Preparing For The Best (And Worst)

No challenge is unbeatable – you just need a fortified plan to get you through! 

No challenge is unbeatable – you just need a fortified plan to get you through! 

Whether it’s an impending downturn in the Real Estate Market, balancing work and personal life, marketing your business to stand out from the crowd, furnishing Vacation Rentals to meet all guests’ needs, or overcoming challenges in your journey to Live Limitless, I’ve got tips and tricks for you!

My High Performance Coaching is all about creating Focused Goals for yourself, and then creating the steps to make it happen. But do you realize how difficult it can be to break down your goals into something achievable?

When speaking with groups of people, the majority are going to say that they would like to create more wealth, abundance, and ease in their lives. But what does that really mean? How much wealth do you want to create? How do you want to create that wealth? What in your daily life that is causing you stress or getting in the way can you eliminate or make less of an inconvenience? How do you pivot, when it doesn’t go as planned?

This is why you need a coach to help you create your own individual plan, what steps that you should take first and I can help you to break down your goals into smaller, achievable steps – a coach also helps you create timelines, offers accountability and calls you out when you make excuses.

Interested in Living Limitless? Make sure to check out my coaching offerings where we can work through your goals together here.

Make sure to follow me on social and subscribe to the blog to stay up to date on all things Limitless!

Sky High Inspirations

Vacation Rentals have been a passion project of mine for a long time – so much so that I not only own and operate multiple, I even created my very own Vacation Rental Management Company as I began to see a need for it in my community.

Our first Vacation Rental, Villa Bella Mermaid, served as my introduction and first few lessons learned (check out my book for details) to Vacation Rental Management Companies (VRMC). Because it was so far from home, there was no way for us to be able to do the turnovers or provide customer service for guests ourselves – making a VRMC a must.

As we built our Vacation Rental Portfolio back home and I was looking into the other Vacation Rentals in the area, I had a lightbulb moment – with such a wide variety of Vacation Rentals in the area and more being added all the time, along with the fact that I had so many people reaching out to me with questions about how to buy and manage Vacation Rentals, I decided that maybe I should be the person to create the first one since I was already a Real Estate Broker and legally able to do so!

And MVR Vacation Rentals, Inc. was born.

As a serial entrepreneur with a habit for monetizing my hobbies, this was the perfect next step for me. It gave me an opportunity to help promote the Vacation Rental Industry even more in my community, as well as help out fellow entrepreneurs looking to start their own vacation rental businesses.

I had already started to find ways to share my expertise on the subject with my book, Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide, where I share my professional experiences, trials, and errors as a comprehensive roadmap for the exact steps to beginning your vacation rental business. AND Vacation Rental Academy, designed to teach you everything you need to know to start and scale successful vacation rental businesses.

This next step was the perfect continuation of everything I had been working on and in 2021 we officially started listing properties. A couple of my own are in the catalog, but we have had a steady flow of onboarding properties since the inception of the business. We are rated SuperHosts with AirBNB and Premier Hosts with VRBO already, and I am excited to see how this business grows.

We definitely saw with the Sky High Chalet how important time was to build up year-round consistency for bookings, recently even being ranked 3rd Best Pine Creek Gorge Vacation Rental! We are excited to see how this trend continues with not only the Sky High Chalet, but the rest of our rentals and MVR Vacation Rentals, Inc – maybe some day soon we’ll see even more of our properties with similar rankings!

Million Dollar Advice & Video Tour of the Sky High Chalet!

I truly want you all to live vibrant, abundant lives and if you head down this road sooner rather than later, that is all the more wealth and freedom that you can create and grow!

The contents of this video and the Vacation Rental Academy course can literally lead you on your way to wealth and long term abundance, regardless of where you currently are and your experience!

Becoming a wealthy individual, or even a millionaire is much closer than you think! You can start small and accomplish anything – YOU JUST HAVE TO START!

This video was originally recorded in May of 2020, during the shut down for COVID. I watch it and see an innocent version of myself. This was pre-book, course, issues with our town and vacation rentals, but every part of it is solid info and advice present day! Our world hit its tipping point shortly thereafter it was recorded and has grown like a weed in all directions. Real estate and vacation rentals have given my family more income, more fun, more memories, more experiences and networks, it helps other businesses, creates jobs and who doesn’t want that? 

I truly want you all to live vibrant, abundant lives and if you head down this road sooner rather than later, that is all the more wealth and freedom that you can create and grow!

Single Family Vs. Short Term Rentals

Variety in your investment portfolio is a must! But how do you decide what that variety should be?

Variety in your investment portfolio is a must! But how do you decide what that variety should be?

There is such a difference in income with traditional rentals compared to vacation rentals. I’ll use one of our current Vacation Rentals, Cabin on the Flats, as an example. If I was to rent this out as a traditional rental, I could probably get around a thousand dollars a month for it. It’s not very big; it’s about 1200 square feet, three-bedroom, two-bath.

So using round numbers, we’ll stick with a thousand bucks a month. So that’s twelve thousand dollars a year gross rent, that’s before any taxes, any insurance, any mortgage or anything. Or any maintenance or God forbid something breaks in it throughout the year.

$12,000 a year whittled down after all of that potentially might not leave us with very much. If this is your first time investing, traditional rentals might be your route, just like it was my route, and you get your foot in the door, and you can eventually upsize, modify and change your portfolio, and that’s great.

But for us, this very same property, same 1200 square feet, same utility costs potentially and same maintenance and all the same expenses, taxes, insurance and mortgage as a vacation rental, we could make five thousand dollars a month, which is sixty thousand dollars a year, which leaves a lot more additional income left over at the end of the year.

So for us, this is an eye-opening opportunity of traditional rentals compared to vacation rentals. Every market and every area is going to be different, and depending on how seasonal it is or how expensive it is to get into that vacation rental property market, that all changes and varies, but it can be life-changing money. Then you have great success. There’s always the possibility to add another one or two, or who knows. Or you can upsize them and have a nicer one, somewhere where you want to vacation to.

It’s okay to start small, you could be that same person like I was when I was 22 and buy the cheap house that needs some work, and then gradually you can upsize it, or you can sell it even. The safe thing about real estate is generally as long as you don’t get in over your head from the get-go, you do build equity and God willing, it’ll appreciate and, depending on the market, maybe more than you expect.

With vacation rentals, literally, it could be something as small as an extra bedroom that you have, that could be you starting small to build revenue and equity, and then take that additional income and maybe then buy a property that you can convert into either a traditional rental or a vacation rental.

Ultimately, there is no wrong answer. It all depends on your tolerance for risk and the specifics on whatever property you are looking at. But if you want to Live Limitless, Real Estate Investing in both of these directions is your key to abundance and wealth.

Make sure to follow me on social and subscribe to the blog to stay up to date on all things Limitless!

Autumn Is Here – Time to Check in on those Safety Items & Prep for Winter!

It is important to check in with your vacation rentals from time to time to see what does need some attention. I know you will lose revenue from a few nights here and there, but like the gutters above it is better than waiting till there is a BIG problem or a bad review.

Autumn Is Here – Time to Check in on those Safety Items & Prep for Winter!

It’s that that time of the year again already. It is one of my favorite seasons, especially at the Sky-High Chalet! The views of the leaves changing for many miles, the crisp evenings and the warm days. We may even have a night here or there to go and use ourselves. It is a great time of the year at all of our vacation rentals for different reasons, but I talk about the Chalet a lot because it is the closest to our home. 

This week, we started our fall cleanup outside, with trimming the shrubs and perennials back and raking any leaves or debris from the yard. It is also a great time of the year to clean your gutters! I know it’s a pain, but well worth taking the time to do it rather than having ice dam up and leak into your home this winter.

The summer is the busy season here, so we also have been going through and swapping out any worn items, like throw blankets, pillows, bedding, towels etc, for new fresh ones. We are making plans with our housekeepers about scheduling time for a deep clean and also to replace any worn carpets and touch minor dings up around the place. 

It is important to check in with your vacation rentals from time to time to see what does need some attention. I know you will lose revenue from a few nights here and there, but like the gutters above it is better than waiting till there is a BIG problem or a bad review. There will be wear and tear in your properties, even if you ask folks to take their shoes off inside, so annually I would recommend doing the little fixes.

In Florida the off season was summer, so that would be when we would drain the pool and do a good once over, along with any repairs to hot tub, docks, AC maintenance and of course any interior things that needed attention.

The biggest things that we are checking on this time of the year for our Northern Properties are:

  • Heating system servicing
  • Fill and propane/oil tanks
  • Chimneys cleaned
  • Check smoke detectors and replace batteries
  • Service or replace fire extinguishers
  • Double check on plowing/snow removal plans
  • Clean gutters/flower beds
  • Put away patio furniture or cover if not using during winter months
  • Cover or put away BBQ grills if not using during winter months
  • Do a deep clean of interior
  • Replace any damaged or broken items (for example, all of my wine glasses at one of my rentals are mix matched now, so I am replacing with a new set)
  • You also want to check in from time to time to your Welcome Book, so that you don’t run out of space in it for guests to share their experiences in it
  • Make sure paths to enter properties are well lit

All of these things are essential to keep your vacation rental running at top notch. The goal always is to offer a product in excellence, so that you get great reviews, make more money and keep them coming back!

For more tips check out my Vacation Rental Academy Coursemy Book and sign up below to get updates on new Blog posts!

Enjoy!

Chris

PS – Connect with me on social! IG @christinavandergriftFB MsChristinaVanDergrift, and LinkedIn

The First One is the Hardest!

Doesn’t that always seem to be the truth with all things in life? Whether it be your first home, kid, heartbreak, business, investment property…the list goes on and on. Why is that?

Doesn’t that always seem to be the truth with all things in life? Whether it be your first home, kid, heartbreak, business, investment property…the list goes on and on. Why is that?

“The first step is always the hardest” (proverb) says that beginning a project is the hardest part; it gets easier once you have already started.

From my experience it is because you have to invent the wheel, work the kinks out as you go, try to stay motivated, and face a LOT of unknowns, all while not knowing if you will have to go it alone, or if you will have help along the way. It can feel like stepping off of a cliff and having faith that there is ground underneath that next step.

I feel like I talk a lot fear in my writing and day to day, but that is because there always will be those fears and doubts. I face them every single day! It is then up to me to decide if I take that next step anyway, sink or swim…

When I decided that we should move forward and purchase our first rental, I was BEYOND scared. First of all, I had to talk Jeremy into it. He was totally against it at first and didn’t want to have to deal with the possible headaches, expense and “aggravation” since we were already both busy with our careers already, an 8-year-old (my stepson Luke) and a 6-month-old (Jaxon) at that point in 2012. We already had my previous home rented out and that was enough for him.

At this point I was a realtor and considered an Independent Contractor, so basically my income was commission-only. For those that are not familiar with how that works, when we sell a house we get our portion of the commission, and no taxes are taken out. We get our check and then we are supposed to be smart and set aside some for taxes and live off of the rest. That sounds great, but that also means that you do not have the opportunity for a 401(k) or a typical retirement plan for when you get older and want to collect and not work quite so hard. Since I had no future retirement fund or actual goal, my goal was use equity in any investment properties to upsize and eventually sell them someday to put money into the bank, or build a new house or whatever.

For those of you who know me or my stories, you know that I don’t take NO for an answer and that I am not afraid to do some persuading. This was one of those times. I always tell people that if I had taken the first “no” from Jeremy, I would have never gotten into rentals, had my son Jefferson, gotten chickens or a pool, and the list goes on… so, I didn’t settle for a “no” this time either (it makes me laugh typing this because I tell him this all the time).

I told him my top reasons for why I thought we should buy it. The main ones were: 

  1. I did not have a retirement plan and someday, when this was bought and paid for, whatever the value is, we could sell it for and get all of the money.
  2. If it was completely paid for, with a little work monthly, it would be straight monthly income to add to whatever else we had.
  3. There are a ton of tax advantages with owning real estate investments like depreciation and tax write-offs, just to name a couple, and I know that no one wants to pay more taxes than they have to (always consult with a tax professional to see yours). 
  4. The icing on the cake for me, as scary as it was to think of going into debt and fearing I could not find a tenant, was that the price point was low and affordable if God forbid, I couldn’t find a tenant.
  5. I could ask for a seller’s assist to pay our closing costs if we bought it.

After a lot of persuading, he was in! He was scared to death, but he was on board. Between you and I, as you get into owning rentals and vacation rentals, the fear of buying the first one is much worse than any after, especially as you gain confidence in how it all works, and keeping them full with income flowing in.

We were able to reap all of the rewards of owning a traditional rental, from tax write offs, tenants paying down our mortgage while gaining equity, and appreciation as the value went up over time. So that $120,000 house would eventually be paid for it we kept it for the long haul with whatever rent we had coming in to be straight income, eventually. And then we could sell it and use that money for whatever we would choose to. That isn’t what we ended doing and for those that have read my book Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide, you know part of this story and have figured out that I am talking about our Central Avenue home, which was featured in my book, both Chapters 9 & Chapter 11. 

I highlight this part of the story in hopes that My Resources allow you to ease MOST of those fears when it comes to investing in real estate and vacation rentals. Whether it be my VRA coursemy book or coaching, let me ease your mind and show you that the ground is there, when you take that next first step!!!

This story doesn’t end here. This definitely is a “To Be Continued…” stayed tuned for the rest of the story and pictures, from house fire to public humiliation and then ultimately being able to reflect on the big picture and see why things worked out the way they did and why we have transitioned most into vacation rentals or sold our traditional rentals. It has all offered so much equity, experience and abundance for our family and we are so grateful that we took that first step. And ***side note, Jeremy is a LOT easier to convince now!

Here is our first rental, 65 Central Ave, Wellsboro. Please stay tuned for the “rest of the story”.  And make sure you sign up below to connect and be in the “know”.

Chris

P.S. Follow me on Instagram @christinavandergrift  or on your other favorite social media apps! 

Beach or Mountains…oh where should I have a vacation rental?

There are so many amazing destinations to choose from for a vacation rental! Florida tends to be the most popular state for them overall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the most profitable!

There are so many amazing destinations to choose from for a vacation rental! Florida tends to be the most popular state for them overall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the most profitable!

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Florida! That is why we owned one there (our very first one) but realized over time that we could buy other properties, at sometimes half of the price and make double the money! Yes, double the money or more even, with half of the expense, from the initial down payment to monthly overhead to keep. For example, our Florida property was a $430k property when we purchased it and did have an in-ground pool, canal access and was in great condition, but only grossed between $30k-$40k/year. That doesn’t leave much left over at year’s end for a net income (which is partially why we sold it, and mostly because the prices went up so high).

I do think that beach area vacation rentals are a great buy but would highly recommend that you are sure of your projections, especially in very seasonal areas, so that you are not in over your head. So many folks in the beach areas use them primarily as second homes, and if that is the case, that is awesome because any extra income is just icing on top. If that is the sole reason that you are buying one there, do your due diligence and possibly try to find an area that has year-round vacationers so that you can sustain the annual steady flow of guests. I also do know that there are properties that are VERY profitable and that make a ton of money, but for newbies, those properties may not be attainable, depending on your finances and willingness to take risk.

Our Florida home had a steady flow year-round, but the nightly rate was dramatically different. Winter months, we could charge $300+ a night, while in the “off-season” summer months we were down into the $100’s/night. That is a HUGE difference when it comes to the monthly breakdown. The summer was also tough because of it being so warm and the electric bill being so high from the air conditioning. I LOVE the beach and do plan on an ocean front property someday, but for those starting out, it’s ok if that isn’t for you!

The mountains on the other hand offer an entirely different angle of potential expense, income, and seasons. They can be very “seasonal” also, especially if it’s in an area that doesn’t offer winter sports like skiing, snowmobiling, or isn’t close to attractions. Our properties in more rural, mountainous areas have blown the others out of the water. The area and average list price of the properties still do play a factor into it all of course. In our area for an example, you can pay anywhere from $200k-$400k for a great mountain home/cabin with seclusion and possible views and expect for it to gross anywhere from $45k-$90k/year depending on amenities, location, views, access etc. The same goes for our cabin in Gatlinburg, Tn. Both areas offer year-round opportunities for guests and a steadier flow of monthly income.

Now to circle back around, I am not saying that you must do either to start. You can start very small and wherever you are (if they are allowed there) and scale up over time. I do offer a module in my Vacation Rental Academy Course that teaches you how to find the perfect property, so if you haven’t taken that yet, please make sure that you do! It will offer you valuable insight regardless of what area you happen to choose, from location, to features, attractions, and so much more. Make sure that it is affordable and that the projections will be profitable, so that it can be a long-term fun investment! My course will give you all of the tips from how to buy, where to buy, how to furnish, market, customer service, how to find a property manager, and how to grow it so that you can have more eventually!

For more tips and insight on all things vacation rentals, motivation, and abundance, make sure to continue to follow my blog, and connect with me on Instagram (@christinavandergrift) and FB (@MsChristinaVanDergrift).

Chris

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The BEST Investment I Ever Made

Why I love Real Estate and what it can turn into…

Why I love real estate and what it can turn into…

I decided when I was 22 that it was time to have a place of my own. Not a rental, because I didn’t want to make someone else equity, but my own that I bought. I had been selling real estate as an agent for 2 years and had rented for a while in another life (my singing days with my sister in Nashville), and realized during that short interim that I didn’t like spending money on rent and having nothing to show for it, making someone else rich.

I also had been exposed early on to those that invested in real estate early and often, that were very well off, not having to live paycheck to paycheck, and those that didn’t. My family never had any real estate investments, just the homes that they had lived in.

I saw the lifestyles, wealth and freedom that came with owning real estate, whether it be single family homes, commercial buildings, or vacation rentals and knew that I wanted to be like those folks. The ones that were able to take their kids on vacation and had money in the bank and didn’t have to kill themselves till they were old and had no life left to live.

So, I started searching and found my first house. It was a 2200 sqft fixer upper Victorian in Wellsboro on Pearl St. The asking price was $79,000 and when I walked in, I was giddy and scared, but could feel it speak to me. It smelled like old cigarettes and cat-pee-saturated carpets and had old windows, doors, and crooked floors. I didn’t know if I could afford it, but I knew that I was willing to put in the work to try. Out of respect, I asked my dad to go through it on a second showing with me. I was hoping for his blessing, but instead got – “You are an idiot if you buy this place. It’s a dump! You aren’t handy and are crazy if you do it.”   I was extremely disappointed but decided that for the first time in my adult life that I was going to grow a pair and do it anyway! So I did…..

I ended up paying $68,500 for it. I had to put 3.5% down for a 5-year fixed loan. I was only 22 and made good money selling real estate but was still limited on what kind of loans I could get because of my age and basically being self-employed as a realtor. I picked 3/17/08 (St Patrick’s Day) for my closing date and was so excited that I totally forgot to buy pillows or be at-all prepared for staying there my first night. It did come with a loveseat and a couple used old beds, so that’s where I slept…happy as I could be, feeling free! I bought myself a bottle of wine, listened to Irish music and took a bath in my very own claw foot tub. LIFE WAS PERFECT!

Sounds great right!? Fast forward to the following winter, when my gas bills were more expensive than my mortgage and the furnace and radiators didn’t work very well. I kept it 58-degrees in there because I couldn’t afford to have it warmer…it was so cold in there, that I didn’t even have mice! There were many bumps along the way and there were days that I regretted buying it, but my gut told me that eventually it would be worth it.

I was in my early 20’s, working my tail off selling real estate 7 days a week, waitressing a few nights a week, and putting every extra penny that I had into that house. I ripped out the gross old carpet and did the hardwood floors, fixed the driveway, had the doors and windows replaced, redid the kitchen and laundry areas and so much more. My peers were still in college, racking up debt and partying, while I was working and building equity. Like I say in my book Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide – “Short-term sacrifices lead to long-term rewards.”

I learned that ripping and tearing in an old house was very therapeutic for a single young woman, trying to find herself. My house made me happy and angry and gave me projects to take aggression out on when I had guy problems and lean into when I was sad and lonely. It was my safe haven. It was the best investment I have ever made, even though I had no support system to do it – just myself and my work ethic.

Let’s fast forward to me selling it for a better home in the country. I owned my Pearl St house for 3 years and sold it for $119,000. I had roughly $42,000 left over from my equity after closing costs and rolled it directly into my new house. The purchase price for that home was $165,000, so I went into that with instant equity, from my own blood, sweat, risk taking and tears. I had literally gained over $50,000 in equity in just 3 years, as a young 20 something woman!!! The one who went against her dad’s negative reasoning and figured it out anyway.

Let’s fast forward again…I met Jeremy, our relationship went fast (very fast), and we got married and I decided to keep my newest home as a rental. It was a possible backup plan, that I thankfully didn’t have to use. My equity grew and grew and all I had to do was manage it and keep a tenant in it. We kept this home for several years and had a couple reach out about buying it.

By then we had $60,000 in equity and decided to do a 1031 exchange (so we didn’t have to pay capital gains) and use it as two – $30,000 down payments on two rentals back in town. (So as a quick recap – first down payment was around $3000, which then became $42,000 in equity, which then grew to $60,000 in equity as other people paid my mortgage down. And that original $3000 down payment had turned into not just one, but two homes with other people paying for them).

That equity has since grown into hundreds of thousands of dollars – all from time, consistency, taking risks and a little elbow grease.

So why not you? What short-term sacrifices can you make that will turn into long-term rewards and abundance? Are you new to the real estate world? Or who can you inspire or educate, who’s entire trajectory of life could change?

Please save this post and share with that person! I hope that this has inspired you to take chances, invest in real estate and take the time to educate yourself a little more to bring more abundance to your life. These stories are a small glimpse into our real estate world and portfolio, and I have faith that you can do it too! You just need to start! My book is a great place to start, or my course. It will give you all those tools and then some.

Chris

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