Western QC


Genevieve Walton
Sarah: I'm excited to hear what you've got for us tonight. Take it away.

Genevieve: Perfect. Thank you so much for having me and good evening. My name is Genevieve. I am the proud owner of Short and Sweet BNB and Flex Property Development here in Ottawa, Ontario. And essentially we service the area of our prior to Hawkesbury. I'm going to take you through a little bit about my experience with short-term rentals. To give you a little background, we started in 2017. I used to work for a property management company before then and the traditional long-term rental market. And the rental and redevelopment projects of both redevelopment projects for furnished executive stays as well as unfurnished long-term rentals.

Very interesting experience, lots of aspects of the landlord tenant board, tenant placement services, that sort of stuff. I saw a need for short-term rentals to emerge in this market. No one was really operating at a larger scale and you started to see US companies coming out with what a traditional property management company would look like, but it just focuses on the short-term base.

To give a little perspective of what a short-term rental is. Here in Ottawa, we classify a short-term rental as anything less than 30 days. Some people do think it's 28 days because of February, but we do have it as a 30 days or less classifies as a short term rental here in Ottawa, there's different types of hosts.

Essentially there's pro hosts, which is what we are, we're professional. It's a certain level of clientele that you have in terms of revenue and properties manage, then you're a Superhost. Superhosts are known for exponential hospitality, great hospitality that before. And then there's hosts that are just learning the market and coming in and working their way up to super host status or pro host status.

When you're looking at short-term rentals. I think people think that a short term rental is anything that's booked on Airbnb, which isn't true. Short-term rentals and long-term rentals actually are booked on Airbnb. We have people that book for a full year on Airbnb, which is a very cool process as well.

But a short term rental is anything less than 30 days. I said it can be booked on VRBO. Expedia, bookings.com and most traditionally you'll see Airbnb being the leader in that platform. I think one of the coolest parts about short-term rentals is it's actually a very logistical company. Especially if you're operating in various locations like we do you'll be seeing that you are more or less how you can move your cleaners around the systems and processes that you put in and how efficient you can output these Airbnb. And in some sense, automate them as well. And I'll talk about automation a little bit as well.

You'll see a lot in the market for short term rentals about people talking about how you can start up for my course for $400 and I'll teach you how to make millions on Airbnb. I'll tell you my highest time that I had on Airbnb, which was in summer of 2019, I had 257 Airbnbs running strictly on the short-term rental market and strictly on Airbnb.

There are ways to automate it, but the whole process cannot be automated. A lot goes into your team. A lot goes into company culture. And that to me is something that you can't automate.  When people are trying to sell you on these courses and that sort of stuff I'll be quite honest. It doesn't work automation fully. It's not going to get you 257 units.

30 units is that critical point where you'll start to see that it is very challenging after 30. To manage and you'll start to see that you are automating linen processes. How quickly can you output linens and laundry and that sort of stuff? How quickly can you move cleaners around the city?
All of our cars, for example, had trackers on it and we were just collecting data. Quick points of how to get through the city and how to manage these cleaners effectively. Because that was our biggest aspect. In our prime in 2019, we would be cleaning between 60 and a hundred Airbnbs per day.

And on average, our cleaners will travel around six kilometers per day. It's not actually that much, they're pretty much just going in circles and that's because a lot of our buildings are multi-unit buildings that you'll see as you go along. Why do people start turning to Airbnb? I think it was a very untapped market.

I don't think many people are exploring that, but I think the biggest thing was there was a little bit higher income. There were also higher expenses that were associated with it, but it gave you a lot of flexibility and a lot of freedom. What you're finding right now is a lot of landlords are actually turning to short-term rentals again.

Because of issues with the landlord tenant board, because of during COVID payment issues, potentially and landlords just being nervous, running strictly on a traditional standard lease agreement. I think because of issues with the landlord tenant board was why I have such a successful business on the short-term rental side, because what I like to say, it's probably payment prop recourse, where the landlord tenant board, it's eight, 10 months to get a verdict where with Airbnb, it's very quick to get payment and a quick recourse, if there's any.

You'll start to see that as you go. Leadership is such a critical point in this community, especially when you're running high volumes. At one point we did have security that worked for us as well, who were going from property to ensure that the places were safe, that nothing was happening in the units.

During COVID that's stopped because, not having parties is a little bit more tame. But during those times external cameras were on the place and really you're the thought leader in that community. What I like to talk about is self-regulation. Essentially, I wanted to regulate this market with other Airbnb hosts to ensure that it was safe.

I would say in general, that Airbnb hosts want absolutely the best experiences for their desks, clean, safe properties, but they also want to say community. Picking up garbage, making sure that every guest is abiding by the house rules as well, and looking out for their community. And I think that it was very important that leadership was at the forefront for these units as well.

What's happening with short-term rentals here in Ottawa and it could back in general. At least from my experience during the pandemic once the pandemic hit, we actually had Airbnb cancel all of our reservations. And that was a very hard time for a couple of days because no one really knew how to navigate that change.

It actually turned out better than I could've expected. And what ended up happening was traditionally with short-term rentals. You started to see people coming in like tourists for weekends and that sort of stuff. Our average day stay was 5.6 days from 2017 until 2020 essentially was 5.6 days.
It's now moved to 18.4 days on average that guests are staying. At the beginning of the pandemic, all of these reservations were canceled. It actually made your calendar wide open. And there was an influx of people coming back to the country, needing to self isolate, but there was also an influx of diplomats coming back.

They took over larger homes that we had in Westborough and in Glebe and nicer homes that they could offer. For longer periods of time that you then started to see house closings being delayed. The housing market started to beat up very rapidly. And people really need transit accommodations to assist with the changing lifespan of what they are doing right now.

I think what was a very cool aspect was then you started to see people renovate their homes. You actually started to see people from your own community seen in these Airbnbs. And they would stay for two or three months. The average day has extended. And the occupancy rate for us has fluctuated between 81% and 91% pre-pandemic.

We were around 92% to 94%. It hasn't decreased that much throughout the pandemic, but it is longer term. I came into something. We call an executive furnish day which is 30 days or more. And I'll talk about that in a second. There are some upcoming regulations for short term rentals here in Ottawa.

They are set to go to council on Thursday for review and then for both on the 28. At which point should someone decide that they want to appeal that process through ELPAT? They have 20 days to file. Most of those come into zoning violations that you'll start to see. But if there's no pending appeal, it could come into effect on June 1st, there is a permit process. It took Toronto about four to six months to roll that out. We're still a little bit away, even if there wasn't an appeal. But on average it's when they're talking about the process of regulation, they're looking to make sure that it's your primary residence.

You actually live in that space that the place is clean and safe for someone to stay there's insurance requirements as well as safety requirements, that sort of stuff. And I think most of here in Ottawa are for regulation to some extent to ensure that the places are safe, but they're not necessarily maybe on board with all the limitations that have come as well.

It'd be interesting to see how those ones pan out as well. We do have something called OSTRA, which is the Ottawa Short-Term Rental Association. If an appeal were to go forward, OSTRA would be representing that appeal which is what Toronto did as well. It took about two years for that appeal process through ELPAT to go through.

And that would be something that the Ottawa Short Term Rental Association would be looking at debt funding and moving forward through ELPAT for that. Like I said short-term rentals have really moved into a midterm market of 30 days or more. And that's something that we call an executive furnish day and traditionally executive first states, our corporate stays.

They tend to be a company looking to place one of their employees at a new relocation for work insurance placement. If someone's had a flood or fire in their property and they need housing in the interim or people between closing and a new build. I actually pivoted back in October of 2019 because of pending regulations.

Like I said, at the highest point we had around 250 running on the short-term rental market. I now have about 85 running short-term rentals. We've actually pivoted the majority of those back in September of 2019 onto a mid term rental market who would have known the pandemic would have hit right after that.

It was actually a very good time to pivot. But executive furnish days of 30 days or more I think is a great untapped market. It's a very safe market. It's a very stable market and it tends to be homeowners who are looking for interim housing. For whatever reason they might be needing it.
They tend to take great care of the property. And I would say it's a mid level in terms of your cash flow. It's not as great as short-term rentals, but there's also not the expenses that are associated with it. And it is definitely a little bit more cash flow than the long-term rental market.

What I like about the midterm rental market is because it is furnished. It does provide you flexibility. You can keep it on the long-term rental market furnish, medium or short term. And I think there's a lot of flexibility within that style of renting that people don't exactly explore fully, it also doesn't really impact with.

The landlord tenant board as much, we called a transit unit, which essentially a there's an applied end date. Someone's renovating their home. We know that they will be leaving sooner than later, as soon as their properties are ready to go back. It's a little bit different than, let's say, having someone who you have no idea when they'll necessarily leave at that time.

That's about it for me, what I would say is if you're interested in running a short term until the takeaways that I have are a lot of it's about systems and processes, about how efficient you can move people around in larger skills about how great your team is and how you can automate some processes of it. To speed up that process.

I think the ability to pivot will be your lifeline. I think there's a lot of things that are happening with this pandemic that are affecting short-term rentals. For example, you're seeing cottage rentals, just boom right now. And that might not happen in the next longer period of time.

I would also say that your team is extremely important. I am incredibly lucky to have the team that I have that works with me day to day. They are very kind, they're very caring to these guests but they are also very attentive and very much know that this is the logistical company, rather than maybe it's a short term rental. It runs exactly. I would say like a little Amazon of how you can move and how you can develop these processes around. Thank you very much for having me.

Sarah: Thank you, Genevieve, that was awesome. And I do agree with you. There's an untapped market with those midterm rentals. My Burlington units there's two units on the Burlington property. That's what I've been focusing on. I think it's just more out of default. It started as a short-term thing. And then obviously with COVID I had a few people in the quarantine team, which was a couple of weeks at a time. That was good. And then I got a lot of those people that are in between homes. They've sold one, they're moving to another.

There was like a month to three months gap and I'll tell you. My upper unit right now is booked solid until September from 30 days, 60 days, 90 day stays. And then my basement one, it doesn't always get booked as fast, but it'll get booked as well. And I will tell you, there is a lot less hands-on maintenance cleaning in between and all that stuff.

You're not replenishing, for that 90 day stay only at the beginning. And the cashflow is still a lot better in my opinion, than if it was a long-term renter in their end. We still have the ability to know that these people have a house that they purchased. They're waiting for it to close, or they're waiting for it to finish being built.

They're not going to be the typical tenants that know the rules, know the laws, want to play, want to play. If you do something wrong. I think that's a great opportunity for all of us here to start thinking a little bit of how to increase, how to boost cash flow, especially in a market tight like this where prices are a little bit higher and how you really create that cash flow.

It may not be long-term anymore right now. Jen van, thank you for enlightening us, giving us that information. That was awesome. And guys, Genevieve's email is right here. If you want to reach out.