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Help me rent my condo
May 17, 2009 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas for renting out our furnished Seattle condo while still allowing us to use it periodically, and while not running afoul of our condo association's rule regarding rentals.

We have a studio condo in downtown Seattle. It's just a vacation home for us and we haven't been using it that much lately. We would like to rent it out, but don't want to give up the use of it completely.

One obvious solution would be to list it as a vacation rental, but I am looking for a steadier source of income than that, and without the constant turnover and need for cleaning. This morning I happened to read a story in the NYT about "crash pads" for commuter pilots and, while that is not a good option for us, it got me thinking that there are probably a lot of niche markets of which I'm unaware. Do you have any other ideas?

Possibly relevant information:

-It is in downtown Seattle, ideally located for tourists (right under the Space Needle).
-It is very small--365 square feet with one queen bed, two Aerobeds, and a sofa bed that sleeps one (really it would only be good for, max, two adults and two kids).
-Everything in it (furniture, carpet, paint, bedding--everything) is less than two years old and I am very concerned about these things getting trashed. I realize these concerns are somewhat incompatible with renting it out but I'd like to minimize my risks as much as possible.
-Although everything is new, it's not luxurious (mostly IKEA-type furnishings). A fancy executive, for instance, would probably not find it suitable.
-We would like to be able to use it one weekend every month or two. The ideal situation would be to rent it to some individual who frequently travels to Seattle, but I've no idea how to find such a person short of Craigslist.

Complication: Our condo association charges a $500 "move in" fee and a $500 "move out" fee for renters. The ostensible reason for the charge is to compensate the association for the wear and tear incurred while people are moving their belongings; however, the real reason for the charge is that they want to discourage owners from renting out their units and are trying to make it economically unfeasible to do so. However, because our condo is furnished, there will be no "move in" or "move out," right? How likely do you think I'd be to prevail with that argument?

Thanks!
posted by HotToddy to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In my city there is a somewhat thriving market for guest artist crash pads / sublets. You might try contacting some of the theatre companies or film festivals in the area and see if they need lodging for actors & directors from out of town. Similarly, if there's a nearby university, they may have guest professors who need somewhere to stay, and renting your apartment for a month can end up being cheaper than 2 weeks in a hotel. One more option is insurance adjustors: when my house had a problem & required extensive repairs, I realized it was a better deal for me to sublet an apartment for 6 weeks at a total cost of $1200, rather than spend $100/night in a hotel (total cost $4200). My insurance adjustor seemed surprised that I came up with this idea; perhaps there's some merit in pitching the concept to other insurance professionals? I guess it could be a conflict-of-interest for them to suggest it to clients, but you never know- they might have ideas for how you could promote the apartment.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2009


You could advertise with local universities and offer it as a space for visiting faculty. We see a lot of short-term sublets come through our email list -- usually for anywhere from a month to six months, but enough short-term requests (for conference visits, etc) to make it worth your while. You'd probably have to contact departments directly, since there's usually no centralized service for this.

Also, what about where you work? Do people travel? Even if it's not "business-exec" level, could you offer it as an in-house sublet for people coming in and out of town? Then at least you have some informal connection to the people who are renting it.
posted by puckish at 9:06 AM on May 17, 2009


We found a mother/daughter pair who wants to use our apartment periodically during the week while we're traveling. The daughter attends school in the city, but the family lives far out in the suburbs; staying in our apartment lets them avoid the long drive in and out.

In our case, we are not charging rent -- this family watches our dog in exchange for use of the apartment, and we found them on a housesitting website. But you may be able to find some people in a similar situation who would be willing to pay.

The best part of this setup for us is the fact that it's the same people over and over -- so we don't need to scramble to find a dogsitter, and they don't need to keep looking for places to stay, et.
posted by wyzewoman at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2009


Building on what wyzewoman said, some people need to work downtown, but prefer to live outside the city, so they need someplace during the week to crash, but go home to the family for the weekends, so if you wanted to use it for a weekend it would be available.

You could also just flat-out sublet it which would give you your steady income. If it's furnished, there is no need to move-in/move-out, so the condo mgt doesn't need to know. When you want to take a weekend, use Hotwire or something to get a good deal on a hotel for those 2 nights, budget that considering the sublet income.

Another potentially interested person would be someone moving into the city, but wants to get a feel for the neighbourhoods before committing to a lease or buying a house.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 11:15 AM on May 17, 2009


As someone who lived in the condo next door to a condo that was used for short-term rentals, PLEASE talk to your neighbors first. It was incredibly annoying to deal with new people every week or two. All the things that make condo living "better" than apartment living (namely that people respect shared spaces) went out the window. The short-term renters didn't breakdown cardboard, etc.

If you do go ahead, look into having detailed plans for all the little things like door codes, spare keys, etc.
posted by k8t at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2009


<>If it's furnished, there is no need to move-in/move-out, so the condo mgt doesn't need to know

breaking the rules to rent this out to transients would make the poster a bad neighbor and a bad person IMHO and, also, not cut any ice with the condo board.

I recommend making the world a better place by selling the condo to somebody who actually wants to live and work downtown, which assumedly was the condo was built for in the first place.
posted by toroi at 11:22 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


As someone who lived in the condo next door to a condo that was used for short-term rentals, PLEASE talk to your neighbors first.

My god, 100 times yes to this point. And clear it with your Association.

The ostensible reason for the charge is to compensate the association for the wear and tear incurred while people are moving their belongings; however, the real reason for the charge is that they want to discourage owners from renting out their units and are trying to make it economically unfeasible to do so.

If they wanted to discourage it, they could manipulate the CCRs to limit the tenant occupancy to an amount they'd find acceptable or they could even put limitations on when and how the Unit could be rented. There are other effective ways to go about deterrence than $1000 that a landlord will probably eat anyway. I'm going to bet that they put the charges in place because the Association figured out that tenants moving in and out generally really don't give a fuck about the damage caused or problems left behind after they drove the UHaul away. Ultimately, it's not fair for the other owners in the Association and the Association budget to be on the hook for whatever damages a tenant causes be it extra dumpster emptying, destruction to common areas, etc.

And don't get me wrong -- I get the whole 'Sigh! A Condo/Homeowners Association is a pain in the ass' thing. Oh, I do know and I know this because I am a Trustee on mine. And I joined the Trustees because I was frustrated with the Association. Homeowners Associations, living in them and managing them, are enormous pains in the ass. I'm a firm believer that no one leaves an HOA unscathed. We have vowed never again will we live in one or buy in one, but while we are here, I am going to try to improve the situation.

I can tell you that in my own experience thus far, a majority of tenants are generally pains in the asses. In our complex, we only have a little over 10% tenant occupancy in our small complex. I can tell you right now I spent a majority of my Trustee time dealing with tenant occupied units - damages they've caused to common areas, violations of their own lease, criminal activity at times, and noise complaints about the tenants from other owners. It's a rare occasion where an actual owner occupant is causing problems for the rest of the owners/occupants in the Association.

Through our CCRs we've outlawed short term leasing. It was extraordinarily and overwhelmingly approved by the other owners in the complex. I bet you can imagine why.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:22 PM on May 17, 2009


toroi: "breaking the rules to rent this out to transients would make the poster a bad neighbor and a bad person IMHO."

Renting out the apartment simply makes the OP a bad neighbour. Killing the renters would make her a bad person.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:05 PM on May 17, 2009


Putting up couch surfers and transients for free would make the OP a really good person! (but probably still a bad neighbor)
posted by puckish at 6:11 PM on May 17, 2009


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