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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Lessons from Owners of Vacation Rental Rentals | Recreation/Living

Lessons from Owners of Vacation Rental Rentals | Recreation/Living

I don’t have a second home for the same reason I don’t have a second husband. I can barely keep up with one. But I have many friends who are more able than I am, including my friend Avril Wood, who with her (only) husband, Bill Wood, owns a second home in the ski area that they rent out about 120 days a year.

Avril Wood emailed me after reading my column on changing dishes. After nearly 30 years of regular use, I’m running out of forks.

“The forks were the first to enter the rental,” she said in an email. “I have to replace mine every year.”

“Someone stole your fork?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s not all!” she said.

Out of curiosity, I called her to find out what else people who rent out their vacation homes — and this is really a first-world problem — have to deal with.

“I used to dream about decorating our resort for me and my family,” she says of the 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom plus loft cottage she and her husband own in Big Bear Lake, California. Almost 25 years. “But Bill taught me a long time ago to let go. Once I detach my emotions, I’m fine.”

The Woodses are not new to real estate. They own dozens of rental properties, homes that other people live in and decorate in several states. But it’s quite different from renting out a vacation home, where you furnish yourself and live in it occasionally. The latter case is close to home.

“How can you not be emotionally attached to your house?” I asked.

“I’m no longer fully committed to it,” she said. “That way I don’t feel bad when something gets lost.”

Her goal is to decorate the vacation home beautifully enough to attract good tenants and enjoy it occasionally, while furnishing it at an affordable price, taking into account replacement costs.

“I don’t spend as much in this place as I used to. Because restocking is tied to geography, I’ve learned some cheap shortcuts.” Here are some of those lessons:

Downsizing plan: Blankets, TV remotes, pots and pans — they’re gone, she said. Budget. “Every time I visit the cabin, I check what’s missing from the plates and glasses and go straight to the dollar store,” she said. “I used to be kind enough to keep bags and aluminum foil in the kitchen, but no one ever changed them.” Now, she keeps kitchen supplies and other personal items in rubber buckets in a locked closet.

Expect the mysterious disappearance: For her, it’s the bedspread. “It was the weirdest thing,” she said. “Either the tenants took them, or the cleaning crew took them to wash and didn’t return them. I’ll never know. Instead of buying cute duvets, she’s now buying comforters online at Eddie Bauer at a discount.

Use management company: Because Woods lives nearly two hours away, they have a property manager who oversees the rental arrangements. The management company handles the lease agreement, keys, cleaning staff and minor repairs. For this, they get 35% of the rent. Woods gets a break. The company also offers some protection. Recently, a tenant took away a new vacuum cleaner, and the management company tracked down the matter.

avoid wear and tear: While Avril Wood used to buy decorative rugs to cover the wood floors in the entry and living areas, now she uses a large black rubber underlayment. “There’s a lot of snow, muddy boots in the winter and wet sandy kids in the lake in the summer. The carpet is ruined,” she said. While not as pretty, the rubber mats are durable, protect her wood floors, and are safer because they don’t slip. Additionally, she chose well-crafted furniture upholstered in durable fabrics.

Hugging a bed in a box: In a place with three or more bedrooms, the beds add up, she said. A decent mattress can cost between $1,000 and $3,000 and can be bulky to transport. Her solution: “I went to Costco and bought a box bed for $500 to $700. A compression mattress made labor easier.” She put the new mattress on top of her existing box spring.

Support for rescheduling: “I’ll never understand why tenants think they can come to my house and redecorate,” she said. “They don’t just decide that the plates and bowls should be on the other side of the kitchen; they move the furniture.”

One group moved her dining table for eight from the kitchen to the living room by the window. Another moved a heavy double dresser from an upstairs bedroom to a downstairs bedroom, a feat that required two strong men to pull off. Both parties left the furniture where they moved it.

In perhaps the strangest change, one of the tenants took small plates from a cupboard to hang on the wall. People have nerves.

Marni Jameson is the author of six family and lifestyle books.she can be in www.marnijameson.com.

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