Light the Sage and Cleanse The House. Better Yet, Light the House.
Chapter 7 – I Knew I Should Have Saged Again
Or, at the very least, I should have made a sage-ing of the house prior to moving in a requirement of the rental lease.
But here we were 22 years later. 2017. Bidding adieu to 310 Twin Peaks Blvd. My very good friend, Sinead O’Mara would be moving in to take care of the place while she transitioned from New York City to San Francisco.
Lee and I were heading in the opposite direction. Our journey included a one week driving trip across the northern United States with Zeppo, our Golden Retriever, and Mister Moose, our mostly Black Labrador/Stray along for the ride.
Had we known that our continued presence was a requirement for warding off the evil spirits that took up residence at Twin Peaks, we . . . would have left sooner.
Sinead, the world’s most beautiful black Irish woman, worked at Google. She’d worked there since I got her the job in 2009. It was the perfect fit. She was smart and experienced, and just young enough to put up with the Millennial attitude that prevailed at the search engine giant.
She was also a born and raised New Yorker. Since 2015, the company had been migrating her responsibilities to the Mountain View and San Francisco offices. Much as she liked her job, Sinead wanted to remain in New York. Her elderly father, Joe, lived on the Upper East Side. Her sister, Roisin, also lived and worked in The Big Apple. It had been Sinead’s home forever.
But Google wanted to move Sinead since she was crucial to the ongoing quality of the department’s video productions, and so she went. Ironically, at just about the same time we were packing up to take a three month lease on the West Side of Manhattan. Our friendship would have to survive another 2900 mile buffer zone.
“Bad timing, eh?” I asked, when we got together in San Francisco. I handed her a set of keys for the house and the mailbox, and a list of instructions for operating the heater, the washer/dryer, the dishwasher, and the security system.
“Or good, depending on your POV. Maybe these towns are big enough for the both of us.” Replied Sinead. “Either that or we’re interchangeable.”
“Of course we are. A 60-year-old cranky guy and a young, beautiful, black-Irish woman. I’m sure people get us confused all the time.”
“You left out funny.”
“Yes I did.”
Sinead looked through the instructions.
“I’ll just Google anything I don’t understand. There’s a YouTube video for everything.”
“Agreed. If YouTube had been around when I was a kid, I’d be living on Venus.”
“I’m paraphrasing Phil Hendry, hilarious radio host. He said if the internet had been around when he was a child, he would have built a house on Mars.”
“Never heard of the guy.”
“Too bad. Very underrated radio personality.”
Sinead moved in during the month of October of 2017. Her significant other, Declan, joined her in February of 2018. Neither reported any disturbances, ectoplasm, or fat has-been comedians wearing exterminator uniforms.
Sinead did eventually get pregnant, so some things did go bump in the night. I guess someone had to take over for Harpo.
Chapter 8 – The Winning Streak Comes to an End
Lee and I settled back into our New York City lifestyle with no trouble. We found a building at 64th and West End Avenue that would issue a three month temporary lease, but liked the area so much we decided to take a 15 month lease on a new property at 61st and West End Avenue for 2018. We would not be returning to San Francisco.
We did, however, go back for the Holiday Season of 2017/2018 and prepared the house for the rental market, because as much as I loved Sinead, she and Declan would not be able to afford the amount we could charge for the house. I also believe people do want their own space and our house was not right for the two of them long-term.
But until we found a renter, they agreed to remain. Declan, one of the finer people on the planet, did some interior and exterior painting to offset some of the expenses. He’s a talented finishing painter and his work is exquisite.
Declan took care of the painting, and I had some window units replaced; the roof repaired; the landscaping freshened up; and the house detailed by a cleaning service. The next step would be to find a rental agent.
Lee and I decided to use Compass, the company which employed our two super agents, Vickie and Joan. However, Vickie and Joan did sales only. They connected us with Maureen, who took over the marketing of the house for rental purposes.
Prior to Maureen coming on board, I did interview a couple of other candidates for the rental, which, given the stupid amount of money we could charge for it, should have precipitated a stampede of commission hungry agents.
To follow are some of the more California-like interactions I had with them:
Agent: How much would you like per month?
Me: I’m sorry, aren’t you the agent?
Me: I can’t do this. Get out.
Next Agent: Are you going to fix the driveway?
Me: We did . . . in 1996.
Next Agent: Well, you certainly can’t drive a car up it.
Me: You’re right. We drove two cars, actually two SUVs, up and into the garage for almost 20 years.
Next Agent: How?
Me: Please leave.
The Other Next Agent: What are the chances you would turn the third room upstairs into a bedroom?
The Other Next Agent: Why not?
Me: It’s a furnished rental. The tenant can do whatever they like to reconfigure it. But I want to show it as is. Does that make sense?
The Other Next Agent: Uh.
Me: Don’t call us.
Maureen, again our Compass recommendation, came in and while she was as laid back as the other potentials, did schedule the photographer and put the website together. By early May the house was officially on the market and had some showings.
We did have one contentious conversation.
Maureen: You should consider showing it unfurnished.
Me: We’ve danced that dance already with one of your competitors.
Maureen: And what did you decide?
Me: Are you kidding? We decided that while it sounds easy, it involves emptying the house of its contents and temporarily storing it.
Maureen: Great. When can you do that?
Me: Now you’re messing with me. I’m not doing that. I can’t imagine what the fees would be for storing all that furniture on a monthly basis, and I know it would be thousands of dollars to move everything out and then back in again.
Maureen: You should consider showing it unfurnished.
Me: You said that already, and I’ve considered it. No. It’s a furnished rental.
Maureen: It might be easier to rent it unfurnished.
Me: Easier? For who? Compass? We’ll make less money and have to spend a ton to unfurnish the house. The answer is no. Anything else?
Maureen, not prone to showing emotion, did let a grumble escape, but she exited the house and a week later had a potential renter.
A retired gay couple.
Not retired from being gay, but both had finished their professional lives and moved out of the city to Sonoma. They wanted a pied-à-terre, however, in San Francisco, but did not wish to buy anything.
Maureen showed them the house and they requested a second look. They would bring their car, a Tesla (of course) SUV, in order to test the driveway and garage. She called me to let me know.
“We’ve had SUVs in and out of the garage,” I said. “As a matter of fact, contractors have taken their F350s and cargo vans up and down the driveway without a problem.”
“They’re a little nervous about it,” she said.
“First few times, it will be difficult, but it is doable. Do you have smaller car than theirs?”
“Yes. What about it?”
“Drive yours up first. It will be a good way to show them how to do it.”
“I’m not crazy about that idea. How do I get it out of the garage.”
“Back it out and do a reverse K-turn.”
“Where are you from, Maureen?”
“Was the execution of a K-Turn NOT a part of the California driver’s license road test?”
“Never heard of it.”
“And I thought the issue with California drivers was limited to too much marijuana use.”
The boys flunked their Luge Chute Driveway test. Maureen called me to recount the two of them screaming histrionically as they BACKED the SUV down the driveway after getting it halfway up. That’s never a good idea, given the retaining walls on either side.
They passed on the rental.
“What a bunch of weenies,” I said.
“They really had a problem with that driveway.”
“Maureen, the house is on Twin Peaks Blvd. If they’re going to freak out about the driveway, which is completely accessible for two cars, both in the up and down directions, then they shouldn’t rent the house. Twin Peaks, in case you haven’t noticed . . . is a hill.”
“I know, but—”
“The driveway worked just fine for us and both our SUVs. I wouldn’t shy away from it. Just point it out right away and disclose it, as y’all like to say in the real estate business.”
“Maureen, I have to go. Keep me, and Sinead and Declan, apprised of any future showings. The place will get rented, and whoever takes it will not bother either one of us with phone calls about the accessibility of the garage, because they’ll know about it up front. Capisce?”
I hung up, but you knew that already. There would be enough difficulties with trying to manage the property from 2900 miles away without the tenant calling to complain about the driveway. Being upfront about it was the best approach.
Several more couples traipsed through the house over the next few weeks. The month of June arrived and Sinead and Declan were still ensconced in the house, which suited us just fine. Declan had finished the interior and started on the exterior trim.
Sinead’s job at Google trundled along, but she missed New York City and her family.
“I feel like I’m on vacation,” said Sinead.
“It is a theme park city. You’ll get used to it. It took me about two years to even begin to feel at home when I first moved to San Francisco in 1987.”
“You’ve been there for almost a year now. Look, you can stay in the house as long as it takes us to get a renter, but you’ll also feel a lot better when you and Declan get your own place.”
“Tough market, here.”
“Oh for God’s sake, Sinead. You’re from New York. Tell me that’s an affordable real estate market.”
“You’ll be fine, Sinead. You’ll find something, and then you and Declan will live happily ever after.”
If only I could say that for my eventual tenant.