Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, a podcast for REALTORS® brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. We are all about sparking conversations with inspiring people about all things Canadian real estate and topics that impact REALTORS®, and really all of us. I’m your host, Erin Davis and our guest for episode 18 of REAL TIME is actually a host in a lot of ways, and you’re going to find our chat fascinating. The appeal of vacation properties skyrocketed during the pandemic as Canadians look to create memories close to home. This scramble for real estate dovetails with another phenomenon, vacation rentals and the sharing economy.
With record numbers of people looking to get away close to home, can any property become a vacation property, and what are the pros and cons of investing in one? In episode 18 of REAL TIME, we take a closer look at the trends and opportunities with Heather Bayer. She’s a vacation rental expert, speaker, podcaster, broadcaster, and mentor of short-term rental managers and owners. Heather Bayer is also CEO of one of Ontario’s leading cottage rental agencies. We’re thrilled she could carve out time to be with us on REAL TIME during one of her busiest seasons ever. Thank you, Heather, for joining us. This feels like a virtual vacation and no matter the time of year, I think we can still all use one. I appreciate your time.
Heather Bayer: You’re absolutely welcome, Erin. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.
Erin: You’ve been in the vacation rental business for more than 20 years. How did you get into the industry, and what makes you so passionate about it? Tell us your story, Heather.
Heather: What it was, it was very much by accident. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since the 1980s. I love to start-up businesses, but until 1998, I’d had nothing to do with hospitality apart from partaking of it myself. In fact, at that time, back in 1998, I was running a management training company, I had a psychotherapy and hypnotherapy practice and happily hypnotizing people and running my training and it was great.
Then the adventure started. My brother was getting married in Midland, Ontario. Of course, as you know, from my accent, you can probably understand, I was in England at the time. He was getting married in Ontario. A week later, my niece was going to be married in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We had a family of 12 Brits and Scots, and we planned this two-week adventure and my brother organized our accommodation in Ontario. It sounded absolutely marvelous when he told us. It was a four-bedroom cottage on a pristine lake, and that’s all he said, and it’s something we never experienced before and we just couldn’t wait for this to happen.
What he conveniently forgot to tell us was that it was a water access-only property. Although we were ferried across to this cottage on this very nice motorboat by my future sister-in-law’s stepson, all we had after that was a tin boat with a nine horsepower motor, which was meant to ferry us back and forth to the mainland and the motor kept going wrong and things were happening. He also neglected to mention that the cottage hadn’t been occupied for the previous six months. At least it hadn’t been occupied by humans and it was overrun by mice and for the first three days, we cleaned the place.
Which sounds like a complete nightmare, but in fact, it was probably the most amazing vacation we’d ever had. We swam in the morning at dawn with the loons, I’m getting poetic here. We sat around the campfire telling stories and roasting marshmallows, and it was bliss, idyllic. On the last night, my sister and I sat on a rock and we were having a gin and tonic and looking out over the most amazing sunset, and I just said, “Hey, we could do this. We could actually buy a property and rent it out and do it much better”.
My husband always raises his eyebrows. When I always say those four words, “I’ve got an idea”, he wants to run a mile. I went back to UK and decided we’d go into the travel industry, and I was going to source the best in Ontario cottages and rent them to the British market. Oddly enough though, in a couple of years we did that, we got more business coming from Toronto, calling us in the UK and trying to rent a cottage two hours north of them.
Eventually, I moved out in 2003. I’d had enough of going backwards and forwards to Ontario every six weeks to buy another property because we kept buying them. We had six at one point and I was also looking at third-party properties and managing them from England. My husband had been in the UK military in the RAF for 35 years and it was time for him to retire. We said, “Hey, let’s move to Ontario.” That was the start of the adventure and here we are 18 years later.
I now run one of Ontario’s most popular rental management companies along with my business partner. We have 160 properties and I’ve written a book about how to rent. I have a podcast with 400 episodes and nearly a million downloads now, and I live, eat and breathe this business. Yes, the passion that started in 1998 has not waned one iota since then.
Erin: What an incredible story. I’m still stuck on the hook that you were a hypnotherapist and a psychotherapist because I want that in everybody that I know, oh my goodness, boy, you changed lanes in such a big way. Of course, the whole world did in the past year and a half, Heather, with COVID-19 having such a major impact on travel and tourism. What have been the immediate effects on Canadian vacation rentals that you’ve seen?
Heather: It’s been a story of famine and feast really because it depends where you are. Here in Ontario, we serve a domestic market, so 90% of our travelers come from the major cities from Toronto, with less so from Ottawa, but it’s domestic. When the borders closed and people couldn’t go traveling, they decided that they would stay at home and do the staycation, and that turned out to be the best year in 2020 for us. This year, 2021, it is just as busy, if not busier. We’ve never had busier years. However, that’s not the same for every part of Canada because there are areas that don’t have that high level of domestic travel. They have more international travel people crossing over the border.
For example, property managers and owners, let’s say in Canmore and Banff, less likely to have a domestic market because it’s only an hour or an hour and a half away from Calgary. People are more likely just to do a day trip rather than to book accommodation because the majority of their business comes from the US. Many of the managers I spoke to have told me about the famine effect. It’s been the same in the urban markets for those who had properties say in downtown Vancouver or in Toronto or in Montreal because people weren’t visiting the cities anymore. It has been either feast or famine.
Erin: Do you expect, Heather, the pandemic to influence any long-term trends even after we returned to, “Normal”?
Heather: The issue of what’s going to happen next year, don’t we all wish we had the crystal ball, and people say, “when we returned to normal”, always waving those air quotes to normal, we look at it two ways. We’ve had to explain to a lot of new owners this year when they bought properties and they paid a lot of money for it, and they are coming into it at a period of the highest rental rates we’ve ever seen.
We raised our rates between 25% and 30% this year just to remain competitive, and owners have come in saying, “This is amazing. I’ll feed this into my spreadsheet.” We’re going, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” 2022 could be very, very different because we don’t know what’s going to happen when international travel helps people to move south and move east and west, just go away from where they’d been stuck for the past 18 months.
On the other hand, some people have found the secret door to what’s in their backyard, which is lakes and areas of pristine natural beauty that they may not have even realized was so close to home. Yes, a crystal ball would be fantastic. I’m ever the positive. I always have a glass completely full, and I am suggesting that we will probably maintain some good rates next year, good occupancy, but there’s always a but isn’t there? We’ve also had this massive increase in rental inventory as well because everybody that’s come in and bought properties has been wanting to rent it. We’ve got a large inventory too. There’s a lot of moving parts in this and we have a lot of fingers crossed right now.
Erin: In talking about the prices of cottages and cabins having skyrocketed by as much as 30% and I’m sure you’ve seen percentages even higher than that, Heather, does renting the property suddenly make owning more realistic for the average Canadian?
Heather: I think it’s the only thing people can do unless they’ve got oodles of money and can maintain two properties, one of which they just spent way over the odds to get hold of, I think they have to rent. In the past, rental was seen as something that you did to just fund the project, fund the renovation or a new deck but now, the buyers that I’ve been speaking to over the past year see it as an absolute part of their investment strategy and it has to be built in to ensure costs are covered.
There’s the mortgage, there’s taxes, there are all the costs for rentos because many people have bought properties that need significant renos to be able to be put into the rental market. Yes, renting does make it more realistic.
Erin: Coming up with three kinds of rental property buyer. Are you one of them or perhaps one of your clients is? As we mark a year and a half of CREA REAL TIME episodes, why not take the time to do a bit of a deeper dive into some of the fascinating and still very timely chats we’ve had? REALTOR® Chris Jovic is an expert in his field on sustainability and you probably saw him quoted on CBC just last week in a piece about climate change and homeowners’ protection. You’ll find him in Episode Two of our first season. Subscribe, so you don’t miss any of our talks. Go to Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, or visit CREA.ca/podcast for more details.
You have cited that there are three types of buyers, can we break it down into the three, and then we’re going to focus on one of them in particular because I know you’ve piqued a lot of people’s interest in this today, Heather? Let’s dive into that a little bit, shall we?
Heather: Buyers come in many different shapes and forms but you can usually put them into three separate buckets and the first one is the traditional family buyer. This is usually people who’ve been brought up going to the second home, whether it’s on Vancouver Island, whether it’s in Ontario, whether it’s in Nova Scotia, it doesn’t matter. They’ve had the second home that they were brought up as kids going to on vacation.
As these kids have now grown up into adulthood with their own families, they want to recreate that and we see a lot of those, “We want to buy something so our children can experience what we did when we were kids”. Sadly, I don’t think it’s going to work out that way because when those parents were kids, there was no internet, technology wasn’t as it is now and I think it’s a little bit of a pipe dream expecting that their kids will be just as happy with some water and some sunshine and not have YouTube and TikTok however-
Erin: Logging on meant actually putting wood in the fireplace.
Heather: I love that. The second group are the retirees. The ones that are looking at it and thinking, well, if I don’t buy in now, I’m not going to get into it in the future and I want to retire to this place. They want to get in early, buy what will be their second home, and use rental to pay off as much of their costs as possible until the time comes for them to sell their primary home and moved to it. We see quite a large proportion of those as well and while they’re not using it, they’re going to pay for it by rental.
Then the third type are the pure investors and Airbnb has delivered us a lot more investors because it’s made it so much easier for people to get into the business and taken a lot of the work away from it. An investor can come in, buy a property, perhaps engage a co-host, somebody who will manage it for them online, and then they just sit back and take the money and that’s a very lucrative business if you’re doing it in the right area.
Erin: It sounds very lucrative. It sounds very attractive and now we’re going to focus on that, let’s hone in on number three, that third group. What would you say, Heather, are the benefits of owning or managing a vacation rental and don’t forget this woman has been doing this for 20– and I’ll say 20 odd years because I’m sure they have been odd, my dear.
Heather: Still are.
Erin: I bet you. Every day, a new adventure, if you want to call it that. All right, what are the benefits of owning or managing a vacation rental, Heather?
Heather: The benefit, certainly from an investor standpoint, is over a period of time, that property is going to increase in value, that’s basically it. When I started to invest here in Ontario, it didn’t take very long for my investment to increase in value, and I was able to use rental to pay all the costs involved, and the capital grew, and I sold each one for a nice profit, but that didn’t take very long. Now I think the benefit is only if the investor is going to be in there for the long haul because we don’t know what’s going to happen with property values.
There’s benefits to doing it yourself. There’s two models of running a short-term rental business. I say business because every single person who buys a property to rent is going into business. They’re joining the travel and tourism and hospitality business. Something I always say to my owners when we first take them on board as property management clients, is regardless of whether you’re doing it yourself or you’re using a property management company, you’ve now entered the hospitality industry and there’s huge responsibilities that come with that.
Erin: That really does seem like an aha moment, I think, for a lot of people, that suddenly you are part of the hospitality industry, you’re not just mom and dad renting out a cottage on an island or something, you’re part of a much bigger picture.
Heather: Yes and mom and dad did it 20 years ago and they just put the sign on the lawn or a classified ad in a newspaper but now to achieve success, it has to be done professionally. Every part of it has to be done professionally. From the photos that are taken, to the amenities that are offered, to the level of communication with guests. It’s no longer the quick phone call with somebody saying, “I want to rent your place” and you saying, “Yes, come and give me $750 at the door when you arrive on vacation and leave it as found.”
I’m glad I experience that actually because I remember arriving at so many properties to find that the previous guests hadn’t cleaned it so I had to start cleaning it myself but that was the way it was then. Now, it is so, so different. People are expecting– let’s talk about the guest expectations because guests, we don’t call them renters any more, they’re guests and they have massive expectations.
They expect their vacation rental to be as well presented as a good or top class hotel or resort and any deviation from that brings a complaint and that brings me to something else is that we live, eat and breathe by reviews. Anybody going into the business now has to understand that that you can’t go into it half-hearted because the moment somebody gives you a negative review, wherever you are, whether it’s on Google or Airbnb or VRBO, that almost can spell the death knell for your business at the very outset.
Erin: Coming up the pros of hashtag book direct. How many people use the bigger companies and why your client may want to go his or her own way or not? Whether it’s by a lake or walking distance to the best mall in the city, the heart of your home is the living room, we get that. It’s why REALTOR.ca Living Room is your source for free engaging content for your social feeds. From key 2021 housing trends to design tutorials, Living Room is here to bring you entertaining and inspiring articles. Pull up a chair and join us there, won’t you?
Now back to Heather Bayer, CEO of one of Ontario’s leading cottage rental agencies and our guest on REAL TIME. What share of vacation properties are independently owned and managed, do you think, Heather, versus those managed commercially or by an agency?
Heather: There’s two ways of renting out a property: one is the do-it-yourself model and the second one is to go with a property management company. I don’t think I’ve seen any real statistics that show what that ratio is. I would say it’s somewhere around 70% independently managed and maybe 30% are managed by professional agencies. I could be way off whack there but that’s what it’s certainly what it seems to be here in Ontario when I look at the wealth of properties that are available on some of the major listing platforms.
By listing platforms, I mean platforms like VRBO, what used to be Home Away, what used to be Canada Stays, they change every month, it seems and, of course, Airbnb, but if you go through Airbnb listings, you’ll see probably about 70% of them are managed by the owners and probably about 30% are managed by agents.
Erin: Do independent investors compete with property management agencies for the same business, do you think?
Heather: Oh, yes, absolutely. Yes, we all compete for the same travelers. I think what we have as property managers that stands us out is that we have much better marketing clout. We don’t have to just sit on Airbnb or VRBO. Every property management company has their own website; they go for the direct bookings. In that way, we tend to achieve many, many more repeat guests because we are encouraging people to come back to us. If you’re advertising on one of the major platforms as an independent owner, somebody will see your property and then perhaps go on to another property and never come back to you again.
At least with an agency, as a guest, they’re probably going to stick around with that agency if they get really good service. About 70% of our guests are our returnees every single year, not necessarily to the same property but they come back to our company every year. That’s the same for many of our competitor companies.
Erin: Well, and that’s the best review you can possibly get, isn’t it? That and referrals, right?
Heather: Oh, absolutely. When we have guests who are now on their 16th, 17th, 20th visit, and they post that on a Google review, you don’t get that if you are doing your own advertising. That’s a benefit. That’s real benefit of going with an agency. I always talk to new owners just about these two different options they have and suggest that, start with an agency and get your feet on the ground of this hospitality while somebody is holding your hand and they’re helping you through absolutely everything, they’re dealing with the issues that come up, but then sharing why those issues came up and how you can prevent them in the future.
We have a lot of owners who come to us maybe for the first one or two years and then go, “Right, I’m ready to take the training wheels off now”. They go off, they create their own websites, and love doing the marketing and management themselves. You have to bear in mind that it’s not just a matter of posting a listing on one of these websites, you have to expect to hear from your guests, sometimes 10 times a day with the most minor things.
Erin: Okay, the questions and I’m sure a lot of them have to do with things that maybe perhaps city dwellers have never seen before like there’s a skunk in the yard, what do I do? Or there’s squirrels or whatever, you’ve probably heard them all, Heather, I’m sure.
Heather: Well, yes. Just recently, “There’s a bat in the bedroom”.
Erin: Oh, how lovely.
Heather: Guest woke up in the night, and there’s a bat flying around the bedroom. This is two o’clock in the morning. Now we have a 24-hour call answering service and somebody will answer the phone at two o’clock in the morning. We were talking these guests through their panic and their fear and anger because we had let this bat in apparently.
Erin: Yes, really, your fault. That has to be something that a potential owner who’s looking to have guests in their property is going to have to be able to commit to. You are basically on call 24/7 or you’re not giving people maybe what they’ve come to expect.
Heather: That’s exactly it, Erin. We are on there 24/7 and I noticed last night, my customer service manager was still answering texts at half-past eleven about how to get the Wi-Fi to work in a property. For that guest, it is hugely important to them. They might be night people and they’re going to spend the evening and night working and they need that Wi-Fi. Yes, if you’re doing it yourself, you’ve got to have somebody who’s able to deal with those things at any time because we live in a 24-hour society and we can’t just say, no, you’re only allowed to have an emergency between the hours of this and this and your emergencies can only be in these categories.
Erin: Yes, that’s right. Because people aren’t all just there to kick back on floaties. There are people like us who work from remote locations and need that Wi-Fi. Okay, well, you know what, we’ve talked about remote locations in terms of truly rural and remote but can any property like a condo be a vacation property, Heather?
Heather: Any property. You’ve talked about RVs and trailers and things being turned into rentals. Yes, there’s tree houses and there’s yurts and air streams. Absolutely anything can be out there now as a short-term rental property, providing it meets with local regulations and that’s the big, big issue right now. Cities, townships, municipalities across the world are getting into the idea that this industry must be more regulated than it currently is.
Erin: Do you agree that it needs more regulation?
Heather: I do. I do agree that it needs some regulation. I’m fully in favor of licensing properties because I believe that a licensed short-term rental property that meets the proper safety regulations, et cetera, meets occupancy limits, is a responsible rental. The whole issue of responsible versus irresponsible rental is what has made some of these municipalities and townships go this route anyway. I’m in Huntsville, Ontario, we have a great system, every short-term rental property has to be licensed, somebody will come out to the property and check that there are fire extinguishers and CO monitors, et cetera. Check for egress.
You can’t rent a place with a bedroom that has no window, that hasn’t got the two methods of egress, for example. Once you’ve gone through the licensing, then it goes up on the township website and the guests actually pay a 6% hospitality tax to stay at that property. That tax goes to the township. Now, there’s arguments against this, but quite honestly, I think fair regulation is what we all need.
Erin: It is because there will always be those who ruin it for the rest of us and you also have to make peace with the neighbours too, in terms of occupancy and noise. We’ve all started to see signs in different areas that say “Ban short-term rentals”, and that’s not a nice feeling if you’re going in there for a week or two to know that you’re not welcome. If everybody’s on the same playing field– I do have a question, Heather, how much is the license? Do you know?
Heather: The licensing varies, certainly here, every township seems to have its own. They vary from $500 to $2,000. Once they get up to that level, they are trying to knock out the small players, which I think is a shame, because often, it’s the smaller rental operations that just renting two or three weeks a year to pay some taxes, those are the most responsible.
I think putting a high figure on licensing cuts those out. The people who are buying multiple properties, investing in multiple properties just to yield the greatest income aren’t going to be bothered by $2,000. I prefer to see the lower rate, $300 to $500 on an annual basis to pay for inspection and have some fair criteria for rental. One of them being occupancy so that we don’t see a three-bedroom cottage being open to 20 people, for example,
Erin: Right, there’s that. That’s where their screening of the potential guests comes in too. It goes back to being in the hospitality industry. If you’re just some person who’s playing with a whole bunch of little houses and hotels on the Monopoly board, you don’t really care who goes into them but if you’re invested in that property and in your neighbours, you want to make sure that those people going into that place are not going to be partying at all hours because they’re on vacay, right? Or in the one case, you had someone who was complaining because the guests were too darn friendly.
Heather: This is an issue that you will get in more residential areas where there’s been an influx of short-term rentals where it was all generally nice and tranquil residences, and now you have what they’re calling the revolving door. Every week, a new group arrives. Every week, they’re excited and they can’t wait to get going on vacation, and they meet the neighbours and the next-door neighbour is really friendly and they ask him over for a drink or ask the family for a barbecue. That was when we did hear from one neighbour of a property that said, “I really like having the rentals next door but could you possibly tell them to stop being so friendly?”
He said, “Because if I responded to every request or every invitation for me to come across for drinks and a barbecue”, he said, “I’d never get my gardening done”.
Erin: Oh my goodness, one must have his priorities. Oh boy.
Erin: When we return with Heather Bayer, the important big eight questions a REALTOR® needs to ask if a client is considering buying a property and entering that hospitality business of which Heather speaks. Here’s another number, nearly two million, that’s how many searches there were for REALTORS® on REALTOR.ca in 2020. You can make the most of those visits with the REALTOR.ca tools provided as part of your CREA membership.
What questions should a REALTOR® ask their client to determine what kind of vacation property is going to be the best fit? Because I think if I’m living in, let’s say Toronto, because you’re talking about Toronto and Midland, I think, okay I’d like to get someplace say up in Georgina or Keswick. Certainly, I can’t go in there knowing little but a REALTOR® who’s going to represent you should make sure you’re going to be the right fit for this kind of a position as a hospitality owner. Help us help REALTORS® know what to ask and find the right fits. Would you please, Heather?
Heather: I think it’s really important that a REALTOR® assesses what the buyer’s goals are for rental, is it for pure investment? You want to get the maximum out of the property. In that case, then the property they should look out should be year round not a seasonal property. Also, to find out what level of ownership they want. How much do they want to use it themselves. Because you get to this point where you think, do they want this as a pure rental? In which case they might want an entirely different property from one that they’d want to use themselves.
For example, a nice riverside property that is rentable year-round may suit somebody who wants to get as much rental income as possible because a river property will rent. It’ll rent really well, but it may not suit a family who wants to use a Sea-Doo or go water skiing. They will be better off getting out onto a lake. Whereas rental guests in general don’t have their own boats, so they have different needs. It’s a matter of assessing the needs of the owner and telling them about the different types of things that guests want because often what owners want and what guests want a very, very different.
I actually like to, if it’s okay, I’ve got some questions actually, that an owner would ask a REALTOR®, which is turning your question around a bit, but there’s eight key questions that your buyers could ask. If you can get these answers right, then you’re going to have a happy buyer who buys the right place.
The first one is, they’re going to say, what’s the best area to buy for getting the best rental occupancy? You mention Georgina and Keswick, that may be okay in terms of summer occupancy, not great for the Winter. You might know that to get up somewhere where there’s a ski area, maybe not so much Collingwood, but perhaps up towards Mount St. Louis Moonstone, about two hours north of Toronto, they’re going to get better rental value in that area. It’s about knowing the different areas where they’re going to get the best occupancy.
Second question: what rental rate should I expect in each location? That’s just a matter of researching what’s being charged for different styles and types of property.
The third question is what do rental guests look for in a vacation property in this location? Your knowledge of the tourism demographic is important. If you have that information to hand to know that there’s a strong winter market and to know that you’d need an open source of heat, a fireplace and a sauna, might be more important than a on-suite bathroom, for example. Travelers have very different needs than the second homeowner who’s using it for their own purposes.
The fourth question would be, do you know of anybody who can manage the property in my absence or who can manage a property for me? That’s all about talking to local property managers, rental managers and finding out what services they offer and perhaps going into some referral partnership or something like that. We work with quite a number of real estate agents just on a very flexible basis that really, really helps because they know how we work.
The fifth question we’ve just covered, every REALTOR® needs to know what restrictions there are in any area because these restrictions are becoming more commonplace. Awareness of zoning, bylaw restrictions, anything that’s there and also anything that’s upcoming. It’s always worthwhile really. This is a really good tip that I heard from somebody else is in an area where somebody is looking, go into the municipality or the township website and look at their meeting minutes and just put it in the search box, short-term rental. Something may come up that says somebody raised this and there’s a likelihood that there’s going to be some action taken in the future.
Number six: how is rental income taxed? That’s always good to know because we’re always asked that, I always refer people to an accountant, but you will get asked that question.
Then number seven is knowing what the seasonality of rental activity is in the location. Majority of areas have seasonality built into the rental potential. Just go into the local tourism office. They will usually have that information on the inbound traveler demographic. Low and shoulder season vacancies can really impact a bottom line. Any prospective owner wants to have a clear indication of what they should expect, particularly in areas where there’s a high concentration of rental properties.
Lastly, and I touched on this, is who is this rental demographic? Where did the guests come from? As we’ve seen in the last two years, that is super, super important. Is it a driving location? Is a domestic market? Is it predominantly flying? What’s the age demographic? How long do they stay? Do they stay for short, two nights? Do they stay for weeks?
Those are the eight questions that I think every REALTOR® should be prepared to answer. You could actually create a binder for prospects demonstrates that the vacation rental business and how it’s presented and operated in your area because that’s so invaluable for anybody wanting to invest.
Erin: Absolute gold. There’s more to come including a real eye opener for me and probably for you on how potential property owners can keep their eye on just how many people are in their place. It’s not how you think. I love learning new things through hosting REAL TIME and I hope you feel the same way listening. Here’s another way of tapping into the knowledge of REALTORS® across the country and sharing your own lessons and insights. Visit REALTORS® Corner on CREA Café, a hub of content created by REALTORS® for REALTORS®. Check it out.
We return now to Heather Bayer, vacation rental expert, a speaker, podcaster, broadcaster, and mentor of short-term rental managers and owners. Heather Bayer is also CEO of one of Ontario’s leading cottage rental agencies. She wants us to remind you to #bookdirect.
Before we look back at 2021 and maybe ahead into 2022, let’s talk a little bit about high-tech. You mentioned a binder and there something about holding a folder in your hand and looking through those pages and knowing that your REALTOR® knows her or his stuff when it comes to what you want to know. I can’t even fathom the changes that you’ve seen in the past 20 years in what you’re doing and how it has changed things. How do you anticipate tech is going to further transform the short-term rental industry in the future specifically post pandemic, Heather?
Heather: Tech has come a long, long way. Nowadays there is tech for everything. I was talking to an owner this morning who was talking about how do we know how many people there are in their property? In the past, I would’ve said, well, you don’t, you don’t. Once people arrive, if it’s a remote-ish property, you don’t know whether they brought in 10 of their friends. Now you can use a device called StayFi. That ensures that anybody in the property who wants to connect to the Wi-Fi has to register their email address.
Erin: Oh, that’s good.
Heather: There is another one called Party Squasher. That one just detects how many working devices there are in the property. It would detect how many phones, how many tablets, et cetera.
Erin: Wow. I thought you were going to go with ring cameras and stuff, and that can get hanky, right? People don’t want big brother or sister watching over them, but it’s your Wi-Fi, you’re paying for this? Oh my, that’s fascinating, Heather.
Heather: There’s a third one called NoiseAware. Which I love NoiseAware. This is better for maybe for condos because it measures the decibel level in your home. You can set it to a particular level and for a particular duration. If you’ve got a family in there and they’ve got a screaming baby, then it’s going to register. If that goes on for an hour, you might consider that maybe it’s not a screaming baby, it may be this fledgling party just kicking off.
Erin: Or hit the Mary Poppins App and make her appear and take care of the child. That’s your next thing, Heather.
Heather: As an entrepreneur, I’ve just filed that away.
Erin: All right, so let’s do this. Let’s fast forward a few months. How do you hope to describe 2021 when you look back on the year?
Heather: Best year ever.
Erin: Good for you.
Heather: Well, that’s me. I hesitate to say that because it sounds as my nine-year-old granddaughter goes, “Grandma, you’re bragging”.
Erin: You’re not bragging if you can do it. That’s what I say.
Heather: Exactly. Yes, best year ever, but also, I look back on a year of learning because we’ve had plenty of time to learn. The first six months of our year were canceled, basically. We’ve had everybody out there learning new stuff. It’s also been a year of tolerance. We’ve learned that everybody is so different and people will react to things in very, very different ways. We’ve seen that more so in the last year. I think we’re coming out of this. I’m talking in terms of my company, we’re coming out of it as a kinder, more tolerant and accepting company.
We are far more accepting of somebody who’s going to flip out because the neighbours have a party one night, and we’re far more accepting of somebody who goes bananas because there’s an ant. People are reacting. We used to say they’re overreacting, but no, they’re just reacting a little bit differently to what they would normally do. I really thought about this and I think tolerance is the biggest thing that’s come out of it for us, but also a lot of excitement about getting out of all this and what’s going to happen in the future.
Erin: Oh, I love your full glass, Heather. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for joining us. It’s been insightful, delightful. I got to give you a plug here because you’re in the midst of writing a course.
Heather: Yes, I am building a course for people who are going into this business, who are going to invest and want to treat it as a business. I wrote a book back in 2005 and then went into the podcast. Now I think I’m trying to get it all down into a really easy to digest course.
Erin: The book was reprinted in 2007, so your message is getting through and the changes, it seems like it’s almost time for a re-up, in your spare time, Heather.
Heather: Well, that book in 2007, when I look back on it, and particularly I look back on the marketing side, and it’s how to write your classified ad.
Erin: Oh my gosh, it was delightful talking to you, Heather. Thank you so much and may the future be as full as you see it. You deserve everything.
Heather: Thank you so much, Erin, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you.
Erin: Don’t miss our next REAL TIME Episode. We’re going to the polls in a few weeks, and our CREA REAL TIME Team, along with Alphabet Creative is putting together analysis in real-time as we move into the future in Canada.
REAL TIME is produced by Rob Whitehead and REAL family productions plus Alphabet® Creative. Thanks again for joining us. I’m Erin Davis. We’ll talk to you again soon on REAL TIME.
Vacation properties have been around for decades, but their popularity has sky-rocketed over the last few years. What’s driving that trend, and how is it changing the current market? Heather Bayer, co-founder of Vacation Rental Formula, joins us for a deep dive into the dos and don’ts of vacation property investment, how the sharing economy has affected the way vacation rental businesses operate, and the responsibilities all owners have to their guests and neighbours. From helping your clients find their own vacation property, to what the next year may hold, Episode 18 of REAL TIME is a must-listen for the latest trends and insights.