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Our rental home, lessons learned

Real Estate Agent with Team Momentum Keller Williams Realty Tacoma

From Anna Matsunaga, Team Momentum Keller Williams Realty 253 212 1252



I am a firm believer that regardless of what happens good or bad that there are valuable lessons to be learned from everything.  Well our rental home that just vacated is a good example.

Our renter had been there just about 5 years.  Good overall rental history, only late 3 times during the almost 5 years and always paid in the end.  However there were issues towards the end.  In the beginning there were two room mates, but one of them had a major stroke and ended up in a nursing home.  From there with out our knowledge initally the remaining renter brought in a new room mate we did not get to screen. 

Lots of things happened that violated the lease...smoking in the house, working on vehicles on the property, junk piling up on the property and no longer caring for the yard since the junk made it impossible.  It's hard though as a land lord to boot a tenant that is a consistent payer and it can be very difficult to get some one out even when they have violated the lease....so we did not push.  ( and maybe we should have)  Hind sight is 20/20.


So now we are in the middle of getting the house ready for our next renter ( who wanted to move in as soon as these ones moved out, but the place is not ready so we are losing rent $!)  I think it is extra hard for us with this house since we have emotional attachment to it.  See it was our home for over 10 years.  We redid the whole thing ourselves, took most of it to the dump a piece at time and redid it.  New drywall, new lighting, new bath, new kitchen and new windows, new roof and so much more.  We re-landscaped the whole yard  One of our children was BORN in the house....

When we got in to the house after the renters left we found lots of things damaged, nicotine on the walls, ceilings everywhere.  Of course we have to clean it up, but all of us are sick now from doing it.....there are literally TONS and TONS or garbage left on the property.

So how does something positive come from this?

Well, I think what I learned will help me avoid issues in the future for one.  I also think there are some great lessons for my children in the whole thing.

**As we were spending the 2nd day in a row scrubbing nicotine off of the walls (mind you this house is under 800sf)  my son says to me ( he is doing the ceilings and  a lot of the walls too) " Mom this stuff is gross!"  I agree with him of course, even though he is fussing a bit from the pain of repetitive motion..."If it does this to the inside of a HOUSE what does it do to the inside of a PERSON?"  I am glad it got him thinking, smoking is a habit I hope anyone I love or even like a little bit can avoid.  So one lesson my children are learning is how bad that smoking is. 

**Later in the day on Sunday ( our 3rd day of working) my husband spots 2 young men walking down the road with a lawn mower on the way back from a run for more supplies and asks them if they are mowing lawns for people.  They say yes and we hire them on the spot to mow the very over grown lawn.  It is scorching hot out at this point but they come and get it done right away.  One of them is older than the other, he tells us that he has 2 kids and one on the way,  he is working along with his teen aged brother in law.  We are impressed that they are willing to work and I must say that I am impressed that the older of the 2 is willing to go out and ask for work often reserved for kids in order to do what it takes to care for his family.  ( I am guessing a job loss is in his recent past, he is clean cut and articulate)  I think this is a good reminder, if you are in trouble, roll up your sleeves, go to work and don't be too proud.  My son asks if that is something he can do for work when he is little older and I am glad it got him thinking. ( If you live in the Fern Hill area, let me know if you want their phone # to have them do work for you too)

**As we are working on the house I am reminded of the tender loving care my husband put into the house while we lived there.  A real expression of his love for our family and I can't help but be reminded how much I appreciate him.  I also am reminded of lots of time we spent there and many wonderful memories are coming back to me as I paint the trim through out the house.  ( one of the jobs I can manage to do with my very very pregnant belly) 

**It is nice to see our old neighbors more again.  I get to observe one of the longest time residents with their kids and grand kids for a family gathering.  ( I remember when they were still little kids!)  I hope that our family does the same when our children are grown, all meeting together and spending time together and I remind myself that more than the money we make the connections with our spiritual life and family life are so much more valued.

** I also learn that we all really work well together as a team and that little tiny children can be hard workers ( Ok I knew that, but I had not ever seen a 3 year old put in a 10+ hour day and work pretty much the whole time.)  Our youngest painted walls and doors, scrubbed hardwood floors, cleaned up paint drips on the floor, picked up half a yard of grass clippings and was our little runner who broght us things.  She was so proud that when I took her with me to the office on Monday and people asked her what she did over the weekend, she missed mentioning the party she had and she told everyone " I worked on the rental house"

**I really love my family, when I see them all working together, Chlo'e working all day and helping with her sister with no complaint, Sam doing really hard work and doing it well, Joeleah well, doing things you would think she would need to be a few years older to do, I feel really blessed with my children.  Watching my husband repair the place and making sure it is a nice place for the next family makes me feel very proud of him ( mind you he's been working 12-16 hour days on the house for 3 days in a row, and yesterday we worked until 1am after a full day of work for both of us!)  I am proud to be part of a hard working family that does all they can to do the right thing.

I can't wait to have the house finished up so that it looks like it did when we left it!

^^^^From a Real Estate prospective, what would I do differently?

My lease would be even tighter and I would object as soon as I saw the lease being violated.

I would not assume the inside was being cared for, I would do an inspection @ least every 3 months.

I would get a higher deposite.

I would begin to advertise it for rent as soon as I saw issues with the current renters ( even if I really liked them like I did with the primary renter this time)

I won't stop making my houses nice before anyone moves in, I think I get a better renter that way and I want to provide good housing to any one living in one of my houses.

Lots of people are worried about renting to people with kids and dogs....I think that these folks likely make better and more stable renters in many cases since they need to provide a safe, clean and reliable place for their children and dog to live.  I plan to continue to accept pets and of course will not have any objection to people living with their children @ the house either.

I am thankful the house is just one mile from us,  I don't know how we would have managed if we were out of the area.--So....investing close to home is likely a good idea!


Do I want to continue being a land lord?  Yes I do.  Do I think our renter will do the right thing in paying for our costs on this above and beyond his deposite?  Yes I do, he is over all a good person, just made a bad choice in room mates.  I think he will make it right. ( keep you posted?)  Why with all the hassle would I continue to rent our homes?  Well it makes long term investment sense for one.  For another, I like providing a service to the community by providing homes that are in nice condition in neighborhoods where I would feel safe with my kids being there.


--Anna Matsunaga, Team Momentum, Keller Williams Realty, 253 212 1252 www. teammomentumrealestate.com





** our rental home, an "after" picture, as in After over a week of work from 2 of us plus helpers ( our kids and 3 others we hired to help us as well.) Now listed for rent- MLS #29081306



Sandy Nelson
Riley Jackson Real Estate Inc. - Olympia, WA
your Olympia area Realtor


I have several rental properties and I'm lucky to say I've only had one bad experience where the deposit was not enough to fix the damage. I love your attitude of looking for the positive aspects, even in an unpleasant situation. I'm glad you found several things to appreciate and lessons learned. 

Jun 04, 2009 04:10 AM
Carol Lee
Dilbeck Real Estate - Oak Park, CA
Realtor - Agoura, Oak Park, Westlake CA Homes

Anna- you have such a great attitude!  Your children are lucky to have you as a mom!

Jun 04, 2009 03:03 PM