Look inside your closets, cabinets, and storage spaces, and you’ll find plenty of things that you own but you rarely use. There are even some items that you probably spent more time acquiring them (deciding, researching, browsing, shopping, buying, setting up, etc.) than you spent actually using them. Such things might include power tools, kitchen appliances, and clothing for special occasions. It may also include hobby, exercise, or sports equipment, (which you may have taken a hiatus from). For whatever reason, we all are guilty of buying and having too much stuff. And this stuff spends our money without us even knowing it. But there’s a way to recoup some of that money.

 

How Rent Tycoons Works

Rent Tycoons provides a platform that allows you to rent out your items to others and earn some money. Did you know the average power drill is only used for 12 minutes over its lifetime? By renting your items, the borrower saves money, you make some money, and the item gets reused several more times throughout its life-cycle, thereby reducing waste in nearly all respects. When you place an item for rent on Rent Tycoons, borrowers can rent your item on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. They also pay a refundable deposit, which you specify. This infographic from their website summarises the entire process, but personally I feel it is somewhat cluttered so I will highlight important steps in a table instead.

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Rent Tycoons process in a cartoon (from their website).
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A simplified flowchart.

What Kind of Stuff Can You List for Rent

Rent Tycoons has everything from electronics, tools, furniture, and books, to wedding props and Chinese New Year costumes. Listing your item is FREE, and any item that gets rented through their portal is covered by their rental agreement. My past listings included power tools, a trolley/hand truck, a boogie board, and winter clothing (coats and jackets suitable for snow from my time spent in the States). Many items rented through their site are for the purpose of events or special occasions, such as plastic chairs, flipcharts, buffet trays, gaming consoles, and SLR cameras. When I asked one of the founders about some of their more surprising and unusual items, she mentioned breast pumps, which (in case you’re wondering) you can rent for $10-$15 a week depending on the model.

My Experience Renting Out Stuff with Rent Tycoons

I’ve never been to Japan, China, Norway, or Australia, but my winter clothing has! Since my items have been listed on Rent Tycoons more than two years ago, I’ve made a couple hundred dollars from renting out my unused stuff, and have also met quite a few nice people along the way. My trolley has been used so many times that it has already paid for itself and still continues to generate some income. One of the highest earners on their site has made more than $10,000 (since January 2013) from renting out her 3 unused items – a treadmill and 2 cooler boxes.

Some Gaps in The Renting Process

Here are some things I think might help to improve the process and experience for users, from the perspective of “the lender”. Although, I cannot comment on how the process is like for borrowers, as I have never been in that role, these gaps likely have an impact on borrowers as well.

  1. Not knowing when/if an item is available. A person can hit the “Rent Now” button on the portal and even make a payment without actually knowing if the item is available or not (just because the portal lists the item as “available” does not mean it’s really available to be lent). Ideally, an interested party ought to message you before proceeding to pay for a rental contract, but this does not always happen. Sometimes you’ll just get an email entitled “Your item is successfully rented” and it’ll take you by surprise because you or the item might not be available.
  1. Inquiry email is delayed or goes to junk folder. If a person messages you about the item beforehand, that email often is delayed by several hours and ends up buried under junk messages. This can be a problem when someone wants to rent something for the weekend and he/she sends a message on Friday at 8pm. To the borrower, he/she might think 8pm is a reasonable lead time, but if the message gets sent at midnight and not read until the next day at 10am, it might be too late to send a “yes, it’s available” reply when that person needed your item for an event starting at 9am.
  1. Replying to messages is not convenient. We’re so used to hitting the reply on our email clients, but in order to reply to messages to users, you must do it through the Rent Tycoons portal. It makes communicating with prospective renters a bit more cumbersome, especially if there’s a lot of back-and-forth messages. In many instances, I’ve just left my contact info so that back-and-forth correspondences can be done via Whatsapp.
  1. Deposits returned in cash. When a borrower pays online (rental fee plus deposit), Rent Tycoons will transfer the entire payment to you after you “Claim Rental Income” from their website. The transfer takes a couple days. But before that, you’ll have to return the renter’s deposit. I don’t usually carry a lot of cash with me, so for me, this means making a trip to the ATM before meeting up with the renter to collect my item. It would be nice if Rent Tycoons can charge the rental fee and just place a refundable hold on the deposit amount. That way, I won’t have to stop and get cash, or justify to IRAS that the $100 taxable income that was deposited into my account was really $10 of taxable income and $90 of refundable deposit.
  1. The awkwardness of collecting money from strangers on your unused items. Of course, this is something Rent Tycoons has no control over, and may just be an issue with me. It can be somewhat awkward to rent more personal things like fashion items and have someone pay you to use them. Because of this, sometimes I end up renting these items for free. Surprisingly when this happens, the renter often pays me in another way, like gifts or favours.

Can You Bypass Their 20% Commission?

If you and the borrower transact outside of the Rent Tycoons portal, you can potentially save on the 20% commission and Rent Tycoons will not have any record of it, other than the initial messages. But if you go transact outside their portal, you won’t be covered by their rental contract so there’s more risk involved. This has happened to me twice before (unintentionally); in one instance, the borrower changed his mind at the last minute and reneged on renting, and in another instance, the borrower preferred not to open a Rent Tycoons account (even though it’s FOC). When the latter happened to me, I still ended up sending Rent Tycoons their 20% share of the revenue. Why? Because I want them to survive and succeed as a start-up. I believe in their mission, and see the good that comes of it. And I know (from running Frugal in Singapore) that there is cost associated with just the simple act of running and maintaining a website so I wanted to support them by giving them their (rightful) share to the rental revenue, which without them, would not have been possible.    

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