It was on a weekend snowboarding trip in Vail, Colorado when it occurred to me I could get an apartment there for the winter to enjoy on the weekends. It was as my winter lease was ending when it occurred to me I wanted to live there full-time that summer. And it was as the leaves started to change that I knew I needed another winter in Vail.
Summer in Vail is not cheap. Winter in Vail is almost financially impossible.
Winter rental options include living somewhere meant for four but accommodating 12, enduring Elk-motifs in apartments last updated prior to my first birthday or paying some very serious coin.
I didn’t want any of those options.
So I created my own – I wanted live at The Vail Racquet Club, home of two outdoor hot tubs, a year round outdoor pool, tennis courts, a fitness center, a coffee shop, a bar, a restaurant, free yoga classes, a steam room and one free bus ride (or five mile walk) to the center of Vail. I wanted all of this for less than I was paying in the summer.
The apartment I wanted to live in rented for about $2000 a week ($8000 a month) in the winter season. I would end up paying, at times, $720 a month and on average $855 a month. Here is how you can do the same:
Don’t Try the Traditional Rental Websites
Originally when looking for a place to live in the summer, I tried the traditional rental resources – Vail’s local newspaper, Craigslist, the random and at times questionable apartment rental websites. All wanted traditional rental agreements – a year lease and all the legality and deposits that come with it.
Then I tried VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owners), a website created for people around the world to rent their homes and apartments for a weekend, a week or a bit longer. Owners of VRBO condos are accustomed to shorter term rental contracts and I thought I would have more of a chance of negotiating with them.
Certainly it must be a bit of a pain in the ass for them to constantly manage the gillions of emails, phone calls, questions and problems that inevitably come with renting your place to someone new every week or weekend. Couldn’t a long term rental be a win for us both? I thought so.
Don’t look like a jackass
Knowing I wanted to live at The Vail Racquet Club, I used VRBO to find every one bedroom unit typically available for vacation rentals and sent them an email.
My email explained I was a single woman in my late 30’s. I worked at a professional job in Boulder where I primarily telecommute. I further explained how much I loved Vail (and the Racquet Club), how I had lived down the road the prior winter and how I was looking to live there for the summer and fall. I then asked them if they would be open to renting to me for three to five months. I told them in the email I was looking to pay between $1000 – $1300.
As Vail is a place that many (all?) go to enjoy the outdoors by day and get wasted off their face at night, I thought the idea of a seemingly quiet, professional single woman might be appealing. I also thought explaining myself a bit more upfront might better my chances at not only finding a place but getting a good price for it.
Prepare Yourself for Obnoxious Responses
The vast majority of the responses were something along the lines of, “Sure, $4000 a month for the summer.” To which I responded, “Would you consider $1000 to $1300 monthly?” To which, they typically did not respond.
But, I did find one, and I only needed one, where the owners were not only in the process of selling their condo (in a crap real estate market) but they just had a baby and did not have time to use it AND needed someone who would help them show it to potential buyers (something the weekend renters would certainly be less open to).
I went to their home in Denver (also not looking like a jackass) to sign a lease ($1200/month with utilities, $400 deposit, two bathrooms, fully furnished with a balcony that wrapped around the entire place and a fireplace(!)) for May through September.
Be a good renter, Be a good negotiator
In September, after paying rent on time and coordinating showing the unit to loads of gawkers, I sent another email asking about the possibility of staying through the winter.
With monthly winter rates being around $8000 for the unit I lived in – the outlook was not looking good – unless, of course, they still had the opportunity to make that $2000 a week – sometimes.
Our ultimate agreement?
I could pay $1200 a month through the winter but at the peak times Christmas, New Years, President’s Day and Spring Break (aka the uber-shitty times to be on the mountain) I would scram (something I had planned to do anyway). They would pro-rate my rent $40 per day and I would come back on the designated day to a professionally cleaned apartment and all the beer and alcohol the wonderful vacation renters who were enabling this all to happen couldn’t take back on the plane.
So how much did I pay for the winter ski-season season?
Which equals? $4620 total
How much I would have paid if renting it by the week? $40,000
What did it take to get all this? Diverting just a tiny bit from the standard process and asking nicely – once.