• Cape Cod House Watch

Lawns, Linoleum and Lysol

On the heels of hinting around the upsides of getting your rental in order sooner than later, I thought it only appropriate to lend some specific insights to streamlining the heavy lifting.

Back in 98’ my home-watch business fell in my lap via a favor for a customer. Since then, I’ve always been appreciative of having grown the business rather than jumping in and learning and adjusting on the fly. It wasn’t long ago when the rental side of the second home equation began in quite the same way. In the spirit of full disclosure, I hadn’t fully embraced the change over process when I found myself in burning up a half hour in traffic between Snows and Nauset Heights. That said, the rental base has since grown and the experience as been tremendous. While I have a number of watch customers that run year round and suspend service during occupancy, I’ve always acted in a stand-by capacity for rentals whether they exercised a change-over check or not.

The most interesting component of the change-over day is the speed and coordination dynamic. More often than not, landscape maintenance is plugged in during weekdays when most renters are out. The big push on a change-over is housekeeping and by extension, recreating the setting the previous renters walked into. In regards to change over checks, I adopt a number of tasks that are outside the cleaner’s scope. These duties range from checking propane reserves, re-aligning deck furniture, hosing down decks and patios, key delivery and so on; a far cry from pushing snow and checking the furnace.

While each home is just as different in-season as out, foresight and preparation often keep surprises and high blood pressure at bay. More often than not, renters or agents will call with small issues that may have been resolved before the renter picked up the phone. Savvy home owners will keep common items such as light bulbs and reserve grill tanks on hand. Others stock a closet with a keyed lock which may contain additional items in bulk such as batteries, complimentary soaps and shampoos for the outdoor shower, drip pans for grills, outdoor table cloths, etc. In these cases, I, or housekeeping, will access the closet on change over’s as needed.

As mentioned in a previous post, our watch customers that rent get an annual jump start on the season in that we will turn on the water and irrigation coordinate the initial cleaning and landscaping and even switch out smoke and carbon monoxide batteries as we cycle out of the watch season. In some cases, this is the time of year where decks may be resealed, screens replaced and seasonal upgrades such as towel bars or taking delivery of deck and interior furnishings occur. Finally, stay cool. This is a good time to have the central air serviced or test drive window units. It’s also a good idea to keep a few fans on hand in the unlikely event renters encounter an issue with the AC or forget to bring their own. Anyone with children is probably well aware of the powers of white noise when trying to get the little ones down.

Now that you’ve scrubbed, clipped squeegeed, stocked and booked, I truly believe that the rental process and any resolution necessary along the way are only as smooth as the house binder. These come in all shapes and sizes and are typically filled with area menus, maps and various points of interest and serve as the center piece on the coffee table tastefully surrounded by guidebooks and local magazines.

At the front of each binder, plug in a contact sheet with brief overview should something go sideways. Some owners will also post a primary point of contact on the frig along with the check out time, landscape schedule and trash pickup along with any specific instructions. I’m a big fan of the frig approach as it sends the message that you’re not only concerned with the renter’s experience but also the home.

More often than not, renters will call me or the booking agent directly. I’ve seen some binders where a laundry list of preferred service providers is indicated and time after time, renters will throw a dart at the best possible match. The confusion is often compounded if the particular vendor is tied up or simply missed the call. Pick one point of contact for renters to reach. This is a two way street as the home owner is getting information as needed from the same source. With sound preparation and a solid supporting cast with one conductor, your summer rental season should be drama free save for the occasional torn screen.