February 28, 2023
Many movies and TV shows skip a studio set in favor of filming on location. Some of those real-world locations are famous in their own right (see: the recent NYC filming locations of the “Gossip Girl” reboot), but production crews are known to set up shop at private properties, including homes.
Of course, not every home rented out as a film location needs to be as glamorous as George Clooney’s villa on Lake Como, which is where scenes from “Ocean’s 12” were filmed. Far more modest homes had and will continue to have their moments in the spotlight — it’s all about what fits in with the production team’s vision for the project.
Annie Morris is editor in chief of the Canadian magazine Made in CA. She owns a single-family bungalow in Toronto that she rented out for a TV show. Her house got the gig on a referral from a friend who worked for the show’s production company. She says if you get the opportunity to do something similar with your own home, do it.
“Renting out your home as a filming location can be a great way to make some extra money while allowing your home to be part of something special,” she says. She and her husband actually left the house to the crew for more than a week, and they took a road trip — which was covered completely by the rental fees for their home.
If you’re starstruck by the idea of seeing your home on the big (or little) screen, keep reading.
Here’s what to consider before casting your home in a TV show or film.
“Renting out your home as a filming location can definitely be a unique and exciting opportunity, but it’s important to go into it with your eyes open,” says Dennis Shirshikov, head of content at Awning, a real estate technology company and brokerage with an investment focus. “It’s not always as glamorous as it may seem on TV, and there can be a lot of logistics and legal considerations to navigate.”
Shirshikov’s recommendation is to do your research to understand all the risks and benefits of the experience. “Before you decide to rent out your home as a filming location, it’s important to consider the impact it could have on your daily life,” he says. “Filming can be disruptive, with a lot of noise, traffic, and strangers coming in and out of your home.”
Alex Capozzolo, co-founder of Brotherly Love Real Estate in Philadelphia, says his team worked with a client who owned a 150-year old heritage property in Philadelphia that was considered “a jewel in the town,” he says. It featured French architecture and beautiful gardens and fountains. The owner was no stranger to renting out the property for local channels to broadcast their interviews — but they did pause before saying yes to a film production request.
Capozzolo says, “In this situation, the client restricted the number of people from the film crew and put in an additional requirement of damage insurance, which would be repaid at the end of the shooting, and a clause that specified no changes to be made to the interior or exterior of the property.”
Mandy Menaker is a former film producer and now director of communications at Orchard, a real estate platform. She says that while film shoots can be lucrative for a homeowner, they’re not without their risks.
“Even the smallest film crew can cause serious damage, and the crew will require electricity, water and bathroom access while on site, which can incur additional costs,” Menaker says. “At minimum, most film crews will have one or two trucks full of equipment and may also bring trailers and portable bathrooms along, so be prepared for grumpy neighbors if you live in a populated spot.”
If you find that the rewards of renting out your property for filming outweigh the risks, here’s what the experts suggest you consider before you say, “Action!”
Confirm insurance. Menaker says do not proceed before checking in with the production company’s insurance policy to see that your home will be protected by any damage incurred. (It’s probably worth a call to your own policyholder, too.) Shirshikov agrees. “It’s also a good idea to work with a reputable film production company and get everything in writing, including a detailed contract and insurance coverage,” he says.
Safeguard valuables. This was Morris’ only caveat about the experience — pack up any valuables and other important belongings and keep them away from your home during the shoot. “A lot of production staff will be in the house during filming, so make sure if it’s important to you, it’s stored away in a secure place,” she says.
Take photos of your home in its current state. Better yet, hit record on your own and make a little film of your own. “It’s also a good idea to take photos and document the condition of your home before and after filming, in case there are any damages,” says Shirshikov. Aside from that, it’ll make for putting things back in their spot more easily, Menaker explains. “It is likely that the crew will stage rooms including moving furniture or even putting up new artwork on the walls and you want a very clear record of how your home looked prior to the shoot,” she says.
Let your neighbors in on the filming schedule. Menaker says the film crew could set up camp at odd hours, but even if not, it’s courteous to let people know that cameras will soon be rolling.
If you decide it’s worth the inconvenience for your home to get its 15 minutes of fame, then it’s important to “communicate openly and clearly with the film production company and set clear boundaries and expectations,” Shirshikov says.
One last point of consideration you should make before you rent your home is the nature of the show. Menaker says it could make a positive or negative impact on resale or rental value — especially if it’s a hit.
“It may be an asset to share that your home was used for the set of a hit movie with an A-list actor, but there are plenty of buyers who may stay away if they associate your home with a violent horror film,” she says.
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