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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rental pool: Never underestimate your circle of friends

Tom Kelly

A former neighbor, Edith Ekert, once said the best way to fill her vacation cabin near a popular ski lift with responsible families was to insert a notice in the weekend church bulletin. When I used her tip in my newspaper column, several interesting responses trickled in. Not all of them concurred with Edith nor suggested targeted internet searches.

“Let’s face it,” one elderly gentleman wrote. “Not everybody around here goes to church. Or, they can’t read the weekend bulletin.’’

Edith was all about a local connection, if not a known party then a friend of a friend, to occupy her place when her out-of-state adult children could not fit a trip into their busy schedules. She hated the task of thoroughly screening tenants to choose the ones who stood the best chance of safe guarding her investment. Her rental philosophy brings up a few points that are often underestimated.

Local following: More people know about you and your home than you realize. They will want to rent your place because they know you and like what you like, including your preferences in furnishings and constant upkeep of maintenance and care. Good friends usually make good renters. People like Edith take comfort in renting to friends (or friends of friends) because they’ll usually treat your place with care—and often leave it in better condition than you left it. If you feel skittish about renting to strangers, there might be a local contingent of acquaintances that can fill your open dates. Get the word out (church, kids games, office cafeteria) that you have made your getaway available when your family is not using it. Also, bulk is best. Rent by the month, or season. It will lessen cleaning, maintenance and extend the life of your favorite Berber carpet.

Are you a people person? Do you have the time, and patience, to field online inquiries and calls from potential applicants? Check the costs of hiring a local rental manager who often arrives with solid, reliable leads. Good managers can be worth an entire season’s commission by quickly handling an emergency. While some managers will require exclusive rental contracts for specific seasons, others will allow you to fill in the dates you want for personal use or have promised to friends.

Off-limits space: Whether you rent to friends or strangers, don’t forget to keep a locked closet or storage area, for your supplies and favorite possessions—like grandma’s hand-knitted blanket or prized water ski you want no one else using. It’s also a good idea to load up on extra essentials and keep them close so you, or your manager, can quickly replace things like light bulbs or cutlery before the next guests arrive. You want renters to return and nothing’s a bigger turn-off than having only three plates and two forks.

There are several other considerations, however, to ponder before letting anybody use your place. Start with, do you mind the hassle of leaving it ready for somebody else? Will the renters really honor your request for no pets? Are you strict enough to say no when they plead that old Fido never sheds one hair and never makes noise?

If you are renting to someone you already know, the chances are you probably won’t sign a rental agreement. One of the most important things to do is try and set some ground rules before they move in. Discuss any issues (broken pipes, best place to park the boat trailer, nasty lifeguard at the pool) that you think could arise while they occupy your place. Preparation always helps prevent some awkward situations down the road.

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