In episode 7 of Selling Derby City, Jonathan and Justin discuss how to scale a short-term rental business. Jonathan and Justin are honored to have Julie George join the show to share her expert tips with you so that you can begin scaling your short-term rental business today.
About Julie George
Julie George is considered the Industry Expert on Airbnb. She is a published author and a short-term rental veteran. Julie is the founder of Host My Home, a unique Airbnb property management company in Queensland, Australia. The company offers a full management service along with consultation options for property owners wanting help to get into the Airbnb market. Julie’s background is in tourism and real estate. Her generous nature extends to sharing hard work and knowledge in her book, Million Dollar Host, to make it possible for you to set up a similar business anywhere.
Jonathan and Justin's Interview with Julie George
You were one of the first published authors in the short-term rental space. Briefly tell us about your short-term rental experience that led to your first book.
"In 2016, I started with my first property and then scaled up very quickly to 130 properties within the two and a half year period. So in that time, well over $8 million income. I had a lot of people saying, how are you doing it? What are you doing? So I decided rather than repeat myself over and over, write the book. Write it out once and sell it as a great residual income and also a great legacy to leave my family when I’m long gone." -Julie George
After publishing Million Dollar Host, I believe you took a step back from short-term rental management and recently started up again. Tell us what you were up to during this time.
"Since the book was released in 2019, it really has changed my life. My profile, my personal brand has certainly grown, not just in Australia, but worldwide. So now I will be the judge at the Shortyz Awards, which is the worldwide short-term rental awards, which the two of you need to be nominated for this year. I get to speak on stages around the world when I can travel. What I do love now is to share my knowledge. And if I can inspire somebody, support somebody, motivate them to replicate the same success that I've seen in short-term rentals. It's just a real thrill." -Julie George
How were you first exposed to short-term rentals and what was the sequence of events that led to scaling your short-term rental business?
Julie asks Jonathan and Justin to share their experience first.
Jonathan explains how they began their short-term rental company and then adds, "We certainly did not set out to build a management company. It found us, we didn't find it so to speak. So, we're just similar to know if other people have similar stories or if they actually sought that out."
Justin agrees and says, "And reading your book too, our beginnings are very similar. I see that you started yours in March of 2016 and that's around the same time that we started ours as well. We too had a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment. That was our test for Airbnb."
Julie shares her story of how she first began to scale her short-term rental management business. She had a buyer come to her looking for a property for a cash flow system. She said to her, "'you should try short-term rentals. Airbnb has worked for me. Let's have you put your property on short-term rentals. I'm going to manage it for you and take 25% of the commission plus the cleaning fee.' And she agreed. So income stream, number three, just by having that real estate background and being able to offer a solution to somebody's pain point. It works so well for this woman that she rang me six months later and she said, 'So how about another property.'”
What was your management mix when it came to properties - did you arbitrage leased properties? Did you manage for other people who owned the property? Or was there a combination of the two?
"The secret to my success was really to build my own personal brand as being the short-term rental expert in my area. And to do that, I put out four magazine articles, just helping my community understand how amazing short-term rentals are and how they can do it themselves. So they were articles around maybe going on a vacation but making money out of your own home at the same time. So it was talking about how people could do it, but of course, it had a nice big full-page ad right next to it saying, 'Julie can take care of it for you if you don't want to do it yourself.' So it was all about being able to educate my community, create the persona of being the expert in the area. And business really just started coming through to me." -Julie George
How is Australia with short-term rental regulation? Do you know how that compares to the US?
"So in Australia, I've been very fortunate. We had some pretty strict, rules in the area I'm from about trust accounting. So that was the only thing that I found that if I was holding money on behalf of a property or not just as a realtor would, then we had to have a realtor's license and we had to run a trust account. So that was the only restrictions. And I focused in on the areas of Australia. There are some limitations that you can only short-term rental for certain periods of time. But I do know that in the United States, we are seeing that there are a lot more restrictions coming in. So I would actually just suggest to people, actually Google and see what regulations are there and short-term rentals in Kentucky or in Florida? You've got the big places like New York, some places in Los Angeles that are very strict." -Julie George
Julie goes on to share the hotspots in the United States that are great for investing in short-term rental properties. The areas she suggests are the Pocono Mountains in PA, Gatlinburg, TN, Hollywood, FL, and San Diego, CA.
Julie is interested in what the specific laws are in Kentucky. Jonathan explains the zoning laws that are discussed in Ep 3: Short-Term Rental Zoning & Regulations.
What tools did you use to help scale your short-term rental business?
"I got to 130 properties using not a lot of automation. And a lot of people will be surprised to hear that I was a 100% Airbnb. I used zero [software] for accounting. I used real estate software to run my trust account. That was it. I didn't have any other automation. I didn't have anything else. But it was just the way that I was able to structure my business with an incredible team, and it was kind of like running a franchise. So it was like I was the umbrella company, Host My Home. And underneath me, I had a cohost who was responsible for a smaller portfolio of properties, maybe 10 properties per person, on average." -Julie George
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
"My biggest regret, what I wish I had done was to use a dynamic pricing tool. I thought I'm better than the experts. I thought, 'how would anybody in the United States know what's going on in Australia with my local events, with the local demand? Surely no one else can know the prices like I do.' What an idiot. I calculated in that $8 million that I collected in three years, I probably left a million dollars on the table." -Julie George
Justin agrees with Julie and says, “ I feel like I had a similar thought early on in our business. I thought the same thing that, 'how is the system going to know what events are in Louisville? What's peak season?' Great advice.”
Jonathan also agrees and says, “Well, I think that also just goes to show that just because you're an expert at short-term rentals does not mean that you're an expert at every aspect, right? There are some that are going to be cleaner than others, but maybe the communication isn't great. Or the communication is great and things are just a little bit off. And then of course pricing and all the things behind the scenes that happen as well. So, very good insight.”
Cleaning, linens, and maintenance are the most important aspects of STR’s and require consistent and detailed individuals. How did you vet out and train the folks working for our company? (What did you outsource and what did you do in-house?)
"I tried everything as well. And in the end, the best thing for me was to outsource that task. My co-hosts, I actually put it back on them and I said, 'I'm going to pay you an extra hour on top of the cleaning, you take care of it.'" -Julie George
Connect with Julie George
Join Julie George and her expert panel on Clubhouse each Sunday from 3:00 PM-5:00 PM PST.
Join the 90-day Legends X Accelerator program where Julie George mentors entrepreneurs through short-term rentals. She helps hectic hosts position themselves to work their business, not working in it.
Thank you for joining us. We were so honored and thankful to have Julie George (the G.O.A.T.) with us to share how you can scale your short-term rental business.