A day after moving to Marathon, Leslie Christensen found her dream job.
“I was roped into going to a Rotary meeting with Theo and Geanine Derleth and afterwards they stopped to visit their friend who was looking for an assistant,” Christensen said. “I got back in the car and said, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to rent vacation homes.”
Christensen, who worked all the way through her degree at Ohio State, never got to kick back on the beach and take a couple of months off. Fourteen years later, she “bought her job” by purchasing the vacation rental side of American Caribbean Real Estate (the home sales was purchased recently by Berkshire Hathaway). The new American Coastal Vacation Rentals has a huge inventory of homes, a dedicated staff and thousands of loyal renters.
Full name? Leslie Ann Christensen
Nickname? I’m open to suggestions.
How did you get to the Keys? Um, I came on vacation and stopped at the Holiday Isle tiki bar where I met my now husband, Rob. We have two children — twins Cannon and Mya, 5.
How many homes do you manage? I manage 100 homes. Almost all of them are vacation rentals. I think when I started I had just 30 homes. It snowballed from there.
What does a typical day look like? We have no idea what’s going to happen. We’re always booking vacations, there’s always maintenance to be done, and we’re constantly meeting new property owners who want to do business with us.
Do you think the number of vacation rentals should be capped in Marathon? I think that, often, vacation rentals get a bad rap. And that should not be the case with a properly managed home. That’s such an important part of my job. I have to impart to renters that their temporary neighbors are not on vacation and to be respectful. I manage all of these homes as if they were my own, or I was a neighbor. And, I don’t know how that would work without skewing the value of homes, or hurting real estate values. There are many people whose dream it is to own property here, but they are not in a position to move here full time. So they buy it, and rent it out for a few years, in order to live here down the road. This is how so many people make it work.
How do you spot a potentially problematic tenant? Oh, we have a whole list of red flag questions. The best is, “Do we have to be a certain age to rent this house?” (Yes, you do, it’s 25.) I tell them to just go a little further down the road. Key West is where they want to be.
Any other odd moments stand out? One time a neighbor to one of our vacation rentals called and complained about the shiny, stainless steel grill because they were affecting her husband’s cataracts. So we went out there, and moved everything around to her satisfaction. There’s never a dull moment.
What about this career appeals to you? I like seeing the same families year after year. You get to see the kids growing up. It’s neat to be a part of their tradition. They save all year to spend a vacation where we live every day.
What’s the most expensive rental in your inventory? During peak season, one of our five-bedroom homes rents for $10,000. Our least expensive is probably $650 for a one-bedroom condo.
MUST a vacation rental home have a pool? Pool homes definitely rent better. But lots of fishermen just want deep water and easy access to the ocean.
If you could any superpower what would it be? Breathing under water; to be a real life mermaid.
What TV or movie character do you most resemble? Bea Arthur … but not the old Bea Arthur, the young one.
Last book you read? “The Pout-Pout fish.”
Guilty pleasure? Ghostwriting Bruce Schmitt’s Facebook posts.
Nerdiest passion? See above.
If you could have lunch with any person, dead or alive, who would you choose? Sara Blakey (billionaire founder of Spanx).
What’s your favorite annual event in marathon? Dan Samess would unfriend me if I didn’t say the Seafood Festival (but it’s really Key Colony Beach Days).
My husband and kids would say I … talk to myself more than is socially acceptable.
What are your passions, hobbies? Planning family trips to different places.