A Podcast Network by SANDOW

Curating the Guest Experience: Designing for Rentals

Who isn’t looking to get in on the short-term home rental game? Companies like Airbnb are true gamechangers for not just the travel enthusiasts they serve — but savvy real estate investors, too. Yet outfitting short-term rental properties poses its own unique design challenges. Take specifying appliances; the days of builder-basic mass-produced neutral spaces are being phased out with high-quality products that meet today’s hottest trends, but without a helpful hand to guide your purchases, the selection can seem veritably overwhelming. Guests Katy Olson of Luxe Interiors + Design and Christine Bridger of Company + Cottage share their tips, trends, and experience in designing for guest suites and rental properties.

Tune in to this episode to learn how to source budget-savvy, high-quality appliance packages like a pro. We’ll also address the growing demand for designing outstanding income properties… and even indulge a debate between timeless design accents and today’s latest trends!

This episode of Ask the Appliance Experts is supported by Frigidaire. Discover the full suite of Frigidaire appliances at ajmadison.com/brands/frigidaire-appliances

00;00;03;21 – 00;00;05;11

Amy Chernoff

And you know what we’re talking about today?

 

00;00;05;23 – 00;00;07;10

Jessica Petrino-Ball

What are we talking about today Amy?

 

00;00;07;27 – 00;00;39;24

Amy Chernoff

Airbnb Rentals. What does this have to do with appliances? I’m sure you’re asking yourself. But I just I had the thought a couple of weeks ago with all of these homeowners and investors buying places, rehabbing them for Airbnb or VRBO. You said vacation rental property business is definitely booming, some booming, obviously, even before the pandemic, During the pandemic and even post-pandemic.

 

00;00;40;19 – 00;00;59;23

Amy Chernoff

And I was just wondering if appliances, the kitchen luxuries that are available in the Airbnb be also improve the rate with which the owner can charge and whether or not it increases the frequency of rental.

 

00;01;00;06 – 00;01;28;27

Jessica Petrino-Ball

It’s really interesting that you ask that question, Amy, because frequently when interfacing with homeowners and investors, we’ve had this conversation a couple of times when they come in and they’re looking to purchase appliances and finishes for a space that’s going to be for rental use. It’s kind of a fun conversation. We want to make sure that the products that they’re purchasing are high quality, but we’re also thinking about the return on the investment.

 

00;01;28;27 – 00;01;53;15

Jessica Petrino-Ball

We want the appliances to be easy to use. We want them to be attractive inside of the space and we want to be able to offer something that’s a little bit fun or trendy without being too cumbersome or difficult to use. I think appliance packages here at AJ Madison pay a huge role in helping investors figure out how to put into the spaces.

 

00;01;54;01 – 00;02;08;04

Jessica Petrino-Ball

You know, we can even think outside the scope, feel like looking at vacation rental websites. You know, we’re looking to deliver experiences. And how do you think appliances play a role into that?

 

00;02;09;03 – 00;02;43;08

Amy Chernoff

Yeah, I mean, it’s like how much bling is worth the bucks, so to speak. Right. Because there’s so many different options for appliances, but you don’t want to be making service calls all the time for something that maybe requires a little bit more instruction before you use it. Right. And if you’re short term rental, you’re having new folks come in all the time using the appliances, whether or not you’re renting your space, you might want to create a guest suite in your main house or you may have an in-law apartment or just an extra space so that when you have guests come over.

 

00;02;43;08 – 00;02;56;28

Amy Chernoff

And I think making that more comfortable, some of the ideas and trends may apply. You know, this is such an interesting topic. I wonder if there are a lot of trends around this. I’d love to learn more, which leads me to our guest today.

 

00;02;57;16 – 00;03;01;18

Katie Olson

My name is Katie Olson. I’m director of special editorial projects at Luxe magazine.

 

00;03;01;29 – 00;03;02;28

Amy Chernoff

Welcome, Katie.

 

00;03;03;17 – 00;03;25;21

Katie Olson

Thanks for having me. This is such a great topic. I’m a newly minted landlord, and so it’s something I’ve been thinking about a little bit. Not with an Airbnb, but just says you’re renting out my New York City studio to a new tenant and then doing a little research around this call, I was little surprised to find out that Airbnb actually reported a record profits during the second quarter of this year.

 

00;03;25;23 – 00;03;28;01

Katie Olson

So that decides who’s thinking about this.

 

00;03;28;10 – 00;03;50;11

Jessica Petrino-Ball

As we come out of the COVID era. You know, a lot of people have increased domestic travel, and I grew up in a resort town, Rockport, Massachusetts, very coastal, very beautiful. There is a shortage of places to stay in the high season. I’m curious to learn from you, Katie, You know, what kind of styles are you seeing?

 

00;03;50;27 – 00;04;11;25

Katie Olson

Definitely. I think the perennial style is really scandi… Scandinavian style, super simple, super minimal is one study. I think it was promoted at least by AirDNA, which is basically an organization that studies Airbnb and other short term rental companies, and they reference this study that said that properties with Scandi style average 59% terms of an increase in value.

 

00;04;12;06 – 00;04;32;13

Katie Olson

That was from a couple of years ago. So I’m not going to hold them to that. But that’s definitely something that we’re seeing. I’ve noticed in general that the kinds of photos that tend to perform really well on Instagram of interiors photos, for example, tend to be white and fairly minimalist. And you can kind of extrapolate that when it comes to Airbnb and posting photos for your rental.

 

00;04;32;26 – 00;04;51;16

Katie Olson

So I think definitely Scandi also in personal style, I’m not sure if either of you guys have ever booked an Airbnb or VRBO property, but I’ve done a lot of them and I can tell you I’ve never booked anything that has any kind of personality that has to do with the owner. There’s no photos of the owner in the photos that they list.

 

00;04;51;25 – 00;05;03;20

Katie Olson

Everything seems very much like hotel level quality and they’re impersonal, which is interesting because there’s an abundance of the opposite of that on Airbnb. It’s just that they don’t tend to perform as well.

 

00;05;04;01 – 00;05;20;09

Jessica Petrino-Ball

But I love a good hotel stay. But now that we have a growing family, I have a little kid. The idea of having a full sized kitchen and access to real appliances, a refrigerator, a stove to cook meals is almost a must have.

 

00;05;20;21 – 00;05;42;23

Katie Olson

You’re actually not alone either, because the average number of rooms booked for these properties has actually grown consistently. So it jumped in 2020. You can imagine why people were trying to avoid congregating in hotel lobbies and they actually wanted more space, even among their own families. It also kind of highlighted something that I would imagine we’d been seeing even before that, which was the prominence of the chef’s kitchen.

 

00;05;43;05 – 00;06;07;26

Katie Olson

So if you are going away for Thanksgiving or Christmas or another one of the holidays, you need this big chef’s kitchen in order to cook for all the friends and family who are going to be stopping by. You also need a lot of space. So that kind of space is not often provided by hotels. And certainly some of those hotels that do offer kitchens are not offering the kind of high level chef’s kitchen quality that a lot of Airbnb users are really seeking out.

 

00;06;08;21 – 00;06;25;20

Amy Chernoff

It sounds like all the data is pointing to the kitchen is still reigns supreme, whether you’re buying a home or remodeling your home and living in it yourself, or you’re thinking about renting one from a vacation rental spot, it seems like the kitchen is still one of the most important elements.

 

00;06;26;13 – 00;06;53;05

Katie Olson

Yeah, I think we’ve also seen over the last two years that kitchen is really about design. So even for people who don’t have cooking ability, they want to have that kitchen as the hub of the home. So even if they’re hiring a chef to come in, as I know a lot of people do, if you’re going away to going to the Caribbean and you’re renting a big villa and you’re there for, you know, a 40th birthday weekend and you hire a chef to come in, even if you’re not actually using the functions of that kitchen, you’re hiring it up to somebody else.

 

00;06;53;05 – 00;07;06;08

Katie Olson

People still want that. It’s still a status symbol in some ways useful. You’re doing the cooking yourself. And it’s also it’s a gathering place. We’re seeing that more and more and COVID just kind of kind of cemented that, I think.

 

00;07;07;02 – 00;07;14;07

Amy Chernoff

Do you have a list of your must haves for short term rental and then you know, a long term rental property?

 

00;07;14;07 – 00;07;33;04

Katie Olson

I think with when it comes to any rental that you’re doing, context has to be considered. So I actually interviewed the author of a book a couple of weeks ago on Bunny Mellon, who is preeminent American decorator, and she died a little under ten years ago, should not known for her kitchens. However, she was known for context. And that’s really what we’re talking about here.

 

00;07;33;04 – 00;07;54;24

Katie Olson

So first, you need to understand, am I like in my case, I’m renting out a studio apartment so my tenants are not expecting a chef’s kitchen, so I’m not going to invest in the same way somebody who has an Airbnb+ designation. If you’re familiar with Airbnb and sort of the the nicer, more designed properties. So first it’s really understanding the way Bunny did.

 

00;07;54;24 – 00;08;14;16

Katie Olson

Bunny had a number of properties of her own. Wherever you went, whether it was New York or D.C. or somewhere, the Caribbean, the house actually reflected the natural environment. So when you’re building out your kitchen for a rental, if it is a studio apartment, you probably are like me buying things that are a little bit smaller, which actually can increase your costs.

 

00;08;14;18 – 00;08;34;07

Katie Olson

And you both probably know narrow dishwasher like the one I have is actually pricier than a larger one because it was a very specific size. You’re hoping to kind of lock yourself into that like Airbnb luxe category or Airbnb plus that’s really where you want to make sure you have all the bells and whistles in terms of furniture that you need to have.

 

00;08;34;14 – 00;08;59;03

Katie Olson

It depends on whether this is a family friendly rental or not. You know, for example, if you’re open to kids staying there, you want to have a kitchen helper, you know, a piece of furniture that lets the kid crawl up. You want to make sure things are bolted down. A kitchen island is super important and seating. So not just bar stools like the IKEA bar stools, not super comfortable if you want people to actually congregate there and enjoy their time there, you probably want to invest in seating that’s a little more cushy and probably covered in performance fabric.

 

00;09;03;27 – 00;09;25;20

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Terms of context, to your point, I think it’s really important to think about the types of activities that are going to be happening in that space. I love the idea of speed ovens inside of rental properties, so a speed oven is an appliance that can operate as an oven and as a microwave so it can afford that extra oven cooking capacity when you need it.

 

00;09;26;00 – 00;09;51;10

Jessica Petrino-Ball

I would definitely suggest that as an auxiliary oven in addition to a stove or wall oven to deliver that extra space, and especially for people who are using the property for visiting shop, for making their Thanksgiving dinner. I love induction technology for rental properties for safety. It’s clean ability, like my induction stove at home looks the same as it did three years ago because it just wipes so clean.

 

00;09;51;25 – 00;10;15;24

Jessica Petrino-Ball

And then, you know, thinking about refrigeration and storage capabilities and having decent amount of capacity, I think a really fun appliance to incorporate inside of a rental property might be the LG refrigerator with the craft cocktail ice. You know, that cute experience that might be different than home, but it’s not like a whole different learning curve. It’s a normal refrigerator, but happens to make really unique ice cubes.

 

00;10;16;13 – 00;10;39;14

Amy Chernoff

A list of must haves. I guess I would put at the top of the list appliances that are very intuitive and easy to understand. Like this is an area where smart appliances would be helpful for that owner to monitor. You need a good mix of easy to use durable, reliable. The few bells and whistles.

 

00;10;39;27 – 00;11;03;26

Jessica Petrino-Ball

With a smart appliance. Even if you don’t use the smart stuff, you can use it as a normal appliance. So let’s say the washer dryer in the unit has intelligent capabilities. That’s great for the owner to keep track. Like if there is a leakage issue or whatever the person maintaining the property will know that. But I don’t see a renter in an Airbnb connecting their phone to download a cycle for the washing machine.

 

00;11;03;26 – 00;11;06;01

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Go for the washing machine. Now as the owner.

 

00;11;06;01 – 00;11;30;20

Katie Olson

Too, you want to limit generally whether you’re managing it yourself or your property manager, you generally want to limit your interactions with your guests because that tends to make life easier for you and for them. So usually when I’ve traveled to one of these short term rentals, I get a manual. If I have any questions, they put me in touch with the property manager or the owner, but I tend to want to enjoy my vacation without too much outside influence from anybody.

 

00;11;30;28 – 00;11;49;05

Jessica Petrino-Ball

I actually think the smart home technology that works really well in rentals is some of the smart safety stuff. One of my biggest anxieties in booking an Airbnb is how do I get into it? Like how do I check in it? If someone can give me a code that is like phew, we are much easier past the first hour at all.

 

00;11;49;05 – 00;11;51;06

Jessica Petrino-Ball

We are into the building. But yeah, yeah.

 

00;11;51;23 – 00;12;11;19

Amy Chernoff

You know what I was thinking? If you’re having large family gatherings, you have to have a large property that could accommodate large groups. But I would say a standalone icemaker would be a great item to house if you’re hosting, if you have a luxury rental and you’re hosting a lot of large groups that might be nice to.

 

00;12;11;19 – 00;12;35;23

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Have an icemaker would be amazing and so would two dishwashers. There’s a lot of instances in which I might recommend this, but getting two dishwashers actually might be a more reasonable financial decision than getting a 24 inch base cabinet. And for for cooking large meals, especially where it’s these dishwashers are so efficient, they do take a little while to run.

 

00;12;35;23 – 00;12;55;01

Amy Chernoff

Speaking of dish Jess, like the Fisher and Paykel dish drawer is great, even in a very small guest suite where maybe you only have a six foot counter and you want to have an under counter refrigerator. Maybe you want to have built in coffee, a speed oven and a dish drawer, Right? Like you could essentially have a whole kitchen.

 

00;12;55;01 – 00;13;15;24

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Absolutely. Whether it’s for a studio, Katie, like you have, I think we need to think beyond the box of the kitchen. Like, let’s think outside that room for a second. Because even if you’re doing a guest villa where there’s so much space, you know, there’s really a high level of luxury to incorporating appliances, different parts of the home.

 

00;13;15;29 – 00;13;40;08

Katie Olson

That’s so important, I think, especially depending on where what season you’re traveling, if you’re traveling with kids who are getting dirty, running around outside, having a really high efficiency and easy to operate washer dryer, that’s also not gnarly because it’s been used too much is key. Maybe even having more than one similar to the dishwasher. The dishwasher might be for entertaining and having an extra washing machine for large family loads.

 

00;13;40;17 – 00;14;02;17

Jessica Petrino-Ball

I even love putting like a small like slimline 18 inch dishwasher inside of a bar area that’s not maybe not in the kitchen, but be in a media space that’s in a different part of the house, you know, putting a little dishwasher or a beverage center, maybe a coffee station and like a wine dispenser. There’s so many different, like experiences that can be created.

 

00;14;02;17 – 00;14;03;28

Katie Olson

And improved to.

 

00;14;03;28 – 00;14;04;19

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Oh, yeah.

 

00;14;04;19 – 00;14;28;05

Katie Olson

When I did a month in in Rome in June, basically living from there, working from there for a month. And I noticed because it’s Europe, every Airbnb listing that I saw, all the Americans had something to say about the air conditioning. It’s something that really comes up, I think, when you’re traveling and with young kids are not. If anybody has allergies, that’s definitely something that can ruin your rating.

 

00;14;28;05 – 00;14;47;23

Katie Olson

If people are complaining about noise or mold things that actually are not super sexy topics, but can actually really drive a customer’s experience and can be handled in advance with technology, you know, dehumidifier, for example, really kind of boring appliance, but it can improve the guest experience If you’re living in a climate that requires.

 

00;14;48;09 – 00;14;55;15

Jessica Petrino-Ball

No, that absolutely matters. That is something that I absolutely look for, especially when traveling in warm weather months.

 

00;14;56;16 – 00;14;58;01

Katie Olson

With COVID, too. I think that these those kinds of health focus.

 

00;14;59;26 – 00;15;10;14

Katie Olson

Features, so air filters, air purifiers, all these kind of things that work to increase our our health and safety while being inside is something that ears perk up when they see.

 

00;15;10;22 – 00;15;23;22

Jessica Petrino-Ball

There has been this renewed focus on sanitization, you know, in the wake of the pandemic and especially when traveling, I think people sensitivity to germs and to viruses is heightened.

 

00;15;23;28 – 00;15;45;13

Katie Olson

If you’re the one who owns the property, your income can really be determined by a lot of the reviews that people post if they feel unsafe or if they feel like more could be done or if something isn’t working properly, that all can actually impact your bottom line, even if it’s, you know, something as simple as a photo that doesn’t seem quite accurate, like those reviews really tend to matter and they’ll drive your listing up or down.

 

00;15;45;17 – 00;16;01;29

Katie Olson

Speaking of reviews and photography and what gets people to click, I mentioned earlier being pretty impersonal definitely helps. We don’t need to see anybody’s personal photos either in the listing itself or in the actual home itself. People like verification.

 

00;16;02;04 – 00;16;10;13

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Can you define personal? Because we’ve we’ve been talking for the last several minutes about personalizing your appliance package and making it amazing. What does that mean?

 

00;16;11;15 – 00;16;38;21

Katie Olson

So if you’re sticking, we’ll talk about the high end short term rental, right? If if you’d like to appeal to guests who are choosing between your property and a high end hotel, you want to make them feel like they’re staying in a hotel. You don’t want to make them feel like they’re staying at a friend’s house. So while those choices feel personal to us, because we’re we’re in the industry and we know the difference between these different brands, like appliance brands, for example, or fabric and furnishings or more.

 

00;16;38;21 – 00;17;05;08

Katie Olson

We know we’re at my comfort zone as I might know what I like in those senses, but the end user, the guest, does not necessarily care what I like. They care about the overall experience and ease of use and feeling comfortable and feeling like they’re having a luxurious experience. That’s my opinion. Why Scandinavian design is so popular. I actually am Scandinavian, and I think having that blank slate actually allows people to kind of project onto the space what they want.

 

00;17;05;26 – 00;17;18;08

Katie Olson

It feels a little cleaner. It feels a little bit like there’s just less stuff around. There’s this sense of I left my house to have a little bit of a luxury, whether that’s in a hotel or a short term rental.

 

00;17;18;24 – 00;17;39;26

Jessica Petrino-Ball

You know, I think it’s a great idea to draw experiences from the different vacations that you’ve been on and resorts that you’ve visited. I think about that a lot when we talk about outdoor living and we have a whole episode dedicated to that later. But a grill or a firepit or some of these extra luxuries can help drive additional revenue.

 

00;17;39;27 – 00;17;53;27

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Getting people to spend time, you know, in the great outdoors is really special and healthy. And whether that’s adding a firepit or, you know, if you’re on a ski vacation and you want to access to like a heated pool or a hot tub or, you know, any of those additional luxuries.

 

00;17;54;28 – 00;18;17;27

Katie Olson

I think IKEA definitely has driven some of that. IKEA has made that kind of minimalistic style really palatable to a lot of people. I think the trick is always as the homeowner or the property owner, it’s finding that balance. So if I know that I’m going to be renting out my unit at the bottom price point, then I have to be okay with with IKEA furniture, getting use and abuse and perhaps getting it replaced really frequently.

 

00;18;18;09 – 00;18;37;10

Katie Olson

If I’m at the top level, I might not opt for that because my guests are going to be expecting something that’s a little more high quality one way around this. And I think my first piece of advice is everything’s going to get ruined anyway and things are going to get destroyed. There’s going to be wear and tear. There’s going to be pets or kids that are unexpected.

 

00;18;38;05 – 00;18;43;27

Katie Olson

There are a few different ways to sort of like mitigate that. One is just accepting it, right? Acceptance is the answer.

 

00;18;44;24 – 00;19;04;21

Katie Olson

And second of all, you can be preventative. So, you know, encouraging security deposits, for example, vacation rental insurance, taking some preventative action so that even if you do opt for those really expensive furnishings and they do get damaged, you don’t feel like you need to outfit your high end rental and something of lesser quality.

 

00;19;04;24 – 00;19;28;14

Jessica Petrino-Ball

So just like opting for products and finishes that are easy to clean, you know, countertops that are unlikely to get stained, you can you can pick a finish that’s going to be durable and attractive, just as attractive as, you know, some of the other high end finishes that can get stained or damaged over time. Looking at durability of everything is super important.

 

00;19;29;01 – 00;19;47;11

Katie Olson

Absolutely. And I think even even with that, it goes back to the context. If you have a rental that’s in the middle of Miami Beach, which is where I used to live, and you’re surrounded by amazing restaurants and you have very limited footprint to work with. For me, I would have, you know, hopefully a high end coffee maker.

 

00;19;47;24 – 00;20;11;28

Katie Olson

Definitely washer/dryer. Excellent dishwasher. I don’t know that I necessarily would need the chef’s kitchen the way I would if I were vacationing on the Cape and we’re miles away from any good restaurants. And there was a huge family. So it’s really like, what’s my context? Are people coming to the town in which my rental exists because they’re looking to go out to dinner, or are we located in the mountains with no restaurant for miles?

 

00;20;11;28 – 00;20;25;16

Katie Olson

And they really need and want to have that kind of culinary experience help at home and also determines to how much time are they spending in the house or the apartment or the rental versus out and about. So it always comes down to context for me.

 

00;20;25;27 – 00;20;37;10

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Do you think it makes sense to to draw inspiration, to potentially, you know, look to the surroundings and the community and pull a couple of tasteful, you know.

 

00;20;37;18 – 00;21;02;04

Katie Olson

Bits and yeah, definitely. I think a fully, truly Scandinavian unit is going to look really out of place in, say, a Victorian home in central Vermont. Yeah, it’s not going to work. Right. And people are not necessarily going there for that. It’s more like the scam, the ethics of keeping things clean. I don’t just mean sparkling clean, but having minimal clutter.

 

00;21;02;08 – 00;21;24;16

Katie Olson

It’s kind of applying that to whatever style. That’s why I keep going back to Bunny Mellon. And again, she’s top of mind because because she had so many homes and she did such an excellent job of integrating the colors that occurred naturally around her, you know, the environs of the house into her actual decor. And I think Airbnb and short term rental owners can can do that depending on where they live.

 

00;21;24;25 – 00;21;35;06

Katie Olson

It’s just more as what we’ve seen with social media trends and also just analyzing data from Airbnb that people tend to click on those really clean looking photographs.

 

00;21;35;13 – 00;21;36;03

Jessica Petrino-Ball

I do too.

 

00;21;36;16 – 00;21;40;10

Katie Olson

Yeah, I definitely do this. It’s like a palate cleanser.

 

00;21;41;03 – 00;22;08;17

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Thank you so much, Katie. This has been an awesome conversation. You know, I think as a home’s editor, Katie gives a really great perspective on the various designs and trends in Airbnb and short term rental properties. So we wanted to dig even deeper and share with you a conversation with one of our favorite designers who’s an expert in curating beautiful guest experiences and beautiful vacation getaways.

 

00;22;08;22 – 00;22;11;04

Jessica Petrino-Ball

So we’re really excited to introduce Christine Bridger.

 

00;22;11;28 – 00;22;31;02

Amy Chernoff

Christine Bridger owns a cottage renovation and rental company in western Michigan called Company and Cottage. She’s graduated with a design degree from CCS in Detroit. And after a very successful 20 year advertising career, she and her husband Gage, started renovating cottages full.

 

00;22;31;02 – 00;22;31;20

Christine Bridger

Time.

 

00;22;32;03 – 00;22;47;14

Amy Chernoff

And most recently opened Isabelle’s market and eatery. Over the years, their amazing renovations have been featured in national magazines used by multiple brands to conduct commercial shoots and are successful short term.

 

00;22;47;14 – 00;22;47;29

Christine Bridger

Rentals on.

 

00;22;47;29 – 00;22;51;23

Amy Chernoff

Both Airbnb and VRBO, Welcome. Christine.

 

00;22;51;23 – 00;23;18;10

Christine Bridger

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Now, my husband, I got it got started and the rental business pre-pandemic and we had many people very interested in how they can get started on their own, their own. I would say the way we got started was just finding old cottages that were dilapidated, almost on the verge of being condemned and giving them a major refresh and not just a refresh.

 

00;23;18;10 – 00;23;45;25

Christine Bridger

I couldn’t make it seem like it was a weekend project. We actually spent between three and six months really making sure that we brought these back to tip-top shape and turn them into luxury properties. We specifically chose Western Michigan because it’s close enough where folks from Chicago and surrounding areas to do weekend trips. And my husband and I both spent some of our childhood going there. In terms of where we advertise our rental properties.

 

00;23;46;11 – 00;24;13;01

Christine Bridger

We really focus on Airbnb and the I like where we have a decent social presence and get a lot of interesting leads from folks who are stayed with us who might want to share it with friends or family who would be looking for a weekend trip. We also found some really great local and national press and always great word of mouth, which is very important to the rental business because they work really well for you or your business.

 

00;24;13;19 – 00;24;20;28

Jessica Petrino-Ball

How do you source appliances an What do you prioritize? Is it esthetics? Is it durability? Can you speak to that a little bit?

 

00;24;21;08 – 00;24;46;17

Christine Bridger

We are looking for both features and appliances that are tried and true, are designed by local brands, aren’t really great reviews, but a lot of it is trying them out first hand for yourself. We’re looking for appliances that luxury features that are really easy to justify when you factor in the amount that you’re getting per night for these luxury properties.

 

00;24;46;27 – 00;25;12;02

Christine Bridger

But we’re also looking for things that are going to make people’s experiences more enjoyable. So what are some more automated features that something might help over another model? Or for example, we have a rental audience that marry into coffee or coffee connoisseurs. They always want to know what coffee machines We have a lot of these people that are coming from the city to have more of a farm cluster.

 

00;25;12;02 – 00;25;34;12

Christine Bridger

Michigan experience working for that one’s your culinary opportunity. So they want to make sure that we have six burner ovens. What, maybe a grill or a kernel feature? You’ve had people inquire about our washer and dryer functionality. They want to be able to monitor the loads while they’re out and about traveling and exploring around or people have been excited about our fridge.

 

00;25;34;12 – 00;25;37;26

Christine Bridger

That allows them to watch TV on or stream music on.

 

00;25;38;07 – 00;25;47;28

Amy Chernoff

It sounds like they’re looking for not only premium features, but technology as well. Smart appliance features kind.

 

00;25;47;28 – 00;26;02;22

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Kind Of a cool thing for people. It’s kind of inspirational for folks that go on vacation. They meet a different appliance and potentially decide to replicate that experience in their own home. You mentioned something about like a guest book on the refrigerator.

 

00;26;03;09 – 00;26;26;21

Christine Bridger

You’re exactly right. The renters do not have to use all of the features on the appliance. However, they get so intrigued and trusted with, they start clicking around and trying to see, oh my gosh, I can see inside the refridgerater, I can pull up recipes, I can watch TV, I can stream music, or kids get in there and start using the drawing app up to draw pictures on.

 

00;26;26;21 – 00;26;40;10

Christine Bridger

And it almost acts as a modern day guestbook, which is so fun just to see that people are really taking it all in and experiencing every little know nothing grand and square inch of the space that we’ve created.

 

00;26;40;29 – 00;26;49;09

Amy Chernoff

I’m assuming you can potentially charge higher rates if you have luxury appliances. Does it benefit you in any way?

 

00;26;49;19 – 00;27;28;19

Christine Bridger

Initially, we had our prices a little bit lower because we’re testing the market and we kept raising them in over a course of three years. We were able to increase our pricing by 200%. And the reason being is we realized that with the luxury experiences and amenities that we had, we were actually getting the same rates as some of the properties that were on waterfront or maybe slept two times as many people just because people just absolutely loved this higher end, fully immersive experience that we were able to create a lot of it from our clients.

 

00;27;28;21 – 00;27;57;02

Christine Bridger

And then that’s innovation that we built into our properties. So the other thing that I’ll say, it’s not even just about being able to prove the return on investment very easily within the first couple of months. Not everyone’s aware of this, but Airbnb has a program, a Luxe program. It’s only a handful of properties that meet requirements that they have that are able to live out another level within the Airbnb system.

 

00;27;57;02 – 00;28;23;24

Christine Bridger

So you actually have an individual from Airbnb come out to your property, make sure it is up to snuff. They end up doing their own photography and all of that and it just allows you to tap into that higher end renter market. I do believe it’s helped us reach super hosts as well because we get really great reviews often tied to our amenities and appliances that we make available to renters.

 

00;28;23;24 – 00;28;32;01

Christine Bridger

So absolutely worth the investment and we will continue to make that a priority in any of our future renovations.

 

00;28;32;13 – 00;28;40;24

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Christine, can you talk a little bit about how photography has impacted your relationship with the various platforms?

 

00;28;41;15 – 00;29;05;26

Christine Bridger

Sure. Well, I would say that outside of having a beautiful home, photography is the most important aspect of having a successful rental. You know, it’s the only way that people are able to envision the experience that they’re about to have or to justify the cost of that rental. I’ve had renters tell us that prior to choosing our home or cottage, they’re looking at every single room zooming in.

 

00;29;05;26 – 00;29;33;14

Christine Bridger

We know, see what kind of coffee machine we have or, you know, admiring some of our design decisions and the settings. And so if you don’t have the entire space looking beautiful and cohesive and a photograph, I would say magazine quality, you’re really missing an opportunity of enticing people and considering your property over another. The rental pool is just absolutely huge.

 

00;29;33;14 – 00;30;05;06

Christine Bridger

So you got to stand out in a positive way. The pandemic has changed the way that people are not only traveling, but cooking at home and having those stronger desires for those culinary experiences. And one of the things that we have noticed specifically in our area is that people are going out collecting all kinds of interesting foods and why and things they haven’t tried before and bringing them home and having a lot of fun, being able to experience that firsthand and be a little bit more experiential.

 

00;30;05;17 – 00;30;21;22

Christine Bridger

The other thing is I think that there’s an interest in more of a slower pace. So enjoy, which is it’s been wonderful for for us because we already have created thousands more farmhouse experiences that have, you know, three plus acres, give people lots of room.

 

00;30;21;22 – 00;30;31;16

Amy Chernoff

So how do you decide with each property? I did poke around on your website and each property has its own aesthetic and is very unique.

 

00;30;31;17 – 00;30;53;14

Christine Bridger

Well, I start with mood boards because I’m trying to think about the whole experience holistically, and I typically am not starting with the acquaintance, but I’m starting with the entire buy what can feel, if you will, for each property. You may have noticed we have a farm home and we have a coastal cottage, a restored barn, and so all of those are all different.

 

00;30;53;14 – 00;31;17;28

Christine Bridger

So for example, our cooking hearth is actually in our barn because it allows us to do more what we call rustic cooking. And so because of that, we’ve picked more unique appliances to fit that space. When it comes to more of a coastal property, we’re looking for something that is a little bit more streamlined or a little bit simpler, a little bit more understated.

 

00;31;17;28 – 00;31;43;03

Christine Bridger

And because there’s a lot going on with the views of the water and a lot of other cottage details, and then with a farmhouse, for example, one of the pillars that we were only given to was red and it adds up to an apple orchard. So we pulled inspiration from that. And knowing that that was an important element of our palette, we changed the knobs of our oven to be red to complement as well.

 

00;31;43;15 – 00;31;50;20

Christine Bridger

So we’re thinking about any inspiration we can pull from and bringing it through to the appliance level.

 

00;31;51;14 – 00;32;09;26

Amy Chernoff

I would love to hear if there have been any epic fails with appliances that you’ve chosen,  experiences with renters, for example, that would, you know, discourage you from using a specific appliance or type of appliance in the future?

 

00;32;10;23 – 00;32;41;27

Christine Bridger

Well, with all of our projects, there are always an epic fails that we try not to repeat when it comes to our renters, it’s hard to predict all of the things that could go wrong, right? So one of the things that we have continuously had challenges with and we have this beautiful Blue Star oven, and one of our properties that I was so excited and mentioned, the red knobs, and I took customization to a whole other level when I put on these French doors that open differently, it’s like a single pull down door that most people are familiar with.

 

00;32;42;09 – 00;33;07;13

Christine Bridger

We have tried everything, but renters cannot seem to close up properly, and so they end up getting damaged and they won’t shut as well. And while we’ve been able to fix them, it just continues to be an ongoing issue. So I’m not sure that I personally will go into the French door oven selection again. However, if you have better instructional signage, you may not have that issue.

 

00;33;08;11 – 00;33;31;03

Christine Bridger

The other thing is I would just say in general is renters can be just really hard on appliances. They do a lot of slamming. We have this awesome dishwasher that I love so much. It has this little arm that pushes out after each cycle and allows the dishwasher to warrant. And this is really great for renters because if they’re out and about, you know, they’re not necessarily around to open the actual dishwasher.

 

00;33;31;03 – 00;33;38;10

Christine Bridger

However, because they aren’t used to this little arm, some have slammed it shot or pulled it off because they thought it was broken.

 

00;33;38;10 – 00;34;03;00

Jessica Petrino-Ball

So it’s really important to look for appliances that have, you know, intuitive controls something where someone can look at a control panel and ideally press a couple of buttons and it’ll do what they expect it to do, but also look for products that one are built reliably and two ones that you’re going to be able to have service support for should you need the extra help.

 

00;34;03;16 – 00;34;26;21

Christine Bridger

Exactly. And I will say this to making sure you’re buying from a reputable company is really important because if you need serve or parts, it’s going to come in very, very handy. I have tried to cut some cost and order things off of Craigslist or done other stupid things like that in the past and once it breaks up, that’s it.

 

00;34;26;21 – 00;34;30;04

Christine Bridger

You’re stuck with that program and there’s really no way to easily repair.

 

00;34;30;04 – 00;34;45;10

Jessica Petrino-Ball

And it’s not just about pretty finishes and mood boards. Beyond that, you’re looking at the region and what people do in the region, and you’re ultimately looking to enhance what it’s like to go on vacation in Western Michigan. That’s awesome.

 

00;34;45;24 – 00;35;10;21

Christine Bridger

Yeah, absolutely right. People are looking for those more unique experiences and they are looking for different ways to connect. And I think that our marketing background has helped us immensely. But I think even if you don’t have a marketing background, you’re a human. We’re all human. And so, you know, just being able to think about what you would expect or enjoy if you were visiting on your area, what would you dream up?

 

00;35;10;22 – 00;35;30;19

Christine Bridger

What would be something that you could create that would differentiate your experience from others? And I think also being able to tell that story talked to people in the listing about all the things that they can do or get them excited about using that. We have a 20 person long farm table that’s outside backed up against apple orchard.

 

00;35;30;29 – 00;36;00;16

Christine Bridger

So talk to them about, you know, doing an outdoor dinner with friends and family and making an apple pie with the apples that they picked off the trees. You know, that creates an experience that people get really excited about. And that’s where, you know, having the right appliances to bring those experiences to life. I can’t explain. I know how important it is to you know, and invest upfront, because there’s just hundreds of ways that you’re getting that return on investment across the board and some of the things that people already mentioned.

 

00;36;01;21 – 00;36;27;04

Jessica Petrino-Ball

What an interesting conversation. And now it’s time for our key takeaways. One, Shopping for appliances for an investment property can be easy and fun. Think beyond the kitchen, adding an under counter refrigerator or coffee station will bring comfort and luxury, and you can draw inspiration from your favorite resorts to building amenities to delight guests. The more creative, the better.

 

00;36;27;20 – 00;36;55;23

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Two, when picking out appliances, look for products built to last with intuitive controls and beautiful aesthetics. Consider placing appliances creatively throughout the home to make life easier a microwave drawer in a TV room or an outdoor refrigerator for cold refreshments adds luxury and convenience. Three It’s easy to save when purchasing high quality appliances for an investment property. Shop packages to bundle and save.

 

00;36;56;00 – 00;37;18;18

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Check out the outlet center and potentially add warranties, which can save you a lot of money in the long run to cover service costs. Four, follow us at E.J. Madison dot com for the latest ideas and inspiration. Thanks so much for listening. Make sure you follow the show so you never miss an episode. A.J. Madison is part of the SURROUND Podcast Network.

 

00;37;19;09 – 00;37;35;07

Jessica Petrino-Ball

Check out our show notes and discover other architecture and design shows at SURROUNDpodcasts. com. That’s podcasts with an ‘s’.

 

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