VRS170 – Practical Vacation Rental Investment with Michael Hamilton

My guest today took his interest and knowledge of real estate investment and has turned it into a vacation rental business. With three properties currently listed on Airbnb & VRBO Michael Hamilton was about to fly off to North Carolina to close on the fourth, when I was able to talk to him from his San Diego home.

Michael emailed me at the end of last year asking for some feedback on his listing text after he’d studied my ebook, Hypnotic Language for Vacation Rental Listings and Emails. I was interested in his choice of properties and by the way he was achieving such great results as evidenced by the Airbnb reviews.

He shares his strategies for purchasing new properties which includes his passion for surfing and the outdoors, balancing that against the economic factors of selecting a location.

This is a fascinating glimpse into the world of a practical vacation rental investor – one who has minimal emotional participation in the rental potential of a property, but rather sees it as a working entity.

In this interview Michael talks about:

  • How his love of surfing drew him to the North Carolina coastal area
  • The importance of growth indicators to location choice
  • The Airbnb impact on bookings
  • Creating transparency in listings
  • What the About Us page does to increase interest
  • Why he prefers a systems dependent business for managing multiple properties
  • His 3 tips for anyone starting a similar business

Links mentioned in this episode:

Vacation Rental Success Summit

Fortune Builders

Bigger Pockets

Chill Beach and Surf Bungalow

Magical Bungalow OBX

Chill Beach and Surf Pad – San Diego

The E-Myth Real Estate Investor

Enjoyed this episode? Be sure to listen to Part 2 > VRS178

VRS169 – Don’t Wear Flip Flops in the Jungle & Other Things Your Vacation Rental Guests Need to Know

What could be better than exchanging a cold and snowy Ontario for 10 days in sunny Belize? Or Eleuthera, or Exuma, or Costa Rica, or Maui?

For the past 7 years, we’ve taken a break in winter to enjoy the sunny south, and stayed in a different vacation rental every time. It’s been great, not just for the obvious warmth and tropical benefits, but to get that learning experience that comes from being a guest.

I know I’ve harped on about this before, and will do so again and again. So, no apologies for revisiting this topic, because the only way you’ll create the perfect guest experience is to be a guest yourself.

And not in your own place.

So, here I am back home reflecting on my vacation and thinking about how the reality matched up with what we were promised. What comes to mind is the information provided before we went, what was there at each place when we arrived, and how the owners shared their knowledge during our stay.

I would say I’m pretty independent as far as travel planning is concerned. I can Google along with everyone else, but I still welcome information that comes from owners who have so much more knowledge of the local area.

Owners or managers are the information sources that guests need to ensure a great stay. Withholding that information can make the difference between frustration and irritation and a well-executed and enjoyable vacation.

As a rental agency here in Canada we produce a comprehensive guide for International visitors. This covers things like LCBO/Beer stores (cannot buy booze in a supermarket); rules of the road – four-way junctions, turning right on a red light, stopping for school buses. We also help out our guests from the city who are planning on visiting our country areas, because they will find big differences in the way of living.

So what do you do to prepare your guests for their stay? How much do you share? How far do you go to help them plan?

In this episode I’m exploring what guests want in the way of information before they leave on vacation, while they are there, and what you might think of providing.

I talk about:

• Why you should not expect your guests to be independent planners
• The 7 essential pieces of information to help your guests plan their vacation
• The importance of customs and immigration information
• Why I don’t want to read your guest book
• How you can prevent guests getting into trouble
• How your local knowledge can deliver 5 star reviews
• 3 simple ways to deliver information to your guests ( and get them on your web site)

VRS168 – The French Connection with Vacation Rentals in Nice and Paris

Many vacation rental owners manage their properties from a distance but most have just one, or a few in one location. Ralph Morehouse owns an apartment in Paris, one in Nice, and manages three others. All from his home base in Houston, Texas, which goes to show you can do this business from anywhere as long as you have the systems in place.

I first met Ralph and his wife Karen, in New Orleans a few years ago. Although Ralph has been in the US for quite a few years, his UK accent is unmistakable and we explored the journey that has taken him from roots in the north of England to Texas, via Paris.

With recent terrorist attacks in both locations, we discussed how these had impacted bookings and what Ralph does to reassure rental guests. He also talks about the challenges of acquiring and retaining good staff in both locations.

Finally, Ralph shared the resources he uses to successfully manage the properties.

Ralph talked about:

  • The most challenging aspects of long-distance property management
  • How the terrorist attacks in Nice and Paris impacted the business
  • Managing payments in multiple currencies and the platform that makes this easy
  • Co-ordinating enquiries and reservations via multiple systems
  • The #1 thing he would do differently if he bought another property

Links in this episode:

Dawn Shears of Red Spiral Hand


Booking Sync

VRS167 – A Year In The Making with Sherene McLellan

It was a long-time goal for Utah resident, Sherene and her husband John. One day they would buy a vacation rental property and from the get-go they wanted it to be a professional business. No short cuts for these guys.

They looked at different places in their beautiful state, and finally settled on Kanab – a small town in the heart of Canyon country. Although tourism had come big time to Moab, it was only when Microsoft chose a local landmark as their backdrop to Windows, that little Kanab was propelled onto the international stage, and Sherene and John found their location.

And so Western Star Bungalow was born. From base beginnings, they refurbished the property with their target guests in mind and created a gorgeous old-movie themed home, to the extent that even their Welcome Book has been prepared in the guise of a screenplay!

Sherene has been on a quest for learning that has resulted in enticing listings with great text and appealing photos that have already yielded 24 bookings in a few short months. And, at the time we spoke she was just days away from her first guests arriving.

In this episode Sherene shares how they decided upon a property that needed renovation instead of going for a turnkey condo, which she says would have been so much easier. But not as much fun.

She also talks about:

  • The history of Kanab and its surroundings & why it makes a great destination
  • Why she chose to be pet-friendly
  • Their choice of creating two en-suite master bedrooms
  • Bathroom beauty and how an old log became a bathroom vanity
  • The most challenging aspects of starting up a vacation rental business
  • Why finding a caretaker was more important than finding the property
  • The tools she is using to manage the house from a distance
  • The best piece of advice she was given by another VR professional
  • Which platform has brought nearly 70% of the early bookings & why that was a surprise

And much more…..

Airbnb listing

VRBO listing

The Wave

Best Friends

Tyann’s book Creating Killer Vacation Rental Photos

The Hosting Journey


VRS166 – Vacation Rental Travels with Beth Caro Carson

Editor of the VR industry’s only online magazine for travellers, Beth Carson is a seasoned traveler (45 countries stamped in her passport!) and knows travel from both sides of the check in desk. Beth dishes about the ins and outs of running a magazine, her gift to vacation rental owners, and delves into surviving one of the world’s most powerful hurricane’s with 4 guests in her house in Fiji, collaborating with her neighbor on a Go Fund Me Campaign, and why HomeAway’s changes can be viewed in a positive light. She also shared some of the secrets of taking a client’s 2 condos from a 6% occupancy to 78% occupancy in just 2 months. Listen up for a fast paced romp with an industry expert.

Beth is one very busy person so I was happy to track her down in Mexico for a great conversation about her busy year in 2016, and what she has planned for this year.

I first interviewed Beth in July of 2014 on VRS033 and we talked about her Fiji property and how she decided to get into the business of vacation rentals in the first place, so we recap on that as well as her move into condo management.

The online publication Vacation Rental Travels is a must-subscribe for everyone in the industry as it’s the only magazine devoted solely to vacation rentals worldwide, sharing the best of the best with the travelling public. As Beth points out however, a property doesn’t have to be $20K per week to be featured – it just has to have that special ‘something’ that makes it unique and desired. In fact, if you come to VRSS, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to Beth about your place and talk about how to get it featured.

From discussing Vacation Rental Travels to the crowd-funding campaign she launched to help neighbours in the badly damaged areas of Fiji, to explaining why you should attend events like VR Mastered in Mexico, and VRSS in Toronto, this is a content packed episode not to be missed.

Beth shares:

  • The reason she ‘felt like Oprah in the aftermath of a cyclone that devasted Fiji.’
  • How she moved a condo owners occupancy from 6% – 70% in five months.
  • Her secret to customer service.
  • The importance of sharing Western traveller expectations with local staff.
  • Why she is an advocate for Book It Now.
  • How she wanted to ‘legitimise the industry’ by attracting travel writers to experience it.
  • The help she got from Matt Landau & how that made a difference.
  • The value of one-to-one training and expert help.
  • Thoughts on buying property and how to get it right.

Links mentioned in this episode

Pathfinder International

International Living

Starfish Blue

VR Mastered

Vacation Rental Success Summit

Vacation Rental Travels

VRS165 – Hard Lessons Learned with Matt Landau

When Matt Landau closed on a deal he couldn’t ignore and became the proud owner of what is now Los Cuatros Tulipanes in Casco Viejo, Panama, he didn’t appreciate that over the next few years he would earn the equivalent of an MBA in vacation rentals.

He learned a lot about the neighbourhood, the people it would attract – and those that wouldn’t like it, the staff he needed to employ, and the right way to market.

But every lesson was learned by trial and error and as he puts it…the hard way.

When I emigrated from the UK to Canada and embarked on a new career as a property manager, with no prior knowledge of what that entailed, it too was a time of hit or miss experimentation.

Some things worked and others didn’t. And if I knew then what I know now, I’d have saved time, money and a lot of stress.

So, Matt and I have a lot in common with our mistakes and successes, and now we both share what we learned the hard way in our respective blogs and training.

In this episode we touch on some of the primary things we learned at the beginning of our journeys, and how just about everyone can benefit from the mistakes we made.

We share:

  • The critical research that is necessary when selecting a realtor, and what questions you need to ask them.
  • The importance of documenting every system and every process, and the long-term impact that can result from only one person having ‘the knowledge’.
  • Why marketing should fit the traveller demographic – there’s no valet service in Casco Viejo!
  • Why unique destinations should never be open to non-educated (instant) bookings.
  • The difference between what guests think they will experience and what they might get.
  • The importance of guest education to bridge the expectation gap
  • How much a negative review costs over the course of time and why that should impact your choices on complaint handling.
  • The perils of renting space on someone else’s land and not owning your reviews.
  • Why you should only partner carefully and thoughtfully with companies that share your mission and align with your values.
  • The ‘Help don’t Sell’ philosophy that should be the cornerstone of your business.


Sites we mentioned in this episode:

7 Reasons you will not love Casco Viejo

Tools of Titans – Tim Ferris

10 Mistakes that VR owners make

A Complaint is a Gift

Upwork for outsourcing

Ross Robertson Insurance

Vacation Rental Success Summit

Los Cuatros Tulipanes

VRS164 – Facebook Marketing for Vacation Rentals with April Burns and David Thompson

Social media experts David Thompson and April Burns fromInterCoastal Net Designs, join me in this episode to talk about the importance of engagement on social media for vacation rental professionals.

We’re often told to ‘Be Everywhere’ and it’s tough to keep up. Posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Google+ is time consuming and can be frustrating.

What happens if you don’t get engagement?

What if nobody sees your posts?

Which one should you concentrate on?

These are some of the questions I posed to David and April and they were generous in their replies. They shared:

  • The key starting point for someone new to social media marketing
  • Why you need a goal to start with
  • Which platform is the ‘go-to’ in social media
  • The importance of a content calendar
  • Why you review the strategies of similar companies & what’s working for them
  • How the 80/20 rule applies to content (one of those is fun!)
  • Why you should Google ‘memes’
  • What makes a ‘fun’ post
  • How often to post and how to schedule them
  • How to schedule using Facebook’s scheduling tool
  • Why you shouldn’t get discouraged at lack of engagement and how to boost it
  • How to use Insights in Facebook
  • Keeping social media to be ‘social’
  • What to take on alongside Facebook
  • Why you should not use Facebook as an alternative to having your own website

Facebook Insights

A Beginners Guide to Facebook Insights (Kissmetrics)

Intercoastal Net Design

VRM Intel – Best Website Design 2016

Get More Engagement Through Social Media (April’s slide deck)


VRS163 – Collaboration and The Vacation Rental Guest Experience with Alex Nigg from Properly

If you went to the Airbnb Open this year it’s likely you’ll have come across Alex Nigg and Tammi Simms from Properly. Or you may have met them at last year’s Vacation Rental Success Summit or a Home Away event. This is because one or the other, or both of them show up just about everywhere there are vacation rental folks involved.

And you won’t find two lovelier people to meet.

I caught up with Alex at his main office in New Zealand for a second interview (the first was VRSS131) and I wanted to find out what’s been happening in their world over the past 6 months. Alex shared his experience of the Airbnb Open which he said was an amalgam of Sundance (visual arts and entertainment), Tech Talk (lots of interesting ideas from interesting people) and oddly enough, Burning Man, which is about creating a temporary society and building a city around it.

And for him, it worked, although he called it more of a festival, than a conference. Listen out for him saying that his experience at the Vacation Rental Success Summit last April was more enriched from a VR perspective.

That’s what we love to hear!

We also explored the changing nature of remote hosting and VR management, as it now involves so much more than just changeovers. With the concept of ‘guest experience’ becoming a priority for owners looking to differentiate in order to stand out from the crowd, finding the right person to represent them becomes significantly more important.

Alex talked about the importance of collaboration and how his business, Properly, is allowing this to happen, and demonstrating huge success.

We discussed:

  • How Airbnb promoted networking at the Open
  • Why it’s important to make an ordinary listing stand out as extraordinary.
  • Finding a property manager via collaboration
  • What’s new with Properly
  • Automation and connectivity as an essential part of remote hosting

And lots more.

Sites and posts mentioned:

A guest’s experience at Villa Bulung Daya (Thibault Masson’s Bali villa)



Alexa fom Amazon

Burning Man

VRS162 – The Five Things You Must Do For Vacation Rental Success in 2017

With the industry growing exponentially, professional owners have to be on their toes to manage the changes that will come at them from all angles. Whether its dealing with OTAs moving the goal posts yet again, or the potential of short term rental legislation, or the massive competition we’ll experience, there is a challenge on every corner.

But fear not. You can be proactive, and put your house very much in order to meet these challenges.

In this first episode of the new year, Mike and I share our thoughts on what we all need to do to be successful in 2017.

We cover five actionable points and include a lot of tips to help prepare for success this year.


Expect The Unexpected

A hurricane is forecast, there’s an oil spill in the Gulf, a wildfire threatens to engulf a resort town, or more simply the AC packs up in the middle of a heatwave.

There can by myriad situations that can threaten your rental livelihood, and if you prepare for each and every one of them, you will be more likely to weather the storm than your neighbours. It’s just a matter of planning.

From major to minor incidents, we talk about how important it is to carry out a disaster planning exercise so that handling an emergency is simply about putting a procedure into motion.


Create a Remarketing Strategy

Every guest that comes to you from a third party site gives you an opportunity to market. Even if they don’t come back to you, they may have friends who will. So even if you didn’t get the traffic from your own site to begin with, you can surely bring them back there next time.

Mikes shares the five points to cover in a strategy to keep your guests and have them come back to you again and again.



Getting together with other owners, networking and collaborating, is going to be a theme for 2017. We cannot operate in a vacuum any more, and need to create alliances in order to challenge potential legislation with a common voice.

You can also share common pain points and work collectively to resolve them. I talk about several ways in which you can collaborate and present a united front in 2017.

  • Meet ups
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Avroa chapters
  • Local alliances


Show Your Uniqueness

The Airbnb platform has shown millions that they can list their property and make some money so you now have a broader competition. Most will simply use Airbnb and rely on that for traffic. To stand out from the crowd you need to be unique, target a niche, become a local expert, and set yourself apart.


Update Everything

And last but not least, an action every owner needs to take at least once a year. Look closely at your property, your listings, your social media profiles, text and photos, and you can be guaranteed that something needs to be updated. We talk about these at the minimum 

  • Welcome book and tourist information
  • Technology
  • Bedding
  • Photos on your listing
  • Amenities

Mike and I are both working on our respective vacation rental updates as I write this. For me, it’s new furniture and bedding as well as upgrading some technology. For Mike at Sea Breeze, he’s working on updating his facilities for children – a niche group for him.

We hope you consider all of these points, and take some positive action this year.


Sites mentioned in this episode:

Vacation Rental Formula

10 Steps to Emergency Preparedness

Drip (for remarketing)



Short Term Rental Advocacy Centre

Vacation Rental Success Summit May 6/7


Guest Hook

8 Reasons to Attend the Vacation Rental Success Summit

When we were thinking about the why of putting on a face-to-face conference back in early 2016, we brainstormed a ton of reasons people would have to attend.

And then I saw this blog post from the founder of the Agents of Change podcast and organizer of the Agents of Change annual conference. It listed every reason we’d put on our wall-board.

We took these ideas and created the Vacation Rental Success Podcast and had our first event in May 2016. With over 100 attendees, numerous sponsors (including CanadaStays – Canada’s Biggest Listing Site)

So here they are – in no particular order and with our industry spin on them.

[Read more…]