When you open your heart to a stranger, you have welcomed another heart into your home.
—Anthony T. Hincks
As July fades to August we summer residents get the uneasy feeling that summer is slowly beginning to fade and we begin to count the weeks, then days before it’s time to leave the summer house.
For the past couple of summers, as we have been called away for work, we decided to rent the summer house. Many of our friends and neighbors do and they have had great luck. With great trepidation, I decided to take the plunge into these uncharted waters and rent for three weekends and one week during the summer. Minimal amount of time as to not miss too much!
I researched the online sites and spoke to local realtors who handle rentals. I took pictures of the house and we even named the house.
I listed on HomeAway and Airbnb, along with two fantastic local realtors. I became inundated with calls. We listed in January and by February, were booked for the summer. We also received inquiries about May and June rentals for bridal parties.
That first year I painstakingly prepared for our “guests.” I supplied sheets, blankets, and towels, and handled most of the cleaning myself. I was flexible with our check-in and check-out times. People liked being able to rent for a weekend, which we could do with the online sites—which was great because we could be up all week. With the realtors, they required a weekly booking.
The anticipation of the first guests’ arrival grew into total nervousness. Do I really want strangers in my home, sleeping in our beds, using our dishes, et cetera?
Okay, by this point I took one last walk through the summer house making sure everything was perfect and placed the key under the mat. I was in full panic mode! I had recently read some horror stories about what went on in houses that were rented online and as I took one last look I thought, “My God, what have I done?”
Should I hide behind my hedge for the hour before check-in so I could at least check these strangers out that were coming into my home for the weekend?
I didn’t. I very slowly drove out of my street, not before stopping my neighbor and telling him, “If you see a big out-of-control party going on at my house, call me! Please! Thank You!”
Needless to say, there was no wild party. The guests were wonderful and left beautiful flowers behind with a lovely note saying, “The summerhouse was beautiful” and that they went to the beach, rode in the canoe, ate lobster and took outdoor showers but, most importantly, they spent the best time together as a family before their oldest son got married in two weeks.
I will say, for the most part, doing this for two summers now, I no loner feel I need to hide in my hedge to check out who is staying at the house. We have had some of the most wonderful guests, all with great stories to share after their time in our home.
The summer house in all its glory, welcomes guests so they can create lasting memories on the Cape.
I have learned quite a bit about renting since the first year, which has made the experience much easier. For one, I now use a service called Auntie Vi that supplies all the linen, towels and blankets. Everything is awaiting the guests upon their arrival and is picked up at checkout. I also have a great housekeeper that cleans before the guests arrive and right after they leave.
I now list with two fantastic realtors; it is basically a turnkey for the homeowner. They handle housekeeping and linens. They arrange for key drop and pickup and they also screen guests very carefully and take an insurance deposit.
As far as HomeAway and Airbnb, they are starting to change a bit. You used to be able to screen your guests and exchange e-mails and phone numbers. They no longer do that so it makes it a bit less transparent. You are always in control of how many you rent to and rules such as no smoking, no pets policies, and that it is not a party house. They have insurance. With HomeAway you get half the rental payment upon booking and the balance a few weeks before guests check in. Basically the same for realtors. Airbnb you get paid the day after check-in. You decide on what you want to rent for. As far as paying taxes on renting, you are allowed to rent for 14 days tax-free.
All in all, I will say it has been a really nice experience and a great way to supplement caring for a second home; however, the most important thing has been meeting so many wonderful people that call the summer house home—if only for a brief time—but they experience all the joy and beauty we all cherish so much about our beloved Cape Cod.