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Podcast - Into the Airbnb

Interview with an Airbnb Host from Lake Martin, AL – S2 EP48

Welcome back to another episode of Into The Airbnb, where we chat with Airbnb hosts about their short-term rental experience.

Our guest for today is Jim Weldon, an Airbnb host who owns and manages a beautiful Lakefront condo unit in Lake Martin, Alabama. Jim from his wife purchased this unit as their retirement home, and while they’re not ready to retire yet, they chose to rent it out on Airbnb and make some extra income. They are projecting a total of $25K in revenue by September this year, and $60K in revenue by the end of this year. Join us to hear more about Jim’s fresh and recent experience as an Airbnb host and get some useful insights of the area.

This episode is sponsored by Airbtics, short-term rental analytics for high return investments, comprehensive data for insights, ideas and inspiration. Go to app.airbtics.com to find precise Airbnb data such as occupancy rate, revenue, average daily rate and so on. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

Into The Airbnb Podcast S2 EP 48: Lakefront Condo Unit in Lake Martin, AL doing $12K in their first three months with Airbnb
airbnb hosting tips lake martin

You can also listen to this Into The Airbnb Podcast Episode on Otter.

Delia:

So can you please let me know how did you get started on Airbnb or short-term rentals?

Jim Weldon:

My wife Tracy and I were kind of looking at a retirement home on a lake. So I looked at a couple of lakes in the United States and found Lake Martin and fell in love with it. Then we started looking at a couple of houses there and then we found a condo that was for sale that we made an offer on without stepping foot in it and we bought it and then we started renting it out soon as we got it live on the Airbnb site.

Delia:

So you told me you bought the property early March this year? I’m alright.

Jim Weldon:

Yes, correct.

Delia:

Okay, do you tell me a little bit of how do you finance the property?

Jim Weldon:

We financing it with 20% down and then we found, obviously one of the challenges in rental properties is finding a loan company that will take, our condo complex is more than 51% rentals, so it’s challenging then to find a loan company that will provide a loan for it. We found one in North Point and financed through North Point and then on March 5 we closed.

Delia:

And can you tell me how much was the property price?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, it was $490K.

Delia:

Okay, so it’s just one piece of the condo?

Jim Weldon:

It’s one unit. It’s a pretty big condo complex and we just have one unit and it’s a three-bedroom, two-bath condo.

Delia:

When you bought the property, were you already thinking of doing Airbnb on it?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, so we’re not ready to retire yet. This is kind of our retirement home. So I turned 59 and a half, so I can take money from my 401k with no penalty for the down payment. So I used my 401K money and use that toward the downpayment. And obviously, we’re not ready to retire yet. We live in Illinois, so we decided to rent it to, you know, cover the cost of the mortgage payment between now and when we’re ready to retire.

Delia:

That’s great. And have you made like your projections? Do you know how many years are you going to spend on paying your mortgage with Airbnb?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah. So we hope to retire, if all goes well, in about five years. Well we have options, if in five years rolls around and this unit is doing really well with rental, we can buy a different property on Lake Martin or we can choose to stop renting it and just move into our condo. So we have plenty of options in five years, whether to use the money from the sale of our house in Illinois to get a different place or use that to pay off what’s remaining on the mortgage.

Delia:

And are you planning to completely pay the mortgage on those five years or will take more?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, we’re not gonna be able to pay it off in five years so. I wish we could, but no, we can’t.

Delia:

So how many years do you think you’re going to spend on paying the mortgage and how much of it is going to pay the Airbnb?

Jim Weldon:

So let me see, it’s a 30 year loan, our goal is to pay it off sooner than that depending on how we’re doing. We’re off to a pretty good start right now. With our rentals we’ve had 23 stays, people have already stayed, we have 23 bookings, all the way through July 31st. We have two in September and one in May of next year. Lake Martin is a beautiful lake in southern Alabama, but it’s not really a winter destination. So we don’t know what the winter is gonna be like, we don’t know how many rentals we’re going to have in the winter. So without knowing that it’s really hard to project, how we’ll do over the full year because summer we knew was going to be great and we think fall be great because of football. But in winter, we’re not sure about yet.

Delia:

And how about the market research? Did you do some of that before purchasing, you know, to know if that property was going to work good on Airbnb all year long? Or how was the winter going to be?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, we tapped into it, we looked into AirDNA and kind of looked at what to expect, they can’t tell you what you should project out to. So they were projecting that, you know, we could do, I think it was, I want to say $60K a year in rentals. Then you factor in your, you know, they attach all your expenses on that. So we’re hoping if we can get, you know, $70K, that’d be awesome. But again, that’s just a projection by AirDNA and we do use it and so far, it’s been pretty accurate. So we’ll see if it continues. But if, you know, if we can do 60K a year, that’d be phenomenal, you know, we would love that. We would take close to that even.

Delia:

And so far how’s been like going? How much did you make for April, which was the month you went live and for May?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah. So in April, we know obviously, the nice thing is we went live about April 10 and we had three rentals on here. In April, we had no mortgage in April, so that was kind of nice. So the gross number there was 1690. In May, we had five bookings and we grossed $5K. On June, we currently have six bookings and we’re gonna gross about 60 to 40. And in July, we have six bookings and we’re gonna gross about $8,700 We have nothing so far in August. We have two in September right now that are gonna gross about 3500. So, so far every month has been profitable which is nice. Whether that continues or not, we’ll see what happens. I think for the September, we’re a half hour away from Auburn University and Auburn has four home games in September. They have two home games in October. They have two home games November, so we anticipate filling up all eight of those weekends, which would really help us to the winter.

Delia:

Do you only rent during the weekends?

Jim Weldon:

No, no, we have a two night minimum. But people, you know, we know that Auburn has eight home football games, which is being so close to the football scene. There’s so few hotels. We anticipate filling up all eight of those weekends. Two more we can afford, so we have six more to go.

Delia:

Okay, that’s the great then! So regarding your area, the area you’re hosting in Lake Martin, have you taken a look at the Airbnb market? Is it competitive? Are there many Airbnb rentals or VRBO even?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, no, there’s quite a few. You know, it’s a big lake. The lake is about 3000 square, 40,000 acres. So it’s a pretty big lake and there’s a lot of houses on there that are rented out quite a bit. There’s a few, like I said, a lot of the building, a lot of the condos in our building are also rented out. But, you know, we feel like our unit really shows well, we bought a furnish and we decorated it and it looks great. The one that stayed there has raved about it and we’ve had all five stars and they’ve raved about how clean it is and how nice it is and it’s in a great location. So we’re pretty confident that this, we can’t keep looking at competition because everyone’s different, you know, if someone wants a house that sleeps 10 people, we’re not for them. We can sleep six, so are you to sleep six, it’s in a gated community. It has a lake you know, it’s has a boat slip, it has a beautiful view off the balcony. So everyone’s different and everyone’s needs are different. So indeed, all my opinion competition is, just means there’s more people that want to stay there and then more houses that pop up for rentals, this means more people going there. That’s good.

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Delia:

Yeah, I agree. That’s pretty good! And how much is your current average daily rate?

Jim Weldon:

Yes, and we signed up with Priceline, which for any new member, I really recommend that because if you’re not familiar with Priceline, it basically takes your unit and tells you what you should be charging on a nightly basis, on a monthly basis, on a weekly basis and it looks at the area averages. So we’ve kind of trusted that and we’ve had you know, when Penn State plays Auburn in September, we’re gonna get about $900 a night, but typically, it’s mostly in the $300 range is what our typical weekend is, you know, Auburn graduations that increases, you know, weekend’s like July 4 and Labor Day, Memorial Day it goes up. So the price signs have been really good for us. So our our stays are on average about three nights on average and our monthly, our nightly is about 325 on average. And Priceline does a really nice job of, you know, as you get closer and closer to the date, it lowers the price for you. So it makes it kind of like what a hotel does, you know, if there’s openings, it lowers the price automatically. So we really happy with what we’re, you know, what we’re getting from Priceline.

Delia:

Okay, that’s great! And at some point, do you plan on pricing it yourself? Or do you think you’re going to be good with Priceline?

Jim Weldon:

So far, Priceline has done is fantastic and I don’t see, you know, we’re not smart enough to go through everyone’s pricing and then compare it to our condo and what we should be charging versus them. And, you know, there’s computer programs that can do that far better than my wife and I could, so we trust the computer program.

Delia:

Make sense. And what about your market? Do you know if there’s any, like, big season there?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah. So what’s kind of nice about our market is it’s located between two metropolitan areas. It’s about located between Atlanta, it’s two hours southeast of Atlanta and two hours southwest of Birmingham. So most of our people that are staying there are coming for the weekend or long weekends to take advantage of the lake. It’s a beautiful lake and people bring their own boats, we have a boat slip where they can rent a boat there. Our busy time is really, you know, going to be Memorial Day to Labor Day. And that’s we’ve been pretty much booked every night from May, June and July. And then it’ll be the other busy times like I said, during home football games for Auburn, during, you know, graduation, weekends for Auburn, parents weekends for Auburn, you know. We’re hoping to have anywhere from, you know, 40 weekends of the year rented out. So it’d be kind of, you know, that’d be ideal.

Delia:

Yeah, that’d be great! So the seasonality in your area depends more on the events?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, no, it really is summer. It’s a summer destination and then it extends on beyond like I said, from Memorial Day to Labor Day is when the season is. But it extends beyond that, because we’re so close to university, that we’ll get football games, you know, people say that for football games or graduations or Parents weekend. So that extends our, primetime is summer, but we feel like because of our proximity to the university, we’ll get a lot more than just summer.

Delia:

And so far, like what have been your niche? The kind of demographic that come to your rental?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, so pretty much it’s been really, the primary people that rent it out are young families with kids that want to, you know, use their boat, rent a boat and take advantage of the lake. So it’s pretty much been, what we anticipated being was families and that’s what it is. And it only sleeps six, so you’re not going to get two families, you might get a couple couples in there, but it’s really designed for one family that wants to cook their meals, be on a lake and take advantage of all that lake has to offer.

Delia:

And when it comes to Lake access, do they have like full access to the lake? They have just to rent the boats? And all the other stuff they can do it?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, they have full access. We have a boast slip right outside our front door and we have a pool right outside our front door, a community pool with a golf course right there. There’s a clubhouse for the restaurant. So they have access to all of that. There’s a marina they can walk to, so it’s in a great location and it’s close to, you know, restaurants and tours as well.

Delia:

Do you include all of those like amenities in your nightly rate?

Jim Weldon:

Yeah, that’s, Priceline knows what we have to offer I guess. We plug it into the system and that helps us charge what we should charge. We don’t charge extra for anything.

Delia:

Okay, that’s great. And what about the cleaning fee for example? Do you do the cleaning? Do you hire someone for the cleaning?

Jim Weldon:

We were so fortunate to find someone that cleans the house for us and she does a great job. We just let her know our schedule and she comes in and gets it ready. Every review we’ve had so far has commented on how clean our place is and how beautiful it is and how they love it so, you know, my recommendation to anybody that’s going to do this is, if you don’t have a good cleaning person, then you’re in trouble and if you have a good cleaning person, take care of her or him.

Delia:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s like the main tips out there and like the most important thing for all short-term rentals is a clean staff.

Jim Weldon:

And a good maintenance guy because things are going to happen and you need a good maintenance guy that can get in there and fix it and then move on. So we found both, those two people were down there after we closed and we were very fortunate for that.

Delia:

And one thing I wanted to ask you about is if there has been any particular challenges that you found with Airbnb? Either can be like with the Airbnb platform, being a host, with the people you rent with.

Jim Weldon:

We’ve been really fortunate so far, knock on wood. I mean, we’ve had no issues whatsoever. Our guests we’ve had, you know, we had one group of guests that were bunch of young guys who are in their early 20s I believe, were there for a rodeo and they had a great time apparently, so we got some complaints about noise. They left a little bit of evidence of how much fun they had, but it wasn’t a big deal, you know, we cleaned it up, we apologize to neighbors and if that’s the worst thing that happens, then well, that’s awesome. But we’ve been so fortunate with everything. We’ve had no issues with Airbnb, we’ve had no issues with our guests or our neighbors. So it’s really, again, we’re new to this. We’re only had about 10 listings so far that people will stay there. So, so far, so good. No problems yet.

Delia:

Oh, that’s great then! And in how did you prepare to be an Airbnb host? Because you bought the house like on early March and then on early April, like 10 of April you were already live. So how was like your preparation? How did you educate yourself for Airbnb?

Jim Weldon:

Sure. Great, great question. We’ve read a couple books on how to host art, how to be a manager ourselves. We weren’t going to give away the profit to a property manager. To learn how to do that, we went down there after we closed. We brought the maintenance guy into to fix the things that we need to fix before you have it rented out, which wasn’t much. We did some decorating. So you know, that was furnished and they kept some things behind, we wanted to add some things like we put a TV outside in the balcony and put some different outdoor furniture out there. We kind of set up what we wanted to set it up. We went out and got all the supplies you need, like your coffee makers, your plates, your pots, your pans. So we had to go out and do all that. Once we did that, we hired a professional photographer to come in and take pictures. And then we, you know, went live on platform and we got a booking almost within four or five days. So you know, it was fantastic. So I will tell you, it’s kind of like, you know, my wife and I say it’s kind of like a rush when someone gets a booking, it’s an adrenaline rush. It’s like, “Hey, that’s pretty cool. We got a booking!”.

Delia:

And how did you prepare like yourself? How do you educate yourself like for Airbnb?

Jim Weldon:

So we did a lot of reading. My wife was the one that navigated the platform to host, to put up our site, you know, she’s the one that did all that. I reached out to people in the area that I’ve met over time, my realtor and I network through my realtor and other people that I met while I was down there to find the people that we need to be successful, you know, to find a photographer, to find a maintenance guy, to find a cleaning person. So you have to do a little networking, you have to, you know, get lucky and find the right people. So it kind of worked out well because my wife took care of the behind the scenes stuff in terms of getting us set in the platform and I took care of all the stuff that required, you know, being down there and getting everything set up.

Delia:

How long did you take with it? It was like the time when you like bought the house and we’re ready to go live with it? Or did you started to get prepared before that?

Jim Weldon:

No, we started getting prepared when we bought it. We did a crash course, but we got set up. Once we bought it, we had to come down there and get the furniture and you know, do things like that. It took us about a month to get everything set up and to get a photographer in there to take pictures. Then to get on the platform lives, it takes, you know, several days from the time you go in there, to get approved. So the whole process took us about 30 days from closing to getting going live on Airbnb.

Delia:

Wow, that’s amazing! That’s really quick.

Jim Weldon:

I guess. The condo was in great shape, so we didn’t have a whole lot to do. We were very fortunate.

Delia:

Great. One thing that I’d like to ask you about currently, you’re just renting on Airbnb, right? You don’t do VRBO, booking, any other site?

Jim Weldon:

We do VRBO as well.

Delia:

How is it doing there?

Jim Weldon:

We’ve had great luck on both of them. It’s pretty much been equal. Our guests on both have been fantastic and both platforms have been great. We’ve had no issues with anything yet. So I guess a knock on wood, you know, we’ve had all 5-star reviews, we’ve got all 5-star guests and we’ve had zero problems with either platform. So we’re very fortunate. I’m sure things will happen and if they do, you just deal with it. But right now we’ve been very fortunate.

Delia:

That’s really great for you. And do you see any particular difference between Airbnb and VRBO service? Which one would you like rather?

Jim Weldon:

I don’t really have a preference. They both, we haven’t noticed any difference in terms of the type of clientele. We haven’t notice any difference in how we get treated. So you know, we don’t have a preference. They both been great. We’ve had no issue with any of them, so let’s hope that continues!

Delia:

Yeah, let’s hope that! So that’s amazing. And the last thing that I would like to ask you about is if there are any tips that you’d like to give out for other Airbnb hosts.

Jim Weldon:

Well, that’s a great question, like I said, the tips I would give like, we’re new, so we’re still learning but I would say: get a good cleaner, get a good maintenance guy. Some of the advice that we got from people that we reached out to, you know, encase your mattresses and your pillowcases with a bedbug encasement because that’s important. We stayed there too, for, you know, we went down there after we bought it to stay there, to see what we needed as guests, you know, be your own guest, you know, find out what you need, what would make it better experience for your guests. And I would just say the thing that we’ve done is we’ve treated our guests like they were our friends, you know, we don’t spy on them, we don’t charge extra for little amenities, you know, if they reach out to us, we reach back and as a result, you know, we don’t have any issues with them. Again, I’m sure there’ll be issues down the road. But, you know, some of these sites, I just see everyone, you know, ripping on their guests, and nickel and diming them and we treat our guests at our house, like we want to be treated if we were, you know, if it was us. That’s kind of our mentality is to treat them like their friends of ours, not as if their customers and that’s kind of been successful for us. So those are the you know, again, be your own guest, find out what you need in your own house. And like we have, we bought, one of the other suggestions was we got three sets of towels for every, so if we have six peoples, we have 18 sets of towels. So  we leave six out of the time. We have three sets of bed sheets, everything is stored away in our owner’s closet, but things are going to happen, things are gonna get ruined and you wanna make sure you have surplus for the next guest.

Delia:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s amazing that you do that. So that would be it for today. Thank you a lot for your time for telling, you know, about your experience and for telling us the tips you have for us! That’s been amazing.

Jim Weldon:

Well, thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it. It was fun.

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