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Interview with an Airbnb Host from Texas & New Mexico – S2 EP11

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

Let’s listen to our today’s podcast featuring our guest, Andrea Whitson, based in Central Texas, who is an experienced Airbnb host and manages five listings in Texas and New Mexico. In this episode, Andrea will tell us about her experience doing short-term rentals and remote hosting. So without further ado, let’s get into it!

Into The Airbnb Podcast S2 EP 11:
5 Successful Airbnb Rentals in Texas & New Mexico
airbnb rentals texas new mexico

Andrea Whitson is an experienced Airbnb host from Central Texas who manages 5 listings in Texas and New Mexico. In this episode, Andrea will tell us about her short-term rental and remote hosting experiences.

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

Delia:

So can you tell us how did you get started on Airbnb?

Andrea Whitson:

We’ve not been doing Airbnb all that long. But in 2018, I really wanted a beach house down on the Texas coastline and I found a great deal on a house on Crystal beach. And it’s a beach that’s closest to Houston, that’s the closest major city. And my husband agreed to make the downpayment as long as I would make the monthly payments. And so I’m no dummy. I didn’t want to pay out of my own pocket for that payment. So we made it to Airbnb, and I’ve never ever had to make a payment once with my own money because it’s been so well. And since we have the beach house, we added three ski town properties in New Mexico, just so that we could have more. We could have a summer season with the beach house, we could have a winter season with a ski properties.

Delia:

Okay, so in the areas you’re hosting in Texas and New Mexico, how is the seasonality like?

Andrea Whitson:

Well, I’ll put it this way on the beach house, the bookings that we have from Memorial Day, which is mid May or end of May, through Labour Day, which is the first of September, those bookings pay for the property’s annual expenses. So that’s where we make the bulk of our money that covers all of our expenses for the year. And the same is true for the ski properties and their winter season is December to March. And again, that pays for the rest of the year’s expenses for those properties and that gives us income as well. But we always try to pay for the properties with the seasonality and then anything else is profit.

Delia:

I understand. So in the high season versus low season, how is your average occupancy rate like in both of those places?

Andrea Whitson:

Well, I don’t know much look at it that way because our ski properties we acquired in September of 2020. So we don’t have a long history, whatever say is all of our properties together and we just added another one in the urban area, right outside of Austin, is our first non-tourist location home that we added, so that’s actually the fifth house. So we average right now 67% occupancy across all properties year round.

Delia:

I see, I see. And do you remote host the ones in New Mexico?

Andrea Whitson:

Yes. And even the beach house, we do that remotely because it’s a five hour drive. So we do all of those remote and have teams in place in those tourist locations.

Delia:

Oh, so four of them are remote hosted? Okay, great. Can you tell us about your experience with remote hosting?

Andrea Whitson:

Actually, you know, we’ve done it from the beginning because we didn’t open with a house that was near us, we now have one and it’s much easier with it near you. The remote hosting though as long as you have a cleaner and a handyma. And you have a very, very good system, very good record keeping, the remote hosting is very simple. There are so many tools and resources available in terms of application to help you with your communications, to help you with your pricing, to help with all of your bookings. So the remote management to me is just part of how it is and we’ve been able to work it very well.

Delia:

Good and how did you manage to get a good team to help you in your listings?

Andrea Whitson:

A lot of it is really asking around, one thing that we just covered in and I don’t know if it’s small town, it’s probably best to visit small towns, but our properties, aside from the one in the Austin area, they’re in small towns. So almost all of these towns have a Facebook page, where residents will talk where they share information and share plumbers, painters and things like that. So we always look for that. And that gives us a great way to find someone in an emergency and also find out who other people use, a lot of times, it’s hosts, other hosts, that it could be residents as well. So we typically get our cleaners that way. Now we’ve been through a couple of cleaners in the beach house property and we just start asking around and finding out who does cleaning, and who is able to, one thing that we find really critical is that we’d be able to book them digitally. So when a booking comes in, they get noticed right away, what we don’t want to do is be having to send texts and emails and calling them to give them our schedule. But we haven’t had any problems finding cleaners. But we’ve definitely had problems maintaining the right level of cleanliness with our cleaners. And I assume, now in my Austin property, I’ve not had that issue, but it hasn’t been online all that long. We went live in December. So the cleaners, I think part of it is really trying to get the best real relationship you can get with them, get to know them personally. At Christmas, we send gifts, you know, they’re our friends, they’re our partners. And so right now our cleaner in the Coast area, they’ve really begun to partner with us and really treat it like it’s their income as well and it is literally. But still the day to day, people who are cleaning the house. That’s really where you can run into problems because if they’re have a lot of back to back bookings, they’re tired. They’re, you know, the season is, is really busy. When they stopped sailing, that’s when things get really rocky. So it’s really important on the cleaners to have someone who has a team of cleaners versus one person cleaning everything.

Delia:

Yeah, I agree with that completely. And about the areas you’re hosting, how is your average occupancy rate like in the high seasons versus the low seasons?

Andrea Whitson:

So I’m trying to think like I said, the majority, I’m in the high season, we’re probably 90%. Now what I will say is, we use Airbnb only, we do not booked through VRBO. And we’ve just had some bad experiences. So that does limit, you know, how the occupancy, you know, potentially that limits it. The other thing is in our properties, we try to make sure that there’s a reasonable amount of people in the house, we don’t try to get in every bed that you could possibly get in there to increase occupancy and the daily rate. But we are occupied enough so that we have bookings that pay for the rest of the year. I’ll say that.

Delia:

Sounds good. Sounds good. And throughout the year, what is your pricing strategy?

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Andrea Whitson:

Well, we have actually just moved to dynamic pricing through price labs, so we began that in the fall of last year. So what the difference is so far, right? We don’t have a lot of history to really look at it. But what we’re finding is the occupancy is less, but the daily rate is much more. So we’re actually making more money and having less wear and tear on the house. We’re definitely getting to a point where we’ll have to decide, okay, now that we’re making the money we wanted to make and we could choose to increase the occupancy, there’s some value add things we could do to bring up the occupancy, but I will say that once we went to that dynamic pricing, it really changed the game instead of us trying to manually do that, which we had done for a couple of years.

Delia:

I understand. So will you recommend people to use like a dynamic pricing solution instead of pricing by yourself?

Andrea Whitson:

Yes. Not only is it easier, there’s just things that they’d be aware of that, depending on how many properties you have, you may not know about local events that drive high occupancy and that is all part of the dynamic pricing where there’s visibility to that, and the trends and people booking. So again, depending on how many properties you have, that gets really hard to keep up, with the dynamic pricing certainly is a much easier way to go. And the added bonus to the dynamic pricing actually is, we’re not questioning if our house is worth that much or not. We’re seeing what other people are charging, we’re seeing what the rates are and so, it’s supporting the rates. So we don’t have a skewed view then about what the house might rent for. So it’s sort of take depersonalised it, which has helped us make more money.

Delia:

Okay, good to hear about your experience with that. And can you tell us in these years being an Airbnb host, what have been your top challenges while being in Airbnb?

Andrea Whitson:

You know, the only, what I’ll say is, every unit, when we first take it online, every unit is bumpy. And I can’t tell you why, it’s not one thing, it’s several things. So for about two months, usually, we keep our prices, you know, low to get people in there and we use that as a testing ground to find out what needs to be fixed, what is not working for guests. So I would say, always anticipate, at least in our experience, that it’s going to be bumpy, the first one or two months. After that every time it smooths out and then we have almost no problem. The ongoing challenge, I’ll go back to the cleaning, I can overcome most everything else. But what I can’t overcome easily is a cleaner. I had one time where a cleaner, I don’t know if her child got sick or something, but she left the cleaning job right in the middle of it and didn’t tell anyone. So the guest shows up and the mop, you know, the bucket and all of that is out there. So, again, I’m looking more for cleaning companies at this point. But I think cleaning will still be a challenge because no one’s going to clean it. And it’s not only cleaning it, but it’s also staging it for Airbnb for the guests. So I find that very challenging.

Delia:

Oh, so right now, how are you dealing with the cleaning problem?

Andrea Whitson:

I actually take pictures of everything how I want it. And April is a good month when both of our markets are pretty good. So we try to get down to those units, you know, refresh things, I take pictures of all of the rooms, how I want them to look, I take pictures of my supply closet, how I want them to keep the supply, closet, inventory and all of that. So I’m putting systems in place that help them make it, it’s easier for them to let me know what’s going on. But I still find that they just don’t look at it with the same eyes as a host, as an owner does. So I think really that will continue to be a challenge.

Delia:

Yeah, I understand completely and I agree with that. So any tips that you would like to share for other Airbnb hosts or a future Airbnb host?

Andrea Whitson:

What I would say is, I might be a little bit different host than the norm. I turned 60 years old last year. So I’m getting to a retirement age and my personal strategy is to replace my corporate income before I retire. So within the next couple of years, I want to 100% replace my corporate income with Airbnb income, so that I can have the lifestyle I want without having to work the same amount of hours. And with that in mind, where we have bought property, we have been very strategic and that’s because we choose places we’ll want to visit during retirement. We can go to Brazil, for three months, we can go to New Mexico for three months, we can go to the beach house for three months, we can go to the Austin house for three months. So we’re very strategic and how we choose where we have our properties and we’ll end up selling our big primary house and then we’ll just travel to the places we love. But it will all be a business expense. So we’re trying to turn everything into a business expense. Then in terms of my exit strategy and I think you need to know what your strategy is. My exit strategy is to pass away and then our children will inherit all the property and they can either sell it or continue running a short-term rental business, if that’s still a thing at that point. I always tell them, that the way that I look at short-term rental, or any rental real estate really is, I stopped and I tell myself, someone, I don’t even know if buying me a house, to give to my kids. So that is the perspective that keeps me wanting to do better and knowing that it’s pretty amazing that I have homes and I’m not making payments myself. So that drives me, I’m very passionate about that.

Delia:

Oh, that’s really sweet. Thanks for sharing that with us. So that will be it for today. Thank you for your time!

Andrea Whitson:

Thank you. Thank you, Delia, I appreciate the opportunity!

OCCUPANCY RATES IN EVERY TEXAS CITY?

Head over here to find out about the cities with highest Airbnb occupancy rates & learn more!

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