If you’ve ever wondered how to make your property the backdrop for film, television or commercial productions, you’ll want to tune into this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast. Host Marc Bautis is joined by Josh Lawler, founder of The Film Shoot Rental Roadmap: How to Rent Your Home *Tax Free* for Film Shoots, Photo Shoots, and Commercial Productions. Before he cracked the code to film shoot rental success, Josh experimented with various real estate ventures, including live-in-flips, single family rentals, small multi-family rentals, build to rent new construction, and short-term vacation rentals. Film shoot rentals are, by far, his favorite real estate niche.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How to rent your home for film shoots, photo shoots and commercial productions.
- How to price your home when listing it as a film set.
- What to expect when you rent your home as a film set, including a discussion on some of the myths.
- The benefits of film shoot rentals compared to other real estate niches, including tax benefits.
- How short-term rental investors and AirBNB hosts can benefit from film shoot rentals.
- And more!
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. Today, I’m joined by guest Josh Lawlor. Josh is the founder of The Film Shoot Rental Roadmap: How to Rent Your Home *Tax Free* for Film Shoots, Photo Shoots, and Commercial Productions. Before he cracked the code to film shoot rental success, Josh experimented with various real estate ventures, including live-in-flips, single family rentals, small multi-family rentals, build to rent new construction, and short-term vacation rentals. Film shoot rentals are, by far, his favorite real estate niche. Josh, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
I’m excited for today’s discussion, centered around how practically anyone can utilize their home for a film shoot. We’ve all probably had an experience where we’ve driven around town and saw a shoot taking place – there’s activity, light production… and naturally, people are curious as to what is being filmed and if there are any celebrities involved.
But I’m sure not many people consider how they can generate income from a film shoot in their home. Jost, how’d you get into film shoot rentals?
Why Film Shoot Rentals?
Thanks for the introduction, Marc. I think it’s worth mentioning that film shoot rentals were not my initial foray into real estate. Like you mentioned, I’ve experimented in a number of real estate ventures.
Back in 2009, my wife and I bought a house. It was the oldest, ugliest house on the block, but in a very nice neighborhood. Our intention was to do a live-in flip. So, we lived in the space for a couple of years while doing a total gut renovation, including an addition. We created a lot of value and ultimately sold that house. We then moved into a different home, which was a tear down rebuild. That’s where we live now.
Related: How to Fix-and-Flip Real Estate
Around 2016, I began investing remotely in single family rentals. I’m based in the Northeast, but I like the markets in the Southeast better. So I picked up some single family rentals in Atlanta, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. Those properties have property management in place – I went the turnkey investment route.
We’ve seen a lot of appreciation in those properties. But, it wasn’t quite the cashflow that I was hoping for.
I’ll pause there for a second, but that’s a bit of my journey. I think it’s important to note that we didn’t have any background in the film industry. My wife and I just had what I would consider traditional real estate investment experience. We had single family rentals and some small multifamily rentals as well – one to four units. We had a number of years of traditional real estate investing before we got into film shoot rentals.
Since then, have you focused solely on generating income from film shoot rentals, or do you still have a combination of real estate investments?
We continue to hold the long-term rentals in addition to renting our home for film shoots. I view film shoot rentals as a complimentary strategy – whatever else you’re doing, you can also rent out your own home for film shoot rentals.
The benefits of film shoot rentals can help accelerate other real estate investments. Or any investment, for that matter.
What is the process of renting your home for a film shoot?
I’m happy to walk through it, but I want to quickly touch on some of the myths around film shoot rentals.
Myth 1: All Film Shoots Are For Feature Films
When we hear about film shoots, we often think about feature films. But we’re not shooting feature films in our house.
What sort of shoots are we doing? For the most part, they’re one to two day commercial shoots, photo shoots or video shoots. Usually the shoots are to create content for businesses – companies ranging from startups to well-established firms.
So, how do you list your home as a film set?
How to List Your Home As a Film Set
When deciding on which platform to use, consider:
- Location. Does the platform cater to your geographic location?
- Price of the Platform. There are free and paid platforms. My experience is mostly with the sites that are free, and I tend to get more business through those regardless.
- Pricing Transparency. Can you set your rate(s) transparently, directly on the platform?
- Insurance Coverage. I recommend using platforms that provide insurance, in case there is any property damage.
- Tiered Pricing. Shoots come in all different sizes. Can you set different hourly prices depending on the shoot size? In our home, we’ve done one person shoots, all the way up to 45 person shoots. That’s a big range, and as you can imagine, the level of disruption varies. For the most part, the more people that are involved in the shoot, the higher the level of disruption in the home.
- Fees. What percentage does the platform take in terms of fees? Usually there’s some sort of split between the person hosting the location and the person renting the location.
Once you’ve decided on which platform you’ll use, you’ll have to take professional photos of your home before listing it.
My recommendation to work through a listing platform, as opposed to the other option of working with a location scout. Location scouts have clients for whom they’re working and sourcing locations for shoots. We’ve had less success with location scouts, and they’ve taken up more time in terms of visits, phone calls and emails.
Are film shoot rentals similar to everything else in real estate, where location matters?
Great question. I think this sort of speaks to another myth…
Myth #2: You Have to Live Near LA or NYC to Rent Your Home as a Film Set
A lot of people will say, “Well, I don’t live near LA, so this isn’t going to work for me.” In reality, companies across the country – and even internationally – need to create content for their websites, for marketing campaigns, for social media, etc. These businesses are located all across the country.
So to answer your question, I don’t think location is that important. On the platforms we use, there are shoot rentals listings all across the country. I’ve seen everything from large cities to small rural areas. In every state, and internationally.
In my experience, it really comes down to where the company is located, or where the production crew is based. It’s more about logistical convenience.
What to Expect When You Rent Your Home As a Film Set
Earlier, you mentioned disruption of the home. That could mean a variety of things, but if you do book a shoot that’s longer than one day, do you typically book a hotel room?
Well, as I mentioned, the vast majority of our shoots are one day. They’re about 10 to 12 hours, typically 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM or 8:00 PM.
Now, I recommend that someone remains in the house during the shoot to answer any questions that come up. This is a benefit, as compared to short-term rentals, and great for people who work remotely. You can easily work in your home office as a shoot is going on in another area of the home.
When it comes to the level of disruption… I would say the busiest time of the shoot is the load-in and load-out periods. But once a professional shoot gets underway, they typically run quite smoothly.
Earlier I mentioned that there is a relationship between the number of people involved in a shoot and the level disruption. Sometimes, paradoxically, I find that the larger shoots are more organized because they have to be. Everything is planned out, down to where the people who aren’t actively involved are going to wait, where they are going to eat lunch, etc.
When we do book multi-day shoots, it’s usually a two-day shoot. The longest one we ever did was five days. For that one, we did get a hotel room because there was a lot of equipment in the home. But for the two day shoots, we usually do not get a hotel room. There usually isn’t excess equipment, or the crew puts things away at the end of day.
If you do prefer getting a hotel room, the economics of it works. If you’re making thousands of dollars per day for a shoot, it’s worth spending a couple hundred bucks for a hotel room.
Putting the Proper Protection in Place
You mentioned that some listing websites provide insurance. Do you recommend people get a rider, or put any additional protections in place?
You want to make sure that the production crew has insurance. In addition, you have to consider local regulations. Most towns have some sort of film permitting process and as part of that process, the town will typically require evidence that the production company has sufficient insurance.
We’ve never experienced any major damage. The worst that we’ve experienced is just little scuffs and dings on the walls. Most of which come right off with a magic eraser. Other times, a little bit of paint is required to touch up the wall. But it’s certainly nothing major.
And as part of my screening process, I always ask the production company what kind of floor and wall protection they will use. Most professional crews will have a couple of people on crew whose job it is to lay down the protection.
You mentioned a screening process. Do you ever turn down a film shoot?
That’s a good question. In the early days of renting our home for film shoots, we were just excited to have people interested, so we were more open to opportunities. But over time, I’ve learned to screen in such a way that we only allow professional shoots.
I do this by setting certain constraints. Initially, we didn’t have any kind of minimum number of hours. So early on in our film shoot rental journey, a lot of people who booked with us said they just needed the home for an hour and a half. Pro-tip for everyone listening, it usually takes at least an hour to set up and at least another hour to clean up. So if you get a rental booking for an hour and a half, it’s a red flag. By setting that minimum number of hours, we were able to screen out a lot of problematic tenants.
You want to avoid underpricing your location. We initially set our rate too low and we’re inundated with inquiries when we first started. Just like any type of real estate, the quality of tenants goes up with higher pricing.
By setting minimum hours and ensuring you are priced appropriately, you will screen out a lot of problematic tenants.
Another red flag is someone who doesn’t want to go through the town permitting process. Professional crews are used to dealing with municipalities, and will have no problem filling out the film permit application and covering the local town permit fee.
Also in terms of screening, you don’t have to rent out your entire house. It’s really up to you which rooms you’re interested in renting. So if someone tries to rent our off limit spaces, we politely decline those shoots.
What’s the screening process on the other end? What can people expect when working with businesses or production companies?
We’ve had some production companies that make decisions very quickly. They see the pictures, we have a quick phone conversation, and they book right away.
Other – I’d say more “traditional” – production companies will do a scouting visit. In a scouting visit, a number of people from the crew will come to your home for a visit. It’s usually an hour max. They look around to make sure the space is as pictured, check out the lighting, maybe plan some scenes… and then make a decision about booking the space.
The listing platforms do have a space to leave reviews and ratings, so the screening process usually involves reading those.
How Short-Term Rental Investors and AirBNB Hosts Can Benefit From Film Shoot Rentals
Do you see people with short-term rental properties like AirBNBs using this strategy?
I do, but a lot of short-term rental investors aren’t aware of this opportunity. Film shoot rentals can be a really good compliment for short-term rental investors.
First and foremost, short-term vacation rentals most commonly get weekend bookings. Well, most shoots take place during the week. So film shoots are really a way to add value to this existing asset.
Interestingly, the economics of film shoot rentals are even more advantageous than short-term rentals. If you think about the spectrum of real estate, typically the longer term the lease, the lower the overall rent. We know that a nightly rate at an Airbnb, even at a respectable occupancy rate, it’s going to yield more profit than the same property on a traditional 12-month lease. Film shoot rentals take that even further because the rates that you’re setting are hourly.
The short-term rental investor who might be charging $300 a night could probably charge $300 an hour for a film shoot rental.
The Tax Benefits of Renting Your Home As a Film Set
We haven’t even talked about the tax benefits…
I’m sure your listeners are familiar with the Augusta Rule. For those that aren’t, I’m not a tax professional, but roughly speaking, you can rent your primary residence for up to 14 days without paying taxes.
The law was created because during the masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, local residents wanted to rent out their homes. So they lobbied congress to create this law, which now applies to everyone.
My wife and I limit our rental days to no more than 14 days a year, this way our film shoot rental income is tax-free.
As a short-term rental investor, you’re obviously going to rent in excess of 14 days, but I think it’s still a nice compliment that all short-term rental investors should consider.
What’s the most you’ve ever made from a shoot?
The most we ever made from a one-day shoot was just over $11,000. The typical shoot is closer to $6,000-$7,000 for a day. The reason that shoot was more is because it was a larger shoot, so our hourly rate was higher, and they needed overtime. For overtime, you can charge time and a half. Because we kept our annual number of shoots to within 14 days, that $11,000 was equivalent to about $15,000 pre-tax.
That’s great! So, how does someone price their home for film shoot rentals?
How to Price Your Home for Film Shoot Rentals
I cover pricing strategies in the course, but I can provide some tips today.
When my wife and I first started renting our home for shoots, we had no idea how to price it. Looking back, we definitely under-priced, and as a result, we were inundated with inquiries.
Without getting into all of the pricing details, you do want to look at comps. So you can find comparable homes in the nearby vicinity and determine the price range.
As long as you’re within a similar range and not some outlier, you should find success.
Cool. Well, Josh, that concludes the questions I have for you today. Thank you for joining me today… This is a really unique opportunity for our listeners to consider, and you provided a lot of great information for them to digest.
Can you share your website, so that the listeners know where to go for more info?
Great, we will include that in the show notes. Thanks again, Josh, and thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review of the show. We are currently accepting new clients, if you’d like to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with our advisors, please do so below.