That is the question for many Lower Cape second homeowners. The potential income from a Cape Cod summer rental is thrilling, but the possible property impact is chilling. To arrive at the right answer for you, try answering a few easier questions first:

Will you perceive vacationing families as welcome guests in your home or a barely tolerable means of generating extra cash?

The owners who rent most successfully see themselves as gracious hosts who truly enjoy providing an extraordinary vacation experience for discriminating and appreciative families on summer vacation. For them, the rewards of renting are not merely financial.

Can you view your home through the eyes of a guest?
Here’s just one example: Maybe you’ve never felt the need for air conditioning. If you don’t have at least window units in the bedrooms today, it’s a deal breaker for easily 50% of your home’s prospective summer rental guests. If you expect to command your best rental rate and fill all your weeks, you need to offer what they’re looking for. It’s called marketing.

Are you willing to pay for a professional deep spring cleaning?

If you think you can save money by doing it yourself, you’re in for a rocky rental season – and so is your broker, who will be the first to field the complaints from your guests. Musty smelling kitchen cabinet shelf paper that hasn’t been changed since the Reagan Administration doesn’t fly. Portable electric fan blades coated with several seasons of fuzzy grime don’t make the cut. A thorough, professional, pre-season total house cleaning is a must. It sets the stage for a rental season with fewer headaches. Not to mention more repeat bookings for next summer.

Are you OK with stashing your stuff to create more space and less angst for your rental guests?

Sparse is a good thing. That very engaging display of one-of-a-kind Crimean War tin soldiers you love to show off is only an attractive nuisance to a mom on vacation with her 18-month-old toddler. She’d rather have another surface for the diaper bag. Roll up those pricey Oriental rugs and lock up your one-of-a-kind vases from the Chow Mein Dynasty. Instead, have fun decorating inexpensively for summer with a cheery, beachy look and feel. Low cost throw pillows, indoor/outdoor area rugs that can take a licking — heck, I’ve got three words for you: Christmas Tree Shops. So pack up and lock up (or toss) as much as you can – yes, even those superb Chewbacca mugs and Yaz plastic glasses on the top kitchen shelf. Your rental guests would rather have the extra space.

How will you feel about that water ring left on your coffee table?

If you’re going to rent, you can’t sweat the small stuff. When you do summer rentals, you’re running a small business that can gross up to $50,000 each season or more, depending on the property and its location. There will be the inevitable costs of doing business, including expected wear and tear. Vacationing families, if carefully recruited by your broker, are not careless slobs. Still, accidents happen. But if you expect to build repeat business from guests, you can’t expect to charge them for the cost and hassle of fixing a plugged toilet, a torn screen or a stain on Grandma’s beloved duvet. Which should have been locked away for safe keeping anyway.

Are you a summer rentals kind of owner?

For many, summer rentals are a pleasant part of owning a second home on the Cape, because they’ve mastered the art of doing rentals right. And the extra cash sure comes in handy! For others, rentals are something to be avoided like left turns in August. Which kind of owner are you?