Can you really make thousands of dollars renting your house out by the hour?

We decided to find out by signing up for Giggster, a highly-rated platform on SideHusl.com. (Because SideHusl is all about separating truth from hype, our editors will occasionally test selected sites and provide first-person accounts about the experience. This is the first such story in the series.)

Giggster is one of four online platforms that allow you to rent your home by the hour for “events,” ranging from birthday and engagement parties to movie and photo shoots. All four sites — Giggster, ThisOpenSpace, Splacer and Peerspace — say that renting by the hour allows you to charge many times more for your property than you would if you rented it out on Airbnb. And you don’t have to change the sheets.

Although all four sites are well-rated, we chose to test Giggster first because the site offers some attractive benefits to newbies. Most significantly, company officials answer the phone and will guide you through the somewhat complicated process of renting your house out for filming. The site says the average listing gets rented once a month. We found that to be optimistic. We’d estimate that you’d get a few rentals a year, unless your space is truly special.

Here’s what happened when we tried it.

In late December, I snapped a half-dozen iPhone photos of my home, uploaded them to the site and wrote a short description. My price— $75 an hour for a cast and crew of up to 15 people — undercut similar homes in the hope of getting a rental. The site’s automatic pricing tool boosts the rental rate for larger crews to $100 per hour for casts of up to 45 and to $175 per hour for those that bring in 60 or more people.

With the holiday season in full swing, I promptly forgot about the listing.

Six weeks later, I got two text messages on the same day. One was from a location scout named Hector. He was looking for a residence where they could film for four days with a cast and crew of up to 30 people. The second was from a woman named Amanda, who wanted a place to shoot a webisode. Amanda’s budget was $600 for a 14-hour day — about half my rate. Giggster allows you to set a custom rate in instances like these. But I wasn’t willing to do that without knowing a lot more about the shoot. She lost interest.

Hector set up a meeting for the next day. But, at the last minute, sent a text saying he had to cancel. His director settled on another location.

Cue the crickets.

Another nibble came a month later. This one is from Dru Zipkin, a producer for an advertising agency. Zipkin was setting up a photo shoot that would involve a cast and crew of nearly 45 people. He arranged to scout the house at 9 a.m. the next day with a local production manager.

Scouts

They arrived promptly and toured the house and yard for an hour, taking photographs and measurements. Zipkin was clearly a production pro, asking about off-limits areas in the house and yard and describing how he envisioned using each room. Hair and makeup in here; wardrobe in there. The production manager, Darin Eppich, was assessing the logistics — parking; areas for the crew to wait between shoots; an area to set up catering for lunch and dinner. 

The duo narrated the process for my benefit, also telling me how they would protect my furniture and floors. They were decisive about the space, but wanted to know more about my requirements. Could their crew use the restrooms or did they need to rent porta potties? Would I be willing to heat the pool or jacuzzi? Did I have tips on parking? Or ideas of where they could set up meals?

They booked an open slot on my calendar the next day, agreeing to pay $100 an hour for a 13-hour stretch, plus a $350 fee for a “site manager” — me — who would watch over the shoot to make sure it went smoothly and nothing was damaged. Sum total: $1,650. Giggster takes a 15% fee on the rental, so my net was $1,455.

Permits

Giggster provides liability coverage during the shoot and takes a 50% deposit to cover the chance that your possessions are damaged. However, the site suggests that you demand to see the production company’s insurance policy, which should cover potentially bigger losses. Giggster also requires producers to secure any necessary permits from local authorities.

My city requires permits for pretty much everything. Because it was a production with a large staff, the permit requirements were particularly onerous. In addition to the normal permit, the city expected the producers to get all of my neighbors to sign a waiver saying that they were aware of, and didn’t object to, the filming. I needed to sign something too. Between talking to my neighbors and seeing the producer’s minions mobilizing in the week prior to the shoot, I didn’t have any worries about whether they were playing by the book.

Shooting

The day before the shoot, another member of the crew asked if she could bring an advance team an hour early. They wanted to put ram-board on the floors in all the high-traffic areas of the house to protect my hardwood and carpets before the rest of the group arrived. That seemed like a good reason to let people in before I was fully caffeinated.

I’ve had large parties at my house before, and assumed it would be similar. It wasn’t.

“We are going to take over every inch of your house. But when we leave, you’ll never know we were here,” one staffer told me. That turned out to be accurate.

The crew came in like a whirlwind. The set-up group included at least a dozen staffers, who pushed together my leather sofas and blocked them off with crime-scene tape. Another group armed with painter’s tape and ram board, created a path around the house, saying it would signal where everybody could step and what was off-limits. Props began to fill up my guest-rooms. Make-up chairs dominated the master; heavy blankets were thrown on beds and cushions to protect them from dirt and spills. A caterer arrived with folding tables and started setting up breakfast. Wardrobe took over the garage.

Because parking in my neighborhood is a challenge, Eppich arranged off-site parking and brought the crew and talent in vans, sending waves of people through the front door at regular intervals. The kitchen tables, sofas, bar stools and outdoor seating areas started filling up with gregarious millennials. I felt like I was at a very successful nightclub. It was 10 a.m.

I’ll save pages of detail and just say the day was a blast. My only regret is that I slipped out to have dinner at around 6 p.m. and missed the chance to say goodbye to many members of the delightful cast. As the day ebbed, Zipkin sent home cast members who were no longer required for additional shoots. 

Within minutes of wrapping up at a little after 8 p.m., the clean-up crew swung into action. The house was immaculate before the final stragglers walked out two hours later, as scheduled. Giggster had the $1,455 in my bank account the next day.

Lessons

  1. It is possible to earn thousands a day renting your house for events — and have fun doing it. However, it’s not going to happen every day — or even every month.
  2. Pay attention to the people you are dealing with. I looked up Zipkin’s bio before agreeing to the shoot and was impressed by his credentials. He and Eppich emphasized their thoughtful professionalism every time we talked. They set the tone for the rest of the crew, which made this a great experience. Had they balked at getting insurance or permits — or respecting house rules — I expect the rest of the group would have followed suit. With 45 people, that would have been a nightmare.
  3. Being my own site rep was a great idea. It allowed me to monitor how the staff was handling my possessions and step in when something was needed. But, I’m also not shy. If you’d be reluctant to speak up, hire a professional site rep from Giggster. You can give the professional a list of house rules and take the day off.
  4. Giggster got SideHusl’s highest rating. Personal experience says the site deserves it.