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Summer Rental: No pain, no gain!

Being a summer landlord requires good organization, discipline and hard work.

Well, it's June, and for those of us who rent out our Martha's Vineyard summer homes, it's time to get cracking!

When we bought our Oak Bluffs house near the Lagoon five years ago, my intent was never to rent it out. We had gone though some rental agony with our prior residence, a condominium at Matakeeset in Katama, and after seeing some damage and stolen objects and the management's constant demands for our unit, I vowed, "Never, again!"

I guess the old adage "never say never" holds true, for once again, we rent out our house via a rental agency on the Island for about eight weeks a year. With the economy the way it is, and my being at a transition point between businesses (I sold my business in 2009 and plan to open another this year), it only made sense for us to rent out our summer residence. It is indeed a cash cow!

We actually do reserve a week in July for ourselves, but then do not come back for our own purposes until September—after Labor Day, which is our favorite season on Martha's Vineyard anyway.

Bookings for rental activity starts late in December (although some folks book again for next year right after their week has ended) and continue to grow over January, February and March. This year was a very good one for bookings, so I hope that is a harbinger for a good economic up-turn for the Island! The rental company is very efficient and easy to work with, and I don't mind the fee in the least.

Now comes the time to do the house preparation, which requires carpet cleaning, curtain washing, a deep house-cleaning and ridding (as best as possible) of all those winter webs that have accumulated and great one as she walks across the threshold! For anybody who lives in a woodsy retreat, you know that spider webs are a way of life. It's also a time to bring over all those necessary cleaning supplies: soaps, laundry detergent and linens that will do heavy duty all summer. And don't forget the Damp-Rid! In this Island environment, homeowners are constant battling mold, so dehumidifiers, products like Damp-Rid and good old bleach for mold-prone surfaces are in high demand. Our house is pretty good on that score. Usually, its the vinyl doors that get the mold growth, and a good yearly scrubbing will do the trick.

During the season, I will traverse the waters between Falmouth and Martha's Vineyard about six times in order to do a whirlwind cleaning in between renters. Sometimes I will have a four-hour time span to do it all in, and other times I will be able to stay overnight and clean at my leisure. I have the car-boat-bus down to a science, and will disembark from the first boat of the day directly on to the waiting bus Number 13, which deposits me a short distance from my house. I do not bring my car for these cleaning junkets, as it would cost a fortune.

The reason I insist on cleaning my own house is that I am the only one who knows that house like the back of my hand. I want to make sure that no damage has occurred. And if something is askance, I want to address it so that the next tenant does not have a problem. Since people are on vacation, I want their experience to be seamless! If I hired a cleaning company, they would never be able to tell. So call me obsessive-compulsive; but to me, its worth the effort for everybody.

The evolution of how to go through and clean and re-make beds is learned by trial and error. Over time you learn how long you should spend on each task, so as not to be in a panic. I used to go in and wash the sheets straightaway and replace them on the beds, but now I keep a revolving sheet supply and take the dirty ones with me to wash at leisure. Otherwise I will be sitting at the eleventh hour waiting for those sheets to go through the dryer and they always seem to be on slow-motion.

The craziest part of this, my self-induced torture, is taking the garbage to the dump. Since I don't bring my car, I have to consolidate the tenant's week's worth of trash into as few bags as possible, put my florescent dump stickers in place, finish up everything and then call a taxi to take me to first, the dump and second, the ferry. I am always praying that the tenants didn't leave too many stinky, overflowing bags. The taxi drivers are always good-natured about doing this exercise and kindly even help with the bags. (God bless them!)

In the hot summer, the prospect of going to do a three-hour cleaning and to-and-fro ferry trip in a short span of time may seem daunting, but this is my way. Call me crazy, but maybe I feel the need to reassure my sweet little house (that I adore and hope to retire to someday) that Mommy's still here and watching over things. We've been fortunate and have had respectful tenants, so its been "all good".

As a reward to myself, having worn my bathing suit to clean, once I get over to Woods Hole, I will take a dip in the waters of the wonderful, tepid waters of Stoney Beach in Falmouth. After that, I will grab a delicious-something-to-eat at one of Woods Hole's delightfully, salty pubs before getting in my car to head home.

Yes, it is exhausting and draining, but well worth the trouble. A Martha'sVineyard rental home is an investment in money, time and energy—and the more you put into it, the better it will serve you!

Holly Nadler June 11, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Julie, as someone who used to book summer rentals for a living, you are the dream homeowner. The worst were usually men -- no offense, guys -- who just don't see the dirt or understand that that you need to throw out that rusty cheese grater and remove those grey boxers from under the bed. I also once had a lady homeowner who stored her future coffin under her high antique bed, and this didn't sit well with the tenants, although they did admit they were relieved there was no corpse in it! Lots of grief when stuff went wrong, but all of that changed to good stories down the line . . .
Lorelai Morton July 06, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Damp-Rid helped me out at my house to dehumidify the air. Definitely a must have! They have really great deals on their site, I bought a ton of the closet hangers for all the closets in my house, it was like $30 to fill all my closets, and i got free shipping. such a good thing to check out at www.damprid.com

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