors, kitting them out with big kitchens. It could be time to retreat upstairs again and let out the basement. With the plethora of new apartments available to rent, you will have to have a particularly charming or well located basement flat to rent. However, an own door, below stairs flat in Dublin 2, 4, or 6 could rent for up to €1,600 per month.

5 MAKE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE PAY FOR ITSELF:You've invested thousands of man or woman hours weeding, nurturing and planting and now it's payback time. Got a wonderful outdoor space - why not let others enjoy it also - for a small fee of course.

Noelle Anne Curran, winner of the Dublin country award at this year's Irish Garden magazine awards, has a half-acre garden that she's been tending to for 20 years. While a labour of love she does occasionally open the space to garden clubs and other groups during the summer months. She charges €5 per person. The income earned is nominal but helps cover her public liability insurance, essential if you're going to have the public on your property.

Joining Dublin Gardens is by invitation only, says John Beatty of "It is a grand hobby. Within our group Mount Usher and Helen Dillon's gardens are the only ones designed to make money. They have a bigger range of attractions which of course increases footfall."

If you have an allotment or big garden you could sell your garden produce, herbs or cuttings as a sideline.

6 OPEN HOUSE:If your ancestors left you a big pile in the country you may be eligible for tax relief. Any house or garden in the State which appears to the Revenue Commissioners to be of national, scientific, historic or artistic interest can qualify for their Heritage Houses and Gardens relief, provided you have allowed and plan to continue to allow reasonable access.

Reasonable access is a minimum of 60 days in any year, 40 of which must be in the months of May to September inclusive. Admission must be reasonable and Fáilte Ireland must be notified of full details of opening hours and admission prices before the first of January each year.

7 RENT GARDEN AS ALLOTMENT:no green fingers in the family: why not rent out the garden as an allotment. You will probably have the necessary "capital" infrastructure - like a shed and garden equipment - in place, so the only expense you'll face is advertising for a tenant. With rising food prices, concerns over the quality of mass-produced food and the growth of the slow food movement, allotments are again proving popular outlets for city dwellers.

8 SELL A SITE:if you've rear access or space to the side of your house, you could have a development site on your hands. Maybe a part of a neighbour's garden could be included as well. Check the deeds of your house as your garden may be larger than you think and there may be potential to extract value from it. For example, could any "newly found" part of your garden be amalgamated with a neighbour's and be sold on in the process?

9 RENT-A-ROOM:time to move the Hoover and golf clubs up to the attic and rent out the spare room. One of the most straightforward methods of getting your house to earn a bit of cash is the rent-a-room scheme. Under this scheme you can earn up to €10,000 tax-free.

This scheme has been a big hit with first-time buyers struggling to pay heavy mortgages, since it was first introduced in 2001, but there is no reason why everyone else should not consider it as an option.

The scheme doesn't affect the home owner's entitlement to mortgage interest relief and tenants who rent out a room in your home are entitled to claim tax relief on the rent paid.

In order to qualify for the rent-a-room scheme, the property must be the home owner's principal private residence. for its guide to the rent-a-room scheme or see

10 HAVE A GARAGE SALE:Declutter and clear out the attic, wardrobe, shed and anywhere else of unwanted/unused items and organise a sale. Make a list of all items for sale, circulate it around the neighbourhood, set out your stall at the allotted time and pray for a bit of dry weather.

Most people know that garage sales are great places to pick up a bargain.

11 TAKE IN STUDENTS:Choose between foreign language students, year round or just in the summer, or provide digs for Irish college students. The current going rate for taking in a foreign language student is around €165 a week, a bit more in the summer. Take two or three students to maximise earnings - two students to a room is usual. You will have to provide food: that means breakfast and dinner, and if they're aged 12 to 17, a packed lunch as well, and full board at weekends.

Rents for five-day-a-week digs (including breakfast and dinner) for Irish college students vary from around €100 to €130 a week. Contact your local college to register with them. For foreign students, check out

12 AND FINALLY:A colleague recently came across some long forgotten vintage hard currency. He'd originally found it on top of a kitchen unit in the first house he bought - a two-up, two-down in the city centre - and, given its excellent condition, thought at the time it was counterfeit. But, on stumbling across the old notes again recently, he decided to bring it to the Castle Markets, did a deal with one of the traders there and returned having doubled his money.

And the moral of the story? Check behind every nook and cranny, under the sofa and in those hard-to-reach places as you never know what you might come across.