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The truth about apartment rentals: Owners and others please join me and post your stories here!

The truth about apartment rentals: Owners and others please join me and post your stories here!

Aug 3rd, 2005, 11:20 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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The truth about apartment rentals: Owners and others please join me and post your stories here!

I guess after reading dreamweavers recent post about disappointment with an apartment (TITLE: Paris trip report: bad apartment blues!--Long post!), I started to think that it might be good to post some thoughts from owners about what goes into having a rental apartment and keeping guests happy.

So, I'd like to encourage owners to post here. Also, those who rent apartments often may also be able to give us some inside scoopage! Warning: My post is LONG!

This posting is not to be about advertising one's own apartment, but rather how the system works, what agencies do, how towels manage to get mismatched over the years, crazy/funny stories, etc.

TOWELS, linens, etc.: So let me start with towels, since it was an issue for dreamweaver. When we purchased our place in Oct. 2003, I purchased all new stuff (nicer than the stuff I have at home, mind you) and brought it with us to Paris in suitcases. At the time, everything matched. Well, all the towels were white, which seemed to make sense to me at the time. Now, I know better. I had been checking on the towels, sheets, etc. about 2-3 times per year -- as was our property manager, who often does the laundry. Anyway, after a particularly difficult and destructive tenant and us having been away for more than six months, we arrived to deal with the residual mess (May 05). Goodness - many of them were stained in ways I cannot even explain. Rust, for example. Still can't figure that one out! Plus, it's just all the cosmetics that people use, face creams, etc. that end up on the towels and ultimately stain them.

Of course, it's fine that they get stained - people should use the stuff in the apartment as they like. We just have to make sure what's in the apartment isn't gross or stained. So, the point here, is that in replacing towels on an ongoing basis, I decided to a.) not continue with white towels because bleaching them didn't get out most of the stains and therefore b.) the towels no longer match, as I now have some white and some new blue towels (the bathroom is blue.) I hope no one holds this against us. I would have never imagined that this was an issue until I read dreamweaver's post.

Honestly, my feeling is everything has to be clean. Maybe I'm a little nutty this way, but clean trumps matching in my book. I'd call not matchingeclecticic." And people get things dirty. Really dirty. And it's our job to clean it up or replace it. One time, I found what I hope to God was chocolate pudding on an expensive white bedspread. You never know what people do with stuff. I also have to say that random stuff has shown up in the apartment. Someone left a nice tan towel last time we were there -- it was clean and soft, so I kept it. Plates have also appeared... not sure who left them behind - perhaps a long term renter.

OUR PLACE: Budget cute. Our apartment is but a humble studio, that we rent for $600 per week. It can sleep up to four. We pay a percentage of the rental amount to our property manager who lives in Paris. Most people pay anywhere from 15-25 percent to their property manager. I've heard of one person who gets 30 percent, but I do not thing that is the norm by any means.

WHAT OUR PROPERTY MANAGER DOES: Her name is Lauren, and she is fantastic. She manages 8 properties including ours -- and all the rest are fancier and larger than ours. I cannot express what a good job she does. She really shines whedisasterer strikes. For example, we have a small private courtyard attached to our apartment - some would call it an airshaft, but we call it a courtyard! Anyway, she told us she arrived to clean the apartment to find that the courtyard was clogged with water one day and she apparently got out there and wadded through the water and started digging muck out (by hand!) of the drain in the middle of the courtyard until the water drained out normally. As you can imagine, in the early spring, that is a cold, dirty, icky job. She has helped schedule all the maintenance workers needed along the way, too. She meets guests at the apartment whenever they arrive, shows them around the place and gives them the keys. She does the emailing and scheduling. One of our friends who stayed at the apartment called her their "Paris Mom" even though our property manager is younger than most of our guests! She iAmericanan but bilingual, which we hope to be someday soon. Also, I might mention that she makes an effort to be in town when our guests arrive, and is available by cell phone and lives in the area of all her rentals -- which I think is key! She also works with other property managers to cover each other if they go out of town, etc. so thatenantsts always have a contact in Paris. All of this to say...every property manager is different. Some just open the door and give you the keys. Lauren does do some of the concierge type of stuff for people when they ask, but I'm not sure if all property managers do this.


Lutece is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 11:24 AM
  #2  
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VRBO: Yes, we use VRBO. We pay a fee, per year, to list on the site. The more pictures you put up, the higher your listing goes on the master list of properties. (It costs more for each picture you add.) The way VRBO generally works, as most of you know, is you deal directly with owners, or the owner's property managers/agents. In our case, all emails from VRBO go directly to Lauren, because most people, I think, would rather communicate with the person who will be in Paris when they arrive -- the person who can help with dinner reservations, buying train tickets, emergencies, whatever.

MONEY STUFF: We are still toying with the credit card payment thing. For now, people send checks in the mail or do bank transfers. I know people here are sometimes scared of that whole scene. I know the feeling, because I had to do it to a French bank when I rented from someone on VRBO long before we had a French bank account or our own apartment. We also take a $200 deposit, which is refunded by mail after they leave. The $$ go to us, not our property manager, and we handle all the financial stuff. She, meanwhile, has a petty cash account that we fund that she uses to pay for cleaning, fixes, etc.

AGENCIES: What I will say about "agencies" is that we have dealt with one agency only on occasion. But we have recently realized this agency deals with other agencies, which has soured us on the entire concept. (Kinda like contractors and subcontractors and the subcontractors' subcontractors!) In this case, the agency lists our place at a higher rate than we charge and then pays us our published rate. I guess it seemed fine until a recent snafu with a tenant caused Lauren to move someone from our studio to another much fancier and more expensive apartment. She did this to make the customer more comfortable and happy, and I think she did the right thing. We settled the $$ with the other apartment owner, who was very nice to help us out. However, the agency flat out told Lauren she should have not moved them to a new apartment and that she should have told them to call their agency (a second agency) and let them deal with it. Obviously, I'm glad Lauren did the "right thing" for these people and kept them happy -- whether it was in our apartment or not. Because of this, we won't be using this agency (or any others for now) any more.

AGENCIES THAT AREN'T REALLY AGENCIES IN MY BOOK: Dreamweaver's post about www.ahparis.com intrigued me. It looks like the site acts as a middle man between the owner and the renter. I have wondered if I should try to list our place there, since it says it's free, but I am guessing they charge the clients more to make some money forthemselvess. I know some folks love dealing with agencies, and feel they give them more security. I'm not sure I agree. I've dealt with two owners -- total strangers -- who I found on VRBO to rent Paris apartments and I thought it was great to deal directly with the owners, who happened to live in Paris. There are other websites, www.franglo.com and www.vangoghrentals.com and www.craigslist.com, that list apartments at no cost to the owner and don't charge any kind of fee to the tenant, as far as I know. We have our place listed on those sites - heck, it's no charge, so free advertising as far as I can see. Our main business comes from VRBO, for the most part. But none of these places that list our apartment have any sort of liability or obligation to our tenants -- that is totally our responsibility. On the other end of the spectrum, I've booked a vacation through France Vacations before (www.francevacations.net) and I would consider them a true agency in that I believe I could have held them accountable for any hotel issues, etc. I think all you can do with these smaller website is just ask them not to list a property anymore and file your complaint so perhaps they'll remove the apartment from their list.

FUNNY STUFF: Of our most recent tenants, I can say that there was a couple who wrote in our guest book that they found the sleeping loft "too restricting for their lovemaking" -- they slept on the sofa bed below instead and were happy as clams! ;-)

I guess I've written a lot here, and as I look back I'm not even sure any of it is helpful. I'll probably post more as I think of stuff, if there is interest.


Lutece is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 11:33 AM
  #3  
lyb
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
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oh, have I got stories for you! I'm at work right now, so I'll add to it tonight. (meantime, wrote something so that this thread would appear under my name so I can easily find it)

One quick story, my sister owns and manages studio and one bedroom apts on the north shore of Oahu, HI. The units are maybe 30 feet from the ocean, she had a guest complain to her because the ocean was "too loud to sleep"....okay...we'll try to get the ocean to be quieter for the rest of your stay.
lyb is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 11:48 AM
  #4  
 
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I'm not an apartment owner but what an eye-opening post. Thanks for sharing, L
TexasAggie is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:07 PM
  #5  
 
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Point taken!! As scary as it is to rent an apt sight unseen and pay what often amounts to thousands of dollars upfront, I will readily concede that it would be far scarier to rent my property to strangers. That's why I'd never do a home exchange with my primary residence. At least we renters have the option to leave (and perhaps lose the money) and to check apt reviews, agency reputations, etc. Landlords don't know what damage has been done until people leave and it would be easy for that to exceed the security deposit if tenants were truly destructive.
victoria_reynolds is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:18 PM
  #6  
 
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Not 'me' and not 'Europe' but a coworker's mother rented out her house in Key West, and was mystified to learn the renter had started having an INGROUND POOL dug into the back yard.
Travelnut is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:19 PM
  #7  
 
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I guess I really should say, the "tenant"...
Travelnut is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:24 PM
  #8  
 
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A very interesting post, Lutece.

With a family of young teenagers, I have found that renting an apartment is the best option for us these days.

As long as the apartment is CLEAN - especially no hairs in the shower or on the linen, we don't mind mis-matched towels, bedlinen, crockery or other kitchenware. I do like to see lots of pictures of each room on the website, so I have an idea of what to expect; usually I am pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of the apartment when I arrive. But for me it is not finding those hairs, or dust curls under the bed and sofa that appeal the most. I can tolerate dodgy showers (if there is a bidet) and wonky gas ring

It is also good to be able to pay by credit card - twice I have had to come up with the euros in cash, which is always a worry to carry in a big city. The commission payable on travellers cheques - while safer - makes you wonder if it is worth it.

Your property sounds great - next time I am going to Paris I shall look it up on VRBO, although you don't say where it is....
julia_t is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:25 PM
  #9  
 
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I could tell you stories, too, and will later this evening, though I don't have an apartment, but rather a house. We had clients once who actually broke a bed right in half!
StCirq is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:25 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Hi, as a new property owner, it is very interesting for me to read you. Unfortunately I don't have funny stories to tell yet (and I'm not really looking for them either....).
I didn't want to leave it to an agency, I'm sure the work is done from A to Z by myself but I wanted it to be rated by the "préfecture" (verdict in sept..)
If I chose to stop working in hotellerie, it is not just to give a key and take money! the contact before is very important to me, so emails are very frequent and I'm sure my guests are looking forward to staying there(they tell me so)
This flat is a second home and I wouldn't leave it to someone I don't trust. >I purchased all new stuff (nicer than the stuff I have at home, mind you)< same for me! (and the towels are pale green but I chose them to match walls!)
I just want to welcome my guests like I would like to be welcomed, that's all. and it should be THE rule whatever the rate can be.
cocofromdijon is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:26 PM
  #11  
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A pool?? That's pretty amazing!

You know, speaking of long-term renters, we've sworn off them in Paris. For some reason, those are the ones who seem to end up breaking furniture and really making things icky. No clue why -- maybe they are just making themselves at home! One of our antique chairs is going to the repair man for the second time. The first person who broke emailed our property manager this: "It's old. Maybe that's why it broke." To which my husband remarked: "Somehow it made it 140 years in one piece until he got a hold of it." ;-)
Lutece is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:28 PM
  #12  
 
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Ahhhhhhhhhh, to live in a world where my biggest worry is that the ocean is too loud, lol.

Lyb, that was great.


Aloha, Tiff
Tiff is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:30 PM
  #13  
 
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I forgot, Lutece thank you for the links as well, I'll have a close look and maybe sign in ...
cocofromdijon is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 12:41 PM
  #14  
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Julia T: I am so with you on the hair business. You know, no one cleans like you do, so I do get nervous about how clean the place is when I'm not there -- which is pretty much all the time! We do have enough friends who have been and I ask them to tell me what they found. Normally they don't care half as much as I do, so I don't get any complaints. But one of my good girlfriends did find some dust/hairs collected by the side of the mattress in the loft and, of course, like a good friend, cleaned them immediately. I told our property manager and she said she'd put that on the list as a spot to be cleaned. I hate to say it but I think you'd probably find dust or hair somewhere in the studio -- not if I cleaned it first, of course. Maybe I should send you in as a "secret shopper" and you can check out how clean the place is!
As for where our apartment is, it's in the 9th -- lots of folks on this board don't want to stay in that area, but we like it just fine. That, and we couldn't really afford much else! ;-)
Lutece is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 01:10 PM
  #15  
 
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Funny you should say that - one of my jobs is being a mystery shopper! Mostly I check supermarkets, and other stores, but I have a mystery guest assignment coming up in the UK in 2 weeks time - yay! free holiday for 4 days!!!! But not in a place I would necessarily choose myself though.

Yes, I know nowhere I rent is likely to be spotless, and my own home certainly isn't, I don't have time! Hotels aren't always spotless either. But as long as the bathroom and (mismatched!) bedlinen is ok, then I am pretty much ok with almost anything else, but those hidden dust curls are a bit creepy.....

julia_t is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 01:58 PM
  #16  
 
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I have a beach rental and I would like to ask one question of renters:

Why do I have to keep replacing washcloths, dish towels & plastic laundry baskets? It amazes me how often they disappear. What do you do with them?

I have had to go with all white towels and sheets because the maid service bleaches everything. I had some lovely matching blue towels that ended up with purple splotches, green towels faded to yellow, etc.

I also have aquired several odd platters and casseroles.

Once I returned to find all the pictures, lamps, end tables in rooms they didn't belong. I later found that a large group had rented my unit and another one nearby and put all the kids in my unit, the adults in the other. I guess they took everything breakable out and tried to replace it as best they could.

I try not to stress out over the jelly stains & broken dishes but concentrate on having everything the renters might need. Within reason. An older couple took issue one time with the lack of a tea kettle (I thought that's what microwaves were for) and an ice cream scoop.
Linda431 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 02:15 PM
  #17  
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Linda431 - Great stuff! We've had some weird stuff walk away: our tool kit (most disappointing!), endless amounts of wine stoppers (just drink the whole bottle! , a French-English dictionary (kind of heavy to take on the plane!), and -- get this -- cleaning supplies (they cleaned out everything under the counter!) Now, to be honest, we suspect most of this walked away with the same person.

Yeah, and what is about not figuring out that bleach has no place near anything that isn't white???

One couple sent our property manager a list of about 40 things asking if they were in the apartment, including candle holders and which size candle they held, a lemon juicer, sea salt and a pepper mill, and exactly how many towels were supplied, etc. Of course, we happily answered yes to all of it - gotta keep the customers happy!
Lutece is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 02:18 PM
  #18  
 
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I'm not an owner, just a renter, and made a few comments on the other post you referenced. I found your comments very interesting from an owners' view.

As a renter, I am not as picky as many people and don't want the hand-holding a lot of vacation renters do. I guess you never can tell about that. As I said in the other post, I don't want to make appointments to meet people at the apartment to get the key at a certain time, etc. I want a local rental office that is staffed normal hours where I can stop by at my convenience to get the key or to call for any problems. For example, I have dealt with both Locaflat and PSR in Paris and both were very professional and I liked my experience.

Anyway, my main comment is regarding your issue with posting your apt. with ahparis.com. I was going to say in the other post, but didn't, but as a renter I avoid places like that and usually won't deal with them. I want a real agency that has a name, location, has been in business a long time, and someone is held accountable. I personally am not comfortable renting from individual owners and am not sure if I ever will do that.

The worst of both worlds, to me, are places like ahparis.fr which are neither an agency that does something and takes responsbility nor a private owner so you avoid the commission. For example, NYHabitat is like that -- they mark up apartments about 33 pct and do virtually nothing. It's really an advertising fee. People don't understand that, that's the problem, they think it's an agency. I had some dealings with NYHabitat as they had an apt I liked and through questionings, it became clear that they did nothing if there were problems and did nothing to ensure I'd get my deposit back from the owner.

I've never heard of ahparis before this, but if you do go that route, I think there are some that are more wellknown, and I'd check them out -- lodgis.com is one example. I know a few others, also.
Christina is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 02:35 PM
  #19  
 
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Christina, I feel exactly as you do about the agency thing. When we've been on the other side of the fence, I have appreciated having someone I can call if something is amiss.

The main reason we bought our beach rental where we did was the fact that there is on site management. They handle everything from check in to check out. Yes, it's costly for the owner but I don't have to field phone calls about stopped up toilets and such.

When a hurricane is threatening they batten down the hatches for us and take care of any problems that arise.
Linda431 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 02:38 PM
  #20  
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All good points, Christina. Everyone is different. We spend a lot of time thinking what we would expect as renters and act accordingly, but you can't be everything to everyone.

I think having someone available by cell phone for emergencies is a big bonus. Not sure if those larger agencies have someone on call like that or not. I guess that's what I've liked when I rented from an individual.

For example, we were leaving the apartment one day and found they were installing a digicode keypad lock on the building. The building was currently running on a normal keyed lock. So I called the owner and he said it wasn't supposed to be installed on the building until the next week. We were worried about getting back in the place, especially since it was a Friday. We went out, meanwhile he looked into it and came out to the apartment and left a note on his business card on the door of the apartment so we knew he had made sure everything would be fine for the rest of our stay.

As for ahparis.com, since I suspect they up the price of the rentals, I wouldn't list there. VRBO is much easier and I think, more transparent -- which, as a renter, I certainly appreciate!
Lutece is offline  

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