We’re shoveling money into this house we’re building in Mérida. Should we expect the house to give us some of our money back? I’m talking about renting. Renting our lovely, new house that we will have barely touched, trusting its pristine countertops and freshly plastered walls, to strangers. So should we do it or not? Some houses in town are going for thousands per week.
There seems to be a glut of houses for rent in the Centro, but the last time I tried to book one last minute, it was hard to find availability. So it’s tempting to offer the future Casa Nana to renters, if it does mean Casa Nana will come to us a little pre-lived-in. These big concrete houses may seem indestructible, but a careless tenant can sure leave a mark.
Lots of people seem to rent homes out with no problem. They have a good system going, with a trusted property manager in place and a listing at VRBO and FlipKey. Our friend up on the Cape introduced us to FlipKey just as we started considering a second property in 2010. She rents a cute little cottage in Truro, Mass., one of those tiny little things you see lined up like soldiers along the bay as you enter Provincetown. People seem to love staying in them as it gives you the most up-close beach access possible. But she lives a half-hour away, and watching over things isn’t so easy. She’s loaded the cottage with little decorative objects, tchotchkes if you will, and I’m sure she does an inventory check every time someone checks out. As a former probation officer, she has no problem monitoring the situation, I’m sure.
But we’re far away from Casa Nana. My ability to supervise things is stretched quite bit.
And then the tenants. I heard of one owner who was confronted by an angry tenant who wanted a rent reduction because of all the ants in the kitchen. Of course, they had been leaving dirty dishes to pile up in the sink. Other renters can do more serious and permanent damage to your furnishings. One of our architects says that after you’ve increased your costs to run a rental operation (the manager gets a cut and you need more gardening and cleaning services) you make very little (or nothing) in the end. And yet many people do it, setting up firm expectations between the parties and executing their duties as landlords with professionalism and polish. They probably also don’t furnish the house with any heirlooms. Maybe a rental house should be built as a rental house, furnished with things that you know will get nicked and scratched.
Not quite a Spring Break mecca, Mérida doesn’t really invite destructive party-hearty tenants, if I may generalize recklessly. Doesn’t the city attract more quiet, introspective people? So maybe the culture here shifts the odds in my favor. And after a few years of reading the social media threads, I remember very few posts from frustrated landlords. More likely I’ll read posts from unhappy tenants where the homeowner (me) is the bad guy.