The last couple of renters were happy. Thanks heavens. And did no damage. Thanks heavens twice.
However they had a bunch of "suggestions useful for your future renters" which pretty much mimicked what very helpful and friendly commenters here told me upon my initial post. So -
Get matresses not futons, repaint the deck, replace the living room sofa which is lovely but you sink into it ( this was a feature, not a bug, but if you are 70, I suppose this can be an issue), get rid of your big bookcases and your old books noone cares about, get an HD flat-screen TV and cable service I do have internet, free) , and put an unfoldable new IKEA couch instead of your unfoldable sofa from the 50s, and buy an espresso-maker and matching dishes, and get rid of family photos and questionable art by kids, and .. and .. and... including some real winners - install lighting by the waterfront deck, build a dining area or a gazebo with a view down by the water, get rid of your old canoe (but it works fine!!) and get a lighter new one, get a pedal-boat "it is just $300 used".....
AAaaaaaaaaa! People! Am I the only one to think this is all highly obnoxious??
The bottom line from my nice and not too nice renters is - go make it into a self-serve hotel. Invest 30 K at least (I counted!) and make it NICER for your tenants and remove all reminders of yourself and your family, and also have a full-time caretaker nearby to find stuff like a grill under the deck or screw in a burnt-out lightbulb or advise them on how to get a fishing license or turn the electric boat motor on because they are not technical.
I am flabbergasted. I am not willing to do ANYTHING of the kind or to invest into more than a new coffeemaker. NOT an espresso-maker!
My question is - should I even attempt another rental season, or just give up. My "vision" was - and HomeAway site kind of reinforced it, luring me in - was to rent my place entirely as is, as an old family home with old games and books and towels that are mismatched, dishes that are solid but random, no sets, with old clothes pushed far back in the closets, dry goods filling the cupboards - until I am ready to sell and clear the house of its 30-year history. My "vision" failed completely - I got plenty of tenant complaints about random stuff that is not perfect. My reply was - I TOLD YOU SO IN MY AD, and you are paying well under market value, judging on HA site alone. You are not getting a slick cottage but an oldish quirky family house. I warned you about it.
So, any advice, other than GIVE UP? Investment is out of the question. On-site management is out of the question. Total transparency - I already have it in the ad. Screening - I thought I screened well. You will not believe how much this renting business has taken out of me.
Is there another site, where people do not expect hotel amenities or perfection in their vacation rentals? I thought my renters were modest simple people, like myself. I told them all I could about the house, including the child-prooffing and watching things, potential issues with plumbing if they have too many guests, and so forth. They still complained and sugested improvements from reasonable (coffeemaker) to inane (gazebo).
I need another site. Or a valium.