I was so tired this morning I turned off my alarm clock and rolled back over for an extra 30 minutes. Arthur drank my coffee, that SOB.
My husband and I were so frustrated with the mess our last tenants left, we had thought about taking part of the rental off the market. It’s a house with a little “mother in law” unit attached to the garage. The woman who had lived in it had not cleaned it, apparently at all, for about a year and a half. As I stood in the little kitchen staring at food spills running down the walls, my husband suggested we try renting the house by itself, take a year or so to do some serious upgrades in the studio. I immediately realized, this would mean I wouldn’t have to clean the slophouse right away, and agreed.
The woman who’d lived in the house had a cleaner lifestyle. Things that could be seen by the casual visitor had been kept very nice, but anything hidden was a mess – the toilets, the stove, kitchen cabinets, even the dishwasher. But things I’ve always had to wash after other tenants – walls, ceilings, light fixtures – all clean. It was a weird turnover, I ended up giving her entire deposit back because I hadn’t taken a good look at the studio. If I had it to do over again, I’d stick her sister pretty good.
We put the house up by itself, quite a monster, an old “ranch style rambler” with big rooms, and a wrap around yard. We included the garage, but didn’t know what to say about the mother in law unit. We were surprised how much interest we got – but nobody we could rent to. Almost every one of them came up with a dog, and the remainder either had horrible credit or no rental experience at all. One kid had just been arrested a month previous for minor in possession – landlady’s worst nightmare! Worst of all – the ones that checked out okay took a look but never called us back – we realized, people thought the studio was a separate rental, and they didn’t want it sitting there. They thought we would move somebody in on them.
So, a couple of weeks ago, we decided to get to work on the studio, skip the more serious upgrades we had been planning, just do some superficial stuff. We replaced the bathroom vanity and all the fixtures in the bathroom, all original from the 50’s, and pretty beat up. The vanity was one of those plywood jobs with the gold paint trim and that ugly sink with the fake gold dust. The towel bars, toilet paper hanger and light switch covers looked like they’d been stripped out of a single wide trailer sitting alongside Hwy 70. The shower and toilet still looked good enough, but we replaced the faucets and shower head. A new vinyl floor and paint, and wow, the bathroom has made it to the year 2016.
We had lived in that studio for eight months with two small kids when we bought the place, 20 years ago. It was ugly, but sentiment has kept me from seeing what it really looked like. Some old things are charming, other old things – regardless of functionality – are just plain crappy and need to be replaced once in a while.
I told my husband, next time we have that unit empty, we do the same thing in the kitchen. The wood cabinets that were stylish when it was built are old and starting to stink inside. I do my best every time we clean the place, but I can’t get that “old” smell out of those cabinets. Landlady has to stay on top of the market, with all these people losing their ass on their over-done houses and going into the landlord business. It’s tough to compete with granite counter tops and pergo floors. We’ve made our niche “affordability”. We’re not out there to get rich, but we aren’t a charity either. We have to run our rental business like a business – something the public sector hasn’t figured out yet.
The other niche we’ve made is, our rentals are clean. So, at 9am I will be scrubbing the slop off walls and baseboards – Landlady Landlady Landlady cleaning up the meeeeesssss!