“I have an opportunity for a 6-7 month detail in the Middle East and I’m wondering what to do with my house”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lorie Shaull

A reader writes:

“I’m hoping PoPville can help me brainstorm my options. I have an opportunity for a 6-7 month detail in the Middle East and I’m wondering what to do with my house (Logan/Shaw neighborhood). My first thought is to set a schedule for my friends to check-in weekly to ensure all is well. But I wonder if I can generate some rental income even if I don’t cover the mortgage. I do know that I would not be comfortable without someone local to vet/oversee the tenancy. Thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for property managers who specialize in short-term leases? If I’m too squeamish about people in my personal space, options for reasonably priced professional house sitters?”

31 Comment

  • I’d recommend at least renting out just a sinlge bedroom, lock up your other rooms. 1.) you’d be generating some income to offset mortgage, 2) there be someone there regularly to look at the place/make it not seem vacant.

  • Yeah I’m really curious what property management fees are like if anyone has some insight.

    • My company charges 20% management fee on rental income. There is no finders fee or monthly fees. We only get paid when you get paid.

    • justinbc

      My PM charges 8% if I recall.

      • justinbc – are you happy with your PM? I’m happy to receive recommendations. My email addy is [email protected] Thanks.

        • justinbc

          They are good enough and my tenants never seem to complain. I have had a few minor communication issues with them, but we’ve always worked through them. Urbane Results is the company. Most PM charge between 8-10% in DC, plus first month’s rent. The other company I was considering was NestDC, who was at 10%, and also had higher fees, but seemed to offer a slightly more “polished” product. I may still switch to them someday, since I’m not totally in love with these guys.

  • Ask friends if they or someone (trusted) they know needs a place to live, at a reduced rate, for a few months. This has worked very well for me in the past. There are always people coming and going from DC.

  • What about airbnb-ing it for short term stays, and hiring one of the firms like guesty to do reservations and air clean n sheen to change linens/sheets between guests? theyll be in enough and can alert you if anything needs attention

    • Thanks. Do you know anyone who’s had experience with Guesty? The very few reviews I’ve found have all been negative. I think I’m being a nervous nellie. I’ll be working 70+ hours a week in a SCIF so won’t be available if anything happens.

      • i don’t, sorry. i’ve thought about using them myself but haven’t – just manage reservations myself. i have used air clean n sheen and would give them a b+. since they’re local perhaps you could work out a deal where they’d also troubleshoot for you?

  • I’ve done four extended mobilizations to the ME in the last five years.

    Each time I rented a small storage unit and put in all my clothes and personal stuff in there. But left furniture, kitchen stuff, etc.

    I then rented it out via craiglist.

    Between military, embassies and study aboard there is a wealth of people looking for six month rentals in this area. I was able to easily cover my mortgage and bills each time.

    My one bedroom was in Dupont / Kalorama.

    • Chris – did you have a PM? Even if you set up ACH, who handled initial/final walk-throughs, maintenance calls, etc.? Thanks for your input.

  • binpetworth

    OP-I have a colleague who’s on a detail to DC (he owns a home in Boston) that will bring him here for about 2 weeks a month over the next year. He’s looking for someplace to stay that doesn’t involve a full monthly rent payment. He’s a 50-something professional, so not going to throw wild parties. If you would like me to connect you with him about possibly using your place, please email me at yahoo – Brandita1973

    • From your description (about not liking people in your personal space, etc), I would not do AirBNB or Craigslist. I think the suggestion of renting to a colleague, friend, or friend of a friend are good options. I would either rent a storage unit for select personal items or lock one of the rooms and store stuff in there.

      Lots of advantages to having it occupied… theft, pipe bursting, etc…

      • Accountering

        This is fair – if you are squeemish about people being in your space, then the above applies. I would think you could get around this by storing all of your personal items and cherished furniture etc – but that is certainly up to the individual person.

  • Accountering

    If this is a house, I would say you move your personal belongings (and things you really care about) into storage, and then rent it on AirBNB. I would be happy to chat further with you about this. I am in Shaw and currently do this with two properties (one in Petworth, and another in Truxton Circle/Bloomingdale)

    You would easily be able to turn it on the day you left, and then turn it off prior to your return, and easily get in excess of what you would be able to earn by renting it for the 6 month period.

    • Thanks Accountering, I would like to talk to you. Please send me your info. [email protected]

    • Can anyone tell me what the steps are to do AirBnb legally in DC? I can’t seem to find much online about what permits or insurance are required. It would be a full condo rental, not a room within a larger unit. Thanks!

      • houseintherear

        No permits required (yet). You’ll need to pay taxes on the income.

        • The city is automatically collecting the sales/occupancy tax for Airbnb rentals from the guests, however hosts need to obtain permits. To operate legally, hosts need a Basic Business License, and a Certificate of Occupancy either for a Bed & Breakfast or a rental property (single family or two-family). Earlier this year the city sued (and settled with) the owner of a “party house” in Dupont that had no permits. Condo owners should be cautious when renting on Airbnb because in many cases short-term rentals are prohibited in the condo bylaws. Of course none of these issues — permits, bylaws, etc. — stop people from operating Airbnb properties, but the city can crack down on illegal properties at any time, or in some cases, Airbnb will refuse to pay a damage claim to the property owner because he/she did not comply with local laws.

          To answer your question Lala, check out Urbanturf and search for articles on AirBnb. They’ve done a few articles on these issues.

          • There are over 1,500 listings on Airbnb for DC. The average price per night is under $100.00. It takes a lot of work to do it full time and keep your calendar full. I would never suggest having someone do this in your absence!

            A six month rental is much easier to arrange and manage.

  • Curious if I could help: I’ve been in DC for the past year but potentially looking to relocate however, not immediately and don’t want to sign another full year lease w/ the apartment building. Anything less than 12mo is hard to come by in this city. My wife and I are working professionals, 30s, and could be interested in house sitting while you’re gone. Respond if you’d like to discuss further.

  • I live in Frederick but work in DC, I’ve house sitted for friends in NW and would be interested in working for you if your still looking for someone. Contact me at [email protected] if interested.



  • Actually, I predict you will sooo enjoy the ME that you will decide not to return to the US. YMMV.

  • can you share some information about the property? I have a friend who is looking for a short term rental, is super-responsible, and this might be perfect.

  • Don’t do AirBnB or short-term rentals. You need to be here to clean between rentals, and manage it closely – which you can’t do from afar. That’s before even getting to the legal issues.

    For people (like me) who aren’t comfortable with people with your stuff – there are three options you can do. One is to find someone through friends or word of mouth, or even a little craigslisting or putting up notices where you work and renting to someone you feel good about, that you feel will take care of your stuff, so you feel like you have a friend staying there. Then keep in touch with them about any issues.

    The other is to move out anything you care a lot about – including all papers (for identity theft purposes), clothing, books you care about, bikes, etc. I think I’d even store my mattress and put a cheap one on my bed. Then rent it out furnished – to one tenant for the entire time. This is worth it if you have the time to move your stuff into storage. I don’t think you get your money’s worth from property management in general. They are handy if you need a repair quickly and have trusted repair people on hand. If you have a friend who will do this for you, you can save. But they have to be willing to step up if needed.

    The third thing you can do is leave your stuff, and not rent it out. Have friends stop by to check it now and then. I think this is your best option, since you don’t seem to need to rent it, and it isn’t for that long a period of time. Moving out everything you care about can be a real pain for such a short time, especially if you have a lot of stuff.

  • I posted an ad on taskrabbit for a PM for my 2 unit row home in MtP. Offered 5% of monthly income and 20% when tenants change. Just needed someone I trusted to help while I’m gone for a few years but I didn’t want to pay for full service PM. lots of folks in the city with PM experience trying to get work on the side. Craigslist will connect you with people seeking your specific timeframes and tenant requirements.

  • When will you be leaving? My roommate and I are in a lease that is up Nov 30 and we are trying to decide what to do. We are two young women in graduate school and are both very responsible. 🙂 And boring. We only have time to read all day.

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