The Luxury Rental Property That Brings in $150K/Yr of Profit

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Making six figures from one rental property is every investor’s dream, but to achieve this, you need to choose the right investing market, buy the right property, and create luxurious “moments” that other rentals don’t offer. Today’s guest is going to show you the ropes of luxury real estate investing!

Welcome back to the Real Estate Rookie podcast! When Veronica Garreton decided to try her hand at short-term rentals, she went straight for the big fish—a $750,000 rental property in Joshua Tree, California. At the time, it was the area’s most expensive property listed for sale, and in year one, the rental barely broke even. Using her background in architecture, however, Veronica identified creative value-adds that would attract more guests and allow her to charge her ideal nightly rate. The very next year, she pocketed a whopping $150,000 in pure profit!

Whether you own a basic rental or a “luxury” property, there is plenty of wisdom to glean from today’s episode. Veronica talks about analyzing deals, using the power of influencer marketing to get more bookings, and the small touches ANY property owner can make to enhance the guest experience!

Tony:
This is real Estate rookie show 384. So what do you think of when I say luxury? Today we’re going to get in how thinking luxury may actually be the difference of a sizable return on your investment or an empty property draining your bank account. My name’s Tony Dear Robinson, host today and welcome to the Real Estate Rookie Podcast where every week, three times a week, we bring you the inspiration, motivation, and stories you need to hear to kickstart your investing journey. Today I’m here with Veronica Garton, owner of a luxury property in Joshua Tree and the case study that we’ll get into surrounding the idea of thinking luxury and funny story, I actually saw Veronica’s property way before I ever knew who she was personally, so I’m excited to get into the backstory here. Now look, markets are saturated and Josh Tree today has over 3000 Airbnbs, and we’re going to hear how Veronica’s professional background elevated her short-term mental business and the tactics she uses to keep guest satisfaction high. Look, you don’t need to charge a thousand bucks a night to make an impact on your property, but if you want to take your short-term rentals to the next level, you won’t want to miss this show. So Veronica, thank you so much for joining me on the Real Estate Rookie podcast today. Super excited to hear your story and share with our guests.

Veronica:
Super excited to be here, Tony. It’s so exciting.

Tony:
Now we actually met, like I said, I knew your property. I think anyone who invests in Joshua has probably seen your property once before, but we actually met in person at one of the events I hosted back in, I think it was September of 2022 at the SCR summit we met. Yep. And I think I actually showed your property in one of my presentations and you come to you like, Hey, that’s my property on the screen up there. So I’m happy we get to have this conversation. So maybe tell me the story because you were one of the OGs in Joshua Tree before it really kind of became this haven for short-term rental investors. So I’d love to hear the story of how you landed on that market and specifically that property.

Veronica:
Yeah, absolutely. So you’re absolutely right. I mean, I got into the Joshua Tree Market in late 2017, so it was pretty early on and there really wasn’t anybody doing what I wanted to do in Joshua Tree and bring luxury properties to that area. And I really picked Joshua Tree because I liked to go there and we were always looking for places to stay. We had a new baby and it was just very, very hard to find a nice place to stay that was really accessible, that had good access to the park and so on. And so I kind of started looking for what I would want as far as a place to stay. We had had a condo in West Hollywood that we were going to sell and we accidentally fell outside of the five-year mark for rentals. And so we were going to pay like 60% in capital gains or something.
So we’re like, oh, we’re going to have to 10 31 this. So we started looking for a property and this property came up and it was actually like a hundred thousand dollars outside of our budget. And at the time it was the most expensive property ever in Joshua Tree. And I thought, well, we can’t afford it, but if we’re going up there anyway to look at properties, I’m still going to put it on the list. And the night before 8:00 PM the night before we went out to look at the properties, they dropped the property a hundred thousand dollars and we were the first ones in to see it. And the minute we saw it, we’re like, oh, we’re done. That’s the one. And so we 10 31 out of this condo and into this property having no idea what we were doing, and we just said, okay, we’re going to turn this into a short-term rental and see how it goes from

Tony:
There. Talk about a leap of faith. That’s probably more than a leap of faith. A leap of faith is just like a little, you guys took almost like the plunge of death jumping across the Grand Canyon, the most expensive property that there was in that market at the time. So let me ask this question because I think a lot of people, when they see more expensive price tags, especially relative to whatever else is for sale in that market, a lot of times people just initially assume that the property is overpriced, right? Like high price tag means overpriced. What was your thought process, and I guess what did you see in this property that made you feel that the price tag of you said it was $750,000 price point was justified?

Veronica:
Yeah, so it’s really interesting. My background is in architecture, that’s what I studied. And I worked in luxury design for 10 years all over the world with Dubai, Hong Kong, whole city skylines, you name it, yachts, all that stuff. So I had a pretty good sense of what luxury clientele were looking for. And when I got onto this property, it was just so clear that there was nothing like it had an 85-year-old mature cactus garden. I mean, it was a haven for hummingbirds. Quail animals came and left coming through the property, had enormous boulders all over the place. It had an in-ground swimming pool that was original from 1954. It had a beautiful little casita on the side. I mean, there was just nothing like it on the market. And even though it was expensive, I felt like what it already had to offer the architecture was iconic mid-century architecture. I felt like when I looked at what I could get for let’s say a hundred thousand dollars less, it was significantly less as far as the amenities available.

Tony:
Your experience obviously played a big role into you being able to identify the value in this property. And today it’s an amazing property. You’ve done really well with it. But I’m curious that first year that you actually operated this as a short-term rental, what was the financial outcome that first year? Did you crush it immediately?

Veronica:
Well, no, we did not crush it immediately. First we had to put money into it, so we did have to put some investment into the infrastructure. We added a 42 inch propane fire pit. Joshua Tree operates for a large portion of the year under a burn ban, and that means that you can’t burn wood out in the open, and we’re not in the business of lighting the hillside on fire. So we added it with a timer, and that allowed us to have this huge and beautiful fire pit. It’s a corten steel, just gorgeous in the boulders, lights up the rocks at night and it really became a feature. But it all took a little bit of time to marry the architecture and the interior design and get the property up and running. So in that first year, it did cover all its costs, including the construction costs, but we only profited $4,000. And at that point, my ex-husband was calling the realtor and saying, we need to list this property. I’ve made a huge mistake and it was not ideal, but there were lessons. There were lessons in there.

Tony:
And obviously you still own the property today, Veronica, so clearly made the decision not to sell. So what happened after that first year and I guess what do you think maybe led to some of the success you saw after that first year?

Veronica:
Yeah, so there were a couple things that really stood out in that first year. The first one was that we did have this fabulous in-ground swimming pool, but because of the age of the pool, it was not heated. And so it meant for about six months to eight months of the year, you had this beautiful crystal swimming pool that people could only look at and they couldn’t use and we didn’t have a hot tub. So the big lesson that came out of that first year was that we needed a hot tub. And I did some research on the hot tubs and I found out that by the time we poured the concrete pad, brought the gas line, brought the electrical, and bought a hot tub from let’s say Costco and had it delivered, it would only cost me about $3,000 more to build the hot tub of my dreams.
And in that case, it would actually add equity to the property. So built in hot tubs at equity to your property and the sort of drag and dump hot tubs. So anytime you’re looking at adding something or adding an amenity from the luxury perspective, you have to say like, okay, well how do I make this the best? How do I make it the best hot tub there is? So what we ended up with was a 14 foot by 14 foot by seven foot hot tub overlooking the valley in a custom tile pattern that I hand cut myself with my best friend and had it all laid out on plywood for the installers. And so it’s a completely custom hot tub, but it only costs me about $3,000 more than a Costco hot tub.

Tony:
I love that personal touch and I envy folks like you who have that really strong eye for design because is not my skillset. I’m good at the numbers, I’m good at the operations, I’m good at all of that side, but the design and that eye is just not something that I have. And I’m lucky I’m married to someone that’s pretty good at design, but to take that level of pride and ownership and to say like, Hey, we’re not going to plop down, and that’s what we do. We get the wafer hot tubs and we pop ’em down, but to be able to say, Hey, let’s spend a little bit more, but the return is so outsized. So I guess after that, going into that second year, once it’s all said and done, what was the change in profits from year one to year two? Was it another 4K? Was it significantly more, significantly less? It

Veronica:
Was 150 K. So the profit the second year was a hundred and

Tony:
In profit

Veronica:
In profit 150 K.

Tony:
Wow, that is amazing. That is absolutely amazing. My best property in my portfolio did about $130,000 last year in revenue. So the fact that you pulled down 150,000 in profit is absolutely amazing. So I want to get into a little bit more about the components of luxury and what do you feel kind of makes property stand out, especially today because the market has become more competitive. But first we’re going to take a quick break to hear a word from our show sponsors. Alright, so we are back with Veronica who just shared the mind-blowingly large number of $150,000 in profit in her second year running her Airbnb. But it wasn’t an accident, Veronica, and it wasn’t because you just stumbled into this property. You talk about taking the time to hand cut the tile and choose everything yourself for the hot tub and making sure it was placed in the right location to get the right view and just understanding what folks wanted from this market. So when you think about maybe the components of luxury and maybe some tactics you use to express that creativity, what comes to mind for you to really nail it for a luxury property?

Veronica:
The thing that I think is the hardest to find out in the market is what’s already there. You can change a wall color, you can add a kitchen, you can do a lot of things, but you cannot pick up a house and change the view. So I think looking for what the property already has is really one of the biggest things, and I think people overlook that They become a little bit nose blind to their own properties assets. One of my favorites is trees. People, they live in an area, they know the area, they start to ignore all these beautiful, beautiful trees that they have on their property. And it’s so easy to create a moment around a tree, whether it’s adding a swing or a bench or having a nice little seating area or a fire pit and really taking advantage of the beauty that is already built into the property that you have.
If you have a beautiful porch, really celebrating those spaces and creating a moment where people can imagine themselves in it, not just a picture off your deck looking out into the backyard where there are trees, but really looking at that space and saying, if I wanted to climb into this picture, what would that look like? And that’s not about having a million dollar property, it’s just about looking for those gems within your own property and saying, how do I make a moment out of this? How do I make this porch a moment? How do I make this walk down to a walking trail a moment for the people that visit us? Because to them it’s new. It’s new every time, every single person, it’s new.

Tony:
I love that point, Veronica, and I think that the question that makes me think of is like, well say that maybe I have this beautiful tree that’s in my backyard or in the front yard of my property. How do I begin to identify what that moment should look like? So are you pulling just on inspiration from your vast experience in this space? Are you looking at other comparable properties in your market to see what else is already popular? Are you looking maybe at other Airbnbs and other markets that aren’t in the same city and pulling inspiration from there? But I guess what steps do I take to actually get the inspiration on what I should put into my property to give it that luxury feel?

Veronica:
I think there’s a little of that of all of those elements, but the thing that I would say for people to look at is look at the top 10% of vacation rentals in your area and see what they’re doing well, what do they feature? How do they feature it? It’s like they are going in there and they’re in your same market and they’re doing a great job of showing that you’re in a beautiful little town and they’ve got little shots of the shopping area or they’re showing you a beautiful walking trail. They have learned how to market their property for significantly more than your property, but is it significantly better? It’s hard to say in a lot of cases it really isn’t. It might be do their curtains pop and your curtains match the wallpaper? Do they have beautiful eye-catching things that make you look at what’s on the bookcase? Those are things that anybody can copy that’s not unique to a luxury property, but the people that are doing it are doing it very well and they’ve learned how to arrange it so that you can really see it through the photographs because of the first thing you need to do is satisfy their eyes. You need to deliver on that picture, but they’re never going to book with you if the pictures don’t invite them.

Tony:
I’m so glad you brought up the photo piece. I actually just did a training last night. It was like a free training I did for my audience, and I told them, I was like, guys that you can go into a market and dominate if the majority of the top listings in that market have crappier amateur photos. Absolutely. Because if I can go into a market and I see that the top 10% has photos that looked like they were taken on a razor flip phone from 2003, then I know if I go in there and even if I just have the same exact property, but I market it better through better photos, I am probably going to do better than those other listings. So I absolutely love that advice, Veronica. Now you shared a little bit about your courage going into this market, and again, 2017 and the short term rental industry was like the wild, wild west, even more so than it is today. So you obviously have some courage there. You talked about the strategy of, hey, how do I take this experience that I have in the luxury design realm and apply it to this property? But the piece we haven’t touched on yet is the actual management itself. So when you bought this property were did you hire a property manager? What was that experience on the operation side?

Veronica:
So when we first bought the property, I was working and I had a newborn. So there was no way that I didn’t even know what self-managing was. It took me three more years to even discover BiggerPockets, which is its own saga. I thought I was inventing the wheel for three years. And so I didn’t even know that self-managing was an option. So we hired a management company and I think they did the best that they could, but they were taking 30% of gross plus expenses because our property was earning so much, we were paying almost $45,000 in management fees a year, and that’s like an entire person’s salary, and we weren’t receiving an entire person’s salary worth of service. And I basically shadow, I mean I would say I shadowed them. They would probably say I micromanaged ’em, but I just kept watching every single thing they were doing. And by the time that the contract came to an end, I thought I could do this myself. So I started self-managing at that point and bought back 50 some thousand dollars from going to self-management. So that was a big learning curve. I got a teeny tiny master’s degree in management, but it was expensive.

Tony:
One of the things that I think might be most interesting, Veronica, because you, you’re kind of creating your own market out there because like you said, you bought the most expensive property in Joshua Tree at the time. So when it comes to figuring out how much to charge on a nightly basis, what was the property manager’s approach to that? And I guess did yours differ once you took management over for yourself?

Veronica:
Yeah, it was very interesting. There were obviously no comps, there was nothing to compare to. There was only one other couple that I felt were doing sort of a very good job in Joshua Tree at the time, and their property was not comparable. The management company told us you’ll never be able to charge more than $400 a night in the high desert. And I was telling them that we needed to charge $799 and they just said it’s not possible. But I was looking at what was going on in Palm Springs and I was using those numbers to try to get a baseline for what we might be able to do here because there really just wasn’t anything out there. At the time, our permit number for vacation rentals was number 300. I mean, it was at the very beginning and now there’s like 3000 plus.
And we still don’t have a lot of competition. And that’s the thing I think people don’t take into consideration when they look at luxury properties is that the way that people find properties is they start clicking amenities. So they say, I want a pool, I want a hot tub, I want air conditioning, I want wifi, I want a high chair, I want a hammock. I want all of these things. And as they’re doing that, the pool is getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller. And so by the time you get to properties that compete with our property, we’re not trying to compete against 3000 Airbnbs, we’re only competing with about 30. And even within those 30, we have amenities that aren’t even on that list. But by the time you get to where we show up, I’m competing with 30 Airbnbs. I’m not competing with 3000 Airbnbs.
So it’s very different to stand out at one among 32 page clicks versus thousands that maybe if you just said, oh, I need air conditioning and a bed that’s very hard to stand out. So I think that the luxury market has a leg up. It’s harder to stand out in this kind of race to the bottom where you have to charge slightly less than the other guy and you’re trying to make it work with paint. It’s very hard to stand out that way and to really get on that page one. But I think when you start getting into the higher end, you have much less competition, and so you’re really able to stand out.

Tony:
Totally agree with that sentiment. And someone shared with me recently that we’re entering into the Airbnb amenities arms race, where people are just trying to do everything they can to increase the appeal of their listings because either you do that where you add more to make your property more enticing or what you said, it’s a race to the bottom where you’re just going to continue to drop your prices to try and compete. So for us, we spent a lot of 2023 needing to go back, especially for our larger properties in Joshua Tree. We have tiny homes, we have quite a few tiny homes in jt, and those are still doing pretty well. We had some bigger properties where at the time they were nice listings, but as more competition has come in, now we’re creeping towards that 50th percentile and that 25th percentile. Okay, that’s not what we want to do.
So we’ve had to go back and reinvest into a lot of our larger properties to keep that level of competitiveness. But I love what you’re saying, Veronica, in that if you just really focus on being in that top 10%, and it’s easier in some markets than others, and Joshua treat the top 10% is the property that you have. If I go to Hocking Hills, Ohio, the top 10% might look a little bit different. So each market has a sense of what that top 10% looks like. But I guess for you, if you were to buy and continue to scale your portfolio, are you only now focusing on luxury properties or could you ever see yourself going with maybe just a nice, cute cozy home in a city as well?

Veronica:
I think my background is really in luxury. So I think that any property that I take on is going to be informed by that. I think the idea of what makes something luxury has a lot more to do with perception than price tag. People like to feel that spaces are curated. And a lot of my curation happens at swap meets at Goodwill. There’s places in la, I don’t know if you know them, that are called hotel surplus. And it’s like when they remodel the Four Seasons, this place gets everything. And I got a Murano glass chandelier for one of my properties for 150 bucks, and that’s like a multi multi thousand dollars chandelier. So the idea that it doesn’t have to be, I think that the idea that somehow if it’s luxurious, it’s precious. And I don’t think that that’s true. I mean, I have two little kids and it drives me crazy when we go into a place and I feel like they can’t touch anything. And I’m just like, oh, look out for that.
For it to be luxurious, it should still be accessible, it should still be comfortable. You should still feel like you can use things and touch things and move through them. And that’s really not about the price tag. So I think that if I looked at in X market in Ohio, or right now I’m looking with a partner for a property in St. Louis, it’s still about elevating that property and finding what is special about that property and celebrating that. And yes, it will probably come with a higher price tag, but it’s because the value is being expressed in the design and in the architecture. And I think that in real estate investing, there’s a big, big focus on cashflow, which I think is very important. And I’m not at all saying that, but I think at a certain point there is a case to be made for equity. And when you’re in the luxury markets, they are not as impacted by changes in the economy. They are more stable and they appreciate very well. So if you can be breaking even or making some money, you are making a lot of money on the backend with these properties. So having them well designed, running them well, having them well maintained, staged beautifully. I mean you can turn around and sell it on a dime, it looks like a million

Tony:
Bucks. You blew my mind with the hotel surplus. I literally opened up my Google tab and searched for it. We’re literally designing a hotel right now in Utah, and I’m like, man, had I known about this, we probably could have saved maybe even more money than what we did shopping everything brand new. Now, I love your breakdown, Veronica, of how cashflow isn’t always the only thing to consider when you’re analyzing deals. That appreciation does play an important role, and I want to get into your process for analyzing properties at this kind of luxury level. But first we’re going to take a quick ad break so we can hear from our show sponsors, and then we’ll be right back after that. Alright guys, we are back, and Veronica just walked us through kind of sprinkled a little some nuggets here about her process for analyzing deals. It’s not just about the cashflow, it’s appreciation as well. So maybe walk me through, do you have maybe a rule of thumb for when you’re looking at these luxury properties in terms of how can you quickly tell if it’s a good deal or a bad deal?

Veronica:
So the big thing that I use, which I don’t think that I invented this, but nobody’s ever expressed it to me directly. So I’m going to pretend that I invented it. I call it the rule of three for luxury. And basically this is the rule of thumb I use when I’m looking at a property. What I’ve come to learn from experience is that in STR, it usually works out that the property costs come out to be about three times the mortgage that accounts for inflation, things change, yes, this and that, but about three times the mortgage. So you get about a third is mortgage insurance taxes, A third is monthly operating costs and a third is CapEx and maintenance. So if I multiply the mortgage, literally just looking at the Zillow number times three, I can pretty much tell am I going to be able to generate that amount of income? If I can’t generate more than that, I’m not even looking at it. I’m moving on to the next one. So that’s kind of a good rule of thumb to break down. Is this property going to be able to generate the amount of money I know about how much properties are renting for in an area that I’m looking at? So that allows me to cycle through properties really, really quickly without putting any more thought into what it’s going to take for this property to really shine. Rule

Tony:
Of three, I like that. And I’ve got a similar rule that I use myself. And the 20% rule, I guess is, or maybe 20% test makes more sense, but similar, right? It’s like I want the revenue to be at least about 20% of the purchase price. So if I buy a home for a hundred thousand dollars, I want the revenue to be at least 20,000. If I buy a home for half a million, the revenue should be somewhere around a hundred thousand dollars. If I buy a home for a million bucks, it should be somewhere around $200,000 and so on. And these general rules of thumb, like you said, Veronica, help you to move it a little bit more quickly as you’re analyzing these deals. But I like the one third, the one third, the one third piece, right? So your PITI, your operating costs, and then you’ve got your bigger CapEx. Now as part of your operating cost, and maybe this is just a bigger question in general, Veronica, but are you doing any off platform marketing? Because again, you’ve got an amazing property. So are you doing a lot of direct booking? Are you running Facebook ads directly to your property? Is there any other kind of marketing activities you’re doing to also generate interest or was it all strictly through the Airbnbs and the VERBOs? So

Veronica:
When we launched the property, like I said, I didn’t know anything about BiggerPockets at the time, so I didn’t know anything about branding your property and marketing your property. I just created an Instagram for the house just thinking this seemed like a good idea, was more than a good idea. It absolutely took off. It became like a micro influencer in the travel space, and it just really sparked people’s imagination. And I think it happened to be that we sort of captured the zeitgeist, that the eyes of the world turned to Joshua Tree also at that exact moment. And we had this beautiful property that was beautifully photographed and it just started taking off. We instituted a program to work with one influencer a month, finding holes, gaps, vacancy is just a natural part of short-term rentals. So we started looking at these weird Sunday Monday gaps between rentals and we started working with influencers and saying, Hey, I really like your work.
I love your profile. These are professional, beautiful picture takers. They’re going to do a million times better than I could ever do in my wildest dreams. So we started working with a couple influencers over time, different ones every time, and just going in and saying, Hey, you’re looking for beautiful place to take pictures. We have this beautiful place, let’s work together. And that really was an incredible boon for the property because it allowed us to showcase what was great without having to do it ourselves, which was really, really hard. I mean, I’m not a professional photographer. I don’t know how to take a gorgeous photograph. I can tell you if a picture’s gorgeous, but I can’t take it myself. So by partnering with these influencers and filling these gaps, it really allowed us to deliver what the experience of rock bound was like for people instead of having to tell them or a bullet point list of all our amenities, all of a sudden there it was right in front of you, people roasting marshmallows over the fire pit, people doing cannon ball into the pool, kids with snorkel popping out of the hot tub, people climbing all of the rocks, and they were all gorgeous.
And it also allowed us to show a really diverse level of clientele, all different kinds of people, all different types of travelers, families with little kids, groups of friends, honeymooners, baby moons. And so we were able to sort of without ever saying, our property is great for your babymoon. We could say it because we had this incredible photography that really allowed people to do it. But I would caution people, you need to set really clear parameters when working with influencers. You should be very clear about what kind of photographs you want. We always say, I don’t need any pictures that don’t have people in them. I have beautiful still photography. I don’t need that. You need to be showing me how you use the space. Please get creative. I tell them to invite as many people as the property can hold so that when they get us the pictures back, I have a lot of different kinds of people and different kinds of pictures.
Instead of 45 pictures of a blonde girl in a cowboy hat that I can only post one every couple of weeks. I now have 40 pictures of nine different people, and they can really create a story moving through of what it’s like to use the property. So I think setting those parameters are really, really important. And I would say create, just like you do for properties, create a buy box of what you want the influencer to be. There are a lot of people who know how to look beautiful in a photograph. That does not mean they know how to photograph a property beautifully, so they might look great, but your property is just the frame of them, and that’s not good for selling what you’re selling. So I think going through people’s profiles and working that way is really helpful. And the other thing that I would mention, and I’ve never gotten any pushback on this is we still charge the influencers the cleaning fee.
So we tell them, look, this goes directly to our cleaners. I’m not making any money here. You’re using the property and they’re cleaning it. It’s not fair for that to be a cost that’s not covered. And I mean, we don’t charge an exorbitant cleaning fee, but we’ve never gotten any pushback on that. And I think that it shows sort of a level of mutual respect. I think that any person who were to say to me like, well, I’m not going to do that. I’m already thinking, I don’t think I want to work with you. I

Tony:
Don’t want you at my property anyway, right?

Veronica:
Yeah. And that it’s a relationship of mutual respect. You’re not exploiting my property for your beautiful pictures and I’m not exploiting your skills. We’re working together towards this mutual outcome.

Tony:
Veronica, I’ve tried and not failed, but we’ve dabbled a little bit in the influencer marketing, and I don’t think we approached it with the same level of rigor that you just shared. So we had someone say at one of our properties, and she had whatever, several million followers on Instagram, I think was her main platform, and we just didn’t see a lot of response from it. But she wasn’t really in the space of travel. She was just like an Instagram influencer girl that was cute and had a lot of followers for that reason. So when you’re targeting people in this influencer marketing that you’re doing, are you specifically going after people that are in the travel niche and maybe the outdoorsy niche? Or how are you targeting these people?

Veronica:
The way that I originally, now we have tons of people reach out to us. I mean, we get hundreds of requests, so I don’t really do the same effort that I did at the beginning. But at the very beginning, VOCO Champagne hosted an event in Los Angeles and they promoted it all over their social media and they tagged all the influencers that they invited. So these are people that Boko vetted as being fancy. So I was like, well, they must take good pictures and they must be relatively fancy if they, I mean, I wasn’t invited to this, so I was like, okay, cool. So I started by looking at that list of a hundred influencers, and then from there I narrowed it down to people that did more than photograph themselves. So when they would travel, the picture would be of the place, not of their dress at the place, but of the place itself.
And that’s how I kind of started narrowing it down. I think if you’re not sure, looking at people that are in the travel space are really good people that are in the van life, which is a little bit not as popular now as before, but people that are digital nomads with photography that are in that van life movement, they’re pretty good at shooting photography. And you’ll know, I mean as soon as you look at their profile, are there abs the star or is the hotel the star? It’s pretty easy to narrow down, and I agree just because someone has a million followers, that does not mean that it’s going to generate a dime for you. And this is definitely a trickle down strategy. You put it out there and you just have no idea where this content is going to go. I mean, we had one influencer stay with us.
They took one picture in our bathtub and that picture, they still own the rights to their photography. We never take the rights. And that picture of the bathtub is everywhere. If you open a Buzzfeed quiz, it’s there. It’s like the background of all kinds of stuff and it’s led. Can I say that that brought a single dollar to me? No, they’ve probably made more money off that picture than I ever did, but what it did do was that it got seen by somebody and our house got booked for a shoot with Target, and that target campaign got the eyes of somebody and our house got booked for a video shoot for Vogue. So how did it become, can I point and say, ah, these are the metrics that led to our success? No, it’s more of a rolling target and you’re just saying, I’m just going to put this out into the universe and believe that it’s going to come back and because it’s not costing me anything, the house was empty anyway, then I’m happy to just let it go out into the world and let it proliferate. However it does, and it does keep coming back to you in very weird ways. So many times I have people book the house and then I get a message that says, I can’t believe I’m staying at the house with the bathtub like the bathtub.

Tony:
Who would’ve thought in a million years that would pull people in? So I guess two follow-up questions then. Veronica, first, do you now find that you’re getting a pretty large percentage of direct booking or are you still driving people back to Airbnb to book?

Veronica:
So currently we are still booking only through Airbnb and VRBO, but I am hoping that in the next two weeks we’ll have our direct booking website ready to go. So it’s been a long process getting the direct booking website the way that I wanted it, but I’m really excited to get that going. And at that point we will drive traffic to there instead or both to keep it out there,

Tony:
But give them the options.

Veronica:
Yeah, I, and right now the house is booked 95% in March, and so I am not hurting. I just need to find one person that’s looking for what I have to sell. And I think people lose sight of that when they’re analyzing markets. You just need one. You just need one person that buys into your vision. And if you can find that one, you can charge whatever because you are the only thing they want.

Tony:
So much good information here, Veronica. I absolutely love this. I want to try and close out here with maybe some luxury touches that even non-luxury Airbnb hosts should consider as they’re setting up their property. So say that maybe I’m not buying 700, which I’m sure is probably easily over a million dollar property today. Say I’m not buying a million dollar property today, but maybe I’m buying a half a million dollar property and some markets maybe I’m buying a $200,000 property. What are some luxury touches I should still consider, including even at those maybe lower price points?

Veronica:
Yeah, I definitely think that there are elements of this luxury principle that can be a part of any short-term rental or midterm rental or any rental. So a couple of things that I always look at is everyone has to sleep, everybody, they all have to sleep. So try to get the very best sheets that you can afford, the most comfortable mattresses, try to really make the sleeping experience a pleasure, have a variety of pillow types. It doesn’t have to be a million, but if somebody likes a soft pillow, make sure there’s a soft pillow. And if they like a harder pillow, make sure there’s also a hard pillow. If you give someone a bad night’s sleep, they are not going to be happy the next day no matter how lovely your property is. So you want to make sure that you focus on, at the end of the day, they’re looking for a place to stay, so make sure that they sleep well in your property.
Make sure you have the nicest sheets you can afford that wash well that are soft and that they don’t really wrinkle getting to a place and you pull back the duvet or the covers and you see all wrinkly sheets that already cheapens the experience, even if they’re perfectly clean. So just keep that in mind. Another thing would be getting oversized towels. People really love to wrap themselves in a big giant towel. I’m six feet tall, my partner’s six foot five. I mean, some towels don’t even make it around. So you want to make sure that the towels are big enough so that people really feel like they are enveloped in it. And to that same point, something that I’ve always done that I think is a great tip or trick, and I haven’t heard anyone say this before, is buy the duvet, the cover for the bed, one size larger than the mattress.
So if you have a queen size bed, get a king size duvet or comforter. When people are sleeping in beds that are not their own, they toss and turn more, they pull the covers more, and this way there’s more than enough covers to go around. You’re not fighting with your partner for the covers and everybody can get a good night’s sleep, so that’s an easy one. And they just feel all balled up while curled up and they wake up in the morning. There’s covers everywhere and no one ever notices why, but it makes a big difference in that comfort of just you can get into whatever position you need and you don’t run out of covers. Other things that come up, things like small details do. If you have a great pool deck and you imagine people drinking margaritas, don’t forget to have a lime press.
You got to squeeze those limes. We get the one that’s bright, bright banana, yellow, and it’s right in the drawer and people open the drawer and everything and there’s sort of gray silvery metal, and then there’s this yellow lime press and it just says, I’ve thought of all the details, I’ve thought of all the little things. Just make sure that you have, we have a regular coffee maker, we have a French press. It’s easy to just give the one extra that allows people to have choice, and by that they feel like all of their needs have been thought of in advance. So let’s see. I’m trying to think of more.

Tony:
No, I love the focus and the small details, Veronica. And it reminds me, I read this book last year and it was about Disney and just the magic of Disney and how they try and create this. And it was telling the story of what Disney liked back in the day. And even today, you notice it, if you walk through Disneyland and there’s construction, you’ll never see the construction because they even make the fencing that they put around the construction blend in with the aesthetic of the park. And if you go to, I’m in Southern California, and so there’s, I dunno, universal Studios or Knot Berry Farm is another popular amusement park down here. You can see the construction at those other parks and maybe no one ever really, and this is what Walt said, someone was pushing back on him of wanting to make sure that he was focusing on all these small details and someone pushed back and they said, well, no one’s going to notice that we painted this thing this color, or no one’s going to notice that we used a regular fence instead of a themed fence.
And he was like, maybe they won’t notice that specific thing, but when they walk out of here, they’ll feel different. Knowing that we focus on all those small details. And that stuck with me so much and what you just described of even thinking to put a bright yellow lime squeezer thing in the drawer is really focusing on those small details. So those are things that no matter what purchase price you’re at, if you’re at a million, if you’re at half a million, if you’re at a quarter million, if you’re at a hundred thousand, those small details really do go a long way and I’m super glad and appreciate you bringing that up for us. I guess last question that I got for you, we’ve done this sometimes, but not often, but I would think that maybe in the luxury space it is more common, but do you ever do welcome gifts for your guest or just welcome presents when they come into your property?

Veronica:
Yeah, so we do have a welcome gift. I consider it like a two-pronged approach. I call it the Champagne welcome. And because it’s a luxury property, we greet our guests with a bottle of Vve cli co. And at the holidays only Cleco is sold in an orange, Hermes orange scuba jacket with a little zipper and it’s an actual cooler so you could cool the champagne and you can take it with you. They only sell it at the holidays. So on the 3rd of January, which is the only day of the year where champagne is ever on sale in the United States, I am like the queen of Costco and I am buying this champagne by the case like eight cases, and I’m going through Costco like getting high fives all over the place of this bottle of champagne with this very iconic, very eye catching scuba suit. And every guest is welcomed with this bottle of luco sitting right on the counter with the house book and the guest book next to it.
And it has a little note that says, welcome to our home, reach out if we can help in any way. And it has the phone number to contact and the number of little issues that this bottle of champagne has smoothed over. I cannot understate what a difference it’s made, how many times we get thanked for it, how it sets the tone for people’s vacation. They walk in, it feels luxurious. They are being treated like it is luxurious, whether they are one of the a hundred wealthiest people on earth, or they are a couple having an aspirational stay for their honeymoon. They’d love to live like this someday. They walk in and they are being treated with the type of experience that they are paying for. So it’s a very small nod to say, we see you. We know that you are having a luxury stay, and if anything isn’t right, I send them a little note that says, thank you for letting us know about this issue.
Please pop that bottle of champagne, settle in and let us work on getting this resolved for you. Immediately it becomes that you are their ally and having a wonderful stay instead of an adversarial relationship about something that isn’t right, that’s going to happen. These things are going to come up. And I think we always tell people, we guide ourselves by the golden rule. How would I want to be treated if this happened to me? I’m going to find a way to make it right. Give me a little time. Let me figure out what I can do for you. And we have over 305 star reviews. I mean, it hasn’t always gone perfectly and things do go wrong. I would also say Instacart is your friend. If something’s not right, people need something. You don’t need to call your cleaner. You don’t need to call a handyman. Hop on Instacart, have it show up in 20 minutes. The ice cream is cold, the beer is cold, the firewood is ready. Just Instacart it over to them. Say apologies for the issue. I threw in some chocolate chip cookies. You can throw in the oven and enjoy your evening. We’re going to get this solved for you and it works.

Tony:
Yeah, we’ve definitely had to Instacart a few things to some folks before as well. So it is a great resource. Veronica, man, I feel like I honestly learned a lot in today’s conversation. We haven’t played in that luxury space yet, so I definitely appreciate you sharing those insights. And I think there’s some tactical things that I’ve walked away with that we can implement into our business. So I’m sure our rookie audience has learned just a ton from you today as well. So you talked about how to price your Airbnb at the luxury level, but that same strategy I think applies to other price points as well. I love the specific tactics you shared about influencer marketing and how to really leverage that to drive more business back to your short-term rental. And again, those luxury touches where even if you’re not luxury, you can still include those things into your property to give your guests a better experience. So I again, really enjoy and appreciate you coming on. For our Ricky’s who are listening, if you look up Rock Bound Oasis Retreat, that’s the name of Veronica’s property, we’ll link to it in the show notes as well. So if you’re on YouTube, check the description. If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, go to the show notes. We’ll link to it there. You’ll also find my Instagram handle and all my contact there as well. So Veronica, thank you so much for joining us today.

Veronica:
It’s been a pleasure. I absolutely enjoyed it and I’m so happy to be here. I was so excited.

Tony:
That makes two of us, Veronica, so rookies, we will see you guys on the next episode. That’s it for today, guys. I’m Tony and we’ll see you guys next time.

 

 

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