Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We Decided to Rent Our House

We went back and forth on this decision. If we didn't rent out our house, we wouldn't have to "prepare" it in any way, but we'd be paying mortgage and utilities for three months while not living here. Is that something to just say is ok as part of a "vacation" cost? Or is that too much? Do you ask friends and family to check in on your home (we got a lot of nice offers for help) for three months! That's a long time. But do we have the energy to prepare the house for renters? How much do you pack away? What do you leave out?  Do you have to rent a storage unit or put a lock on one room to store important items? Ugh.

Photo by Simplifyem
We finally decided to take a chance and ask for a "one degree of separation" renter. A friend, or a friend of a friend. We're hoping this will keep all parties more accountable than if it were just a random stranger. We also decided to not ask for full compensation for our mortgage and utilities, thinking this would allow us to leave the house in a "certain" state, as well as compensate for the short notice and not sure who we'd even find for such random housing needs.

Five minutes after I send out my email to friends, a friend-neighbor replied that she had some friends looking for a place! They are in the medical field (responsible!), with one child, and are looking for short term rentals. Perfect! We contacted them and we're all excited to sign contracts (modified off of boiler-plate documents from the internet) asap. The timing is crazy perfect for both of us and we all seem to be happy with one another, so the rental should go well.

This just leaves the question of what do you leave, what do you pack, or what do you trash when readying your house for a renter? I'm often confusing a guest and a renter. For both, we're allowing them usage of bed and bath linens. For my guests, I'd like to make sure they don't run out of toilet paper. Yet, for my renters, they can buy their own? And yet, I don't want to leave them with one roll and have them get "into trouble" on their first day. So what is the balance? I don't mind leaving them a half-bottle of ketchup, but what about a half-full expired box of cereal? What is gross, what is considerate, what is "not needed", and what is going to reflect on me in a negative way? This is what we've been dealing with for the past few weeks.

Packing half our closet up
Packing up table-top frames of family photos/mementos
Giving a tutorial on the espresso machine
Introducing the renters to our housecleaner
Planning to leave our two cars parked in the garage
Eating through the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer
Packing up the closet in the master bathroom
Alerting family and neighbors of the renters

It's been more work than I anticipated. However, I do feel a piece of mind knowing that our house will be lived in. Someone is there to know right away if there are any problems (plumbing, electrical, or otherwise). And the house will not look abandoned to anyone casing the neighborhood.

It's all good.

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's Official

It's official, we're going to Germany. Here are some facts:
  • It is cheaper to buy a round trip ticket (knowing you'll pay penalty fees to change the return flight) than to purchase one way tickets. So, we purchased our round trip tickets, guessing at a return date and departure city.
  • Europeans use credit cards much less than we do. We're planning on reacquainting ourselves with ATMs while we're there. Funny side note, we just sold a bicycle and have a lot of cash. We don't know how we'll spend it all in such a short amount of time. We typically use credit cards for EVERYTHING, so handling cash is "weird". 
  • It is not easy to wire money. Cash is definitely used more frequently there, however, how does one pay rent? Is it ridiculous to pay several thousand a month in cash? Seems like it. But the rental agency doesn't take credit cards or Paypal at the moment. So, wire transfer it is. But, we don't have a local bank. We do all of our banking online. So, we had to go to the notary (Twice, as the first time we got the wrong documents notarized. Thanks to the nice notary who didn't charge us for the second go.) to notarize official requests to our bank to release the money to the overseas bank. Here's the thing, our bank will only send Dollars. Their bank wants Euros. There is no way for the bank to figure out how many exact Dollars to send so that their bank gets the correct amount of Euros. And the exchange rate changes so frequently, that there was no guarantee that what our bank sent, their bank would receive. We had to "guess" as to how much to send and hope it was good. We erred on the side of caution and ended up sending about $5 too much. Better that than being short on our first month's rent.

    Now, all of this happens electronically. However, it does not happen immediately. You can send an email to your buddy overseas and it'll probably get there within minutes? But we were told to expect the money to arrive in 5-7 business days. What? The biggest concern we had was losing the rental property. We had already tried to rent a few other places and lost out to other bidders. So, we were worried that if our money didn't come in time, someone else would be able to pay faster and take the apartment away from us. We called the rental agent. They spoke English. They assured us that the apartment was ours, that they'd wait for the money. I just hope no one goes to jail and needs money immediately for bail. It takes a lot longer and lot of red-tape to get an electronic-wire transfer!