Is renting your house for filming a good way to make extra money?



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Reporter

Myles Ma is a senior reporter at Policygenius, where he covers personal finance and insurance and writes the Easy Money newsletter. His expertise has been featured in The Washington Post, PBS, CNBC, CBS News, USA Today, HuffPost, Salon, Inc. Magazine, MarketWatch, and elsewhere.

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Tony Leon works as an architect in Miami, and had heard of people renting out their homes to film and TV production companies. But he didn't consider doing it himself until the noticed a slip under the door of his house.

A production company was shooting in his neighborhood and looking for a house with a tree in the yard. The company didn't pick Leon's house, but it got him thinking it would be cool to have his house featured.

Leon did some research and found Set Scouter, a marketplace for film locations. Since listing his house on the website, he's rented his house out four times, hosting a photoshoot, commercials and a music video.

"It's not a huge money train but making an extra $7,000 a year is always kind of nice," Leon said.

Why use your house as a film location?

Renting your house as a film location is a way to earn extra money. Scott Osberg, owner of Malibu Locations, which connects homeowners with film and photo shoot opportunities, said some property owners make six figures a year just from renting their homes.

Malibu Locations, because of its proximity to the big studios, has worked on famous productions like "Big Little Lies," "Cruel Intentions," "Ray Donovan" and "Modern Family."

"There's a lot of people, particularly in Malibu, they operate their house like it's a commercial property," Osberg said.

Set Scouter, which was founded in 2012, handles mostly commercial shoots that typically last a day. The homeowner can earn an average $2,000 to $4,000 per shoot, said Alex Kolodkin, CEO and founder of the company.

For most properties, especially outside of the Los Angeles area, renting out your home for filming can't replace your income like, say, offering it on Airbnb. Some homes are booked every few weeks, some every few months, depending on what production companies are looking for, Kolodkin said.

"Unless you're running a professional studio I wouldn't recommend people look at this as consistent recurring revenue," Kolodkin said.

How renting your house works

Leon has listed his home on Set Scouter for two years. Set Scouter handled many of the details, taking photos and posting the listing.

The production companies negotiate directly with Leon through the website.

"They'll send a request to me," Leon said. "I let them know if it's available. They'll reply with an offer. I can choose to accept it or not."

Leon also sets limits on the production company. For example, they're not allowed to use the second floor of his house.

Malibu Locations specializes in large mansions and estates, Osberg said. Depending on the size of the shoot, the crew can be a few people up to a few dozen people. Television and film shoots require enough room for cameras, lights and other equipment.

"Typically homeowners contact us," Osberg said. "We get about 30 calls a month from property owners."

The company also gets calls from location managers looking for specific properties, "so we'll put together a slideshow of properties that we believe fit what they're looking for," Osberg said.

The production companies Leon has worked with typically take a video of the house before they start working (kind of like a home inventory). They consult the video at the end of the day to restore the house to its original state.

Leon, who is married with two kids, typically leaves the house during filming.

"When these guys check out, I have 24 hours to get back to Set Scouter to see if something is broken or lost," Leon said.

He's only needed to do it once, when a bowl went missing. It turned out the production company put it under the sink.

"I've never had a problem, and even when I thought there was a problem it turned out it wasn't a problem," Leon said.

In the event of any damage, the production companies extend their insurance to the home. Homeowners don't have to purchase any additional coverage.

"What we do is we put together a contract that protects the homeowners," including insurance and a security deposit, Osberg said. "We won't let them do anything until we have insurance and the money."

Want to rent your home out?

Every kind of house gets rented, though commercials often seek modern, larger homes that have recently been renovated, Kolodkin said.

Despite the extra income, inviting a bunch of strangers into your house isn't for everyone. Larger productions require ample nearby parking -- enough for a crew of a hundred or so people, production trucks and trailers, Osberg said. Having agreeable neighbors helps too, he said.

While commercials film in many big cities, Los Angeles is a favorite of the studios because that's where they're based, Osberg said. So while you may love your house, your success renting it to production companies depends on the whims of production companies.

"Not everybody's house is suitable or marketable," Osberg said.

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Image: Christian Koch

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