Making a Home Make Money
By Wickham Boyle ⋅ 2:06 pm August 10, 2009
I love having a house in the country and a place in the city—so much that I have chosen country abode over health insurance. But even that sacrifice has not saved me enough to be able to hold on to my second home year round.
On the last day of July, I drove to my beloved little house a hundred and twenty miles up river from Manhattan, to make it ready for the August renters. We had rented our home before, but never for what seemed to me to be such a long time: five weeks. When you have a garden to grow and tend to (Read “No New Plants, Period.”), five weeks seems like an eternity. But it is a buyers market so when a good family responded and this is what they desired, I said YES.
I am doing this to make ends meet. It is not a tragedy of any magnitude; it is what my mother used to call, “an upscale problem.” I have two homes and so I have the upscale luxury of making one pay for the other. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss it, or bemoan my inability as an Ivy League educated mom to better provide for my family. It also doesn’t preclude me from experiencing some pangs at handing over my baby to another family.
I was grateful that our little house found renters when many of my neighbors have had their ads unanswered.
I had owned another farmhouse, one that I lost in a bitter divorce nearly two decades ago, and finding this house and purchasing it with my new husband, the love of my life, was the final stroke in healing my wounded core. This magnanimous man had moved into the loft where I had lived with the wretched ex and never bemoaned his energy lurking in the corners, but there were moments when we both felt it. This house on the slope was ours alone, a little nest and a testament to hard work and commitment.
In tough times we find ourselves either separately or together engaging in creative problem solving. If the taxes are too high on your home or well… second home, then you figure out a way to make it pay for itself. Like my children, my house is mandated to take a summer job. And it has. I am proud of my kids for finding jobs this summer and grateful that our little house found renters when many of my neighbors have had their ads unanswered. Thus, they are looking to second mortgages or home equity loans as bridges to pay taxes or bills.
And then the renters arrived. She is a documentary filmmaker with a cute lighting designer husband and two oh so sweet little boys, 3 and 5. The big boy and I immediately caught a small, bright ribbon snake and it was game on. They walked the property with me and oohed and ahhed at the giant two person swing my husband built, they ogled the ground hog hole dug right under a hammock, hung in a tall cedar. I showed them where the blackberries were staked ready to bloom.
We covered the more mundane issues intending a 200 year old farm house: water pump, creaky floors, strange light switches and the modern wonders of WIFI passwords and Direct TV, when it isn’t raining too hard.
We did a quick download of where the trash goes, where the best ice cream is sold and how to attract birds. And then we left another family waving from our porch.
I was overjoyed that small children were going to enjoy the hills and hammocks and wildlife, and happy that a harried, working mom was going to sip coffee on the porch watching humming birds and jays. I was also content that I had posted an “early bird special” on Craigslist and found good renters when other houses languished.
I felt wise, and a little sad. I know it is only five weeks but still I know I will miss the peaches, corn, lengthening of shadows and the first chill of fall. I received a cute email from the mom extolling the beauty, and comfort of the place along with news of the zoo established on the porch now housing fireflies and frogs. It’s just five weeks, and yes, it’s an “upscale problem.” But when times are tough, those things that bring us fulfillment grow in significance. I’m happy my little retreat is bringing the same to this other new family.