Zero to Six Units in 2 Years: A Teachers STR Journey

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Welcome to episode 891 of the Boostly Podcast. In this episode, we delve into the captivating world of short-term rentals and direct bookings with our guest, Madeline Blum, founder of Humble Roots Rest. Based in the stunning Smoky Mountains of the USA, Madeline shares her unique journey from a New York teacher to a successful real estate investor and short-term rental owner in various markets, including North Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky. Her innovative approach to property management and direct booking strategies has led to an impressive 45% rate in direct bookings, a testament to her effective marketing and guest experience tactics. Additionally, Liam, our host, highlights Mark Simpson's bestselling books on direct bookings, offering invaluable insights for listeners. Dive into this episode to explore Madeline's inspiring story, her insights on guest preferences, and her strategies for standing out in competitive markets.

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Dominating Tertiary Markets and Direct Booking Strategies

[00:00:00] Madeline: And with all of the different properties I have, they're all a little different. Um, but what I, what I, what I will tell you is that I love these little tertiary, smaller markets because I feel that I have completely dominated mine. And it's been a great partnership. You know, I think I pay 600 a month.

[00:00:16] Madeline: I'm sorry, 600 a year. And I get. Uh, promoted four times a year, and I cannot tell you, Mark would be so proud of me. Cause this has kind of been my way of getting direct bookings. My direct bookings at my place is at like 45%.

[00:00:47] Liam: Welcome back to the Boostly Podcast. This is a podcast that gives you the tools, the tactics, the training, and most importantly, the confidence.

[00:00:56] Liam: So you can go out there and get yourself some direct bookings. Talking of direct bookings, I must bring your attention to the wonderful books that Mark Simpson has written. These are bestsellers, and if you don't know about the books, you can go check 'em out at Uh, those you'll be able to look at.

[00:01:14] Liam: There's lots of great information. And actually, if you're on Kindle, you can get them as little as about 99 cents, 99 P something like that. It's as cheap as we could make the book. So you could go and find out about all things direct booking as cheap as possible. But if you're on Audible or if you like to just buy a hardback book, there's all those cool options out there.

[00:01:32] Liam: So go and check them out. Today we are shining the, uh, the host spotlight onto an interesting and successful host based in the Smoky Mountains in the USA. Uh, we've got Madeline Blom, the founder of Humble Roots Rest, and I'm really excited to get to know her story. Let's get started. Welcome along, Madeline.

[00:01:52] Liam: Thank you. Thank you. Welcome. Um, would you mind sharing where you are in the world and what your business currently looks like at the moment?

Madeline's Journey from Education to Real Estate Investing

[00:02:01] Madeline: Yes, so I live in Knoxville, Tennessee, originally from New York, been here seven years. I was a teacher for 14 years. I served the special education population, which I loved.

[00:02:14] Madeline: And when I, when I decided to move to Tennessee, I wanted to really focus my attention on raising my kids. So I did that for a few years and then decided that I really wanted to dive into real estate. So I am a, an investor of short term rentals, and I also sell real estate and my market, my specific niches selling short term rentals in the Smoky mountains of Tennessee.

[00:02:36] Liam: What are the Smokies like? Why do people flock there?

The Allure of the Smoky Mountains and Guest Experiences

[00:02:39] Madeline: Oh, my goodness. It's just absolutely breathtaking. It is a range of a variety of different mountains. Um, and it covers from North Carolina to Tennessee, the Tennessee side. And the Smokies consists of 3 awesome towns, uh, called Sevierville. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

[00:02:59] Madeline: So the big mountain town you're going to find in Gatlinburg. And we've had over, you know, the most visit, the most number of people we've had to visit the area has been about 14, 000 in 21. And last year, we had about twelve and a half million visitors. So great for hiking, lots of just different attractions that bring people to the area.

[00:03:20] Madeline: It's breathtaking. It's beautiful. Everybody just kind of left the mountains. For the foliage season with the change in leaves, um, really just beautiful and breathtaking.

[00:03:30] Liam: What sort of people travel there? Who's your guest avatar and how many places did you look after? I don't know if I missed it.

[00:03:36] Madeline: Yeah. So I am in four different markets.

Diversifying Investments Across Different Markets

[00:03:38] Madeline: Okay. I am an investor of, um, properties in the North Carolina side of the Smokies, um, which is in Robbinsville. That's the one where I. You know, that's my first baby, as I call it, where we first started our journey. Um, from there, I went to Florida, to the beach in Panama City. Uh, from there, I went to Kentucky.

[00:03:58] Madeline: So, I'm in four different markets, which is pretty interesting. Um, I self manage, uh, manage all of them myself. So, I'm in the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. And, uh, I came back to The mountains on the Tennessee side and I'm actually in contract with my second one here. Those

[00:04:12] Liam: different markets that you mentioned, is that purposely done because you get the income from from all those different markets?

[00:04:20] Madeline: Yeah, you know, it's really interesting that the first property that we bought in Robbinsville, North Carolina, um, was more of a, it was more of an experimental kind of project. Um, we love to drive through the roads, you know, the mountain, mountainous roads. Um. There is a road called the tail of the dragon, which consists of 318 curves and 11 miles.

[00:04:43] Madeline: Super, super cool. Um, if you're a car enthusiast or love motorcycles, it's definitely something to have on your bucket list. Um, my husband owns a Porsche. We like speed, living on the edge. So we went out for, um, this really cool car rally that they had. Um, and we fell in love with this area called Fontana village.

[00:05:02] Madeline: And, um, Like I said, kind of like very similar to the Smokies on the Tennessee side, you know, we really just fell in love with the nature surrounding it. And so we thought, hey, people love to try drive these roads. Let's try to find a place that we can cater to and, you know, make this our avatar. Because when we had stayed, we had stayed at this place called, you know, the Fontana Village, um.

[00:05:28] Madeline: And I have to say, their cabins were just awful. So I'm kind of a high maintenance girl, you know, this Long Island You know, chick who likes, you know, nice accommodations and not so much that I'm from New York and I'm the only one that that may like that, but I want to be comfortable. So, um, that was kind of like what made us think and say, Hey, listen, we can totally do this.

[00:05:56] Madeline: I mean, if people are hanging out and spending money to like stay in a dumpy place like this. We would totally kill it. If we created something super unique and, you know, somewhat luxurious and comfortable and cater to these, you know, car enthusiasts. And let me tell you something. It was, it is a hit, you know, we are one of the most, we are priced It's a hit.

[00:06:17] Madeline: Um, and it's one of the most like highly priced places around us, but no one has anything like us. So what I teach my clients is like top 10 percent you know, and Bill Faye says this too, you know, in your market, if you want to stand out, do something that's unique, do something that's different and provide an experience.

[00:06:34] Madeline: And that's what we did. Not really knowing a whole lot, to be honest with you. So. From there, from that journey, we started to dive, dive in hard. What, what

Maximising Guest Satisfaction: Unique Properties and Marketing

[00:06:43] Liam: are some of those special sort of things that you do for your guests and some of those reasons that the guests come to, to your place or what they talk about in, in the reviews?

[00:06:51] Liam: So the big

[00:06:52] Madeline: thing that people love about our place is I think you have to also be, once you're diving and looking into buying a place, you know, for us was, we wanted something again, unique. I want to stand out. We have a beautiful mountain view. You're going to want to be close to the mountains. Okay, so those are the kind of the kinds of things that if you're going to be in the mountains, you're going to want to be really close to proximity to any attractions or be have, you know, be in the mountains and have this gorgeous mountain view.

[00:07:17] Madeline: So that's the first thing we have. Um, for us, the other thing that was important was we needed a paved road. We are the avatars. We were the, you know, we were catering it to people like ourselves. People want smooth roads, especially if you have low. You know, kind of cars like us, we have a Porsche and so one of the beauties of this property was, I mean, the driveway is about a mile long, all paved, like, that was glorious to us.

[00:07:42] Madeline: Okay, um, mountain views and overall the, how the property had really good bones. I took everything out that was in the property because I just didn't feel that it gave it that. You know, feel that we were going for. Um, so those are the two big things. The road conditions leading up to it and what kind of experience we would be able to provide, you know, as far as the mountain view.

[00:08:03] Madeline: And then the bonus part of all of this is that this property has 11 acres.

[00:08:09] Liam: Nice. So lots and lots of land around it. That's a lot

[00:08:12] Madeline: of land, eight, eight acres of like pure pasture. So what we did was we added like disc golf and we added like a little golf, you know, little, you know, hitting section. We have a beautiful, um, hot tub overlooking the mountains.

[00:08:26] Madeline: We created trails throughout. I mean, we really got very creative. We have children. And so we wanted. a place that our kids could also experience and enjoy.

[00:08:35] Liam: Looking back, when you first discovered that property, were you still teaching at the time?

[00:08:40] Madeline: No, no. So I had already been here, uh, a couple of years actually.

[00:08:44] Madeline: Yeah, about a couple of years. I was always into long term rentals. So back home, I was an educator. My husband is in a family business, um, but we always dabbled in real estate. So

[00:08:55] Liam: with your, was it much of a challenge getting the first one off the ground? What did you run into? What did you learn on this, on this first one?

[00:09:03] Madeline: You know, it wasn't challenging. It's I'll tell you a little bit of what was frustrating to me. And, you know, in hindsight, now I think about it, I should have asked more questions when it came to lending, because that was early 21 and I'm just thinking back, 21 had some really awesome interest rates, but because I hadn't really been, I hadn't been teaching, I really didn't have a job, I was selling real estate, but it was more residential.

[00:09:25] Madeline: The banks were looking at me and saying, well, you know, we really can't lend you a lot of money. And so that was the biggest challenge for me, not really diving in and looking at the other options because I could have gotten a DSDR loan. Now I have banks. just throwing, you know, their, their deals at me.

[00:09:41] Madeline: And it's just incredible how they have, have come from that first property to now owning my sixth in, you know, two years.

[00:09:50] Liam: How do you attract your current guests? Who, where do you market? And, uh, what, what, what do you do to try and get seen on those marketing channels?

[00:09:58] Madeline: That's a great question. With all of the different properties I have, they're all a little different.

[00:10:02] Madeline: Um, but what I, what I, what I will tell you is that I love these little tertiary smaller markets because I feel that I have completely dominated mine in North Carolina. And I may not want to share too much of my secrets, just kidding. Um, but I really utilized the community. Within that, um, you know, rally community of people that have drivers, you know, and so we started to advertise with a local.

[00:10:33] Madeline: What do you want to call them like website that has. I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of different followers. And so we said, Hey, listen, how do we collect, connect and collaborate so that we can share our beautiful, you know, amazing property to your guests or not guests to your, um, Readers and to your followers, and it's been a great partnership.

[00:10:58] Madeline: You know, I think I pay 600 a month. I'm sorry, 600 a year, and I get, uh, promoted four times a year. And I cannot tell you, Mark would be so proud of me because this has kind of been my way of getting direct bookings. My direct bookings at my place is that like 45%. Nice. Like that is insane. That's really good.


[00:11:20] Madeline: It's good to you. Look at my Airbnb Pro listing and I have, you know, over 40, um, reviews. The most of my guests in the past year and a half are coming through that website, which is so awesome.