Monday, November 26, 2012

The First-Time Landlord

Kevin Coolidge

Have you ever read a book so good that you just couldn’t keep from telling someone about it? It’s part of my job. I work at and own a bookstore. I love reading, which is why I opened the store, but working in a bookstore for a bibliophile is like a diabetic working in a candy store. The more books I see, the more I want to read, the more bookshelves I need, and the less time I seem to have. Operating any small business, especially a good bookstore, is a labor of passion.

Our customers joke about being locked in a bookstore overnight. Just imagine all that time to read. Many visitors express their desire to have a bookstore and what a nice retirement project it would be, but like most adventures, it’s a lot more work and stress than you would imagine.

I do love it, but sometimes I wish I had more time to read. I got to thinking that maybe I’d rent out my house and just sit back and collect that monthly rent check. So, when a customer ordered the new edition of First-Time Landlord: Your Guide to Renting Out a Single-Family Home, I knew I had my answer.

Do you own a house that makes more sense to rent than sell? It’s not unusual in the present market. Maybe you inherited a property. Maybe you are getting divorced and you get to keep the vacation property, or maybe you’re moving and aren’t ready to sell your current home. It’s not like you are a “real” landlord, but you want to make some money and avoid legal hassles.

Owning rental property can offer many benefits. If you hold onto your property long enough, it will almost always appreciate in value—eventually. A well-managed property, with tenants who pay rent on time, will bring you a steady stream of income, as long as monthly expenses are less than the rent.

Rental property is considered a low-risk investment. Returns are usually steady, but stock values can fall or disintegrate entirely. Values almost always hold, or bounce back, and even when property values are down, people need places to live. Don’t forget the tax advantages. Rental income is taxable, but you can deduct most of the expenses related to owning and maintaining the property.

However, being a landlord is not for everyone. It can be tough. One of the major reasons people give up is the time required to manage a property effectively; the risks—such as long vacancies; problem tenants; and the costs. The costs of owning property go beyond the mortgage. There are property taxes, insurance, upkeep, repairs, and legal costs. It can easily add up to more than what you spent on the house when you lived there.

This book concentrates on the things every-first timer needs and will help provide basic information on how to find and choose good tenants, prepare a solid lease, handle repairs and maintenance legally and efficiently, maintain a good relationship with your tenant, and more. Now just place an advertisement put up a sign, sit back, and collect your monthly rent check. Maybe you’ll catch up on your reading, or finally have time to go deer hunting this year…

Catch up on your reading? Or more time to hunt & fish? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Be sure to inspect and read all about it. Looking for a children’s book that won’t set you back? Check out “Hobo Finds A Home” about a cat that found someone to worry about the leaky roof…

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Lady or the Tiger?

Kevin Coolidge

This is simply barbaric. I’m hot. I’m tired. And I haven’t had a decent meal in days. It’s supposed to make me more vicious. Hungry for the kill, but it really only makes me drink more water to fill my empty belly, and then I can’t stop pacing. My bladder is so full, and I won’t soil the fresh straw.

The smell of perfume tickles my nose. Why do these creatures insist on trying to cloak their scent? It doesn’t work. I smell the fear of the young man in the arena. I wish he had bathed this morning. I do hope the princess makes the right decision. She knows which door leads to me and a terrible, gruesome death. Will she save her lover? Or will I have another bout of indigestion and regret? I hate being the paw of justice.

The Lady or the Tiger? is a short story that was first published in the popular magazine, The Century, in 1882. It is often anthologized and remains the most famous short story of American novelist and humorist, Frank R. Stockton. He originally wrote the story to provoke discussion at a party. His story, In the King’s Arena, sparked a much-heated discussion. So, he expanded the tale and submitted it to the magazine where it was accepted and renamed by the editor.

The story begins with the description of a “semi-barbaric” king who has built a grand arena to deal justice by means of trial by ordeal. This amphitheater has two doors. The accused must choose his fate by selecting one of the closed doors. Behind one is a beautiful woman; the other holds a voracious tiger that will devour the prisoner. The audience will witness a wedding, or a bloody slaughter. Either way the crowd will be entertained.

This king has a beautiful daughter. The king wished her to be wed to a man with royal blood, but she loves a commoner, a man not good enough for his child. When the king discovers the illicit affair, he throws the young man in jail to await judgment, for it is a crime for so common a man to love above his station. The king conducts a search for the fiercest tiger and the fairest of maids for the man’s trial.

The day of the “trial” comes and the young lover walks into the arena, his eyes are nervously fixed upon the princess. He knows she has the means to learn which door conceals the damsel and which contains death. Indeed, she does. She even knows the identity of the young woman. She has seen the man cast furtive glances, and whisper in the woman’s ear. Coyly, she has returned his attention. The princess rages with jealousy. This thief has means to steal her love away.

The princess does send a signal. It has taken her days and nights of anguish, but her decision is indicated in an instant. She knew she would be asked. She secretly signals him to choose the right-hand door. Without hesitation, he moves forward to open the door she has sent him to. What lies behind the door? Stockton does not reveal what waits. He lets the reader chose their own answer.

The princess had lost him, but who should have him? The heat of passion, cold despair, the sense of loss, the deep-seated twist of jealousy, to which door did she point? The Lady or the Tiger? has become an allegorical expression symbolizing a problem which is unsolvable. Which would you choose: the lady or the tiger?

The lady? Or the tiger? Email me at and let me know. Miss a column? See what’s behind the door at and eat your fill. Looking for a book with a happy feline? Check out “Hobo Finds A Home” a children’s book about a cat who picked the right door…