Renting with Reed Real Estate
Choosing the right rental property for vacation can be extremely stressful. This was definitely a challenge for my family when we were planning our trip to Fort Morgan, Alabama for the fall. We needed a space with three bedrooms that allowed pets, and we were really hoping to find a beachfront property in our price range.
Fort Morgan is a smaller town, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Gulf Shores. This was one of the reasons we chose the location. The beaches are private and allow pets, but are only about 20 minutes from restaurants and shopping. Despite the size, there are a lot of rental properties in Fort Morgan, most of them managed by one of three companies. After careful consideration, we chose a home called Absolutely Crabulous from Reed Real Estate.
Booking the property was simple and completed online. The Reed Real Estate website is easy to navigate and I was able to see rental prices, taxes, fees, and other costs before booking the property.
After completing the online booking agreement, which included a credit card for the initial deposit, I received a phone call from a representative from Reed. The rep explained travel insurance, pet fees, and the rest of the booking process, as well as answered other questions I had.
The rep e-mailed a copy of the rental contract to me and also mailed a physical copy. I had to sign and scan back a digital copy for them to process my deposit. I had the option to mail back the hard copy or provide it when I checked in; they require an original signature on file.
I paid the initial deposit, which included the full amount of the trip insurance, a $50 pet fee, and a $100 pet deposit. (The pet deposit is returned within 21 days of check-out. There must be no pet damage or “excessive pet hair” found in the rental.) The remainder was due within 30 days of check-in.
The rental company requires renters to appear at the rental office to check in. (If you are arriving after hours, they will accommodate, but those arrangements must be made in advance.) They have a two hour window in the afternoons for check-ins, from 3:00-5:00 PM. We arrived at the office around 4:30.
I had already mailed back the signed copy of our rental agreement, so check-in was quick and easy. The office quickly reviewed policies with me, provided a map and directions on where to find our rental, and gave us a goodie bag. The bag included a small bottle of dish detergent, small box of laundry soap, brochures for the area, a koozie, and some other small items. It was all inside a drawstring backpack, which was handy! I thought it was a nice touch.
At the rental office, there is also a dvd rental kiosk that allows renters access to free dvd check-outs. There are no fees (as long as the movies are returned by the time you check-out) and there is no limit to the number of rentals you can use during your stay, but movies can only be checked-out two at a time. The machine was stocked with newer movies and was easy to use, although we didn’t really utilize it. I chose two movies after checking in, but we didn’t end up watching them.
When I booked Absolutely Crabulous, we were fully aware that it was an older home. Based on photos, the furniture looked new and it looked clean. We weren’t expecting five-star amenities; we just wanted a clean, comfortable place on the beach. Within a short time of being in the rental, however, the problems started to make themselves known.
The property had been empty the previous week. The card said it had been cleaned the morning of our check-in, but that did not appear to be true. We found several dead bugs in the floor and the whole place seemed sad and worn. There was a butter knife in one of the front windows, holding the pane in place. The decking had nails sticking up in places.. The railing was broken and missing in spots. The decking had been repaired in some places. Instead of replacing entire boards, sections were cut out and pieced in. It didn’t seem safe.
After driving 15+ hours over two days and carrying all of our luggage up two flights of stairs, we were exhausted and decided to just go to bed and deal with things in the morning. At that point, I think we all thought we could just spend a few hours cleaning and make the most of it.
Hot, Dirty, and Uncomfortable
On Sunday, our first full day in the house, the heat index was 120 degrees. The air conditioning unit was not cooling correctly and the temperature inside the house was nearly unbearable. We called the emergency number given to us at check-in and they said they’d get a repairman out as soon as possible, but they had 5 other calls ahead of us. We’d need to be patient. With a flat-faced, senior pug in the home, we were concerned about the temperatures. There were ceiling fans in most rooms, which helped. We also found box fans in the closets to help circulate more air.
The repairman did eventually show up, cleaning the unit and replacing filters. He told us it should be working, but it would take time for it to catch up with the high temperatures. I was still holding on to my optimism, but getting increasingly frustrated.
Then the bottom dropped out. And by bottom, I mean the sewer.
No Working Bathroom
I was taking a shower and heard a loud bang. I thought someone in the house had fallen; they all thought I had fallen in the shower. As it turned out, the commotion we heard was the sewer pipes collapsing and falling onto the ground.
This necessitated yet another call to the emergency phone contact. They sent someone out immediately, but he couldn’t make the repairs until the morning. That left us the option of staying in the home overnight with no bathroom or moving temporarily to another rental. We decided to stay because it was already 9PM. We could trek to the nearby gas station if we needed to use the bathroom.
At the Breaking Point
On Monday morning, a worker arrived to fix the sewer. He found additional problems. That meant another day with no bathroom. The air conditioner still wasn’t working correctly, and the house was hot. My sister-in-law discovered that the sheets on her bed were not clean, so she was stripping the beds to rewash everything. She discovered that the mattress on one of the beds in that room was dirty and covered in urine stains.
I had finally reached my breaking point.
I had been in contact with the rental office multiple times at this point, but I called them back in a fit of tears. A terrible rental experience was ruining our vacation. The office asked to call me back, did so within about 20 minutes, and gave me several options for other rentals that were open for the week. Initially, there were no beachfront rentals that were available, which was very disappointing. While we were considering our options, I received another call. Another family had an emergency and was forced to leave their rental. This left a 4-bedroom, pet-friendly, beachfront property open.
The rental agency said we could look at all the open properties before making a choice, if that would make us more comfortable. We knew Shore is Nice II was the best option as soon as we walked in.
Shore is Nice II
Shore is Nice II is a beautiful, well-appointed home. I would recommend it to anyone planning a trip to the Gulf Shore. The lower level includes two bedrooms and a bathroom. The top floor has two additional bedrooms and bathrooms. One bedroom also has a private balcony overlooking the beach.
This home was clean, well-kept, and a completely different experience. We loved it! There were area rugs in every room, which was comfortable and homey. The kitchen included plenty of pots, pans, utensils, and other needed items. We love to cook, so this was important. Best of all, the air conditioner was working and the home was cool!
Rent from Reed Real Estate again?
Our vacation with Reed Real Estate started out horribly, but I feel like the rental company did everything in their power to make things right. They were quick to respond to our calls and issues, got us moved to an upgraded rental, and refunded a small portion of the money we paid. They were kind and apologetic when speaking to them on the phone, understanding that we were rightfully upset (with the exception of one individual named Bubba).
The overall condition of the rental is my main issue with this rental company. I can handle an older home. I am not paying thousands of dollars to stay in a home that’s old, dirty, and in poor shape. The company had to know the condition of this place, but they were still renting it to unsuspecting families.
Upgraded and Renovated
The Reed Real Estate website has updated the listing for Absolutely Crabulous and it does appear that some renovation has been completed. The kitchen has new appliances and counters. There is new flooring throughout the entire home. Some of the furniture has been replaced. The bathrooms appear to have been renovated completely.
The beds in the bunk room are the same; were the mattresses replaced? Is the cleaning crew being held to a higher standard? Have the seals around the doors and windows been replaced so that bugs can no longer get inside? The broken railings on the deck appear to have been replaced, but the pieced together deck boards are still there. Have they reinforced the rickety structure? Is the air conditioner cooling the home?
Even with the reported upgrades, I definitely would not choose to stay in this home again.We would rent Shore is Nice II again, but are actively looking at different rental companies for our trip this fall. Instead of Fort Morgan, we are planning to give Dauphin Island a try.