This week let’s meet Julia. She owns a gold star vacation resort in a scenic spot in the hills of Tennessee three miles from Fall Creek Falls State Park.
Let’s find out what she has to say about the vacation rental industry. 😎
So, Julia, tell us, how long have you been hosting for? How and why did you start? How many properties do you manage?
I have been a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines for 22 years. Before that, I was a registered nurse in Tennessee for 18 years. I bought Grandview Experience Lodge and closed on January 15th of this year. I found the lodge after vacationing there through RCI in August of 2020. I fell in love with the beauty of the lodge and the location and then I found out it was for sale. I spoke to the owner while I was there and made him an offer that he liked. Then I waited to see if the purchase would go smoothly. If it did it was meant to be. Things went smoothly to purchase and now I am here. I just manage this one property which is my retirement home.
Are you an owner or a manager? Is this a part-time or full-time occupation for you?
I own and manage Grandview Experience Lodge and have a housekeeper who is the best ever named Patty. She is a little OCD which is the best thing in a housekeeper because she does not leave any dirt behind. Patty comes in and stays to watch the lodge and my dog and cat whenever I am gone. I am still flying as a flight attendant for Southwest two days a week. Patty also comes to work whenever we have checkouts. I pay her by the unit she cleans, and by the hour when she is doing other things around the lodge. She is fabulous!
What is the best thing about hosting, and what are the biggest problems you face?
The best thing about hosting is all the people I meet from all over the country. Also to be able to live here in the mountains of Tennessee is a dream. I lived in Chicago before.
The biggest problem is when we have someone from Hollywood or elsewhere that trashes the place and then thinks I should be just glad for their presence here. I prefer the people who are respectful and grateful to be here and are glad to have the opportunity to stay in such a beautiful place.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started hosting?
I am learning something new every day. I am generally a very trusting person, so I have learned to be discerning and do things like getting a credit card when my visitors check in. I have learned how to talk to people and help them understand the reason for the charges that they must pay like the cleaning fee and the pet fee. I find people are more understanding when you explain to them the why behind the things that are expected. My experience as a flight attendant has taught me a lot of valuable information in dealing with people and helping them to feel welcomed and valued.
What is the most important advice/tip you would give someone interested in becoming a short-term rental host?
The most important information I would give someone who is going to host or in life, in general, is to be flexible. If the room is ready I do not make people wait till 3:00 pm to check-in. If I do not have someone coming in the same day as they are checking out I will be a little flexible about check out time. I offer the little extras that make people want to come back like a bath bomb, a package of popcorn and some hot chocolate, a bottle of wine on a special occasion. One thing I learned as a Southwest flight attendant is to “give them the pickle” or go the extra mile that will make their stay memorable in a good way.
Besides Syncbnb, are there any tools, devices, or software (eg. Remote keylocks, cameras, local guide apps, power meters, etc) you use? What is your experience with them?
We do have cameras around the main lodge, entranceway, parking lot, and pool. This is not only for our protection but also for the protection of our guests. Whenever anyone comes to our lodge to look for brochures or ask questions I offer them a tour of the lodge and one of the units if there is one empty. I tell them how this would be a great place for a party or a reunion of family or friends. I explain how they can rent the whole lodge for units for the people who would be coming and the Great Room for dinners, game nights, or to jam on their musical instruments if they bring them.
Which channels do you list on? How much has your revenue increased since listing on multiple channels?
We are listed on RCI, VRBO, Airbnb, Booking.com, Google, Facebook, and Instagram. We also get a lot of business by word of mouth. We have had a busy year as everyone wants to get away after Covid. We hope to win some of the people who have come to be regulars that maybe even come back every year.
Besides listing on multiple channels, what other things can a host do to increase his/her bookings and revenue?
I try to make sure everyone in the community knows about us. I was surprised at the number of people who live close by who did not even know we existed! I let them know we are available for parties and events and try to give the locals a discount. I encourage them to let their out-of-town visitors know about us and stay with us. I love sharing the special events in their lives like weddings, receptions, baby showers, anniversary parties, birthday parties, and any other celebration that may come up for them. It’s nice to feel like they are part of our family and we are part of theirs.
You can find out more about Julia’s property here:
Direct booking website
Here are some photos to give you a better vision of Julia’s house (click for larger versions) 🧐