Second-home soldiers | AspenTimes.com
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Second-home soldiers

It aint easy being a second-home owner.Let me rephrase that. Its not easy to keep a second home up and running. While I dont know this personally I live in a deed-restricted condo with my husband, two young children, a dog, cat and fish, which is just barely up and running at all I do know plenty of people who work hard to keep other peoples homes operating smoothly. In fact, it can take a small army to keep many of the monster mansions surrounding Aspen in tiptop shape for their owners, whether they live in them for six months a year, six weeks a year or just six days. In Aspen, its not unusual for second-home owners to have security forces, landscapers, snow removal people, pool and spa cleaners, personal shoppers, administrative assistants, gal Fridays, florists, property managers, maintenance men, nannies, chefs, maids and party planners on the payroll all at the same time.Again, I have no firsthand experience with this. At my house, my husband and I are the only ones on the payroll, and were not getting paid. (OK, I lied we do pay someone to clean the toilets, sinks and floors every other week the cost of which I cover by choosing not to own a cell phone; and we do, on occasion, spring for a baby sitter.) But the fact remains: It can take a legion of locals to get the job done in many of Aspens finer houses.Its safe to say that in this environment, second-home owners would have a hard time getting by without some level of service, concluded Monroe Summers of Summers Properties West, a full-service property management company with nearly 25 years of experience in the Roaring Fork Valley.So with 55 percent of the roughly 13,000 housing units in Pitkin County categorized as second homes (see cover story), we thought it appropriate to go behind the scenes of these residences. You know, get to know the help.So here are a few tales from the trenches or should we say quips from the caretakers quarters?Taking care of businessWhen it comes to the big picture, second-home owners usually follow one of three paths: employ a live-in caretaker; contract with several different service providers; or hire a property manager.According to Summers, the latter has become increasingly popular.More and more second-home owners are going with a full-service property manager, he said. They dont want to be bothered with the day-to-day operations, and they dont want to have to line up chores for different service providers to tackle. And, surprisingly, many of these people dont want someone living on their property.This is where Summers Properties West, and other property management agencies, come in.We do it all … were a total turnkey operation, said Summers.Summers and his six full-time employees literally do everything from plowing driveways and weeding gardens to ensuring that cars are running and bills are paid. For Sheryl Goldman, owner of Creative Concierge, the soup to nuts service she offers even extends to unpacking luggage shipped to Aspen before an owners arrival, turning on lights and getting the fireplace going. We make it like they never left home, she said.Our clients put their faith in us to get the job done, concurred Summers, who looks after 26 large estates. When I first started in this business, I offered a Chinese menu of services. But that was too complicated. Now I set a standard of service, which is all-inclusive, and homeowners seem to appreciate it.From pools to pansiesStill, some second-home owners do choose to contract out services to different providers. And even property managers must subcontract some jobs to skilled tradesmen.So in come the landscapers, security forces, pool cleaners and others.Think about it: How many locals do you know with a backyard spa or pool (and Im not talking about the Hunter Creek condominium pool or the hotel hot tub you poached last winter)? Not many. In fact, said Juliet Phelps of Ajax Pool & Spa, second-home owners are our entire business. According to Phelps, Ajax maintains hundreds and hundreds of spas per week and about 20 swimming pools. Sometimes the homeowners hire the company directly, but more often its the property managers hired by the homeowners.Either way, Phelps staff basically works for second-home owners.Our guys work during Christmas week; they dont get the Fourth of July off, she said. We have a commitment to our customers to be here during those high times. The homeowners might not be here full time, but we are.The same holds true for many local landscapers, who are called upon not only to maintain massive gardens and great expanses of land, but to do so when and only when the homeowner demands.The basic upkeep of these properties is one thing, said one business owner, who asked not to be named. But the order to plant 40 more trees over here before our party next weekend, but dont work while were relaxing by the pool is another. It can be taxing, but thats what the job demands in this area. Its our bread-and-butter.The same types of challenges are faced in maintaining these properties in winter, when snowplows must clear roads and snow shovelers must unbury walkways. And, no matter the season, homes of any kind (first or second) must be maintained, repaired and tidied, which means handymen and cleaning crews must be called in … you get the picture.Just ask JeevesBut its not just the big jobs that call out the cavalry. Even the little things grocery shopping, cooking, caring for the kids or booking a balloon ride, for example can require outside assistance for many second-home owners. We provide all the same concierge services as, say, The Little Nell, says Creative Concierges Goldman. Car services, private parties, baby equipment rentals, restaurant and activity reservations … you name it.At Grocery Girls of Aspen, a delivery service that stocks homes with groceries, spirits, sundries, and anything else our clients may desire, service is also the name of the game.We cater almost exclusively to second-home owners, said Grocery Girls owner Sara Halferty. Our biggest clients are fractional property owners the Timbers Club, Snowmass Club and Ritz-Carlton Club.Generally speaking, Grocery Girls clients download the 12-page shopping list, fax or e-mail it in, and arrive home in Aspen to a fully stocked kitchen. Weve had great feedback, said Halferty, who started the business four years ago and has expanded her clientele base every year since. Our clients like the fact they dont have to deal with the hassle of grocery shopping.And why stop with grocery shopping? Once that fridge is stocked, many second-home owners count on their own personal chef to prepare the meals. According to one private chef, this can be an elegant affair for eight, a family barbecue, or something as simple as personal pizzas for the kids who, incidentally, may have a staff of their own with a night nanny, a day nanny, a tutor and others.Of course, in the case of the part-time Aspenite who enjoys entertaining, an entire catering staff might be employed. And if youre going to throw a party, youll need a whole other cast of characters to get the job done.Its amazing how much there is to do … how many jobs there are, said Summers. But someones got to do it.Jeanne McGoverns e-mail address is jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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