Ten Reasons Why Your Family Shouldn’t Take a Year Off: Reason #2 “What will you do with the house?”

Pulling up your family’s suburban roots and heading off for some developing country for a year is foolish. There are lots of reasons not to do it. For example: What will you do with the house?

Unquestionably, the cornerstone of our family’s ability to take a year off was being able to rent out our house. In fact, it’s safe to say that without renting out the house, our one year sojourn would have shrunk into an extended summer vacation. Because of this, our immediate focus was to do all the things that needed to be done to the house to make it rentable—without major problems cropping up during the year while we’re on a different continent. This included large projects like replacing the swimming pool light that was never grounded properly and cutting down the aging Monterrey Pine tree in the front yard that was sure to fall while we were away. The list also included scores of smaller tasks that had been put off for a few years like repainting the baseboards, getting screens for the office windows and replacing the lock on the garage door. There were also unexpected things like the 45 year-old sewage line deciding to back up and spew fetid water into the backyard about a month before I left for Peru. We had to replace 180 linear feet of sewage line. All of these things went on our list and we slowly ticked them off.

Once we’d made headway on the list, we decided to advertise the house on Craig’s List. We got a lot of out-of-town responses immediately from families with kids who were moving to Marin County and wanted their kids in our local school district. People from as far away as Texas, Los Angeles, Connecticut were all familiar with our neighborhood and school district and wanted to see the house right away. Most importantly, all were comfortable paying an amount of rent that would cover all our monthly housing expenses.

This response was in contrast to the last time we rented our house out for 6 months (March to September 2005). We turned up exactly two families, both of whom couldn’t afford what it would take to cover our monthly costs. We attributed this to the longer one-year period and the fact we were requesting a lease to start in the summer prior to the school year.

After many responses and a few showings we met our present tenants, who we liked immediately. The man owned a successful business and was financially solvent and they specifically wanted to live in our neighborhood. Although they lived about 40 minutes away, they wanted to move near a nearby high school so that their daughter could play basketball there for her senior year. Even better, since they planned to keep their house, they did not need much storage space and were fine with us keeping the furniture in the house, which meant that we did not need to find external storage for our things.

What we thought would be our biggest hurdle has turned out to be a relatively small one. Fortunately, we quickly located great tenants whose rent covers all our monthly costs; what could be better?

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