With the economy such as it is, many people are trying to get more creative with money. I think it shows the greatness of America... the resiliency! Many are saving or budgeting for the first time in their life, Money, or the lack of it, has increased people's awareness of its great power--both with it and without it. I can personally say I know people who have had to declare bankruptcy, one whose home has been foreclosed; another had an automobile repossessed, and so on. Times are tough. But, as a vacation home rental owner, there is one thing people are hard pressed to give up--their vacation! Especially, their Florida vacation! Somehow the sand, surf and sun make them forget about their financial troubles.
In 2007, at the top of the housing bubble, I too, had to get creative. I was living in the St. Louis area to be closer to one of my four daughters. I had rented out my Florida home as a yearly rental from 2005 until 2007. It turned out to be a landlord's worst nightmare toward the end of the lease. The renter didn't pay his rent for two months plus he created a mess in my home. Renting from far away can be tricky at best but I knew it was a bad situation when I asked him, "How does the pool look?" His reply was, "I don't know. I haven't looked at it for a few months." If I had had a pool service, I would have been upset with his comment. But, HE was THE pool service. He had told me that he had had a pool for years and he knew how to care for MY pool. Needless to write, when I saw my pool, it looked like a pond.
After the tenant so graciously left, I went back to Florida to decide what to do with my home. A lady I had become friends with while living in St. Louis I had met while living in the St. Louis area traveled with me, and together we cleaned up the mess. Once again, my home looked like the kind of place that would welcome anyone through its front door. My home had always been a sort of nurse's retreat. The Jacuzzi was strategically placed under the stars. The large in ground pool had a built in love seat in the deeper end of the pool. Also, my granddaughter and I had built a fish pond together. It was truly a relaxing home when I lived there and I knew others would be able to experience the same feelings.
I decided to open my home as a vacation rental. I furnished it, and built a web site for my home. As a finishing touch, I bought a sign to place on my front door, "The Time To Be Happy Is Now, The Place To Be Happy Is Here." On my web site, I added a welcome message that potential vacationer's could listen to. I placed a picture of myself so they would know whom they were renting from. I downloaded loads of pictures of the interior and exterior, and finally a YouTube video so people could actually talk a virtual tour of my home. It worked! My guestbook is now filled with satisfied clients and warm comments.
One winter day, I began making a mental list of some of the upcoming repairs that would be needed to maintain my home in Florida. I wanted to make improvements but like everyone else, I was struggling to stay above board. I was always one to pray for God's guidance when I was at a loss for direction. An idea would always come to me... one that I would never seem to have come upon just by myself! First of all, I knew I had something of great value... my Florida home. I knew my home could use a new coat of paint, and I had always wanted to change out the carpet in the family room and the green tile in the kitchen area. It was then the idea came to list it on Craigslist under "barter." I typed out a creative ad and then I waited for a response. The wait was a very short one! I had a call the next day from a fellow who lived in a neighboring town in the St. Louis area. He sounded very professional. He sounded as serious about the barter as I was. We agreed to meet.
The evening that I arranged to meet Kelly (and his family), turned out to be a wonderful experience. The appointment was one of those "divine" appointments. I immediately felt trust and I knew Kelly had the best interest of my home at heart, as well as he had a desire to provide a Florida vacation for his family. Once again, the inherent goodness of people came shining through. We had a few laughs as we worked out our barter deal. We never had it written down on paper. We still don't. We knew in our hearts and minds that we had sealed a deal and we began to make plans for the work to be done. We eventually decided on a new tile floor. There was green tile in the kitchen and beige carpeting in the family room. The green title had come with the home years before and although, it would never have been my pick, I lived with it as most homeowners do... until you have the money to make it more of something YOU like. There were French doors which lead from the kitchen/family room combination to the pool deck, so the addition of tile would be one that would leave the area much easier to clean. My cost? The expense of the tile and other materials to complete the job.
About the same time as my barter deal with Kelly, I heard from a lady who had found me through an ad I had placed with a vacation rental web site. She had saw my listing. She asked if she and her boyfriend could barter for two weeks stay around Christmas time. Their specialty? Painting. During the past two years I had rented one Christmas and the other I hadn't... so it was kind of "iffy." There was a 50/50 chance that it might be rented. I opted for the barter as I needed my exterior of the home painted as well as the dining room, hallway and foyer. We corresponded back and forth and agreed on a time. The cost? $701.00!
As I write this article, I am returning from a Florida trip. My purpose? To look at my bartered work. All I can write is, "OMG!" When I drove the rental car from Orlando International Airport to Port Orange, Florida (minutes from the Daytona Beach area), I gasped when I saw my home! We had chosen for the color--"sea salt". Belinda, of Clawson Painting, out of Cleveland, Ohio, had told me, after our many conversations, that I would just love this color. It was a mixture of blues, grays and greens. She had also shared with me that most people couldn't really figure out what color it actually was. She said it was a very warm, welcoming and serene color. She couldn't have been more on target. It was beautiful. It actually brought tears to my eyes. The best part was the actual money out lay was $287.00 and two weeks of time (a few days of the donated time was actually spent painting). When they arrived to a site, they painted first... then vacationed second.
After ooing and ahing the new look in the foyer, dining room and hallway, I made my way into the kitchen/family room. I was totally amazed at the transformation. The newly tiled floors were beautiful! It made both rooms look larger. I knew, as well, it would be easier to keep clean. It was also a much more neutral in color. I could bring a lot more color into the room.
I have shared about the physical changes... the new flooring and the color on the walls but I also want to share about the relationships that were fostered through bartering. We all made new friends. Kelly, Belinda and Tom met one another while in Florida. I was able to meet Tom and Belinda when I went to Florida. They had actually bartered to paint for a stay at a home that all of the locals refer to as "the castle." It sits overlooking the ocean. The front of the home is on A1A, the road which travels along side the beach. Bartering actually lead to more bartering. After Kelly's meeting with Belinda and Tom, Kelly was then given an offer to barter for a month's stay at the "castle" in exchange for tile work. For so many years, I had traveled down A1A to go to the beach in Ponce Inlet. I would admire the castle on the beach. I never in a million years would have imagined that I would one day walk around the home to admire the painting of Belinda and Tom. Life is full of surprises!
What do YOU have of value? Think about it. What is YOUR skill or talent that another would find helpful? Do you know how to remodel? Are you a plumber? Do you have a home in the Smokey Mountains? Do you know how to teach piano? The list is endless. The union is just two people who have something of value who wish to make a trade off. If you visit my web site, look under PICTURES and you can check out the work which was done, both in the kitchen/family room and also the exterior of the home. Of course, it is always a good idea to check on references or do a back ground check. But, in the end, there can be no greater satisfaction on either side of the barter. It is a win win agreement.