Saturday, March 6, 2010

Transitioning Back Home

As we were making our preparations to return to Japan last fall, we found renters for our house at the last minute. Truly, 2 weeks before our departure a friend put two and two together and matched us and our vacant house from December - March with some friends who were about to undergo a remodel on their house and needed a place to stay for that same time frame. Even better, their home was only a couple of miles from our place so they could periodically check on the progress of their remodel and since our place would be rented as a furnished space, they could leave most of their stuff in their home and not have to worry about where to sleep or what pots and pans they'd be using for cooking. And basically I want to starting nesting as I've mentioned before.

And of course, given the short notice and the fact that they were referred by friends, we didn't get a rental agreement in writing - something that worried me from the start. I'm a bit compulsive about these kinds of things. I just want everyone to have the same clear expectations. Not having the rental agreement in writing was probably our first mistake.

At some point, a few weeks into their stay, one of the renters emailed us to ask if we'd reduce the rent because they really would have liked to use the extra bedroom that we had closed up with our personal belongings inside. At the time that we explained our circumstances (in 2 weeks' time we couldn't move out all the furniture and stored items from our daughter's room), the renters assured us that they didn't need to use that 2nd bedroom and were more than happy with our proposed one-bedroom furnished rental. Upon further consideration, they decided that they would have liked to use that room for hosting guests and could we consider reducing the rent accordingly? To be fair, our estimated rental price may have been a little on the higher side because when we drew it up in our minds, we were anticipating renting out the entire house including both bedrooms. We conceded their point and reduced the rent slightly.

As we prepared to return, we asked how the remodel was progressing and were assured it was on schedule. We still planned to return as late as possible in March so that our renters would have lots of time to make the necessary arrangements to move out. Now they're asking us for another week "or so" in April. They feel bad about asking us not to return to our house, but don't want to move their belongings twice.

Here's the sticking point. When we initially talked to them about our return plans, we acknowledged that we had no set return date but given the pregnancy, I didn't want to be traveling after the end of March so we'd be back by then at the latest but were thinking of mid-March. As I recall it, we had told them we had friends we might be able to stay with until the end of March to give them the remodel duration time. But we never talked about April. And now that they're asking us to stay away until almost mid-April, I'm not thrilled. I've been looking forward to returning to my own home and space. I've been thinking about my own bed and settling back into my own kitchen. I've been dreaming about eating all the foods that make me healthy and happy instead of having to eat whatever my mother-in-law cooks because we only have one kitchen and in-laws that don't generally care to eat the kind of food I'd cook up.

So. What to do. We'd like to have a positive recommendation from these renters for future purposes in the event that we rent out our place again as we hope to do the next time we return to Japan for an extended trip. And of course, since they are friends of friends, I don't want to screw this up too badly. But is it all worth it? I'm just not sure. I feel like we've already made concessions of all kinds regarding the rental amount and even which things we'd move around in order to better accommodate them before we left.

And I really had never anticipated being displaced from my home well into April. I'm sure our renters did. Realistically, a remodel never goes according to plan and I get that. But I thought it was pretty clear that we'd give them until the end of March (we'd make it work one way or another) but that was pretty much our best offer. Now I am able to envision that there may have been some room for misinterpretation as I'm sure they interpreted our suggestion that we might be able to stay with friends for a week or two as an open-ended kind of thing that would start whenever they needed they extra time (or call it their wishful thinking - whatever).

They've said that they can stay with friends but don't want to have to move twice. I don't blame them. We're thinking of offering them our garage as storage space until an April 15th drop dead date. They'd need to be out by March 28th since we'll be back on the 29th, but they could leave the bulk of their stuff behind (and it sounds like they brought a lot with them and that's part of the reason they wanted more space at our place) and not have to drag it all with them twice.

We're going to check with one set of friends who would normally do just about anything for us and thus might be able to put us up. But I'm concerned that their child, who is close in age to our daughter, might not handle it well. He's a very intense, spirited-child and he doesn't like to be around other children or even other adults all that much. I'd hate to come back into his life after being going for more than 4 months and to invade his space creating a real threat for him. Needless to say, staying with them for a week would normally be fun for us adults, but I'm not sure the toddlers will have a great time which ultimately means we adults may struggle. And have I mentioned that I'm pregnant and the hormones are raging????? I'm definitely coming around to the idea of staying with our friends for a week and just seriously hanging out and having some fun. We used to be roommates and it could be nice to have some together time again. Also, two of the four of us adults will celebrate our birthdays that week, so we'll surely be spending some quality time with them anyway...

If there's another option, I'd love to hear it. I'm trying to make everyone as happy and comfortable as possible, but I always do that and then I feel like miserable martyr and that doesn't seem useful. *sigh*


  1. Offering the garage for storage and staying elsewhere for a week sounds more than fair. Personally I'd try not to budge more than that, lest you end up with squatters who refuse to leave! :)

  2. Has it not occured to them that if you don't get to move back in as soon as you arrive back in the US that YOU would have to move twice (just like they would wish to avoid)?

    I think you need to reclaim your house and push your side of the situation more. I understand that they are friends of friends and you don't have a written agreement, but they are asking you to put their comfort above your own.

  3. I guess I differ in opinion here.

    I completely understand the immediate and intense urge to nest and have your own space. BUT, thinking more long term: the value of your friendship with the person who hooked you up with the tenants and a good referral from the current tenants... I would compromise and set a firm move-out date for sometime during the first full week in April (the first weekend is Easter, so not ideal for most). I would also ask them to supply you with a physical reference letter (to show future tenants) and the written agreement that they might serve as a reference should you need to rent your house out again short term.

    I understand your concerns about imposing on your friends. But it sounds like the grown-ups would have a blast whereas toddlers are a generally distractable lot. Chances are the rough week would be forgotten shortly or you can make plans for a daily adventure with your daughter to keep the children separated as much as possible. (I know, extra work just when you don't want it, but I'll bet everyone will have fun).

  4. I have to agree with Red on this one. From being out of the country for four months and being PREGNANT for goodness sakes, you need your house back. You can be nice about it, but I would stick firm with your moving date.

  5. I'm for you getting your house back around the agreed-upon time! Tell them when you'll be there, and tell them when they have to have all their stuff out. The garage thing sounds fine. Have fun going home! Exciting.

  6. You are being more than kind and accomodating to them. They need to get their behinds out of your house when they originally said they would. Offering them your garage as storage is super nice.

  7. Oh, and since when do rentees need references? I thought it was renters who needed them.