I don’t have a second home for the same reason I don’t have a second husband. I can barely keep up with what I have. But I have many friends who are more capable than I am, including her friend Avril Wood and her husband Bill. They own another house on the ski slopes and rent it out about 120 days a year.
Avril sent an email after reading my column on tableware replacement. After nearly 30 years of regular use, I was running out of forks.
“Fork is the first thing going to a rental house,” she said in an email.
Out of curiosity, I called her to find out what else people who rent villas have to contend with. This is a really advanced issue.
“I had this dream of decorating a vacation for me and my family,” Avril said of the 1800-square-foot, three-bedroom and loft Big Bear Lake Cabin, which the family has owned for nearly 25 years. But Bill taught me a long time ago to get rid of my mind.
Wood is no real estate novice. They own dozens of rental properties in several states, lived in and furnished by others. But it’s totally different from renting your own villa.
“Why can’t I be emotional about my home?” I asked.
“I’m not putting my heart and soul into it anymore,” she said. “That way, I won’t get upset if something goes missing.” Her goal is to attract good tenants and sometimes decorate the villa nicely enough to enjoy herself, but with replacement in mind. It’s also about decorating at an affordable price.
Here are some of her tips.
Attrition plan. Blankets, TV remotes, pots and pans will all go missing, so make a budget. “Every time I visit the cabin, I inspect the plates and wine glasses for what’s missing and then immediately go to her dollar store,” she said. “I was kind and stocked the kitchen with buggies and aluminum foil, but no one ever replaced them.” I keep it.
Prepare for mysterious disappearances. For the Wood family, it’s the bedspread. “It’s the strangest thing,” she said. “Either the renter takes it, or the cleaner takes it to the laundry and never returns it. I never know. She stopped buying nice down-filled duvets and now Buy discounted bedspreads online at Eddie Bauer.
Please use the management company. The Woods live nearly two hours away, so they have a property manager oversee their rental arrangements. The management company takes care of the leasing agreement, keys, cleaners, minor repairs and pocket his 35% of the rental fee. Woods gets the rest. The company also offers some protection. Recently, when a tenant bought a new vacuum cleaner, the management company tracked down the culprit and dealt with it.
prevent wear and tear. Avril had purchased a decorative area rug to lay over the wooden floors in the entrance and living area. Now she’s using a big black rubber mat. “Lots of snowy muddy boots walking around here in the winter and wet sand kids that were in the lake in the summer. Ruined the carpet,” she said. It’s not pretty, but the rubber mat is durable, protects the wooden floor, and is non-slip and safe. Additionally, she chose well-made furniture upholstered in durable fabrics.
Hug the bed in the box. Where there are three or more bedrooms, she said, add the beds together. Decent mattresses cost her between $1,000 and $3,000 and are bulky to carry around. Here’s her solution: Compressed mattresses are easy to deliver and fit nicely into existing box springs.
Prepare for relocation. “I just don’t understand why tenants think they can redecorate themselves,” she said. “They don’t just decide the plates and bowls are on the other side of the kitchen. They move the furniture.” One group moved her table from the kitchen to her living room in an eight-seat kitchen. Did. Another carried a heavy double her dresser from the upstairs bedroom to her upstairs bedroom. Both parties left the furniture where it was moved. Perhaps the strangest change was when Tennant took a small appetizer plate from the cupboard and hung it on the wall.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save and What to Let Go. Contact her at www.marnijameson.com.