In a wide-ranging interview, Island Rentals’ Kerry Horek talks to Wendy Ledger about landlords, tenants and her love for the job Offering much more than a simple rental service, Island Rentals has developed into a one-stop shop for new arrivals to Cayman. Indeed, last year’s move to an office literally yards from Owen Roberts International Airport proved a good business decision. Almost 90% of the agent’s business comes from overseas, so situating themselves at the airport was a smart move. According to property manager Kerry Horek, the agency has seen walk-ins go up by about 15%. At the same time, its website remains a primary business tool, where customers can find a home, have the utilities hooked up, including cable and Internet and even order groceries to be in their new condo before they even arrive in Cayman. Having started Island Rentals some six years ago alongside owner Andre Jackson, Horek says she still enjoys every minute. “I love my job and helping people to find a comfortable, clean, safe, well maintained rental makes me sleep at night.”
As a daughter of the soil, Horek says she is like an ambassador for her country and tells new residents that they can consider her their personal concierge. Her motto is, “If I wouldn’t live in it, I wouldn’t let you live in it”. From publishing a guide book to specialist property management solely during hurricane season, Horek is meeting a host of needs related to the business of renting. While recognising the niche requirements of property owners who live overseas and new residents has led to a host of extra services, above all the business is all about finding good homes for good people, she says. “We lease to regular working people, it may be single executives or small families,” she says. One issue she is facing is a shortage of one-bedroom and three-bedroom properties. “As the market is flooded with two-bedroom properties, this is where we are going to see the most fluctuation. Those landlords wishing to rent out two-beds will begin to feel a pinch.”
Horek explains that a similar situation occurred in the past with the result being one-bedroom rates went up, while rates on two bedrooms fell to almost the same level. While she does not see overall rates falling further, she believes that it won’t be long before one and two bed units are again fetching a very similar price. But it is still a good time to be a landlord, especially of new properties. “The newer the unit, the more it will fetch, and because of the very high demand for one-bed condos overall rental rates should remain healthy,” she says. If would-be tenants face shortages of certain types of properties, landlords face a different problem: a shortage of good quality tenants. Pets are becoming an increasing problem for many landlords, particularly when animals are abandoned. ‘No Pets’ is becoming a more common rule. Horek sees this as part of a trend by property owners to make tenants take better care of the homes they rent. “Landlords are seeking ways to make their tenants more responsible for the properties they lease,” she says.
“We are now making much more extensive credit checks on new renters, which in some cases means going to their country of origin and checking backgrounds. Many landlords are also insisting that tenants contract monthly janitorial services to keep condos in good order.” She says another emerging trend is a reduction in the physical extras such as linens, kitchenware and accessories, but she says most landlords in her experience are still offering a full range of hard furnishings and appliances. On the other hand, landlords are tempting tenants into their properties with other incentives. As competition for tenants increases, an ever-growing number of owners are offering utilities such as Internet and cable as well as water and power to a given value each month included in the rental rate.
The large number of work permit holders in Cayman means that there will always be a high demand for rental properties from a transient population of renters and Horek believes that the country needs a fair Landlord and Tenant bill that can protect both parties. It is a two-way street and we need tenants and landlords to both be responsible,” she says, explaining that in a small community, reputations soon spread. “Landlords should make necessary repairs to the property when needed and tenants should pay their rent on time.”