Marina started as a marketing manager for The School of Renovating and has begun investing in property. Here she covers why short term rental is a worthwhile strategy.
Bernadette: Hello! I'm Bernadette Janson the founder and the CEO of The School of Renovating. Today I have with me Marina Mandoukos. Marina is my key team member and I've asked her in to discuss a project that she's currently involved on. One of the rules of being employed at The School of Renovating is that your life is profoundly transformed through renovating. So, Marina you want to tell us about your project?
Marina: Yeah, definitely. It’s actually my first project and we bought Renee Street and it’s in a joint venture structure. There are a lot of firsts for me. This is my first renovation, it's the first structural renovation that I've been a part of. First joint venture office, Airbnb property. I couldn't have come up with a bigger project to start with.
Bernadette: Awesome. I should back up a bit. Do you want to just quickly tell us about yourself?
Marina: Yes. I've basically been working at The School of Renovating. I started off as an intern and been with The School for three years and I've actually had a love of property and renovating for years. And I landed my dream job! And so yes, I've been working as marketing, events, and the best part about it is I get to meet all of the students, get behind the scenes and I'm always excited to start on, I've always been excited to start on a project. And last year was the year that I actually finally got involved. So big step for me and it's proven very rewarding so far. And definitely not one that I would have stepped out on my own to take. I feel very blessed.
Bernadette: Just before we go on we're actually going to talk about Airbnb and the part it plays in renovating. But before we go on we probably should clarify the type of property that Renee Street is.
Marina: Yes, so I'm Renee Street's a two bedroom terrorists in Surry Hills, at Redfern Surry Hills and it's a 100 year old house and it needs a lot of work. And we were looking at doing a structural renovation. And so while we're waiting for D.A. approval to come through we've put it on Airbnb which is something that I've wanted to explore for a long time now and have had the opportunity to do for about 12 months. So it's been really good.
Bernadette: Yes. The thing about renovating is it you know, whether it's a house or whether it's an apartment, it takes a bit of time to get your plan together. And Airbnb has been a bit of a game changer from that point of view because it does it gives you some breathing space.
Marina: Heaps. So, I remember the day we settled then it was, we're settling on this day jump on Facebook marketplace, jump on Gumtree, have a look at what's available., here are the checklists, set this up, get this done and I think we've got it up in about five days. Put it on Airbnb and we had a booking, I think definitely within 24 hours. I think we actually got one in 10 minutes but that's because the pricing was all wrong. Yes, so it was fantastic. And basically it just went off from there. It was a busy time of year too so we put it on in November. So that you know obviously it's busy. Everyone's coming to Sydney and travelling at that time of year. And it's given us the time to really look at what we want to do with the property and what the best way forward is because there's been market changes and you know the thing is that I've learned is that you need to be fluid and there's not just a plan A. Because if you've only ever got a plan A and you come into any sort of change you're in big trouble. So that's where I feel, I have not been stressed one bit. And that's I think the value of having a joint venture team and one that really works because we bounce off each other. I try and do the project management side which I enjoy. And then I leave the things that I need to practice to the joint venture partners which they're really good at. And so each seems to marry up really well.
Bernadette: Great! And so how has the actual management of the short term rental listing gone?
Marina: Really well. There are some days I don't even know when guests are in or coming out. We've organized a great team. We set it up quickly. It took me about a month to lick off the fact that I didn't need to manage the property all myself. And that was thanks to you. I got some systems in place. Organized my spreadsheets, organized the team, organized the cleaners and it's been pretty easy. Other than needing to do to attend to some bits and pieces at times in the twelve month period I'll probably have to attend to the property five times and then the basic things that come with Airbnb like linen and cleaning, but we've got cleaners for that. And we've been really lucky in having a great team around that. And yet the clean is a stuck out you know still with us.
Bernadette: And was it hard to find cleaners?
Marina: Initially we had a few changes so we had one cleaning team come on. And the good thing about me doing the cleaning I found was that when the cleaners came in it was really easy for me to tell them what they had to do and I knew how long it would take to clean the property but I let go of the fact that I needed to do the cleaning very quickly and so they took over that. They've done everything that I've said. They've been fantastic. They send me photos. We use WhatsApp to communicate and that's between me, the cleaner, our V.A., and the rest of the joint venture teams. Everyone always knows what's going on and I don't have to repeat messages to anybody else. And even if the message doesn't relate to them it doesn't matter. Everyone's across what's going on.
Bernadette: Some people who are listening to or watching this might not know what a V.A. is. Do you want to explain that?
Marina: I always forget that. So a Virtual Assistant, which mind you before I started working at the school I didn't know what a V.A. I was either. And so now in passing conversation I go "Yeah, the V.A. takes care of that!" And they're like "What is a V.A.?" So a Virtual Assistant which, they're very real they're actually not virtual they're, just across the borders, they're overseas and we've got an amazing team in the Philippines that helps us in the Airbnb business and really managing it. They do a great job. They're across the spreadsheets. They let me know every time somebody new is coming through, every time there's a changeover, a checkin, a check out, all the communication. So if I've ever forgotten something, it's like my, a second or a clone of me reminding me "Hey, you need to get this done." So, yeah they're invaluable to the system and they're trained up a certain way. They've got access to the checklists that we've created. And I did the Airbnb training that we've got because you know as much as we talk about it sitting down and actually doing it and putting it into practice are two different things. So that was fantastic and using everything from there I've been able to pull it off on my own but I will say without that support and if I didn't have that education in the background and that support it would have been a very different journey. It would have just been a longer, probably a bit more windy road.
Bernadette: I always think when you're starting out on something like that that it's quite far and a bit like groping around in the dark, isn't it? Yes, there's certainly value in leveraging off someone else's experience.
Marina: Yeah yeah yeah. Definitely. And I found that the Facebook group - that's the Airbnb Facebook group that's attached to the training - is fantastic! Because there are questions and things that come up on there all the time, challenges and sometimes the answer is really simple but you just need somebody looking in from the outside and everyone is always so giving with their responses and so happy to help. And just to give back and share their own experiences which has been great.
Bernadette: It seems like a shameless plug but I wasn't really prepared for you to be talking about the training so I should explain. The School of Renovating because short term rental featured so prominently in our renovations and our production of cash flow, we actually produce the training because there were lots of people that needed help to get going with their listings. We do have a training which is online and it's great. Like over the last few years I've probably had six or seven properties on short term rental so I've been through the trenches. But the other great thing about it is the community because not everyone has, no one person has all the answers. And so when you've got a community of homes that are living and breathing it day in day out, if you ask a question someone is going to have the answer.
Marina: Yeah, always, always. It's been it's definitely what's helped me and I've always loved the Airbnb side. And from the minute it was sort of it was introduced I was "Oh my gosh! I want to run an Airbnb. I want to know what it's like." And I finally got to do that.
Bernadette: And now you do.
Bernadette: So what would you say is the most challenging thing? Because I know there'll be people watching that have been thinking about short term rental. I should differentiate - Airbnb is one platform where you can host your short term rental but there are other platforms but everyone seems to group all of them and call them "Airbnb".
Marina: I honestly haven't had challenges as such. It's been an easy run, it really has. Other than - the guests come in, there's a lockbox, the cleaners are trained, the V.A.'s trained, the property's close by. For me it's easy to run and it's easy to manage and it doesn't interfere in you know if this was something that I had that wasn't attached to a project and it was say an investment property of mine or it was something I was renting to put out on a short term rental, I could work full time. I could work the hours that I work and still manage these pretty effortlessly.
Bernadette: This listing actually got up and running really quickly. What do you attribute that to?
Marina: I think that when you're setting up your listing, the platform's really easy to use but there are a lot of elements to it that you need to get right. From the images to your pricing to your description to your manual. The interface for Airbnb is very easy and filling it out. Some people just you know throw out a couple of photos, don't pay much attention. Don't put much into their listing and I think the difference between our listing and everybody else is because really that's just shop front window for the listing. And if you don't get that right, people aren't going to come. And especially when it's a brandnew property and you've got no reviews on there and you're trying to get the reviews up. You really have to put great photos, explain where it is. Put in all the details, create the manual and create the experience for when the guest arrives. The listing is important and having a clean property is really important. Everything comes down to the linen sheets and the experience is based on because you know people are travelling they just want somewhere clean to sleep, cosy place. And for it to be clean.
Bernadette: So Rennie Street is waiting for its renovation so it's not overly flash.
Marina: Exactly. It isn't. But even so it's in a fantastic location and we've got the bare essentials. Maybe a little bit more than the bare essentials. And it's really clean. It actually looks cleaner when we bought it. And the amazing thing of having it on short term rental is as we've been deciding what we want to do with the property it's given us space so, we'll say we're going to start a renovation in September, no we've had to change plans - Okay open up the listing again. Are we going to renovate on this date? Okay, close the listing. So it's really flexible. And I don't know a lot of strategies where you can just open and close. You know it's like being able to open and close a business when it suits you. And that's huge. And so then we've obviously decided once we have the property renovated it will be a renovated property that will go back on to the short term rental market. Renovated and with all the bells and whistles and we'll be able to rent it out for even more over a really busy period and have a great income coming in.
Bernadette: So there's two reasons for doing that. The first one is because you don't want to be putting a property on the market just before Christmas. And what are the other reasons?
Marina: You don't want to put it, that's not a time when you want to sell. And I think that when we're selling the property and we're putting it back on the market having Airbnb as a strategy that you can sell the property with, it just broadens the market. It doesn't necessarily mean any investor is going to buy it but you don't know who comes along. And if you can open up the market to show that you've got figures that support an investment property and you can hand over a system. And yeah it just makes it easier.
Bernadette: It's just another selling tool isn't it?
Marina: Yeah, which is fantastic.
Bernadette: Everyone worries about the meth labs and the bikees. Have you had any "guests from hell"?
Marina: Look I haven't had the pleasure of any of the "guests from hell". We have had some guests that have been messy and put a stain on the carpet and not wash the dishes but "guests from hell"? No, aside from maybe some, we had one guest that didn't want to check out on time because they believe that they were supposed to be there. Other than that - and that got worked out really quickly, Airbnb's really supportive in terms of this support. And yeah we we got across that pretty quickly.
Bernadette: Beautiful. Beautiful. Is there anything you would say to someone who had a property and was thinking about listing it but was hesitant?
Marina: Yeah I get this all the time because people say that "I've got an Airbnb property and I promote it on my own personal Instagram and Facebook." And you go "Oh you got Airbnb, what's it like?" And the big thing is the guests you know and vacancies. And there are so many platforms now and so many ways you can be creative and so many ways you can add value to the property. You know I tell them that they're crazy not to. Some people just can't snap out of the mindset you know. And then some people start asking about the different laws and if there's one thing that I've learnt from you it's is that you make hay while the sun shines which is exactly what we're doing. And there are plenty of platforms and you know if one strategy doesn't work there's about another four that you could choose from. And you know they're not all long term rental so if it's easy to set up, it's cheap enough to set up, to give it a go. Because if it's going to be worth it it'll be worth your while. If not it's just some styling furniture. Worst case scenario and you can start it off pretty cheap and then if you find out that it works upgrade furniture give it a go. There's nothing to lose. You can switch it off if it stops working for you if you don't like how it works you shut down the listing and you go back to long term rental or I just tell everyone if you think you're in an area where you can have an Airbnb listing and you're happy to manage it or have somebody manage it for you especially if you're not getting the rental return that you want then give it a go. Because there's not much to invest in terms to find out if it's worth it.
Bernadette: Great. Well listen, Marina I think we've explored the topic of Airbnb pretty well. For those of you who are watching, so you've heard it from the mouth of our resident rock star. And if you are interested in pursuing short term rental in particular Airbnb feel free to come over onto our website and ask any questions you'd like. We'd love to hear them. Thank you.