Episode 349

Unlocking Airbnb Success with Culin Tate

Culin Tate is a serial entrepreneur, owner and host of eight Airbnb properties, Airbnb ambassador, short-term rental coach, author of Host Coach, and speaker. His mission is to share his experience, knowledge of specific tools and software, and the systems he has created to harness the unique opportunity of short-term rental investing so that others can enjoy a life of financial freedom to live their why.

We chat about:

  • How to tap into the most stable opportunity for wealth creation of the decade
  • The 4 pillars of short-term rental investing to create financial freedom
  • Hacking the Airbnb algorithm for listing placement and success
  • Beyond Superhost - the short-term rental tech stack for automating success

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"You can invest 10,000 hours and become an expert or learn from those who have already made that investment." - Jack

Transcript
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Welcome to the REI Mastermind network, where host Jack has gathers amazing stories from leaders in real estate investing.

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In each episode, our guests will tell you what they're doing that works what they've tried that failed, and best of all, you'll learn actionable steps to take your real estate investing.

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To the next level now, here's Jack with another value packed episode.

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We have Cullen take with us today and we're going to cover everything and anything to do with short term rentals.

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So, this is your episode.

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If this is something you're interested in.

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So cool, and I really appreciate your time and you can find all of Collins information including his coaching at host.

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Coach will make sure you use that C oh now hostcoach.co. So, thanks for joining me here today, Colon.

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Yeah Jack, thank you for having me.

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So, you know I have to.

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I have to obviously start with.

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How did you possibly get into the niche of this?

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Because frankly, every time I run into or tried to do this myself, I have.

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I haven't had a ton of success, to be frank.

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So, you must either really enjoy doing this, or you've found the winning formula.

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rial tech entrepreneur and in:

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And started scratching my head.

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What am I going to do next?

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Am I going to cook the next great opportunity?

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I had an Airbnb cabin at the.

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I'm and it was doing what I would say fairly, very well and decided well maybe I'll lean into that and make an investment in two or three other Airbnb properties.

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So, you know one of the things that I've have a hard time finding is like, well, let's start where, where do you determine or how do you determine the best place for an Airbnb?

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Question a lot of people try to solve that from a really analytical perspective, meaning let's go find a list of where.

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The best Airbnb.

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Testment towns and cities are.

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I look at it from a different way.

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I look at it from finding what I call, finding your, where meaning where do you like to go?

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Where do you?

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Where would you like to go away with your spouse or your girlfriend or your family?

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Where would you?

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Like to go?

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Within 2/3 hours driving distance from every major metropolitan area there.

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Are these getaway locations?

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Sure, no.

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That makes a lot of sense.

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Is that partly because then it motivates you to go check on it and maybe actually stay there yourself.

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Yeah, I think that an Airbnb investments should be pleasurable.

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It should be something that you're passionate about and that passion will come through in the product that you're delivering in the experience that you're delivering for your guests.

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Sure, so you know a lot of people you know, like.

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In my area.

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You know that going three hours away, I guess that would probably work where it doesn't seem to work for me anyway, is that I tried to we tried to run these numbers in. I'm near Fargo ND and that's not exactly a destination.

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For, uh, any kind of retreat.

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I would imagine Father is a pretty good-sized city, so you don't necessarily need.

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Someone to fly?

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From, you know, New York City to Fargo to.

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Be have a.

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Profitable Airbnb so I don't know the exact population of Fargo, but it's a city I've heard of, so I imagine there's a million people or more, and that's really all you need.

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Is those people wanting to get away for the weekend?

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Be it a birthday or anniversary.

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Pre or post COVID we're seeing a lot of what we call leisure activity.

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The blending of business and leisure where people are wanting to get out of their apartment wanting to get out of their condo when they get out of their house and go work somewhere else where they can be in nature and take a.

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Hike and enjoy.

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The scenery here.

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Sure, so you in your you have a book and I'm going to put a link to your book as well in the show notes but you.

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Mention the four pillars of short-term rental success.

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Could we cover some of those?

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Let's do that first, which is.

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Finding your where.

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So, find a place that is close.

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Enough that you.

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Can get to particularly for your first.

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This can be done remotely.

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I've done it remotely but finding a place that you're passionate about.

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Few hours driving distance from your home, primary residence, primary location, and that really is.

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The first part finds that where and then once you have that in mind, then there's some analytical tools that we can use to dive in to gauge that market to really uncover what the average daily rates in AC.

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Been seized and how effective that market.

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Is going to.

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Be as an Airbnb market for you as a host.

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Sure, so you know some of the things too.

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Is they what usually makes my numbers fall apart?

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Is the turnover?

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How have you found ways in which to turn these units?

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And manage that process.

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Given the physical cleaning and maintenance of.

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That is a key.

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Business relationship in short term rentals is how do you find?

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A trusted housekeeper who is really your partner in the business.

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I have found just using the old bandit yard signs, particularly if you're in a location that has other Airbnb's or other short-term rentals.

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Put up these really nice signs and put them.

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In the entrance to the neighborhoods.

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Housekeeper wanted and you can interview a few.

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And find the person.

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That fits with.

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You and then really treat.

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That person extremely well.

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They're really your valued business partner, not just somebody to love in a vacuum cleaner, but someone who's looking out for your property and cares about it as much.

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Sure, are there any amenities that you offer that make you stand out?

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That is really part of the finding your where sort of what we will call macro amenities, so I am primarily invested myself in cabins, so we're always looking for.

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A view or a nice deck?

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Or a hot tub.

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Things like that you can't build a view, but you can add a hot tub.

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You can make them pet friendly.

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You can install proper flooring so that people can bring you know their furry friends along.

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For the weekend.

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No, that that makes that.

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Makes a lot of sense.

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That's so you know, one of the things that I think people struggle with is, you know, if they're especially new to short term rent rentals, how to stand out from that crowd?

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You know it.

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It seems like it's gotten a little overwhelmed with a lot of expertise.

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If you will, or people that have been doing it for a long time and it's hard to get started.

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Uh is there any low hanging fruit tactics that people can use?

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Absolutely, that's really kind of segue to that second pillar that you mentioned, which.

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Is we call make?

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It pop

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So first pick a good property, pick a good house that's got some curb appeal.

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If it needs a coat of paint outside, give it the coat of paint outside in the cabin market.

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We're really looking for something cabin on the outside and.

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Crate&barrel on the inside.

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Right?

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You'd be surprised if you look through everything.

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We listings help.

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Dark and dismal.

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We called dead animals and doilies.

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Grandmas, you know quilts on the backs of chairs. So, you really want a crisp, clean interior. We find about 80% of people who initiate bookings with us or female, so you know, maybe they go to a spouse or.

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Or other partner.

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When they make the booking but initiating.

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The booking so we really want a crisp, clean interior and then we absolutely positively want professional HDR photography, and you'd be again so surprised how many hosts don't make that step and is critical to standing out. As you said one Airbnb or and any other OTA's.

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And especially when you know that it's.

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It's, you know, as especially when it takes such these small strategies or what can really make you stand out and and.

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A lot of people.

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You know, I even.

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See it for rental properties.

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Just standard rental properties.

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How many people just take photos with their phone?

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And call it Guild.

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I see it with, you know, $300,000 new home listings where you know it's the photos have been taken and they're really dark and boring, right?

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So, we can do some things on the interior.

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You talk about little touches, little splashes of.

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Color like to do?

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Accent walls provide nice coffee stations.

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There's really a lot of things.

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One of the things about short term rentals.

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They find very entrepreneurial.

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Is that you have a lot of control over the product?

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And even if you start day one, you can listen to your guests and you can iterate.

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You can make really impactful.

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Changes by making small changes in your decor in your mandates.

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We mentioned hot tubs and pet friendly.

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You may start without a hot tub and had a hot tub later or add you know a pet friendly amenity to the listings you have a lot of control over that product as well as the pricing.

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Yeah, it sounds like you're really keeping your guest in mind.

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What kind of feedback loop do you get from them?

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In order to make these types of improvements, is it just through the air and Airbnb app?

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I'm nearly through the platform.

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g in, which is usually around:

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How are you doing?

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Is there anything we can be doing better for you and sometimes?

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We'll say you.

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Know I've got a question about the TV.

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Well, often the last word recommendation.

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Where should I take a hike?

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It's a beautiful day well.

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Where do I find this?

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In the house.

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So that gives us.

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An opportunity to interface with the.

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Test and head off any potential concerns that they might.

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Have and then.

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Once they do check out.

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Right or review?

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We spend time reviewing.

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Those reviews define.

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That's really a lot of how.

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We drive our.

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Maintenance and improvement.

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You know the.

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Bed was squeaky or the door, didn't you?

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Know the door stuck.

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You get a lot of feedback.

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We turn over about 12.

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Times a month in each property, so that's a.

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Lot of points.

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To receive from guests for areas to improve.

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Yeah, and and I can imagine that takes a lot of management to make sure that you're getting things done, like Airbnb's. Do you manage right now?

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I own and operate outlet 8 units 8.

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1002 bedrooms, 3 bedrooms and four-bedroom cabins.

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Are they all centralized or in this in essentially the same place, or do you do you have to?

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Are they managed throughout this?

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They are essentially in the same county ones a little bit on the outskirts.

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Of the county.

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But I coach.

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You know I have coaching clients all over the country that are in all sorts of different types of properties.

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Being, you know, oceanfront beach side, you know, cabins, Lake houses, winery areas, things like that.

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So do you.

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Your support staff?

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Are they more central like are you your cleaning individuals?

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Are they able to handle most of these for you across your footprint?

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Or do you have different people at each property?

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I have three primary housekeepers, so you know I find that a little difficult.

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You know you can only one housekeeper can only turn over so many houses.

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Right, so I have multiple housekeepers that have their own properties and they become associated with that property.

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I don't rotate between them.

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Some people talk about trying to rotate their cleaners or use other services that rotate cleaners.

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I really.

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Believe in creating a relationship with.

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The housekeeper and that housekeeper has a relationship and a.

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Pride in the property.

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In addition to housekeepers and he always need.

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A good handyman to fix a leaky faucet and someone that you can call to go out and do something that may be above what the housekeeper can handle.

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Do you enable the housekeeper to make those calls for the plumber, or do you handle?

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All that.

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You know that's a great question.

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I do have one housekeeper who has some in-house handy services.

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Of summer her employees can do things like replace a water faucet or something.

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She did some ceiling fans for me recently so that is that's actually a plus.

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If you can't find a housekeeper that does have some relationships like that, she always runs it past me first, but it's great to have her handle the management of something or repair like that.

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Sure, OK, so just remind everybody. Head over to hostcoach.co for a lot more information, including links to the podcast that Colon a host.

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So, with all of this now you've acquired 8 properties.

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How have you been finding regarding funding these properties in the acquisition aspect?

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I'm lucky enough to have been doing it long enough where I'm basically burning the properties, you know, buying them, getting them fixed up, getting renovated, getting them on the market and generating cash flow.

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I generally will go in and buying cash.

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And then refinance out that cash after six months.

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You know there's a lot taking place in the lending space around short term rentals where we're getting lenders that are treating short term rentals a little bit more like multi families where we're getting some asset lending you know.

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So, it's not just all.

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Credit score dependent we're.

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Finding lenders that are.

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Able to lend based on cash flows.

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Sure, and then you know, going back to the management of this and you having this software background, what kind of systems and tools are you using with your boots on the ground to keep this all managed and under control?

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Really, once you're up and running in terms of operational, the biggest tools that any host should have would be 1A dynamic pricing software. Something like price labs or wheelhouse.

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That is continually taking data from your OTA.

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Or Airbnb orb.

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And analyzing the exact supply and demand for every upcoming day and adjusting your prices for you.

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One mistake that a lot of hosts I see make is that they overprice their weekdays and.

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Underpriced their weekends, you know if you just have.

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A flat $200 night 250.

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Dollar at night.

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They'll end up with a lot.

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Of vacancy during the week because next Tuesday. Somebody may not want to spend 250 a night.

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But next month, when it's your anniversary or your wife birthday or something special graduation, that same property could be $500 a night.

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So first and foremost, a dynamic pricing tool and probably about 90% of hosts are not using one of those tools and they're very affordable, very powerful, and then the other tool in terms of operations.

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Would be an.

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Automated messaging tool.

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There's lots of these hospitable and a lot of.

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The channel man.

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Managers will automate your booking reservation messages.

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Your follow up messages that really bring down.

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The workload for that host.

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Sure, OK, well you know a couple other questions that come to mind then is that you talk about the Burr aspect of this.

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What type of you know in your acquiring cabins?

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What are some of the things that you found that you have to?

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What are the improvements that are you you're making to these to these homes.

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You know it varies widely.

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I've had a few properties that.

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Were you know, mostly turnkey, just coming with some, some newer.

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Furniture all the way down to. I've dug a 700 foot well and and paved a 700-foot Rd at a cabin.

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So that I think that's something.

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Really, to take into consideration as an investor when you're looking.

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At a property you know what?

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Is your tolerance for time money headache?

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For the first time.

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Investor, you may not want to take on a property that's going to need $50,000 worth of rehab.

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There are a.

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Lot of properties out there that have been used as family vacation rentals that are there.

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I'm sorry.

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Family getaway type residences that are in really good.

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The shape, but things like just paint carpet flooring.

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You know, sometimes in appliance updates are the big ones.

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And then you were talking about the rates like during the week and the weekends.

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I have heard of people using the strategy of kind of being aggressive with their with their price, especially right off the bat in order to draw those initial visitors and initial reviews.

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Is that a strategy you would suggest?

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You know Airbnb and the other OTAs online.

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Travel agent platforms are at their heart a search engine, much like Google.

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And so, when you understand what that search algorithm is looking for, you can you know act accordingly.

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So, what are they looking they're?

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Looking for a click through rate.

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Right, so if you've got those beautiful pictures and beautiful amenities, your listings going.

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To get clicked on it's looking for.

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You, the users, stay engaged on.

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App listing and stay there.

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So, reading beautiful descriptions and reading picture captions.

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And then closing the sale booking.

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That's that that opportunity.

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So, it's definitely a good idea, particularly early on, to make sure that you're staying.

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You know that you're closing those leads that the platform is giving you and that you're staying fully occupied, and so if you need to do that through some price.

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Reduction in the early.

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Days then then that's definitely advisable.

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So, you know I, I'm hoping that you can.

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We can now change course just a little bit and let's, let's say somebody has found that property that that they can.

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They believe would be a good Airbnb and they do the acquisition.

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What would they?

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Could they expect for that?

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During that first 30 days or so what are they going to experience?

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There is a learning curve to the craft.

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A lot of first-time hosts.

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Probably the biggest advice that I can give first time hosts, particularly during that 30-day period, is.

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To make sure that you're really looking at this like a business, not to take it too emotionally.

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I've definitely had men tease and some family members.

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They get a little upset, you know, if you put all this time and energy into a property and someone has a complaint, it's very easy to react to that emotionally.

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You know, hopefully you're not reacting.

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To the guest directly, but just to put on a little bit of a thick skin to put on your business hot and know that you're providing a service and that you're going to do your best and.

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You're going to learn.

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From feedback from your guests, so take.

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The feedback that you're getting from your guess.

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And absorb it as something to learn as opposed to something to respond to.

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No, that that makes a lot of sense, and I think we kind of blipped out here for just a second, colon froze.

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I'm here.

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Oh, there you are, you're back.

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So no, that that makes a lot of sense.

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Especially taking the on that feedback that you're getting from the from your customers.

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And especially if there's anything actionable, I can imagine if you're acquiring properties that you might be in, your family is spending some time, and it does.

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Get a little emotional because that that's kind of a maybe a favorite place of yours and your families.

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Another thing to do as a host is to spend time maybe.

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Before that first 30 days before going live.

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I always recommend spend a week, spend a weekend, spend three or four days in your property and you're going to hear that you know that creaky.

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You know that creaky roof or that dripping faucet?

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Or you know, spend some time and live there your.

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Self-make use of your own amenities.

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Make use of your own.

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You know coffee makers and appliances and spend a little time there.

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Enjoy it and also learn from.

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You know what? What things?

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Actually, living here somebody spending three or four nights in the property is going to experience and try to head off those objections.

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So, you know it's no secret.

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You know.

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It's especially in your domain name.

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I mean your host coach.

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If somebody is looking to get into this talk a little bit about the importance of finding some mentorship and what type of questions, they should ask the mentor.

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To make sure it's a right fit.

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I think I would want to make sure that the mentor is actually an investor and owner themselves.

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You know, I definitely have come across some gurus or experts that.

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You know, don't necessarily owner.

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Operate a lot of their own property, so I really want to make sure if I was looking for a mentor that this person has, you know multiple properties.

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That they own and operate.

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Maybe go and look at their reviews as a host.

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You know, ask them about their pricing strategies.

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I think there's probably good places to start.

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Yeah, no, that's some great tips.

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You know this has been a great conversation and I'm sure we could unpack quite a bit more associated with this and and I know I, I wanted to point out again you do have a book.

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I think it's available.

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Is it available on Amazon?

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I'm pretty.

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Sure, it is.

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Came out about 2.

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Weeks ago on Amazon, we're getting great reviews.

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We're excited about.

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It's always a.

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A proposition, a scary proposition when you first publish something, but there's a lot of experience in there and not just.

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My own, the.

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Neat thing about being a.

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Coach is that I can get to talk to gain experience and situations from hundreds of other hosts and then sort of like the butterfly pollinator effect.

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I can share that those experiences.

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With new hosts to help them really accelerate the learning, you know Airbnb and the short-term rental.

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There's nothing particularly.

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There's not one piece of it that's really hard.

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But it's kind of a windy Rd that can seem.

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Daunting and it's nice to have someone you know shine that flashlight and show them.

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Show them the path, the clear path to success.

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Well, can you maybe share one of the stories associated with one of your students?

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Like turning something around or?

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I'll see if I paraphrase this story, and this is about a listing that was around for a while and performed very well.

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And then started not took before and it was for reasons of around the management of the property.

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Price was not we weren't able to adjust price to make a change, so the listing wasn't getting bookings and the listing it was found was showing very low in search results and then that was further constrained by.

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Not being able to adjust.

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Pricing and so we were able to go in and just basically re optimize and touch retouch every piece of the listings, policies, descriptions, photos and basically.

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Give it a.

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Refresh without changing prices and drove it back to.

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The top of search results and back to profitability again.

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Well, that that's really something telling like what you just told about earlier in the in this episode you were mentioned.

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Saying that, make sure you have some good photos and everything to help make it pop.

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It can really drive those results you really didn't change much to the actual rental property itself, but change refresh the listing if you will.

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Exactly so refreshing, you know?

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Just go back in you.

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Know if you have, so that's a piece of advice for people who listening.

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Maybe you've got an Airbnb listing you're in.

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You're thinking it used to do well and and it it's sort of not making as much money as it once did.

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But first thing to do is check where it is falling in the search results.

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You know I talked about Google; I believe.

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That if you're.

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Not on the first page.

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It's going to be hard to win, right?

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How, how often do you go past page?

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Two, you know when you're looking for something you know.

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On a web service and it's.

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Very similar, I think Airbnb statistic is something like.

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The average user.

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Clicks 16 to 18 pages.

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And that really translates down to maybe really only looking at three or four listings.

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So, if you're not able to drive your listing to that sort of first page, you should really be looking at what's underlying that and so going back into your listing and just.

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Maybe you need to relax some.

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Policies maybe cancellation policy is a little too strict.

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Or maybe you don't.

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Have instant booking enabled.

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Or it's enabled in too strict of a fashion.

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So, it's not always about price.

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It's often not about price to win.

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To get you.

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Listing to the top.

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It's often about just re looking at those settings.

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Maybe re experiment with those.

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Photos reorder those photos.

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Rewrite that description.

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As I said, this one of the most rewarding parts of the sort.

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Terminal is that how much control we?

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Have over the.

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Product that we can.

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Go in and we can change things.

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Not just from a pricing perspective.

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A long-term marketing perspective.

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We can make changes in the listing and see immediate results.

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Sure, no, this has been a great conversation.

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I really appreciate your time, Colon.

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I warned you it was.

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Coming, is there any other topic or question you wish I would have asked you here today?

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Well, the one I was thinking about was maybe I'll just sort of summarize which is, you know, I talk about the four pillars of success being find.

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You're aware that matters to you.

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Make it pop, make the decor and the photos stand out.

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Optimize you know for price, price for occupancy.

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Make sure that you're not under, you know pricing your weekends.

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Make sure that you're filling up your weekdays, it's.

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Definitely possible to stay, you know, 90% occupied and then make sure that your listing is.

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Ranking well within.

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You're your platform.

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And if it's.

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Not take some steps to re optimize.

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Sure, again it is hostcoach.co.

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I really appreciate your time here today.

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Colin, I hope you'll consider coming back again sometime.

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Absolutely, Jack, I'd love to.

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Have you learned at least one actionable step to incorporate into your real estate investing?

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If so, please consider returning some of that value by leaving a positive review, subscribing to our YouTube channel, or joining our growing network on Facebook and Twitter.

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You can find links to all of our social media accounts in the show notes. See you next time.