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So What Happens to the Little Guy?

The new house is 2,000 square feet – that’s almost 3 times the size of our little condo. To be honest, we were thisclose to being turned off by the size of the house, but when we thought about the room to grow (for whatever our family’s future holds, the Shops and the ability to foster siblings for Jack) and the home’s long term potential, well, we couldn’t sign on the dotted line soon enough. For the first time in our lives, we’ll have a home for the long haul, in a town that we just can’t get enough of.

With that said, we’ve been asked, what will happen to the little guy? (I realized only later that including this photo of Jack may have been slightly confusing; that little guy is a keeper.) You know, this condo that birthed the Shops, this blog, and our slice in the city that we couldn’t wait to return to after every anniversary excursion. Well, we’ll be renting it. Of course this decision meant one less stressor during this new-to-us renovation adventure – less stress than listing it for sale on the market, we should say – but it didn’t mean that we’d be willing to lease and forget. No, we still very much want to be a part of the condo’s new life.

We researched our options, and we could have very easily handed our information over to property management companies – a pricey (but valuable) option. We had phone meetings with several that we felt comfortable with, but knowing that we’d be staying in the same neighborhood (and just a few blocks over) meant that we could be more hands on. And so, we’ve found ourselves as landlords.

This, in turn, left some to ask, well, how will you handle that? What did you do? You know there are a lot of Chicago laws and rules that happen when you’re a landlord, right? (To that last one, there are a lot of Chicago rules and city regulations in general, so what’s one more?)

In short, we chose to list our home on Domu. Rather than deal with the stress and too-many-emails from Craigslist, we went with Domu for a few reasons: 1) It’s Chicago home rentals only, 2) the layout was clean and structured, and 3) we liked that we could track pageviews, respondents and any listing edits in one place. Not to mention – and perhaps this was the biggest plus for us – it seemed to have a more captive audience of serious apartment hunters. (Let’s just say, the emails we received through Domu had far fewer typos than most Craigslist ads we’ve posted in the past!)

After 15+ showings in well under a week, we received a handful of promising applicants – and along with Jack and the girls, we met each and every one in person. We were able to deactivate our listing after 6 days, and after the most grueling decision making process and another week of discussion, we rented the little guy to a couple that we felt would love the home as much as we do (did? The tenses are getting confusing as we’re still limbo-living). Did we think a little too long about this? Yes. But it was so, so important to us to choose someone that felt good in our gut, and someone who walked through the home with that look on their face – the same one we had when we walked from room-to-room the first time, too.

This is where the hard(er) part came in: how do we do this? Like, actually rent? For us (and again, after a brick ton of research), we went with Lease Runner to manage the applicants (each interested renter had to fill this out), the lease itself, and ultimately, the processing of automatic monthly payments. Their customer service has been amazing, everything can be managed in one place, and the application fee helped to weed out any on-the-fence hunters.

With many of our own friends acting as landlords (as they move away, sniff, sniff!) and a handful of readers coming up on their own similar situations, we hope that you’ll find this information useful for wherever you are! Keep in mind, however, that every town/state may have their own tenant/landlord regulations, and all the information you’ve ever wanted to know can be found on your own city website (i.e., there are particular ways in which to handle security deposits, etc).

Leaving our little home will be hard, but we also feel incredibly happy for its new lease on life (oh, how punny!). With the paperwork (and decision making) behind us, we can now look forward. It’s going to be exciting, you guys.

PS: Neither Domu or Lease Runner asked us to write a review. We just really, really love(d) working with them!

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  • Hannah K.7.12.13 - 6:54 AM

    Oh how great! Congrats – and what a new and interesting adventure of landlordship!ReplyCancel

  • Sheila7.12.13 - 8:38 AM

    Thanks for this. I am considering renting my townhouse and will probably go with a management company but learning about your process is helpful.ReplyCancel

  • Alichia7.12.13 - 9:22 AM

    Glad you found someone! Rental market in Chicago has been right, so not surprising you were done in 6 days! One word of advice, ensure you talk to your insurance agent, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover all that landlord insurance does (I leaned this from working on the Allstate business at an ad agency).


    And yes Jack seems like a keeper ;)ReplyCancel

  • Tina S.7.12.13 - 9:35 AM

    Aww! Look at you two, being all grown up and stuff! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Kim7.12.13 - 9:39 AM

    Alichia, excellent point! Yes, we also spoke with our insurance agent to get us all set up for the rental AND our new house. Thanks for the information!

    Tina, it’s about time, don’t you think?ReplyCancel

  • kristin7.12.13 - 11:29 AM

    Ugh. I grew up with parents who did monthly rentals and then my husband thought it was a good idea… and let’s just say that I’m SO happy we just sold our rental property. I do NOT want that headache ever again my whole life (renters shouldn’t be considered perfect until you see the place after they move out). I agree with Alichia, make sure your insurance is in the know and take pictures of the condition of the place while doing the inspection with them so they know you have them for future reference.ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.12.13 - 1:15 PM

      Kristin, fair warning! Thank you for the tip and advice.ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square7.12.13 - 1:47 PM

    My husband and I are landlords for our condo as well, since we bought our house to live in. It’s been a pretty good experience so far, and very helpful since it’s kept us from having to try selling it in this market. As long as we can find good renters, we’ll keep it until the market improves.

    It’s funny you went with Domu and that the clean layout and ease of use worked well for you… because I designed it! I used to work for the design agency that concepted, designed, and helped develop the Domu website and advertising, and I was the lead on that project. Glad you had a positive experience!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.12.13 - 2:14 PM

      Laura, awesome! Well, you did a great job – and the whole team at Domu was wonderful! (They actually asked us if they could put our condo on the rotating front page, which really gave us a boost in showings.)ReplyCancel

  • Kalli7.13.13 - 3:22 PM

    Aw, Jack’s little face! He’s like, “do I get to go with you guys?” Glad you found renters-man you’ve got a lot of balls in the air right now!ReplyCancel

  • Leila7.15.13 - 11:36 AM

    Quick question. We are thinking about moving from California to Florida. We have a house here that we want to rent but buy something else over there. How did you go about buying a second house while still having a first mortgage ? ( Im assuming you have one )

    Was the second time buyer thing hard for the banks to approve or this is normal ?


    • Kim7.15.13 - 12:33 PM

      Hi Leila, good question. Our first mortgage was taken into consideration when we were approved for our second mortgage. Our lender had to take that into account when they gave us the amount that we were approved for, meaning, it wasn’t as high as it would have been if we didn’t have the mortgage on our condo. I wouldn’t say that it was harder to approve, we were just approved for a lesser amount! The lender has to assume that we won’t be renting our condo, meaning that we were approved for a price if we were to pay both mortgages ourselves.ReplyCancel

  • Helen7.16.13 - 1:30 AM

    I live in Los Angeles so I couldn’t be much help on Chicago landlord/tenant rights. I did rent out my house on Craigslist and was so lucky to meet a young couple that loved the house, plus- they have two rescue dogs, so it was a perfect match! Before they moved in, I put a bottle of wine, a box of dog treats and toys and a note said “welcome home”. I thought starting and maintaining a good friendly relationship with the tenants can’t hurt. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Kim7.16.13 - 9:12 AM

    Helen, that’s so sweet! I hope things are still going well with the tenants?ReplyCancel

  • Helen7.20.13 - 1:53 AM

    Yes I did maintain a good relationship with the tenants. That was a few years ago. Sadly for the tenants I moved back in last year (so the fur balls can have a yard) They were ok about it but I felt very bad. Good luck with your move! Can’t wait for the updates!ReplyCancel

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