07 October, 2008

Our First Year as Landlords, Part 1

Whew! It's been a very hectic week. I apologize for the lack of any sort of blogging, but we've been busy little worker bees.

It's hard to believe, but it's already been a year since we moved out of the condo and rented it to a group of 22 year olds. It was a risky venture, and we were a little nervous to discover what condition they would leave it in upon check out. While they seemed like clean cut kids and their credit and jobs checked out, we heard from the other owners in the building that our tenants would sometimes have loud parties (no surprise, they're fresh out of college) and--perhaps most unforgivable--they befriended the only other tenants in the building, who were also 22. Two flats of younguns, twice the chaos--especially when they began to date one another. Drama, drama, drama.

I can't really get upset about the partying or socializing, however, as long as they respond to neighbors' requests to keep down the noise and take it inside when necessary, and not destroy our place or the yard. I've attended some very noisy and disruptive parties in that building in owner-occupied units, so it's hypocritical, I think, to take on a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude.

Of the six units in the building, two are rentals, including ours, which is on the top floor. The other owners who are renting out their unit bought it strictly as an investment, with plans to flip it. Silly them. Flipping condos like that is not the smartest of investments to begin with, and with the real estate market tanking these last few years, I'm sure they're losing money. We've only met those owners once; they're very much absentee landlords. They've never lived in the unit, they pay their assessments late, don't show up for meetings, and don't respond to their tenants let alone to any of the other owners. They make renting out our unit more difficult, because a lot of the frustration and resentment other owners may feel about there even being rentals in the first place (there was no rule in our condo docs against it) gets dumped on our shoulders. In other words, we get a lot of general snarkiness thrown our way, even though our tenants are behaving themselves.

Anyway, our tenants--BFFs from college--decided they a) didn't want to live together anymore and b) wanted to move to Lincoln Park or Lake View, two Chicago neighborhoods chock full of other twenty-somethings and a booming nightlife. So we needed to find new tenants for the unit.

We did the usual advertising on Craig's List, and got a smattering of applicants. Overall, not as many as we hoped for, particularly as October 1st is the second-busiest moving day in Chicago. Our best guess is that with the economy, people aren't switching apartments much. In fact, I noticed that the streets weren't clogged with rental moving trucks like they usually are this time of year. We also listed the unit with Apartment Finders and other such services; they didn't bring us a single applicant, which is just as well, since the fee for finding someone is one month's rent. Sure, they do the credit checks and employment checks, but that's very steep.

We did eventually find another trio to take over the occupancy. They are older than our last group, closer to thirty, and are more laid back and low key. I'm more comfortable with this group overall.

I'm dragging a bit tonight, as I spent the day at Mom's house painting--and this after a rather party-harty sort of weekend to celebrate Ted's 40th birthday. So I'll chronicle the condo's condition in tomorrow's post, the kinds of things we discovered and surprises we encountered after we checked them out, and what we did/will do differently this time around for the new group. All in all, this first year has served as an excellent trial run for landlording.

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