A few years ago I had a eureka moment and thought I found a way to make my millions. In two words: PROPERTY MANAGEMENT.
“Yeah, right,” my aunt Betty said, simply. After spending years selling real estate, she knew better, but I guess she decided I needed to figure it out on my own.
I came up with a witty logo and the name PMS-Property Management Services. My slogan was “Tired of the monthly pain of managing your properties? Call PMS!”
I stuck magnetic signs to both sides of my “UZU truck” in bright red that said: “PMS 24/7.” People would pull up beside me, read the sign and laugh, sometimes rolling down their window and shouting statements like, “You must be a moody bitch!”
It didn’t take long before I knew I had gotten myself into something I shouldn’t have.
Most renters had no regard for other people’s property, so an almost perfect home or apartment was usually ruined in a matter of months, sometimes weeks.
People would call in the middle of the night to tell me a light bulb had gone out and could I come replace it. One time a lady called in a panic. She asked me to hurry over because there was a mouse. After asking her a few questions, I found out the mouse was outside. Finally, the woman admitted the mouse was not only outside, it was dead! But she still felt the need to call and ask me to come pick it up. Scream!
One of the most memorable events was when a fellow (we’ll call Javier) was soaking in the bathtub; one of the tiles supposedly fell off and dirtied his bathwater. He claimed he almost had a concussion from “the fall,” even though the tile landed near his feet. (I didn’t ask any questions, thinking of contortionists I’ve seen on television.)
“Well,” Javier asked, anxiously, “can you fix it?”
“Piece of cake,” I said, with total confidence.
I learned a lot when Spouser and I bought our first old house, a tiny little fixer-upper not a block from the Boys and Girls Club. Translation: Kids walking by all day and night, hitting our metal mailbox with baseball bats.
“All it needs is a little cosmetic work,” our friends assured us, as we looked at the half-acre back yard spread out like a football field.
Based on the sterile-looking white shag carpeting and kitchen tile, I presumed the interior decorator graduated from the Medical School of Design.
The little house had its quirks. Plug in the coffee pot, and the lights went out. Put a ball in the middle of the floor, and it rolled to the back wall. And let’s just say I learned after hearing Spouser scream like a girl that it wasn’t a good idea to flush the toilet while someone was in the shower.
Every time it rained, we could go jet skiing in the back yard, and garter snakes, possums and Chachalakas would come right up to the back porch to keep from drowning. Our home was a veritable Noah’s Ark.
Our first little house needed to be rewired, replumbed and relocated. So, naturally, my first priority was to paint.
Just like the roofers who never showed up after Hurricane Dolly, we wasted our vacation waiting for repairmen who never showed up. I gradually arrived at my hypothesis about repairmen, which is they evolved from cats. That’s why they never come when you call.
I learned to take care of things myself, and that’s what I continued to do while running PMS.
Despite a near-death experience when I nearly fell out of a tree while cutting branches, I went on to learn how to refinish woodwork, install shutters, put a wax ring under a toilet, wire a ceiling fan, glaze windows and — install tile. By the time it was all over, repairmen were consulting me on silicone vs. latex caulk.
Plopping a Keith Urban CD into my boombox, I popped open a bottle of water and gazed at Javier’s bathroom wall like Spouser watches his cricket matches. Meanwhile, Javier leaned against the wall and sipped a cold beer.
“Javi,” I said as I mixed mortar, “you can spoon-feed a renter, or you can teach a renter how to eat.”
Slapping the tile in his hand, I passed him the trowel.
Scanning my paint-speckled Levi’s, stubby fingernails and mortar-dusty hair, Javier handed everything back like a hot potato. “Not unless you give me a free month’s rent,” he proclaimed.
“How about I RAISE the rent?” I inquired.
With a little negotiating, I fixed the tile, and Javier agreed to clean up the mess.
Turns out PMS 24/7 was a good name for such an outfit.
Disclaimer: The now defunct PMS Property Management Services is not liable for any loss of property management business due to inaccurate information in the therefore, hereafter and above-mentioned article, for any reason, and renters sole and exclusive remedy for any cause whatsoever, shall be limited to the amount paid by the rentee for the information received (if any). This includes (and excludes) you, Javier.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane, available at Amazon.com.