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How to Pay Your Monthly Mortgage in One Weekend

I started seriously entertaining the idea of buying a second home in upstate New York (as if I own a first one) after agreeing to rent this place in Accord, N.Y. for a holiday weekend with friends. That’s right, we are collectively paying $1,300 for four days in an upstate New York rental house:  a mid-60s place with a ping-pong table, outdoor fireplace and a pond. (In our defense, we decided to do this late in the game and there weren’t a lot of choices left–and the place is very nice.)

I looked this Accord, N.Y. house up on Property Shark and found that the owners bought it for $160,000 in 1999. Even if their down payment was small and they renovated, a weekend rental surely covers the monthly mortgage (to rent it for a month is  a whopping $8,000!). And there must be thousands of nincompoops like me who will pay top dollar to get out of the heat. Upstater’s own Alia rents her place out to non-nincompoops on VRBO to help pay the mortgage and it works.

If you’re thinking that the market is still soft up there, take note: this house is currently assessed at $620,000! I can’t imagine anyone paying that much for it, but then again I never thought I’d pay this much for a weekend in the country. So this reaffirms my search for a vacation house upstate–it will save me a whole lot of money on rent.

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.

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