I am a compassionate landlord.
Last year I rented my family home for the summer and it was a breeze. The renters wanted to buy it…I didn’t sell it then. I wasn’t ready. During the 31 years I have been in this home, at times I have been ready….but then I can’t seem to pull the trigger.
So, I love the idea of renting…it’s like foreplay for indecisive sellers. You get the benefits like cash that hopefully pays a lot of your annual carrying costs, an opportunity to clear out boxes of non-essential junk, you get to hear how lovely your home is from your renters which feels sweet. And then…you don’t go all the way. You move back in.
This summer I decided to do it again. After all, it was so easy last year. Nothing, I mean nothing went wrong with the house last year. It turns out that’s not normal.
It didn’t take a lot for me to say yes to a lovely young family who wanted my home for this summer. Once again I cleared out more boxes, removed a lot of personal stuff and turned the place into a lovely rental once again.
But this time…within the first 3 days the air conditioning broke, the Sub Zero stopped cooling and my cleaning lady had to run off to Brazil for an emergency. This all happened over July 4th.
Suddenly, I get why “landlording” isn’t for everyone. (I think that Webster needs to make landlording a verb because there’s nothing passive about it).
Let me tell you what I learned from last week’s less than stellar rental experience.
I have a friend named Bob who loves to fix things. He has a big life on his own but he always comes over when anything breaks in my house. Bob is a passionate Mr. Fix It. He changes all our flat tires when we bike, he fixes squeaky doors when he comes for dinner (without being asked). He is not only a great guy — he is a friend with benefits.
Thank goodness Bob was around last week when my renters texted me that the A/C was not working and the fridge wasn’t either. How could two essential components break all at once? I had just put in a new A/C unit the month before to the tune of $8,000 so I knew I would be covered for that one. But I needed eyes on the problem.
Within an hour of the renters notifying me, I texted Bob and he arrived on the scene (it was 9 pm on a Thursday night). He reassured us both that it was all fixable, I just needed to call the service people. That reassurance was what we all needed.
I called the service people and within 24 hours and $1500 later, the fridge was humming and the A/C was pumping cold air. Phew!
What was remarkable about all this in addition to my secret weapon of Bob, and good service people was, my renter never raised his voice —not even once. In fact he apologized for bothering me and guiltily said maybe they were bad luck.
No way. Love this renter! My house was built in the 1930’s and sh***t happens in old houses.
In summary, here’s what I learned last week that you need to have at the ready when renting your home.
- You must have a friend like Bob, who will run over at 9 pm on a Wednesday night and check on the problem…even if the result is only reassurance for yourself and the renter.
- You must have a good accessible virtual rolodex of service people.
- You must only rent to kind and patient people. You need to meet them on the phone. If they sound too fussy or needy…forget about it.
- You must assume things will go wrong. Do not be deluded like I was after the first experience. Just because it worked out perfectly…this is not the norm.
- You have to be a first responder. Do not wait to fix things that go wrong. People are in your home and you aren’t there. Fix everything that’s broken if you are asked to do so. Everyone will be happier.