Most people never consider their empty space as a way to generate income. They’re missing out and overlooking a wide range of potential sources of passive income.
From houses to storage areas to parking spaces, you may have something people would be happy to pay you to rent. And in doing so, they’ll cover some or all of your monthly housing payment.
Ways to Make Money From Your Unused Space
Whether you need a permanent side hustle or you’re just looking to make a few extra bucks, consider the following ways you can make money from your unused spaces.
1. Bring on a Housemate
One of the most lucrative ways to generate additional income is by renting out a room in your home.
Many people balk at the idea of having to share their home with someone else, especially a stranger. But my experiences with housemates have been overwhelmingly positive, with almost all of them becoming and remaining close friends to this day.
I even go so far as to say that being forced to share living space forces you to compromise better, to become a better sharer, and to learn to negotiate — in other words, to grow as a person and develop better social skills.
And no, housemates aren’t just for young, single people with no children. My wife and I have lived with a housemate. My business partner had a housemate when she was divorced with four young children.
Just bear in mind that when you bring on a housemate, you have to assume two different roles simultaneously: that of landlord and that of roommate. As a landlord, you have to screen prospective housemates as renters, verifying their income, credit, and housing history. As a housemate, you must ask screening questions to make sure you can personally live well with them. Ask these questions of all potential roommates to make sure you can live together compatibly.
2. Rent a Room on Airbnb
Becoming an Airbnb host doesn’t require buying a vacation rental property. You can rent out a room in your existing home to bring in some extra cash, without the full-time hassles of sharing your home with a housemate.
A close friend of mine did this for many years, and by renting out her spare room for two weekends each month, she brought in enough money to cover the majority of her rent. She rarely even crossed paths with her guests, and said it was the easiest money she ever made.
As an Airbnb host, you also get to set the availability based on your own schedule. If you have out-of-town visitors coming or need some time alone, just mark the room as unavailable. You have complete control over when you rent it, and who you allow to rent it.
3. Rent Out Your Entire Home While Not Using It
You can also rent out your entire home when you go on vacation yourself, or otherwise aren’t using it.
For years while my cousin dated her now-husband, he would spend much of his time at her place, and rented out his own apartment on Airbnb. It was occupied around half the time, and the income covered his entire rent payment, sometimes more. That’s right: he didn’t even own the apartment — he subletted it on Airbnb and earned a profit on it.
The rental income allowed the two of them to go out to dinner more, travel more, boost their savings rate, and generally live a better quality life.
Another friend of mine earned thousands of dollars each year by renting out his apartment whenever he traveled — which was often. The rental income offset his traveling expenses, allowing him to travel far more than he could have otherwise.
If you’re new to Airbnb, read up on how to boost your vacation rental income.
4. Create an ADU
Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, go by many names: granny flats, in-law suites, income suites, casitas, or by descriptors like basement apartments or garage apartments. But they all boil down to the same concept, where you create a self-contained living space on your property and rent it out to bring in some extra income.
Consider it one more form of house hacking, using your home as a source of income to offset your housing costs. In many cases, people cover their entire housing payment and live for free.
Look over your own property for relatively easy ways you could add a self-contained living space with a bathroom and kitchen or kitchenette. It could be a basement with a separate entrance, a garage, or even part of your home that you could easily partition. Alternatively, you could add a separate structure on the grounds. You can even buy tiny houses on Amazon for surprisingly reasonable prices.
5. Rent Out Storage Space
Self-storage units can get expensive. But in the era of the gig economy, people don’t need to pay a corporate chain for storage space — they can pay you.
The ideal space has its own entrance that you can give customers 24-hour access to, such as a garage, outbuilding, or basement with its own entrance. But alternatives include your attic, spare bedrooms, or any other interior space you don’t use.
And if you have enough room to park a boat, RV, or other vehicle, you may just find abundant demand and premium rent pricing.
6. Rent Out a Parking Space
In urban areas, there tends to be an enormous imbalance between demand and the available supply of parking. If you have a parking space you can rent out, you can often charge a pretty penny.
Even suburban and rural areas can command rent for parking spaces. For example, some urban dwellers store their cars outside the city next to metro stations or other easily accessible public transportation. If you have parking near these, you could rent it out.
And in rural areas, some people still often want covered parking for their boat, ATV, RV, or other vehicles.
7. Rent Out Artistic Amenities and Space
Artists, including the starving variety, want access to studio space and amenities like dark rooms or photogenic places for shoots. Could your unused space fit their needs?
Services like Peerspace and Storefront have popped up in recent years to make it easier to connect people with space to those who need it. You get to rent out your unused space, they get an affordable option without middlemen or corporate profit margins.
If you aren’t the artistic type, you may not see your space as a great fit. But artists might feel differently, so ask around to get some second opinions about the highest and best use of your unused space.
8. Rent Out Your Home as a Film Set
Filmmakers constantly need fresh sets, and all but the most low-budget filmmakers pay for the privilege.
They need homes, commercial spaces, outdoor areas, and every other conceivable location. If you don’t mind a horde of filmmakers showing up for a day or three to get their shots, check out services like Set Scouter to list your available space as a filming location.
You could even potentially offer to cater their shoot, and earn even more money that way. It need not be fancy — basic sandwiches and snacks could suffice.
9. Rent Your Space for Special Events
Weddings and other special events get expensive, and quickly. But some of the most beautiful and memorable weddings I’ve attended were not held at country clubs but at people’s homes, often in large backyard tents.
Look at your home and space through a stranger’s eyes. Could it make for a picturesque wedding or other event, given a tent, temporary flooring, and strung lights?
Consider offering your space as an alternative to traditional wedding locations. Your clients get to save money on their wedding, and you earn a hefty paycheck, because even alternative wedding locations still cost a pretty penny.
Again, you may even be able to make extra money by offering to partially or fully cater the event, if your talents run in that direction. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew, as it were — cooking for a hundred people requires a different skill set than cooking for 10.
10. Host a Foreign Exchange Student
Although hardly a passive source of income, many foreign exchange student placement services do pay a stipend to hosts. My business partner earns enough from her stipend to cover almost her entire monthly mortgage payment.
Of course, you should only host a foreign exchange student if you genuinely like kids and want to care for them for the next nine months. My partner’s primary motivation wasn’t money; she and her husband weren’t ready to downsize and sell their large suburban home, even though their children had moved out of the nest and three bedrooms were sitting empty. By bringing in a Chinese high school student, they brought life back into the house, even as it helped cover the steep mortgage payment.
Hosting a foreign exchange student also offers an opportunity to learn a second language for free, and to gain exposure to another culture, all without leaving the comfort of your home.
11. Foster a Child
Similarly, you can foster a child who needs a home, to fill up an empty bedroom in your home. And like hosting a foreign exchange student, it does require plenty of work on your part, so make sure you do it for the right reasons, and not just for the stipend.
Fostering agreements vary in length, so think long and hard before you commit to welcoming a child into your home. But for loving parents or would-be parents, fostering a needy child is one of the most generous acts you can undertake.
12. Pet Boarding
If bringing a child into your home sounds like far too great a commitment, but you love animals, you can always temporarily take on other people’s pets as a boarder through Rover.com.
Again, it’s not a passive source of income. Pet boarding requires some work on your part, but if you have plenty of space for animals and want to put it to good use, you can earn money caring for pets while their owners go on vacation.
Pets certainly need less care than children, and pet boarding offers a fun side gig for animal lovers with space to spare.
You don’t need tons of extra time or any specialized skills to take part in the sharing economy. Instead of letting unused areas in your property go to waste, find a way to provide them as a service to others.
Then watch the money come in!
Do you currently participate in this gig economy? What are some additional ways you can think of to generate income from your unused space?