REAL ESTATE

Stay-at-Home Mom to “Accidental” Investor with a $600K/Year Business

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Want to invest but fear you don’t have enough money to get started? Building a profitable real estate business could be the answer. This strategy allowed today’s guest to not only scale her portfolio but also develop skills to level up her own rental properties AND bring in $600,000/year!

Welcome back to the Real Estate Rookie podcast! Today, we’re joined by the “accidental investor,” Terri-Leigh Huleis. Married with three children, Terri and her husband didn’t have enough money to buy a house…or so they thought. After moving from California to a more affordable market, Terri was able to make her dream of homeownership a reality. Little did she know that this was just the beginning of her real estate journey. It wasn’t long before Terri had turned her passion for interior design into a $600,000/year business—one that has allowed her and her husband to scale in very little time!

After being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, Terri lives every day as if it’s her last. This self-starter’s story is filled with all kinds of helpful nuggets you can use on your own journey—from finding creative ways to fund home renovation projects to setting up an Airbnb in four weeks or less. Stick around until the end to hear about the top amenities you’ll want to add to your short-term rental in 2024!

Tony:
This is Real Estate Rookie Show 412. Now, do you want to build a business in real estate to launch your investing journey? Then you’ve come to the right place. My name’s Tony j Robinson, and welcome to the Real Estate Rookie Podcast, where every week, three times a week, we bring you the inspiration, motivation, and stories you need to hear. And our rookie guest today, Terry Helis, is a self-starter who’s not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get to work. Now she’s built a business that has actually helped scale her real estate portfolio, and she’s going to break it down for you, Ricky, listeners, A to Z, so you feel equipped to start doing the same thing after listening to this episode. So Terry, welcome to the Real Estate Rookie podcast. Super excited to have you on.

Terri-Leigh :
Thanks, Tony. I’m excited to be here.

Tony:
Now before we dive in and kind of get to the business that helped you scale your real estate portfolio, I guess I want to know what did you have to do to even get into real estate investing?

Terri-Leigh :
So I like to pull myself the accidental investor. We had to do quite a few things. It was a rocky start. It was not one of those Cinderella stories. Basically, we had to move out of state. We were living in California at the time. Real estate was way too expensive. So we relocated to Minnesota,

Tony:
Which is every Californian’s dream destination of leaving the beautiful Suns kiss California to go to Minnesota

Terri-Leigh :
Before the Minnesotans kill me. It was actually wonderful, really beautiful. They were such nice people, but negative 45 winters, we escaped with all fingers and toes, thank goodness. So yeah, we moved states. That was step number one. I was so desperate to buy real estate in California. We had two babies at the time. It just wasn’t happening. I was not finding anything in any area that we wanted to be in. So I had this wild idea of let’s move to a market we can afford to just buy a primary house. So we chose Minnesota, Minneapolis, beautiful city. I started touring open houses behind my husband’s back. He was not ready to buy a house. I found one that I absolutely loved and I said, this is what we got to do. And him being him so practical, he’s like, well, here’s a checklist. If you want to buy a house, these are things you’re going to have to do.

Terri-Leigh :
And we had only been married a few years at that time and he didn’t know me well enough because I took that to heart and I wrote myself a little list and I got to work just a few of them. One of the task was that I had to kind of get a side hustle and bring some money in. So I started babysitting. I had two young kids of my own at the time, ended up having a third, and then I took on somebody’s little baby boy and started making some money on the side. So that check and his eyes grew wider. And then I had to figure out how we would qualify for a loan. I got to work, started calling the banks, started figuring out who would accept us as a one income family. Obviously the little side hustle was for my husband’s peace of mind, not for the bank, but I did it.

Terri-Leigh :
I found a bank who would give us a loan. We had extensive student loans at the time, so I didn’t know who we would look attractive to, but tick did it. His eyes grew even wider. And then we had never being renters before. We had never done any DIY. We didn’t know what the costs were, but I would stay up till 2:00 AM just Googling, using online calculators. What does a tiler cost? How do you tile paint properly? What are the best types of products to use? So very quickly I was able to check off that checklist, went to my hubby and I was like, okay, now you have to buy me a house.

Tony:
I want to pause there. I want to pause there, here because some good information that you share because I think one of the things that a lot of Ricky Investors struggle with is that if they’re married, one of them is kind of going down the rabbit hole of listening to the podcast and watching YouTube videos and following everyone on social media. But the other spouses still just going about their normal daily life. And we get a lot of people who ask, how can I get my spouse on board? And I’ve never heard it put the way that you did where you basically said, well, husband, what boxes do we need to check to make you feel comfortable moving forward? And then once you got that list, you just go out and execute. And it’s such a simple solution to a problem that a lot of people struggle with.

Terri-Leigh :
It was definitely one of our challenges. And he will be the first to admit he’s not right here right now. He’s actually in California, but he’ll be the first to admit that it has always been a struggle of ours. I’m the move forward person. And it’s also hard because I was also historically never the moneymaking person in our relationship. And sometimes I think if you’re making the money, you kind of have the authority to make some of those decisions. I would make them anyway and just drag him along, but in order to create that comfort for him, which is really important, I think in a marriage, he was able to provide what he needed in order to get there so that I didn’t feel like I was clubbing him over the head and dragging him caveman style. And it worked.

Tony:
And it worked and it worked. Right, you said, so to continue your story, you said, after I did all these things, you’re like, you got to buy me a house. So what does that process look like from there?

Terri-Leigh :
So yeah, I just started going to more open houses. Obviously the house that I fell in love with when I first got that idea into my head was long gone. But I met a great realtor in Minneapolis and he started taking us around to houses that we would qualify for. We found one that we loved. It was in a fantastic area. It needed a lot of work. And from listening to BiggerPockets and from Googling all of those 2:00 AM Google sessions, I knew that in our situation we needed something where we could put some work into it. Force equity. I wasn’t a real estate investor yet, but I think the wheels were turning and I kind of knew what the good things were going to be for us. So it had space for our family, it had lots of room for improvement, and it was in a fantastic area, and it was also in budget like number one. So we ended up making an offer and we got the house and we got started right away, much on a full renovation, full budget, budget renovation.

Tony:
Budget renovation. So just give me the quick numbers. How much do you think you put into the rehab and then was it a successful kind of live in flip or what was the end result there? Yeah,

Terri-Leigh :
So that actually became our strategy. Little did we know that it was an actual thing, but it was like the live-in flip. So we bought the house for I think $248,000. It was a four bedroom, three bath in the Diamond Lake neighborhood in Minnesota. And we did the entire renovation on credit card points. We had kind of been dabbling a little bit in that. My husband had just graduated with his master’s, it was a second degree. He’s in medical devices. And we knew we’d always known how to budget, how to save, how to be smart. We were anti credit cards for credit cards, but very pro credit cards for using them for the things that you would kind of spend anyway and getting all those points. So we spent a total of, I think $32,000 on that house. And every last dollar of that was credit card points and cash rewards for bonuses and that kind of thing. And it ended up going really, really well because we ended up selling just under two years later. We went out of contract, we closed at the two year mark, but we can talk about that in a minute. And we sold that house for $325,000. So we walked away with a nice chunk of money, patted ourselves on the back, started calling ourselves investors, and paid off our entire student loan chunk and moved on to the next one.

Tony:
Sounds like this was really the perfect first deal. You were able to execute on this business plan, this vision you had laid out, and it led you into, like you said, becoming true real estate investors. So I want to get into more of your backstory and how you started to pivot into these support businesses to generate more income in your real estate business. But first, we’ll take a quick break to hear a word from our show sponsors all gu, we are back from our quick sponsor break and we’re here with Terry and she just talked us through how she convinced your spouse to get on board with real estate investing and how that first deal was actually a pretty successful one. So Terry, I’m curious, I know you ended up transitioning into a real estate related business. I guess what happened during this journey of that first live-in flip that maybe made that light bulb go off that you actually want to start a business not just for real estate investing, but that supported real estate investors?

Terri-Leigh :
Sure. So bittersweet experience, I got diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016. I had just given birth to my third child. It all came crashing down in a huge shock of anxiety and stress and am I going to be here for my kids? What am I even doing with my life? Ended up having a successful surgery in 2017 down at Mayo Clinic. And when I woke up from the surgery, I had just this realization and I wasn’t sure if I was going to wake up. It was right against the carotid artery. And they said that they would have to be super aggressive in order to handle it all. But I woke up and the first thing I thought actually was my husband’s going to have to buy me a hobby farm. And second was, I’m going to live every day as if it’s my last. I don’t want to be stressing the small stuff anymore. I’m not going to play small. I have dreams, I have great plans for my family and now’s the time to make it happen. So yeah, bittersweet story, but it ended up just being the catalyst for more than I could have ever imagined.

Tony:
Yeah. Well first I’m super glad to hear Terry, that it was a successful surgery and that you’re able to recover from that. And I also think there’s a lesson to be learned there that for everyone that’s listening, I would hope that they don’t wait for that kind of life altering experience to take control of the life they want to live. And let the fact that you’re hearing Terry’s story motivate you to start making those changes today. Because we all have, I think, the ability to change our lives in the direction that we want. Sometimes we just lack the courage or the sufficient motivation, but we all have that ability. So Terry, you have this obviously kind of almost traumatic experience, but you turn it into a positive. So you say you wake up and you want to start living life on your own terms. So what does that lead you into exactly?

Terri-Leigh :
So he did end up buying me the hobby farm, by the way, it’s hard to say no when somebody comes back from that, but I had always sort of dabbled in interior design. I had been the one handling all the finishes on our renovation on that Minneapolis house on the hobby farm. Again, that was a top to bottom renovation. We added rooms. It was a pretty extensive remodel. We added bathrooms and that kind of thing. And I just fell in love with this skill and I realized it was something that I kind of wanted to do for other people. I had run out of my own money, so I wanted to start doing it for other people. And our realtors at the time, they were kind enough to see the talent, the people who we were involved with. We had friends who were realtors as well. They kind of started asking, well, will you do this for our clients? Do you do this for our clients? And I’d just be like, I do. I sure do. I can. And that began that whole make it till you make it thing where I just started saying, yep, sure will do. And then followed up with actually doing it and doing it well.

Tony:
So to clarify for our listeners, the business you decided to start was a design focused business. And what was the niche that you were focusing on? Was it helping people with remodels or,

Terri-Leigh :
Yeah, so we were doing interior remodels, hard finishes. I was doing furnishing as well, but the hard finishes, the things that actually really add value to a property were the things that really, really interested me. So we started doing that for residential properties. We were doing renovations for real estate investors and real estate agent clients, that kind of thing. And we loved it. Interior design for residential was really fun. It was pretty lucrative, but the more we started buying our own properties and the more resource success as investors, that’s just I thought, how do I blend these two worlds? How do I mix their interior design with investing and merge them together? Because I think that’s when the people work the way that I do are the most successful is when you’re got a focused passion as opposed to doing this here and this here. And so that’s how we got into working with investors. I hadn’t yet heard of short-term rentals. It was not even on my radar until we moved to Colorado, but there was eventually a pivot into short-term rental design, obviously.

Tony:
So Tara, you said that you ended up transitioning when you made the move to Colorado to start focusing on short-term rentals in the Airbnb space. I guess what drove that pivot and what opportunity did you see there versus the initial client base you were working with?

Terri-Leigh :
Sure, and this one has two fourths to it. The opportunity obviously comes from being in a highly visited tourist area. We’ve got Denver, we’ve got the Rockies, we’ve got so much around us there in Colorado that there’s a lot more investment in short-term rentals there. So I think it just naturally started coming onto my radar. We also started investing in Colorado. We have a very successful short-term rental up there called Store Bale. And so I think I just started hanging around with the right people. I got involved with some really, really awesome investor focused real estate agencies who to this day are some of my biggest referrals, and I just love them so much. And I think I was just put in the right rooms with the right people and it was just a natural fit because I had this natural talent and this natural drive for investment since I was an investor too.

Terri-Leigh :
And then just met all these super inspiring people who all knew, super inspiring people, and it just became this melting pot of just investor love. And I won’t lie, it’s also extremely lucrative financially. And the whole reason why I started a side business and why I really ramped up on it. I have four kids. I want to be able to support them, and in order to do that, I need to be able to buy real estate. And my husband’s W2 can only go so far. We could only take out so many mortgages and leverage so much debt. And so I figured if I want to keep buying houses, and he also told me in no uncertain terms if I wanted to keep buying houses that we would have to qualify for, and in order to do that I needed an income. And so that was the driving factor, my kids and then money, everybody needs it.

Tony:
So I want to get into the nuts and bolts of for our rookies that are listening, how to actually start maybe a design business like yours. So maybe what are some of the prerequisites, Terry, that a person would need to have to launch a short-term rental focused design business? Or I guess just an investor focused design business in general?

Terri-Leigh :
Sure. So design experience is great. I don’t think you need a formal education and we’re going to shop cars and people there, but I didn’t have one. But I do think that experience in the industry is really important, whether you’re a property manager, whether you’re a designer, whether you own a short-term rental and you know what it is that these projects are going to require to be successful, that’s number one right there. That’s going to help you on your journey and be able to allow you, maybe you don’t have it all figured out, but you’re going to come with so much value already. It’s going to be okay to charge people for services because you’re going to have something to offer.

Tony:
I definitely want to get into the pricing and how to know how much to charge people. I feel like that’s an important part of it. But you’ve mentioned a few things that maybe people should know before they jump into starting this business of, you talked about being an investor yourself and how beneficial that could be. You talked about knowing the space and the market and things of that nature. I guess what are maybe some other things you’ve seen that someone might want to put in place as they look to launch this short-term rental design business or again, just general design business?

Terri-Leigh :
So I think networking is going to be your key, especially when you’re investor focused because it’s not like you could just post an ad on Facebook anywhere and find your people. We’ll talk a little bit about what short-term rental design is in a little minute and that’s targeting your ideal guests. And I think if you’re trying to start a interior design business focus towards investors, well, you’re going to have to find your ideal client, and that’s investors. So that means networking. That means hanging around in the right rooms with the right people so that you can get the clients that are going to find value in your service and who are going to need your service and who are going to pay for it because everybody will take your advice for free, but investors understand the value of putting money towards their projects.

Tony:
So let’s talk a little bit about your pricing strategy, Terry, because you mentioned that I guess, how do you identify how much to charge a client for design services?

Terri-Leigh :
So there’s a couple different ways you can do it. I’ll tell you the way we do it, we are scope based, so it’s based on the square footage, the bedrooms, and then what the client wants from the property. So is it going to be amenity heavy? Where is the location? Are we going to be a game garage? Are we going to be including ski racks and snowboard racks and boot warmers and saunas, that kind of thing. That’s how we do it. We call that a scope based price. And then another way to do it, which I think designers are more familiar with in the residential design space, is hourly so they can project how many hours a project is going to take. We personally, I don’t think it’s a bad way to do it, but I don’t do it because as an investor myself, I want bottom line. So I need to know for sure how much I’m going to be spending on this project or we’re going to hit 40 hours and maybe the work won’t be done and I haven’t budgeted thought of or I’m not happy to spend another 20 hours worth of work. So it is very different. Neither is right or wrong. Our scope based focus works really well with our ideal clients and it sits well with

Tony:
Me in terms of how much revenue you’re actually able to generate, I guess how much money does a business like this make, Terry?

Terri-Leigh :
Sure. So again, I think it’s going to depend on your location. Denver, Colorado are very lucrative market. We can take four to six projects a month. We’re charging between eight to $10,000 per project, sometimes more for some of our bigger Aspen veil Breck properties. But if you do the math on that, and my math is so horrible, we’re grossing between 400 to $600,000 a year. And then netting not too much less than that because this kind of business can be set up in a way where your overheads are really, really small. It’s just me and my assistant. I’m down in Florida right now working from my pool. You can kind of go as big or as small as you want to go, but for me, I like to keep it simple. I like to service my clients well and I don’t need all of the bells and whistles.

Tony:
So I just want to make sure I heard you right. You said somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 KA year annually is what you’re projecting this business will do. Yeah, that is fantastic. I don’t know if you mentioned this, but what were you doing for work before?

Terri-Leigh :
Nothing. I was a stay-at-home mom before babysitting basically. And then the residential firm. So the residential firm was moneymaking, but we were probably making somewhere between 120 to $160,000 a year. I was not focused in the business. I took clients as they came. It was really fun. It was enjoyable. I was getting my feet wet. And then when we really doubled down, and I mean we really doubled down and my husband is, he works at W2, but he’s also very focused into helping me build the business just on the backend when we really double down. We four and a half x the business in about eight months, and it has been extremely lucrative for us. And I think the more time, the more energy you put into it, the more you can make. We just pivoted to design only. Whereas we were doing installs before with installs, we were sort of capped at the amount of projects we could take doing design only. And I have six design assistants who work with me currently. We could take on as many projects as we want, as many as I can mentally handle with four kids, but it can go anywhere. I highly, highly recommend.

Tony:
So I want to talk about that because you said we really doubled down and we were able to grow the business in a very short period of time. So when you say doubled down, Terry, what exactly what does that mean? What did you do to double down and what can rookies do if they want to follow that same roadmap?

Terri-Leigh :
Sure. I’m not a process based person. It is not my personality. I am airy fairy, go with the win. Do what’s fun, get the good fields. My husband, who actually is in business development for medical devices, he’s like, Nope, you are wasting so much time when a project would come in, I would handle it this way, and then we would quote it out that way, and then we’d build a new spreadsheet for that client. We didn’t have our best Airbnb basics at the time, so everything was just taking double as long and it didn’t have a clear process, and I couldn’t outsource anything because it was all here. And when we doubled down, we really put the time, the energy and focus into creating processes. So now when we get a client call, that first client call to when we deliver a project, we’re able to do that in four weeks, completely done, completely finished, the property is ready for photography, you’re out the door. So four weeks per client is unheard of. It’s exceptional. And what’s in those four weeks is just super, super smooth. Everything has a form, everything has a template, everything has a checklist. If I want somebody to do something, there’s a Google document to show them how to walk it through so that I’m not on the phone trying to explain things to people. When I say double down, we put the work in on the backend to make it easier on the front end, and that was just wildly freeing for the business.

Tony:
Now, one of the things that’s I think critical to any business is customers, right? And you talked a little bit about how your network is funneled into your business, but what are you and what can other rookies do to help build that client base?

Terri-Leigh :
So again, in my business it has just been networking. We do zero paid marketing in our business. Number one, when we get a client, we service them exceptionally well. When things go wrong, we make it right. When things get hard, we make it easier for them. We offer a five star service that has meant that every single client we’ve ever worked with has put on a referral and their referrals have put on referrals. So that’s just a self perpetuating part of our business. Then real estate investor meetups that we go to the real estate agencies who we work with. Even if I’m not interested in buying a property, I’m going to go to open houses, I’m going to go to the events that my real estate agents put on because I want to support them. I end up meeting people, and when you’re in front of mine and you’re standing in front of people, you’re going to be at the tip of their tongue.

Terri-Leigh :
You’re going to be the one that they’re referring. So that’s pretty much we have done. You could also just make yourself a value in real estate Facebook groups or online groups like that offer good advice. Go on BiggerPockets and start commenting. I wouldn’t pitch yourself of course, but people are going to get to know you and what you do based on the knowledge that you’re offering so that you don’t have to pitch yourself. That’s also been super helpful. And just be open. We offer any client a mini vet of their property. So say jmo is looking at 1, 2, 3 Main Street in Ohio, and he wants to know how much it’s going to cost him to turn it into short-term rental. What themes are going to do well there? He just wants to know what I think about it. Anyone, anyone is able to email us and say, contemplating this, this is my budget.

Terri-Leigh :
Is it doable? We’ll do a mini dive into who’s coming to the area, what they’re spending per night. We’ll take a look at the Zillow listing or whatever listing site it’s on, and we’ll put together a brief little capture of what it’s going to cost the client that is exceptional value and they don’t owe us anything. We’re just good luck with it. Let us know what you do. If they hire us, fantastic. If they don’t, we’ve done our good de for the day. And again, we’re going to be at the tip of those people’s tongue when they’re at a meetup and they know somebody who’s trying to hire a designer. So just offer a value, offer value, offer value.

Tony:
Say you’re brand new at this, right? And maybe you don’t already have a portfolio of properties you’ve designed or a client base you can refer to. How can someone, what steps should someone take to start building relationships with those agents so that they are top of mind when someone does come up and they need design support?

Terri-Leigh :
I would say the best, your best bet is obviously owning a short-term rental yourself is going to just put you light years ahead. If you don’t, we’ll talk about that in a second, but if you do put it together in a way that you’re proud of, put it together in a way that your skills are going to show. And that doesn’t mean that it has to be the world’s most impressive, most expensive because you’re going to appeal to somebody. There is a client out there who needs your level of service and then put that forward to the agent that helped you buy the house. Say, Hey, look what we did here. This is what we’re looking to do. If that’s not an option and you don’t already own property, maybe you’ve arbitraged show your arbitrage property. If that isn’t an option either, then get on Canva, create a mood ski chalet Aspen, the Aspen ski house, HAUS, because people love to do that.

Terri-Leigh :
Put together a mood board on Canva of the finishes you would choose of the paint colors, of the vibe of the amenities, and just start doing that whenever inspiration hits, create a portfolio of concepts, put that out there. Maybe offer them for free to investors that I hate offering things for free because we’re worth so much more, but really that’s a baby free, that’s not doing a whole short-term rental design for somebody for free. But I think those are great tools to get yourself out there and show people that you’re willing to put in the work.

Tony:
Tara, I love the idea of the concepts and sharing that if you don’t necessarily have a portfolio yet. Because sometimes rookies that are listening, maybe they haven’t even done their first deal yet, but they have this design skill that will maybe give them the capital to buy that first deal. So I think you laid out an incredible game plan for them to start building that potential client base. Now I want to get into how to actually what goes into the launch of an Airbnb design, because I’ve done a few myself. I know how involved that process is. So I want to hear your take on it. But first, we’re going to take a quick break to hear a word from our show sponsors and then we’ll be right back.

Tony:
Alright, we are back here with Tara and she just gave a masterclass on how to source clients and how she’s doing 600 KA year with literally no paid marketing, which is insane to me. So Tara, I want to get into the actual, the launch of the Airbnb of the design process. So you said you can do it in four weeks, which again, we set up a lot of Airbnbs and that is a pretty tight turnaround time, especially if it’s a bigger property with a lot of amenities and things like that. So walk us through what steps are you doing within those four weeks to be able to deliver so quickly?

Terri-Leigh :
So yeah, like I said, it’s a four week process. Number one is our discovery week. So we are meeting with the client, having that initial call, finding out their budget, using our SER design questionnaire. We also find out what styles they like, not that we’re necessarily going to go with their style because it’s directed to the ideal guest, kn not the client. We are going to look at the address, how many people they want to sleep, do they want to be pet friendly? Do they want TVs in every room? We also then schedule the onsite walkthrough of the property where we go in, we walk it, we take in what’s the conditions of the walls, the floors, the carpet, the countertops. Do these things need to be changed? Are they in good condition? We do a 3D capture as well, because we only visit the site once.

Terri-Leigh :
This is pivotal to our four week process. We only visit that site once ever in the design process. So we do the 3D capture with detailed, detailed captures so that we are able to sit on our computers or me or my design assistants can sit on our computers wherever we are in the world and design. We can zoom in, we can measure windows, we can measure walls, we can measure for rugs, we can do all of that. We do that in that discovery week. Week two is the start of our design week. So we are starting to build design boards in Canva. No, we don’t use any complicated software because we have these six design assistants and because some of us come from a non formerly trained design background, canvas is super easy to understand. It’s super easy for our clients to see. It’s clean, it’s crisp, we love it.

Terri-Leigh :
We’re building the design concepts there. So we’re going to have living room, there’s a rug, there’s a cart, there’s a lamp, there’s a sofa, there’s artwork, there’s a wool color. It’s a really nice visual for the clients to see. Alongside that Canva board, we’re building a master list. We use Google sheets. I’m giving you all my tips here. We use Google sheets and we build out room by room, link by link, description by description, price by price, this massive spreadsheet so that our clients always have a running telly of everything. So if we speck a couch that’s $4,000, they’re like, heck no, granny Tilda has one. I can use hers. They can just eliminate the quantity. It adds that money back into the budget and we can use it for other things. So we do that. That’s design week. We go back and forth. We’re looking at their Pinterest boards, we’re sending them Pinterest boards sort of into the beginning of the third week.

Terri-Leigh :
The client has reviewed the master list, they’ve reviewed the budget, they’ve looked at their concepts. They’re like, we love this. It’s going to target our guests. It’s in budget. You’re doing great. We then go into the ordering and delivery part of it. We can handle ordering for our clients in the install when we’re offering install services. We would do that all the time, but the clients can then take that master list, click each link, go to the vendor, add to cart. There’s a status column that says order it. It can be changed to shipped. It can change to delivered. It can change to complete, right? The client’s then ordering absolutely everything in that master list with the design plan. They’re also getting a guide that helps them walk through these steps. So Amazon, it’s tricky. Once you get over 60 items in a cart, boots, items out, we have that as a note in there, right?

Terri-Leigh :
Stop ordering here, you’re going to lose your items. All of that is very, very clearly laid out with that. Also in there guide, it’s going to be like, now’s the time to order your dumpster. Go for a 30 foot. Don’t bother breaking down boxes by yourself. Just get the freaking dumpster. It’s going to have, hire your painter, hire your build team. Here’s what to look for in a build team. Now’s the time to regret that shower. We have that old kind of broken up for them. The vendors we use for most of our clients, because we have a very honed in client avatar. We’re shopping retail, so Wayfair, crate and Barrel, Amazon, CB two, those kinds of vendors also works with our timelines. So you’re looking at between two hours for some of the Amazon stuff to be delivered to about 20 days for some of the West Elm sort of more high-end items to be delivered in the guide.

Terri-Leigh :
The packages come, we suggest that our clients pull in packages once or twice a week. Works really well in our markets. Maybe in your market. You don’t want to package sitting there for six days. So take that into consideration and so will we when doing your design, load those all up into the garage and make a dedicated install week. So that’s that final week, five to seven days of peer install where you’re opening boxes, moving them to the correct rooms and which rooms they belong to because you’ve got these lovely concept boards that you print out and stick on the door and your floor plans stick on the door and you’re unboxing, you’re unpackaging, you’re building furniture, you’re putting it in the location it belongs. You’re following your guide when you’re open a painting, you’re like, where the heck does this go? 60 inches from the floor?

Terri-Leigh :
That kind of thing. You’ve got it all kind of laid out. You’ve also hired a handyman. If you’re not handy at all, he comes on day four, as per your schedule we put together for you of that install week, and he’s hanging curtain rods, he’s hanging TVs, he’s hanging artwork, he’s hanging code hooks, that kind of thing. You’re building, building, building. And then day seven of that final fourth week, maybe a little bit longer, maybe going into five weeks, if you’re more of like West Elm Creighton Barrel sort of items, you have your Airbnb cleaner scheduled to the property. They’re making your beds, they’re steaming your curtains, they’re cleaning the insides of your drawers, they’re stocking the propane in your fire pits. By that following Monday, you are ready for photography, everything, stock, coffee, spoons, knives, plates, bowls, cups. We even do parchment in tinfoil. All of those are in that first sort of design package that we put together for you, and it’s because of that very strict schedule that you can or cannot follow. It’s going to hurt you if you don’t, but it’s up to you guys. If you can’t get it in and you you’re building on the weekends, that’s totally fine. You’re just not going to get that four week install time. But that’s pretty much the schedule that we follow

Tony:
And what a super detailed process here. I can tell that you’ve got this really dialed in for yourself. There’s a few questions that I have, but just a few that I want to circle back to. I love, love the 3D capture that you mentioned back on week one. What software tech are you using for this? Is it like a Matterport that you bought and you’re going out there and getting these yourself, or are you sending someone to do that matter port or is it some other technology that you’re using? Yeah,

Terri-Leigh :
So in Colorado, since we have boots on the ground and here in Florida where I am right now, and we are setting up here, we have boots on the ground. So we use a 3D capture app on an iPhone. It’s great. It’s called 3D app, and then we use QBI casa that goes off public records and a brief scan that you do of the room to work on detailed floor plans. That’s what we do when we’re doing projects out of site in Tennessee, Georgia, that kind of thing. We will hire a Matterport photographer to come and do the Matterport capture for us, and we just build those costs into those projects. You’re looking at about, I dunno, $300 for the capture.

Tony:
Super cool. So we have a designer that we work with, Brianna Michelle, who does a lot of our designs.

Terri-Leigh :
I know we follow each other on Instagram.

Tony:
Yeah, Bri’s great. She’s fantastic. So her process is pretty similar to yours as well. But we’ve done some remote stuff and usually we’ll just send our handyman to get measurements, but I love the idea of doing just the Matterport when you’re not there because it gives you a better sense of the space. So something to think about for sure. So one of the thing I want to ask you is for the install, because I know this can be a challenge for people, but what have you found is maybe the best place to go to source the local handyman that’s do all of the build out and the install of the furniture?

Terri-Leigh :
So again, in our basis, in our hubs where we are, we have a presence. We have people who we’ve been using for ages, so we just keep repeat business and we’ve actually helped people grow businesses, and it’s something we’re super passionate about. But if you don’t have that, then Thumbtack thumbtacks a great option. You’re going to kiss a lot of frogs. Some people are not going to show up, but you’re going to find the good ones. And when you find the good ones, latch onto them, pay them well. We always pay above market rate because I firmly believe that when you treat people well, they’re going to treat you well, and it’s worked out so far. So we use Thumbtack a whole

Tony:
Lot. Now, one last question here before we wrap up here. What tips do you have for rookies who maybe want to improve the performance of their existing Airbnbs?

Terri-Leigh :
Oh, that’s a good one. So it’s funny because I’m a designer, and for a long time it was design, right? Just have a cohesive design and you’re going to do exceptionally well. And that is so important, yes. But number one, identify who your ideal guest is, and it’s not your ideal personally. It’s who’s going to spend the most money and book the most stays at that property. Find out what is going to put them over the edge over somebody else, and it’s usually an amenity. Amenities have the biggest return right now in short-term rentals. So pick the amenities that you can afford. Pick the amenities that suit your property, that suit your capabilities and your timeline and go for them. It can be as simple as a $250 gas propane fire pit or pick a board court got to be mentioned, or a hot tub or asana. But amenities are the number one performing component of short-term rentals right

Tony:
Now. So you mentioned a couple last question then we’ll wrap here, but what amenities are you seeing maybe giving the best returns?

Terri-Leigh :
So because I’m in a mountain environment, hot tubs, hot tubs, they do so well in one of our properties. We do not have a hot tub up there. We just didn’t want to maintain it. The property does exceptionally well. And we were considering just buying another one, and we sat down, we worked at the numbers, we’re like, why should we invest all that money in another property when we could literally take $12,000, get a beautiful hot tub with a view, and it’s going to make as much in returns, 40 to $50,000 more per year than some of our lesser performing properties. So hot tubs do exceptionally, exceptionally well. Game rooms are another one that does. I can’t even explain to you how well for a $250 ping pong table and a $300 fuse bowl table, put it into a corner, put it into a garage with some fun paint and lighting, if you have a garage that doesn’t need to accommodate a car and you’re going to be happy.

Tony:
Well, Terry, I very, very much enjoy today’s conversation. And you shared just not only tactical things about how to improve your real estate portfolio, but also how to build the side hustle that can support your real estate business, and for you to go from a stay at home mom to running a business that’s doing over half a million dollars a year with very high gross margins. It’s an incredible accomplishment, and I appreciate you sharing that. So with our listeners today.

Terri-Leigh :
Yeah, thanks Tony. Thanks so much for having me. I’m super passionate about short-term rentals, investing and design inside hustles. So anytime I get to talk about it, I will.

Tony:
So guys, thank you so much for listening. Terry did a phenomenal job again, talking about how to build a real estate business or a business that supports your real estate investing, but also is in real estate, and how you can follow those same steps. So appreciate all of our Ricky’s hanging out with us today. Now on whatever podcast player it is that you’re listening on, YouTube, apple, Spotify, wherever it may be, be sure to give us a follow or like And biggest thing, guys, if you’re enjoying the show, if you’re enjoying the Ricky Podcast, take a few minutes and share it with a friend. One of the best ways to find new content to consume is from that trusted recommendation from a friend. So if you’re enjoying the podcast, take this episode, share with someone else. But that is it for today, guys. My name’s Tony j Robinson. If you want to find out more info about me, about Terry, check the show notes for this episode’s description and I will see you guys on the next episode of the Real Estate Rookie Podcast.

 

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