Home sweet someone else's home

Dear tenants in our old house, Today is move-in day for your new home and let me be the first to say welcome! I know you were hoping to move into another house with a more modern kitchen, but that house sold, so you're managing with our house. The appliances are older here, but it's still very nice. Since it's your first night here, I wanted to give you a few hints about the place.

The upstairs will always be warmer than the downstairs. That's just the way it is with single zone heat in a two story house. You'll get used to it. I suggest putting computers downstairs, though. Also, the air return is in the living room and it's really loud but it's the only place it could go without a lot of work to move it to the hall. Again, you'll get used to it. Just keep the remote handy when you're watching TV in there.

All the keys for the house (front and back doors, door knobs and dead bolts) are keyed with the same key. My father did that for me before I moved into the house back in 2002. It's incredibly handy to not have more keys than a janitor on your key chain. The front porch lights are on a timer that's incredibly complicated to set. Honestly, I've never set it myself but just let my father mess with it when he was house-sitting. Maybe he'll house-sit for you too and fix your timer as the seasons change. Take note that you have to have at least one non-fluorescent light bulb in the lights to power the timer. I'm still not sure why that's the case, but I just accepted it. Daddy could explain it to you, but it wouldn't be a short explanation.

We repainted the upstairs bathroom for you so it's no longer Pepto pink with flower basket borders around the top. Trust me, it was just as horrible as it sounds. You're welcome. Daddy even threw in a new vent cover for the AC vent. For that matter, we painted the entire house except for the closets to give you a fresh start. We also replaced all the carpet in the house and most of the tile. The carpet is significantly nicer than anything we ever had living there, so please try to keep it nice. I can recommend a good shampoo unit for your dog's inevitable accidents. Our dogs had plenty of their own there (hence your new carpet).

We've already run DirecTV and cable lines all through the house. Please don't let the installation punks staple coax cable to the outside of the house; it's ghetto and unnecessary. We also replaced the roof and pressure washed the entire outside of the house so it has that new house smell inside and out. I called and changed over the insurance from vacant property to rental property and you've signed the lease. You've got keys to the place and when I drove by this evening I could see you prepping for your move. The rental agency assures us everything is squared away.

The neighbors are nice enough and tend to keep to themselves. The old lady next door frets if your dog barks too much, so try not to stress her out. And the sheriff on the other side lets his dogs wander into the front yard to poop. It's very annoying; feel free to fuss at him about that.

I'm nervous about renting to you. It's not you really - it's me. I'm nervous about someone else living in my house ... OUR house. That house was a rental property of my parents' before I moved there and there were some disastrous mishaps there (one day I'll tell you the long story of the ice maker ruining the floor and my father scarring his arms to bleach the floor boards under the house). I rented that house from my parents and then bought the house from them. It was my safe haven after the divorce. It was the home where my neurotic dog Sarah blossomed into the fantastic elder stateshound that she is today. It's where my aloof cat Isis learned to snuggle. Eventually I convinced Rich to move here from Richmond and it's where Rich and I got our first live Christmas tree together (and kept it up until February). It's where we had one absolutely epic fight by the front door at 1am and where years later we spent our wedding night. We've had sex in every room of that house (you're glad for the new paint and carpet, aren't you?).

My parents have counseled me on house buying over the years. They own over a dozen rental properties in the area, so they've gotten pretty good at buying houses. But in their entire lives my parents have never sold a house. So I'm not very good at letting go of a home and letting someone else take it over. If the mortgage were a little less (and the insurance not so much) I could have been tempted to leave it vacant.

Try to remember that this isn't just a random investment property of ours. It's not a house someone in New York bought to flip before the bottom fell out of the market. It's not someone's eventual retirement home that you're just squatting in for a few years. It's our first home. We're willing to share it with you for awhile, but please be good to it. Seeing that house get trashed might break my heart. But seeing you take care of it and enjoy it could really do me some good.

Oh, and don't eat the apples off the tree in the front yard. They're a novelty the first year, but you'll grow to hate them. We just keep the tree up for the doves that nest in it each year. Consider them sub-letters.

I hope you like it here in Ocean View.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Genie