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Be Your Own Rental Agent

We rent out our home fairly regularly to city folks looking for an escape, which has proven very helpful in covering the cost of our mortgage. As mentioned, the Upstate sellers’ market is really depressed, but it’s a great time to rent a property out at below-the-Hamptons rates. We get requests for our place all year through, and I know the other folks on our mountain who rent out their homes are just as booked.

We don’t use a rental agent, and we’ve found that we don’t really need one. We list our property on VRBO (worth the modest investment) and if things get slow, we post on Craigslist. We keep the keys in a lock box and periodically change the combination. I try to meet each renter in person to sign the rental agreement and exchange money, and I think this helps with the trust factor on both ends. For the most part, everyone we rent to either lives or works in Manhattan, so these face-to-face meet-ups have been easy enough to arrange. We’ve hired a local woman to clean the house after guests leave, and quickly learned that it’s best not to itemize the cleaning fee: that seems to be an excuse for guests not to clean up after themselves, so we just work it into the rental rate. We also hired Bud from down the road to mow the lawn in the summer and plow the drive in the winter. Hiring a neighbor came with an unexpected bonus: Bud calls us if anything seems amiss, and he’s even helped tenants out in a pinch with minor repairs.

Handling all the rental details yourself has another advantage: I think the more personal the touch, the more renters respect the property. Our house is a family home, and more than one renter mentioned that this was part of the appeal of our little place, which is really nothing fancy but clearly well loved.

Hit us up if you have any questions about renting out your own home for short-term stays.

Bungalow Envy: Lake Huntington Edition

In August of 2001, I dragged 15 New Yorkers up to Liberty, N.Y. to look at a bungalow colony for sale: 19 buildings, a weedy pool, 17 acres, which would have required each of us to put up $5,000. Yes, it’s the one (or the 19) that got away, if only because the real estate agent gave us bad directions and we never found it. The next week I took off for grad school in Arizona, and the bungalow colony dream died.

Or, rather, it slept. But in the last few years I’ve become aware that the dream is actually alive and well, with a number of bungalow colonies thriving Upstate. Most of them seem to be in Sullivan County, a fair drive west of the Hudson, which isn’t the best location for me, as it’s far from my brother in Tivoli (aka Shangri-la). Still, this one intrigues me. The Lake Huntington Summer Community, self-described as “a warm weather redoubt for generations of city dwellers looking for a fun, relaxing, affordable vacation,” has all that I dream of in a communal-ish vacation scheme. There’s the, you know, lake, plus a pool, woods and fields, tennis and tree houses, privacy and community, both, with emphasis on community. You can rent a place for as little as $650 a week, although the ones with the word “quiet” in the description give me pause about the potential loudness of the others. Read the rest of this entry

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