We first saw the property of 854 Pennlyn on December 28, 2004. Exactly one month later, on the afternoon on January 28, 2005, we were sitting in the office of NJ Title Company on West Avenue in Ocean City signing a ream of legal papers. By the time we left the office, we were the proud new owners of the first floor of 854 Pennlyn Place! Our dream of having a house in Ocean City, had turned into a reality!
It was a great feeling, knowing that although we would be renting out the house during the summer, we also would be using it as much as possible. Unlike the Las Vegas house, this was by no means just an investment, it was a real place just 3 hours away from home in Mineola. Speaking of investments, let me tell you what our plan was when we bought 854. If you remember, in Part Five of this epic, I spoke about the increases in property values Ocean City had been experiencing. Fantastic double digit value increases had been the norm for the couple of years before we bought, and although our place was only 4 years old, we were the third owners. The others had bought it, held it for a couple of years, and then sold at a substantial price increase. That was also our plan before we spent that first night. We’d keep it for a year or two, flip it for something bigger and more expensive, continue to do that, and eventually perhaps have a million $ plus house right on the beach. Then something changed.
On the morning of January 29th, 2005, I came out the front door of the house and was standing on the front porch surveying my kingdom. As I was standing there, a gentleman came out of the small bungalow to my left. He said good morning, and asked if we were renting the place for the week (that’s mainly what had been happening to our place as the former owners rarely used it). I replied that no, we’d just closed on it yesterday, and were the new owners. The gentleman walked down his steps, crossed to ours, came up on the porch and shook my hand. That was the morning I met our next door neighbor, Doc Anderson, and the beginning of our first “flip house” turning into our forever home!
We call Doc the Mayor of Pennlyn, and with good reason…he knows and talks to everyone on the street! Doc was also our introduction to so many of our friends, that we feel like we’ve known them forever! Over the years, our group of friends has increased, be they full time residents, of which there are many on our block, or the summer/weekend friends that get down here as much as possible. In a very short time, we’d met lots of them, and we found that we were down at the Ocean City house an average of 3 weekends a month! Oh yes, we had indeed found our special place, our sanctuary, our place populated with friends that feel like family. Our happy place that just getting to, no matter what our moods, made us feel happy…..854 Pennlyn Place!
So now that we were owners, we really took a good hard look at the place, and what we saw really didn’t thrill us. The house was decorated with a real tropical theme, with lots of wicker furniture, but the closer we looked at some of the furniture, the more issues we saw. It turned out that some of wicker furniture was held together with tape, that was keeping the wicker from unraveling. Of particular concern to us were the chairs of the dining room set, that sagged every time you sat in them. We could just imagine that a renter would sit in one, end up on the floor, and a lawsuit would arrive in our mailbox. Also, it only provided seating for 4, so a new table was in order. Looks like a trip to Platts was in our near future!
Old to New
Platts is a wonderful beach furniture store that you pass in Somers Point on the way into Ocean City. We’d wandered in there several times, fawning over the incredible beach furniture, and now we were going to get to buy something!!! In short order we found the perfect table and ordered it…the first of many, many orders we’d place at Platts over the next couple of years! Before long, we’d bought a new coffee table, new snack tables, a couple of chairs, lamps, and even a bed. Then there were other chairs (including one that went home to Mineola), more lamps, and assorted other items that upgraded the house. As I said, the more we looked at things, the more issues we saw. We honestly wondered if the former owners had furnished the place with garage sale finds or even things picked up at the curb on trash day! Boy, had we learned our lesson about beauty being skin deep! But the good news was that the house itself was in good condition, so as long as we were just dealing with decorative items, we were happy!
Our first year, we listed the house with 3 local real estate brokers, and in pretty short order, we’d rented most of the summer. That first Spring, we took a week off from work to make sure the house was ready for our guests. We’d loved the houses that we’d rented that seemed like homes, not just investments, and that was what we wanted our renters to feel. That was one of the things we loved about renting Denise’s house on Asbury. A funny story…when we told Denise (who’d become more a friend than a landlord) that we wouldn’t be back the summer of 2005 and why, she told us that she and a friend were starting a Saturday House Cleaning business. We ended up being her first customer! She was an important part of our team during those first years of rental, and treated our house like her own. Every week after she cleaned our house, she’d call and tell us everything was ready for the new tenants and rated the tenants who’d just moved out! Perfect!
Of course, we’d kept 2 weeks mid July for us, but as the first renters moved in, we were already anxiously counting the time till we’d be back! For us, the two worst parts of renting were those last moments when we left before the first rental, and the day we returned. The first was hard because we knew there’d be somebody else living in our home, and the second because we knew there would be work getting the house back in shape! It may seem like a little thing if you’ve never rented out your house, but trying to find where pots and pans had gone, and bringing some semblance of order to the kitchen cabinets and drawers left us wondering so many times, “why would you put that there????” We quickly learned it was just part of the summer house rental game.
We had some great rental experiences and some not so great. One of the not so greats was the Saturday Denise called us to report that our last renters had left the house a mess, and she’d found mustard in the bathroom tub and hair in the refrigerator. Interesting, to say the least! Then there was the renter that kept calling and complaining because they were building a house down the street (our good friends Patti and Meade’s new place), and she couldn’t enjoy her vacation. We sent her back some money, and she surprisingly had no problems!
Then there were the great ones. Like the family that battened down our house, put away our porch furniture, and treated it like it was their house, when a hurricane approached Ocean City late in the summer. They were with us for a number of years! There was also a lovely lady who came from Arizona every summer to return to her South Philly routes and vacation in Ocean City. She loved Ocean City and loved our house and sharing it with her family. We were very sad after she was with us for 4 years, to get an email from one of her friends that she’d died of cancer. She said one of her best memories was the time she’d spent with her good friend at our house by the sea. There are some good times when you rent to people who love your house as much as you do!
Coming next…the joy of being a landlord, and the thrill of stopping!