With its 1970s features, such as a bold, orange bathroom suite and a pink reception room, Gillian Milner is the first to admit that her house isn’t to everyone’s taste.It is, though, popular among photographers and magazine editors, who love the retro appearance – and the indoor swimming.Ms Milner is one of a growing number of people hiring their homes for film and photography shoots. It is not without its hassle and disruption, but the money can be good.She hires her house in Streatham, south London, for up to £500 per day, although some homes can be rented for far more.”We hired it out from the moment we moved in,” says Ms Milner, 47, who has lived at the property with her family for 13 years. “The guy who lived in it before had set it up as a shoot location and we basically took over from that.”Working in the advertising industry, Ms Milner knew that running a location house could prove to be a lucrative business. “I’ve been to lots of different houses for magazine shoots. I knew that if you had an interesting space, you’re likely to get shoots.”Her home is hired out about four times a month for shoots ranging from brand campaigns to magazine editorials.
She rents her house through Location Works, an agency with more than 4,000 properties on its books that can be used for location filming and photography.The firm’s managing director, Lorna Gatherer-Ford, says: “There does seem to be a trend, particularly in London, of people buying normal houses and decorating them with shoots in mind.”For example, people would superficially put in a gas hob in the island of the kitchen so they could be used for cookery shows.”Day rates tend to start from £350 for a small crew and go up to £3,000 for a major feature film. Agencies such as Location Works take a cut of the fees, ranging between 15% to 25%.
“It can be a great earner for people, although like anything else in the creative industry, you never know what the trend might be,” says Ms Gatherer-Ford. “Some properties are used all the time, and other places now and again.” Properties featuring bare brick walls, bright colours, or the distressed style are currently in vogue, she says. “But at the other end, white and modern are popular too.”The opportunity to earn some extra cash is encouraging others to dress up their homes with a little creative magic.After seeing a friend enjoy success with her property, Amy Exton, 29, bought a two-bedroom house in Margate a year ago in order to create her dream, fantasy home, aptly named Margate Location House.
The freelance set designer opened her property up for shoots two months ago, and rates start from £500 a day.So far, a handful of fashion stylists and vintage brands have taken advantage of the vibrant and colourful three-floor townhouse, which features a vintage pink bathroom suite with gold fittings and red walls, and pink walls and outlandish sofas in the lounge, and a mural in the outside courtyard. “Being a set designer, it’s basically like creating a set,” says Ms Exton. “I’m really into interior design and wanted to move into that direction.”She says she spent £20,000 on revamping the place from its magnolia décor and injecting bright, colourful hues.”Given that it’s outside of London, I needed to offer something different,” she says. Like many location-house owners, she’s promoting her property through a combination of ways including her own website, a dedicated Instagram account. She plans to join agencies such as Location Works, which draw up contracts between the filmmakers and property owners. However, prospective location homeowners need to tread carefully, and check if there are any rules and regulations in place which may hinder hiring out their house for shoots.
Ms Milner says her property can only host 52 shoots per year after a neighbour filed a complaint with the council. “We have worked really hard to make it work so we don’t allow crews to park on our little road, for instance. We don’t do film shoots anymore. It’s about respecting our neighbours, so we are very considerate,” she says.More stories from the BBC’s Business Brain series looking at quirky or unusual business topics from around the world:Is humour the way to keep an office happy?Putting the fun back into dance classesCan you be taught to be more charismatic?Does selling up mean selling out?’I turned my dad’s erotic novel into a hit podcast’If it is a big film shoot, some homeowners may have to let the crew re-arrange furniture. Things can get damaged, although it would be paid for. Occupants may even have to move out, although hotel costs would also be covered.Frances Woodhouse, 57, who has hired out her Cheshire home for more than eight years through UK Locations, warns that it’s not for the fainthearted. “It depends on what kind of shoot it is, but some of them, especially in the past few years as budgets have been cut, try and use as much as the house as possible. It can be extremely disruptive. I don’t think people are aware of how disruptive is it,” she says. Despite this, she does get a thrill out of hiring out her Cheshire home, which has been used for everything from celebrity magazine shoots to dog food adverts. “I’ve generally had good experiences as I’ve worked with a reputable company, and I’m easy-going and flexible.”
Ms Woodhouse says the upsides easily outweigh the negatives. “I quite enjoy seeing how young people work in the industry, and seeing the advances in cameras and computers. Plus, it’s an empty house as the children have left, so it’s nice to use the space before we downsize.”Ms Milner also agrees that opening up her property isn’t just about the money, and that she has met some very interesting people. “I also think it’s been good for my children to live in a creative house,” she says.She also loves the buzz of seeing her house featured in magazines and adverts. While you may not become a celebrity yourself, your house may become your fame and fortune. Follow Business Brain series editor Will Smale on Twitter @WillSmale1