Hey Hey We’re the Renters!

And so it’s here en masse: the grocery store lines, the pool parties, the standoff with that incoming Land Rover refusing to yield on a narrow dirt road. The renters are here in full force, many of them returning to favorite haunts of years or decades, some hoping to buy one day, and all arriving with high expectations for the weather and their rentals.

If there is a dance in this seasonal, monetary arrangement, it often pulls in a rental agent adept at resolving conflict. The only person with a tougher job in high season might be a divorce mediator. “Many years ago when I was starting, I had a number of rentals,” recalled Abby Rabinovitz, co-owner of Tea Lane Associates. “So one time I picked up my people in the evening and went home to my weekend house guests. Sunday morning, first thing, I get a call that they’re chemically sensitive and there are mothballs in the house. So I leave, take the bags of mothballs, and move them to the owner’s house next door. Everyone was upset with me. My friends for leaving them suddenly, the renters, and the owner because now there were mothballs in his house.”

For Anne Mayhew, owner and broker at Sandpiper Rentals, it’s all about setting expectations. Representing about 700 homes from $2,000 to $40,000 a week, it begins, she says, with some old fashion truth-telling. “For example, we have a campy house on Chappy, which is more like a tent with a roof, but if you tell people that’s what it is, you’re getting yourself out of trouble before they arrive,” she says. “If you do that, then the tenant has a hard time complaining there are ants in the kitchen.”

Today, there are few property showings for rentals, no matter what the price, because photos and videos live online. That was the business model for Jeff and Joan Talmadge, who have operated the Cape and Islands website for twenty-one years. Two decades ago, homeowners recoiled at the concept, but today many homeowners see the value in dealing directly with tenants, and vacationers value not just the photographs but the online reviews.

The site showcases 4,000 rental properties, and Joan Talmadge has some standard rules of thumb for homeowners. “First, treat your tenants like guests. There are some people who don’t get it, and think it should just take care of itself. Occasionally, I’ll talk to a vacationer who says, ‘We found the house and got in, but we weren’t sure if it was the right house – there was no note, no book of instructions, nothing.’

“I also tell homeowners to ask a lot of questions, and if you start to believe that this person is not going to be happy with anything, steer clear,” she adds. “It’s okay to say no and have an ironclad lease. This is still a business relationship and vacationers expect that too.”

Have they kicked homeowners off the site? Maybe a half dozen over the years, which is miniscule given the thousands upon thousands of transactions between homeowners and tenants. And Joan finds these outliers because she personally reads every vacationer review.

Occasionally, it’s simply time to move on. That’s exactly what the Sandpiper team did last summer when a tenant discovered what Mayhew delicately termed “a rodent problem.” Again, it was Sunday, the caretaker was at the beach with his gang, so the quick decision was made to relocate the vacationing family. No harm, no foul. Unless, of course, you were the one who met Stuart Little and his extended family having a reunion in the bathroom.