My husband and I have started an adventurous new chapter in our lives that neither could have imagined just a few years ago. If it weren’t for a few life events and “aha” moments, we might not have conceived the idea of becoming what I have called “modern nomads”. After giving a brief overview of the events that put us on the “road”, I will describe the plan, the benefits and the challenges. Finally, I will give you tips for success if you decide to become a modern nomad yourself.
We all have a story and reasons why we make certain decisions in life. Here are the main catalysts that led us to make our own. First of all, when I was a kid my family moved pretty much every year, so I’m pre-wired to take advantage and aspire to change. Second, as an interior designer, I have always wanted to design my own house exactly the way I like it. Third, my husband and I enjoy adventure and outdoor activities like surfing, golfing, biking, snowboarding, and hiking.
So when I found myself living in the same unfinished house after fifteen years and working eighty hours a week helping my clients create their dream home, I realized I needed to make some changes. After this revelation and a few personal life events reminding us that life is precious and short, my husband and I came up with a plan. The plan responded to my desire to have a finished house, our desire to spend more time with my family and friends, our love of adventure and so much more!
- We are both retiring from our current jobs.
- Renovate our house and put it on the short-term rental (STR) market.
- Buy, renovate and bring vacation properties to the STR market. (One at a time).
- Manage our own properties.
- Block and use our properties for vacations, vacations and special events.
- Buy a motorhome as a home base.
HOUSE FINISHED: We were finally able to renovate our main house, designed for our needs.
FINISHED HOLIDAY HOUSES: We also get several finished vacation homes at various locations.
APPROVALS: The addition of amenities and designer touches not only attracts higher rates and more frequent rentals, but we can take advantage of that too!
VR: We had been researching recreational vehicles for several years and this plan allowed us to pull the trigger. The motorhome has become one of my favorite parts of our new lifestyle; we call it “Telli”. In addition to providing us with a working and living space, we also use it for travel.
ADVENTURE: Every day is an adventure! We can block our properties for special occasions and use our homes when they are not booked. When our goods are rented, we jump into “Telli” for the adventure!
A SIMPLIFIED LIFESTYLE: We had to downsize our belongings to fit into our Class B RV and storage area for this plan to work. We do not suffer from any of the perks typically associated with a primary residence, as we have designed our properties with all the comforts of home. Plus, “Telli” has everything we need when we’re on the road.
TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS: This plan gives us the possibility to receive family and friends in one of our properties or to jump in the motorhome to visit them.
INCOME: Our properties provide us with an income, which allowed us to retire from our previous jobs.
EQUITY / NET VALUE: We basically put money in the bank for our long term retirement portfolio by paying off our properties as quickly as possible. Not having a mortgage increases our monthly income. By having our money in real estate, we are convinced that we are immune to inflation and that the value of our money should exceed our future financial needs during retirement.
SHARE: It was the biggest challenge I faced. However, as we have housekeepers coming in and cleaning between the guests, our places are always clean and we hardly notice people have passed by.
HARD WORK: This plan is a full-time job that includes buying and renovating properties, dealing with maintenance and customer issues, hiring housekeepers, keeping an inventory, marketing and branding, bookkeeping and reservation management. In our opinion, work is a small price to pay for all the benefits this new way of life gives us.
tips for success
DO NOT TOO MUCH LEVER
Many real estate investors tout leverage as a way to make money in the real estate market, but this approach can be risky and put you at financial risk. We recommend that you pay off your properties as quickly as possible, which will give you peace of mind, give you more monthly income, protect you from inflation, and contribute to your long-term retirement portfolio.
CHOOSE YOUR PROPERTIES CAREFULLY
We recommend that you choose your additional properties in the vacation areas for several reasons. First of all, it will give you some fun vacation spots (YAY!). Second, with the uncertainty surrounding STR regulations in suburban and urban areas, vacation rentals are a safer bet as they were used in this way long before the flatshare fashion began. * Always be diligent on every property.
THE “ADURABLE” FACTOR
We have found that there is a real niche for high end accommodation in vacation areas. By providing a five star resort experience, we get more bookings and higher rental rates than the competition. So go ahead and spend the money on designer touches, equipment, and upgrades, but make sure you make the items durable and beautiful, I call that “Adurable”.
There are times when it is crucial to call in a professional. For example, I highly recommend that you hire an interior designer if you are not one. Your properties should stand out from the rest and you want to make sure that you are spending your money correctly. The same rule holds true for all other aspects of your business. Go ahead and do the jobs you’re qualified for and hire professionals for the rest. You want to make sure that your brand comes across as highly professional and that your properties don’t look like DIY.
TURNOVER SYSTEM (housekeeping)
Make sure your rotation system is in place before hiring your housekeeper. You want to train them on how you want your luxury space to be cleaned and laid out. Don’t let them tell you how it is “normally” done. Be prepared to go through two or three housekeepers before you find the right person, and be prepared to pay more than the “normal” rate for the extra care you need.
MANAGE YOUR PROPERTIES
There is definitely a place for traditional property management companies, but for this plan to work; you will need to build a brand and reputation as an excellent STR host. Fortunately, with the advent of SEO services like Airbnb and VRBO as well as booking / property channel management software like Beds24, managing your own STR is achievable.
As I finish writing this story, I sit in “Telli” drinking my morning coffee, looking out over the ocean of North Topsail Beach while my husband “shreds the nar”! We are waiting for a guest to leave our two bedroom beachfront condo at Villa Capriani where we will be spending next week! After that we plan to head to the High Country to research our next property.
We are envisioning a ‘ski in’ area that we can use in the summer for golfing, biking and hiking and in the winter for skiing and snowboarding. We thank God every day for finding a way to live a minimalist lifestyle while maximizing adventure. If you would like to learn more about our company, Middleton Getaways, or if you would like to book a luxury vacation for yourself, please visit our website.
If you are looking for an Interior Designer to help you with your STRs, please visit the Alliance of Interior Designers’ Find a Designer page, where you can search through the largest local group of active interior designers in the Triangle region.
Shanna Middleton is the President-elect of the Alliance of Interior Designers of Raleigh. She has been practicing interior design since graduating from Arizona State University’s interior design program in 2004. In addition to running her full-service interior design business, Middleton Inc., she owned and operated two other businesses.
From 2005 to 2014, she was the owner of Real-Estage Inc., a full-service real estate and staging services company where she remodeled, staged, marketed, returned and sold properties. From 2014 to 2019, Middleton opened and operated ‘One of a Kind Find and Design’, a unique custom furniture manufacturing retail store offering a full line of customizable furniture. In 2019, she started Middleton Getaways, a short-term luxury rental company with her husband Paul Middleton. Her vast experience has uniquely positioned her to own and operate Middleton Getaways.
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