Have you ever wondered how to start a business in real estate and how to choose the right property? In this episode, Camille welcomes Kelly Cronin, the founder of Cronin’s Castles, where she builds exceptional experiential vacation homes to create stress-free vacations and the best memories.
The reality is that you can be afraid of things like that. However, if they really financially help you in terms of being able to afford a home or being able to mitigate how much rent you pay and allow you to build some of that wealth accumulation in that home value, that’s a real thing.
Kelly shares her journey in how she was able to use her income as a veterinary technician to invest in real estate properties and increase her wealth portfolio. She shares her advice on the different types of real estate you can buy, how to find the right location, and the tools you can use to manage your rental properties.
There’s just a lot of ways to look at what you have and think about either am I going to purchase something that’s going to afford me a little bit of income as well as allowing me to utilize this space and/or am I going to be able to utilize the space that I already have?
If you want to learn more about real estate and how you can find the prime property for you, listen to this episode to hear the ways in which Kelly was able to build and maximize her real estate portfolio so you can do it too.
There are just so many things that I see out there that if you’re just a little bit open-minded as to what that looks like, that you can really leverage into this new experiential economy where people are really wanting to stay someplace interesting and new.
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Check out Kelly’ course Short Term Rental Success at: successtrategies.podia.com/short-term-rental-success?fbclid=IwAR2s1ypvBnwOvPb7savGmtGNIGUE7RTIyn5YhbslGkXMqMkGgmJ5tpOBl44
KELLY CRONIN [0:00]
And the other thing that I'll say is that you never know what you're going to get in terms of an answer until you ask.
CAMILLE WALKER [0:13]
So, you want to make an impact. You're thinking about starting a business sharing your voice? How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We'll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO.
If you've ever been interested in starting a real estate portfolio, but you haven't known how to start or how to even make it doable, you do not have to be a multimillionaire to make this happen. In fact, Kelly Cronin, our guest is all about irons in the fire. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor in science in animal sciences, she became a licensed veterinarian technician in Alaska, moved down to New Mexico, and now lives in Wisconsin as a mother of one and a serial entrepreneur because she has recently discovered how you can find properties in remote locations and create experiences that people are clamoring to have.
In this episode, she tells us how she created Cronin's Castles, which is a curated group of three unique spaces offering magical vacations in Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Utah and she's continuing to add two of those experiences and shows us step-by-step how you too can create a real estate portfolio with creative and imaginative ways of building your wealth. Let's get started.
Welcome back everyone to another episode of Call Me CEO. This is your host, Camille Walker, and today I am so thrilled to share our interview because it's something I've never interviewed someone about and it's how to invest in real estate as a woman specifically. This is a topic that can be very intimidating and overwhelming and with the market the way it is now, I feel like it's such an awesome opportunity for investment and for advancing your wealth, but where do we start?
And so, today, Kelly Cronin is here with us. She is the CEO of Cronin's Castles where she owns three, almost four, investment properties right now. In her day job, she's actually the chief advancement officer of Veterinary Tech Life, which we're going to get into that ball of wax. I don't even begin to understand what it is. I know it's important. I'm excited to learn more about it. And Kelly, thank you so much for being with us today.
Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoy this topic so much just because it's done so much for me. And I think that it really can help so many people achieve a new level of wealth and just really take yourself out and not have to work 50 years to get there.
Yeah. I think that real estate is one of those things that can be very intimidating, but also the reward is so great that it's worth the risk and learning what to do and how to get there. And so, we're going to dive into that, how you found that passion, how you were able to create it into such a wonderful wealth portfolio for yourself. Tell us a little bit about you, your background, where you grew up, and how you found the trail of real estate.
So, I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and we're a separate thereof. And I grew up riding horses and chasing dreams of working in the veterinary field. And one thing that I'll tell you is that in the veterinary field, unfortunately, it's just not a high-paying physician. It’s not a very lucrative one. So, even though I had a degree and had a license for being a veterinary technician, working as a veterinary technician, you're generally making that $10-$15 an hour for most of my time as the vet tech.
So, I never thought that I had an opportunity to really grow and invest. And even though I was really fastidious about savings and throughout my entire career have saved roughly half of my income, I still didn't have a huge nest egg, especially considering what most people who are coming into real estate really have. And so, I didn't think that it was something that was available to me, but I realized after really working to look at what that looked like and really trying to do some really deep dives into different ways to think outside the box that it really was something that was within my wheelhouse and really is within anyone's wheelhouse.
So, if you're watching this and right now thinking to yourself, "This is just not going to apply to me because I don't make XYZ or I don't even have enough to pay the bills," I don’t think that that's really the case and there's a lot of ways to do the short-term rental ways. There are a lot of ways to look at alternatives to what you might normally think of for investing. And to be entirely frank with you, one of the things that has been the biggest boon to my break into this is the fact that potentially I didn't have as much to invest as some of the other people who are doing this, who do do this short-term rental business in that I think that what we've been really proving right is the fact that people really want experiences as opposed to the glitz and the glam and the big huge stays. They want the experience, and so they're very open to what you can create no matter who you are or what you have to invest.
There's so much to unpack there and I've been reading your bio when you talked about the different properties that you had. It wasn't this is where it is. Okay. So, walk us through this a little bit. How did you go from being a veterinarian tech, which by the way, I am shocked that you were making such a small amount, were you walking with large animals specifically? Because that's something my niece wants to do. She wants to be a large animal vet, which I'm guessing from what you've said, working with horses. Is that what your physician was?
So, no, I was a disgruntled large animal technician, so I grew up wanting to do horse work and wanting to do some of the larger animal work. And actually, my undergraduate degree was in animal sciences, which is mostly large animal work. However, what I'd say is that when you get out into the real world, there's a ton of different ways that you can be a veterinary technician and they're all really incredible ways.
And the nice thing about it is that really this last year has done so much for advancing our wages as veterinary technicians and licensed veterinary technicians, so that has been a huge, huge boon for us. However, we're always going to be a little bit behind in terms of what we get paid versus human medicine and we're always going to be just a little bit behind in terms of overall market value just because veterinary medicine runs on a very slim margin. However, we're starting to creep up and our value is starting to be seen and we're getting more and more protection in terms of our license. And so, it's becoming a really great place to be.
There are fewer large animal technicians than there are small animal technicians, so the likelihood is that's probably going to be in small animal work: dogs, cats, exotics potentially. And for myself, I was always in emergency and critical care for the most part. But I think it's one of the most rewarding things that I've ever done in my life. And what I'd say is that that idea of working in that field all of my life, I don’t want to leave. I really truly enjoy it.
And so, I wanted something that could bolster that and could allow me a faster timeline to make sure that I hit my retirement benchmarks as opposed to something that took me out of that field because I still truly enjoy lecturing and I truly enjoy teaching in veterinary medicine and I don’t want to leave anytime soon. And I currently, for my day job, manage multiple clinics. So, I needed something that would stack on top of that, but not necessarily pull me away from it.
Which I think makes it even more enticing where you can have both, if you have something that is what you're passionate about and what you love, but you're also thinking for the future of how can I make time work for me and create a portfolio that grows despite what I'm doing 9/5? Which I think is really powerful because that could apply to everyone. So, what are some first steps that even made you think of that possibility and created that for you?
So, one of the first steps that I wished I had known about. I didn't actually have the opportunity to take advantage of that until I was fairly deep into the real estate move is actually utilizing your home as a way of earning extra income and/or mitigating what you pay. And so, one of the things that I think everyone needs to be really cognizant of is the fact that duplexes for the same amount of space or for more space generally tend to be less expensive than single family homes. I know especially for the folks that are really tight on funds, here's a way to actually have an opportunity to invest in a home even using an FHA loan or a first home buyers' loan and use that home as a way to pay a good chunk or potentially more than your mortgage on each month by having a renter in addition to having you live in that home.
And so, currently I live in it was a post-foreclosure home. It's the largest historical home in one of the oldest historical subdivisions in all of Milwaukee and I got it on foreclosure because it was listed inappropriately, but it's 5,500 square feet with three different living spaces. And because of the fact that it has all those living spaces, it can't be appraised against the other homes in this area. And so, I was able to get it for a significantly less than what it's worth.
And so, I got it for about half of what it'll sell if I put it on the market and it effectively pays for the vast majority of my mortgage at this point because I do have a renter and I do have another person paying rent into it. So, at this point, between those two, that's the vast majority of my mortgage at $1,200, whereas my mortgage is $1,600. And then, I have my parents who live downstairs who afford me the ability to travel by doing last minute childcare all the time. And they've probably saved me thousands in childcare. So, there are just these opportunities to think a little bit outside the box and to be able to get a rental income off of a place that you're actually staying in.
Now, the other things with that is that there are a lot of different ways to utilize other types of property to potentially have a secondary income from rentals, whether it be renting out a basement space or renting out a side bedroom or potentially renting out a space where someone could even park a van or a skoolie or one of these mobile homes and plug in, depending on where you live. And if you're out of the country or something along those lines, potentially renting out space to allow someone to keep a horse on a farm. There's just a lot of ways to look at what you have and think about, either am I going to purchase something that's going to afford me a little bit of income as well as allowing me to utilize this space and/or am I going to be able to utilize the space that I already have?
I love that. I think that it's really interesting that many people are renting right now. And so, if you can own a home and think of, of course, you have to qualify, so that's part of the equation, but if you can bring in income. I even have a friend who for the last five years has used her basement as an Airbnb, so even if it's not a permanent renter, you can even use Airbnb, which I was shocked where her house is. It's not close to a resort or anything like that, but it is used all the time and it just recently afforded her the ability to sell that home to one of her friends who's now renting out the basement and she bought her dream home. So, it just was able to position her and I think that's so smart. I wish we would have held on to our first home and kept it as a rental. The home that you're in right now, was that the first home that you owned before your other rental properties?
No. Actually, prior to that, I owned a home on what's called land lease in New Mexico. And that's another big thought, you guys, is when you're looking at houses, think a little bit outside the box because Santa Fe is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. A 2-bedroom can be $2 million in downtown Santa Fe. It's crazy. The housing market crash never happened in Santa Fe. And so, when we purchased at the brink of the housing crash, we purchased about 30 minutes outside of town on what's called a land lease where the government actually leases the land from an Indian tribe and allows people to build homes on them. And because of the fact that you don't own the land, those are very affordable homes.
And so, we actually purchased a home for $119,000 with a big renovation budget included in that and we were able to do a full remodel of it. And it was out in the country and just an amazing area and we loved it. And it was nice because it was probably the only thing that that was that affordable in all of Santa Fe unless you go up north in the other direction.
And so, there's a lot of thought to just thinking a little bit outside the box in terms of the types of homes that you might get. Again, you might be afraid of something like the land lease, but the reality is, is that you can be afraid of things like that, however, if they really financially help you in terms of being able to afford a home or being able to mitigate how much rent you pay and allow you to build some of that wealth accumulation in that home value, that's a real thing.
Yeah. Tell me a little bit more about a land lease. So, you own the home, but you're renting the land from the government then or from the Indian reservation? How does that work exactly?
Yup. You're renting it from the Indian reservation and you're paying for it early in order to have that rental land. And it pays for itself in a lot of ways, so you might be paying a little bit in terms of that leased land. However, you're not paying it in taxes. So, it really evens out. So, it becomes one of those things where financially it really sets pretty well.
That's interesting. So then if and when you sell that property, you would still get the money for that house and then that rental agreement would just go to that next buyer?
Okay. That's so interesting.
The rental agreements are hundreds of years long. So, for example, for my house, it still had 60 years in the lease.
That is so interesting. I've never heard of that. So, you started with that home and then what happened then?
I started with that home and then I rented that home out for several years and then I decided it was just too hard to maintain off of Santa Fe's main area. And so, just like you, I wished I had thought of the idea of Airbnb-ing it, but I didn't. And that was a little bit before I really understood what people would be looking for and now that I think about it, that would have been a prime, prime home.
So, I sold that one on a sale contract and then I moved up to Wisconsin. We purchased this home on massive foreclosure, got it for about half of what it's worth, did some work in terms of remodeling both of the bathrooms and remodeling the kitchen. And we put an extra kitchenette and bathroom into another space in the house, so that there was three rental spaces. And then, I have a long-term renter in there, which she's the best person who's ever, ever, ever walked on the face of the Earth. So when you find those good renters, definitely hold onto them.
And then, just recently, as of June this year, I started finding additional properties and I've been trying for a little while. We actually tried to purchase an RV park that we were going to turn into a tiny home community. It turns out that that seller unfortunately was lying about the cleanliness of the title, so there was 30 other people on the title. Yeah, it was bad. We tried to purchase a river home in Wisconsin Dells, and so I put in an offer there and unfortunately, they lied about the easement. So, tenacity is something that you need when you buy a little bit off-grid.
But we finally in June had an accepted offer as an owner carry, which we'll talk about that if you like, but an owner carry tiny roundhouse in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and then, almost immediately thereafter a little off grid cabin in Utah that I've been pursuing for almost a year. He had declined after agreeing to the sale agreement the last time and he reneged and finally came back and said that he would sell it again, And so, we purchased that one at the same time, and then two months later our dome house in Kasilof, Alaska came up on the market and I made an offer and they accepted. And all of that happened within just a few months.
Okay. You're blowing my mind because right now, I'm thinking, "Okay. She's going to tell us that she bought these properties years ago when the market was down and it was a great time to be a buyer because you could really take advantage of opportunities like that." I'm really surprised that you're saying that these all happened this year when the market has been, at least here in Utah, crazy. It's like triple of what it was when we bought 10 years ago.
It's been like that in Wisconsin too. However, when you're thinking about any of these off-grid, off the mark type of properties, they still are hard to sell. And so, for example, Vieques, Puerto Rico, that one does not have a true and traditional type home. And so, it had been on the market for about 200 days. I reached out to the owner and I just said, "Would you be interested in doing an owner carry?" which is where the owner actually holds the note and you pay a monthly payment towards that note.
The ownership transfers, but you continue paying until you've paid off the entire property and they get a small, but probably more significant than what the bank might take. So, generally, bank notes for houses land in the 3%-4% range. For second houses, it's a 5%-6% range. And for this one, I was able to buy this off grid Vieques roundhouse for $75,000 and the owner carried most of that. And so, it allowed me to take a very small nest egg, create it from veterinary medicine, and translate it into some real estate.
Okay. Pause right there because we need to talk about that for a minute. So, you're telling me that you did owner financing where rather than going through a bank, you are using the person you bought it from as the lender? Is that correct?
And how do you protect yourself? Because I know that there are, I can't remember exactly what the term is. How do you say it? I'm having a hard time, where it's financed by the previous owner. So, how are you able to negotiate that where the trust was there from both parties so that you're protected?
So, one thing I'll say is that when you're talking about properties that have potentially been on the market for a little bit longer or are a little bit more remote, fairly often, it's a lot easier to get people to think in terms of these alternative methods. And the other thing that I'll say that is that you never know what you're going to get in terms of an answer until you ask. And so, I think that more often than not, people, if you can explain it to them correctly are open to these types of deals.
In this case, it was a situation where he didn't necessarily need the money right away, money every month to pay towards a condo on the main island. And having a conversation there, I was able to discern what he needed and structure it in a way that it was supporting his needs and supporting mine, so that when that deal was written, it was written with both of us feeling really good about it to the point where we've had to and he's given us a wind turbine and just incredible communication even after the fact. And I really truly wish him all the best because we just had a really good deal out of that and we both got exactly what we needed. And so, I think a lot of times, you're not going to get what you don't ask for and you need to educate someone in order to get them to the point of being able to accept you as someone who comes in with trust.
Okay. So, were you using a real estate agent for that transaction? Do you have your own real estate license? How did you do that and have it be so that you were both protected?
Yeah, absolutely. I firmly believe in using a real estate agent for each and everything that I do. And I will tell you that no real estate agent covers everywhere, so in my instance, I have one for Wisconsin. I have one for Utah. I have one for Alaska. I have multitudes of real estate agents.
Okay. And before we go into the Utah property, how are you finding these remote locations and getting connected with the right real estate agent because really truly if you haven't been there physically, there are things that you might not know and so you really want to have a relationship of trust with that realtor knowing that they have your best interest and that everything is good?
The first thing that I would absolutely start with is just know that on these real estate apps like Zillow and Realtor, you can actually set them to look for the places that are a little out and about. And so, I tend to really like looking for places that have zero bedrooms listed. I'll set my view finder on Zillow down to $30,000 or $40,000 and see what comes up and just scour the US.
And I think one of the ways that I've found the cool and catchy properties that I've found is by being open to just about anywhere. And so, I think that there are so many out there that I couldn't even come close to touching. All of the ones that I want to do, there's a trolley that I would really like to buy that just came up on Facebook. There are a few chalets that I would really like to buy that just came out on eBay. There are just so many things that I see out there that if you're just a little bit open minded as to what that looks like, that you can really leverage into this new experiential economy where people are really wanting to stay some place interesting and new.
Okay. This is so interesting to me. So, I was a mortgage broker before I did what I'm doing now. And so, I'm familiar with getting mortgages, helping people finance. First of all, how are you able to get the loans with financing because I know you said you did the owned financing that you did that that way? But how are you able to diversify so quickly all within this year? Of course, you've had to jump through some hoops to do that. So, what is your advice of being able to do that so quickly?
So, one of the things is that I've been able to pool a lot of my money and put it into investments and I have it very automated so that just automatically half of my income goes into a savings account and then goes directly into an investment account. I've done whole market investing with that money. So, that's been growing for the entire time that I've been working and it grew up to about a point of $110,000 which I know doesn't sound like much, but when you think about lifetime earnings for a vet technician, it is a lot.
And the other thing with that is that I've utilized those funds and I've really stretched them super far because of the fact that I've been doing owner financing and I've been making sure that I have plans in place for each of these locations and just making sure that I can get them on a little bit of a lower price point. But then also, I have something called a HELOC loan, which is taking money off of my current home in order to allow me some money in order to do some of the remodels and things like that. And so, there's always that thought of leveraging your current home to allow you to do a little bit of a lower percentage rate ready when you need it type of financing line.
Now, places like Utah, places like Kasilof, places like Vieques even, none of those are financeable. And so, the idea that they're not financeable drives down the price a little bit, but also the idea of not even so much the fact that they're off grid or untitled or whatever the case may be, just the fact that you can't really carry insurance on some of these places also does a lot in terms of knocking down what you can do in terms of financing.
So, for example, the fact that there's no electric running to our Utah cabin, it's all solar. That does not allow it to be financed. But it was $15,000, so I self-insure it. It gets insured separately when I have someone staying there and that insurance is through a short-term rental insurance called Safely, by the way, which is great if you ever need one. And so, I have protections in place, but not necessarily the ones that are going to get me financing unfortunately.
That is so interesting. Okay. So, Indianola is really close to our family cabin in Fairview. So, when you said you had a property in Indianola, I'm like, "Wait a minute. I know where that is." It's a teeny tiny little town, and so how did you find that property?
That was on Zillow. It was just by combing the US. And if you're in Fairview, I guarantee you that we are walking distance. It's amazing.
That's so crazy. Have you been to the property? Have you been to all of your properties? I would imagine you're fixing them up before you start renting them to make sure that everything is good.
Right. We haven't been to Alaska yet. So, I have a caretaker in Alaska who's already been up there. And I have a veterinary technician, whose husband is a construction person, so he very much helped us get it winterized and everything. We'll be going up there soon to get it completely remodeled. We're going to add some windows, so that there's 360-degree views from the upper bedroom of the Northern Lights and the starry skies. We're going to put a rope hammock that you can hang under a skylight, so that you can read your book and watch the sun rise or watch it set or watch the northern lights or watch whatever you like out that big window and laying in your hammock and reading a book. And then, adding a kitchen is probably top of mind as well.
So, tell me about this property in Alaska. How did you find this one? And remind me again what part of Alaska it is in.
It's in a place called Kasilof, Alaska. So, it's about an hour south of Palmer, Alaska. And it's one of the best places in the wide, wide world for fishing. I've been to Kasilof and I've been to the Kasilof River to do some what we call combat fishing in Alaska where you pretty much stand shoulder to shoulder and fish for king salmon. The stuff that they serve in the grocery stores here in any of the Lower 48 for $20 a pound or so, that's the ones that they throw back.
So, imagine just the incredible things that you can make on the grill up in Kasilof and there are just so many things to do. If you go a little bit north, you can go walk on a glacier. If you go a little bit south, you can go whale watching. If you go on a river, you can go fishing. You can go hunting. You can take a dogsled ride. You can just sit in your hammock and being quiet and have this surreal sense of being surrounded by snow where you don't hear anything, anything at all. And so, it's just an amazing experience to be out in Alaska, especially out in the wilderness. And it's not so wilderness that you can't have a good experience in terms of other vacation experiences as well.
So, tell me how did you find a property there in Alaska?
So, setting Zillow to less than $50,000 and just looking throughout the state of Alaska. And I had lived in Alaska for about three years, so I knew that I really wanted to make Alaska one of the places that I started out with. And I think the smart thing would have been to say, hey, I'm going to spend all this money in one place, have an economy of scale where I can find one caretaker for all of them or one supplier for all of them or do all of that in one concentrated area, but I knew that what I wanted was I wanted this lifestyle to set up a reason to travel to my very favorite places in the world. And so, I really was looking for a reason to go from one end of the country to the other and we're actually in the process of remodeling a school bus or a skoolie in order to allow us to have a home that travels with us in between them.
That's cool. Now, for those that are listening right now, and they're thinking, "This sounds doable. This sounds like something I want to do," once you've secured the financing, you've been creative about it, whatever it is, you have this nest egg where you put down the deposit that's required or the entire amount in some cases, what would be the first thing that you would suggest that people do as far as getting it ready to be rented or to be Airbnb-ed and what is a better decision for either of those scenarios?
So, the one thing I'll say is that before you even go and put your money down, think about what it's going to be rented for, whether it be a short-term or long-term and really think in terms of whether that's actually allowed to do. There are a lot of different places that don't allow short-term rentals and so you have to really think about, hey, if I needed to go long-term with this, is it still going to support me?
And there's something called the 1% rule, so anytime you're looking at a property, you really want to make sure that your whole all-in price, so the amount that you're paying for that property and the amount that you're paying for any kind of renovations to get it ready and anything outfitting it, you want that to be 1% of what you're getting every month.
So, let's say, you get $100 every month in rental that you spend $100,000 dollars on the property. You want that division to really look like 1%. Anything over that means that you're doing a little bit better than if you sat your money in the market and invested that. And so, you always want to do that math and just make sure that it makes sense for you.
And then, you really want to look at what looks like to do that short-term rental if you do it in that area by looking at what's called AirDNA or just looking at Airbnb and looking at surrounding properties to see how much they're renting per night and you want to compare like to like. So, if you have two bedrooms, you want to compare it with someone with two bedrooms. If yours is off grid, remember it has to go much lower than something that's on grid, but you can really create an experience that's so good that it will actually drive that to be more.
So, when you're doing that, think about the fact that, hey, if I do a really good job with creating the experience whether it's off grid or on grid, and then if I make enough driven market desire for what I can offer, you can counteract that, but you always want to know what that base price is and what that base occupancy is, which AirDNA will tell you, just to make sure that you're able to make ends meet and that you're not upside down in your investment.
And then, you have to go about making an experience, so really thinking about, hey, I'm going to stay here for a few days. I’m going to make sure that I figure out exactly what works, what doesn't for the space. I’m going to make sure my guest knows exactly what I like and don't like about the space so that when they read that intro to your space, they're really thinking, okay, so,yeah, I should just discuss that it's a 20-minute drive out of the middle of nowhere and it looks like you're going to backwoods Alaska. However, that's what I'm looking for, so that's great. So, you really think in terms of, gosh, what would the average person think about this location and what do I think about this location and how can I make both of those things really apparent to the person who's renting for me?
I love that. I love that you talked about the logical part of it where you want to make sure it's a good financial decision, but then also what is the experience or the emotion that you're promising to deliver? Because if you're clear about that, you're going to get good reviews which then in turn will lead to your property being more seen. Is that correct?
Absolutely. And I think one of the things that we leave out of the table a lot, especially as short-term rentals, is for some of these really amazing magical rentals that are just things that you cannot even imagine, I don't think that we do a good enough job of actually telling people about them. We put them up on Airbnb and it just sits on that platform and somebody might stumble upon it, but really, "Let me tell you about this amazing roundhouse where if you open the gate, wild horses will come into your yard and hang out with you. Did you know we have a guest iguana named Bob who just lives in the front yard? Don't pet him, but go feed him if you want."
There are so many things that make a place stand out that are better than, "Hey, it's right on the ocean." That's phenomenal. That's wonderful. However, if it looks cookie cutter like every other island stay on the ocean, is that an experience or is being centrally located where you can hop in your rental truck that comes with the place, no stress, no fuss, no mess, and go to 21 different miles of beaches along the coastline? That's an experience. There's excavation. There's fun. And so, I think that we can do a lot better of making sure that we're reaching out to some of our news outlets, some of these destination manager type magazines, things like that, and just exploring exactly what we have to offer.
That is really cool. I have done some reviews as an influencer for Airbnb and I had a wonderful experience. And I would suggest to you that if you are looking for that outside of Airbnb's contract with them as the actual sponsor of that connection, that working with travel influencers is a fantastic way to get your property seen, especially if you can find someone who can travel there without having to go too far. You can search for people by demographic as far as influencers though. You can see where they live. And then, that way, you're not having to cover their travel or something like that.
But if you offer a unique experience like that, I think that's a really cool way to get your property seen and have more reviews for your property as well. So, would you say moving forward, what is your ultimate goal? And I know that you are so passionate about sharing this whether with other women, but before we get to that part, of the people listening and saying, "Tell me more," I want to know what your goal is moving forward and what you hope for your growth of your business in this regard?
It's a tough question just a little bit because of the fact that I always want to make sure that I don't have growth that outstrips how great the experience is.
Yes, for sure.
Yeah. And so, I think we've settled on about two to three properties each year as we grow. And I think at some point, we're going to probably stop. But right now, we're thinking in terms of two to three properties because we have done a really good job in getting systems in place, so systems from something as simple as automated messaging, automated send outs of the pre-stay gifts or the remember us postcards or things like that, automated check in, checkout with our cleaners, and our cleaners have a bible that they take pictures to match exactly what we set up in terms of what that looks like for a finished and ready to enter room. Things like that, we have already in place.
But then, on the backside, we always want to make sure that we have that personal touch with each of our cleaners. We've gone out to dinner with our caretakers. We've created personal connections with these people and I think that that creates a situation where I know that I trust them to do a really good job of making sure that my guests feel like they're the only guest in the wide world. And I don't want to outstrip that.
So, I always want to make sure that as I'm adding that two to three that I'm developing those relationships, and then I'm just developing the relationships with the folks who are going to be adjunct to the stay. So, for example, we have the world's best taxi driver in the entire universe in Puerto Rico and he will take you on a tour down to the rainforest and show you the natural waterslides and the natural waterfalls. And he'll take you to the best barbecue you ever met and that's on your way to Vieques. So, he makes it a complete stay by giving something on either end to bookend that phenomenal stay in Vieques and make sure that the rest of your stay getting back to the airport is not stressful. It, in fact, is so much fun because he's telling you the history of the island and he's showing you where the best barbecue is and, hey, if you go this Luquillo kiosk, they have the best seafood on the way out of town or here's the best place to find your hammock on the way out of town or whatever that looks like.
And then, we create a backup for every single person that we have, so we have Jorge, who is our number one taxi driver and we have Domingo, who is our number two taxi driver and we develop those relationships in order to make sure that you don't have to worry about what that looks like when you stay at one of our places. You don't have to stress about someone to pick you up at the airport or at the taxi ferry or at the little airport on our island. And I don't want to outstrip that, so I'm always very cognizant of, hey do I have all the pieces in place before I pull the next trigger?
Okay. How did you develop those relationships?
So, you'd be amazed at how much you can get done by putting something on Facebook, saying that you need something, being very descriptive about what you're looking for in terms of caretaker, being selective about who you create those relationships with and then utilizing them to get in tight with whatever area that you're going to be serving and then just start developing those relationships. And what I'll say is that every time you step in that area, really thinking about, hey, who's provided phenomenal service? Who has a really amazing paddleboard tour at 8 AM on a Sunday on the way out of Fajardo or who has the best horseback riding tour on all of Vieques? Who treats their horses their best? Who works with the Humane Society down there? How do we create all of these one-on-one relationships that help bolster our business and help bolster theirs?
That's really smart. So, would you say for the systemization of your messaging, what do you use for that?
So, it really depends on which part of systemization we're talking about. So, I actually use Logix, Logix with an X. It is our rental software and I use that because I always am thinking about how to drive business back to my own website. I don't want necessarily to have everything housed on Airbnb because unfortunately, there are times where Airbnb will pull your listing if certain things happen or Airbnb could go under. You never know. And so, there's a way of protecting yourself by having it on multiple platforms and having one thing that manages all of them. And I've landed on Logix, still in the new phases of using it, but I like it so far.
And then, for some of my marketing messaging, I actually use Mailchimp. And I just created a system where my website, my Facebook page, everything drives email addresses to me so that I can collect them up. Certainly, I have more on my veterinary site than on my short-term rental site. I have about 5,000 in my email coffers for the veterinary site and not quite to the 300-mark for short term rentals, but I haven't been doing it as long.
That's awesome. And so, for those who are listening, Mailchimp if you're not familiar is an email system or service. There are many available. Mailchimp is a very user-friendly one if you're just starting out and you're wanting to set up a system of trailing emails that lead from one to the other. And it sounds like that's what you've done is you've systematized it, so you don’t have to think through, oh, did I respond back? Do they need to hear from me? That's really, really smart.
Oh my goodness. There has been so many good nuggets here. I feel like our audience has been so educated. I'm ready to run upstairs and tell my husband we need to get going on this because you've made me feel like it's doable. And I think that that is so powerful and I know that that's your mission. So, tell our audience about what you are doing to help educate women and a product you've just developed for that as well.
Absolutely. So, I don't know about everyone else, but I did not have the hours upon hours upon hours to do all of the research about the little nuanced items that had to go into short-term rental from automating my messages to just what messages needed to have to how to create a lasting impression for a guest to how to find out if my Airbnb was legal to figuring out who to contact. There was just so many little pieces. There's so much. And each and every one of those things set me back a couple of days or a couple of solid hours of research.
And so, each and every time that I found something like that, I recorded it and I created how-tos about it. Because honestly, I needed it to be something where if I hired a virtual assistant down the road, they could do all of that for me. And what I realized is that as I got more and more content and as I got deeper and deeper into these different subjects, I realized that there wasn't a good content repository where I could find everything that I needed. And in realizing that, I had several friends reach out and say, "I want to do this. This seems like a lot of work. How do I do this a little bit easier?"
And what I've noticed is that now I have this class that I can just set in their laps and it's not meant to be a class where you go in and you take 20 hours of sitting in front of a computer. It's a class where it's meant to be, "Hey, I ran against this problem. Here's my resources for it," so that it's all very organized and you can go to what you needed at that moment as opposed to just gobbling up hours upon hours upon hours of content and not knowing what you might need and what you might not. And so, it really has a good timeline as to, "Hey, you're setting up an Airbnb or you're setting up a short-term rental or you're setting up this experience, this is your timeline for how to do it and these are the different triggers that you have to pull. This is the checklist that you need to fulfill." But as you're going through it, when you have this question, here's where to go for it.
So, it's almost an appendix to the point where you can just get to the point of what you need. And I didn't love the fact that a lot of these places were asking $10,000 for a mentorship or I paid $1000 for a class that it was great in terms of making me think about the aesthetic, but it was just not very useful in terms of, hey, who do I need to contact in order to pay my hotel years license? Or how do I set up my tax information? It left me hanging and it left a bad taste in my mouth after spending that kind of money.
So, I've set the price of this course incredibly low, and then I've also matched up some time on either end, so bookending the course where you can upgrade to do some mentorship time via one-on-one call, so that if you have specific questions, you can shoot them there because not everybody's Airbnb or short-term rentals can be cookie cutter. And so, you might have specific questions to your area that, hey, I can help you with or I can help just motivate you in the way that you need to be motivated to get to the next step. And so, I wanted it to be a one-stop shop. Here's all the information you can use. Here it is in a way that you can get to it as you need it, when you need it, and in only the bite-sized content that you need it so that you can do this in addition to doing your day job. And here's this additional support if you want to invest in additional support so that you have someone who is an accountability partner.
That is so powerful. I love it. Tell our audience where they can find you and grab this information.
Fantastic. Absolutely. So, www.croninscastles.com is where all of my Airbnbs are listed and there'll be a page on there that says short-term rental class and we would love to see you over there. I would love to have some one-on-one conversations with your folks and I'd love to see people really doing this. We didn't even dive into all the different ways that you can do this with no money. There are just a million different ways to really look at having short-term rentals or managing them and really utilizing them for wealth growth additionally without putting a lot into it.
I love it. Kelly, this has been so wonderful. You've given us a lot to think about and I know that we're going to have people who are interested. So, make sure to check the Show Notes below. And if you ever come to Utah, we have got to meet up in our little towns and get together and have an experience together. I think that is a must for sure.
Absolutely. I would totally love it and I would love to give you a little tour of the elevated solitude. We're just so proud of that little place.
Yay! That sounds amazing. Thank you again. I'm so grateful that we had this conversation. And we will talk to you soon.
Sounds good. Thank you so much.
If you enjoyed this episode, please do not forget to subscribe. I love to hear from you as well, so if you would please leave a review and come follow me on Instagram. You can find me @callmeceopodcast as well @camillewalker.co. Every message that comes in about what you liked about the show or ideas that inspired you, they mean so much to me. So, thank you for spending your time here with us today and I hope to see you again soon.
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