Nearly 10 years ago, VRMA member Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris set out with a single, seemingly simple goal: list her condo online to generate rental income. Although meeting that goal proved more difficult, Jennifer eventually found success and learned lessons along the way that can benefit all VR managers.
In 2007, Jennifer bought a condo in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and quit her teaching job to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool her children. To help pay the bills, Jennifer relied on her condo, which her father helped her fix up, to generate rental income.
Then tragedy struck. Six weeks after Jennifer bought her condo, her father died unexpectedly. In addition to grieving the loss of her father, Jennifer was now financially responsible for three properties—her home, her condo and a family home in Vermont that she inherited. She now made rental income from her condo her top priority.
But doing so wouldn’t be easy. The management company Jennifer used to list her condo lacked the tools needed to adequately promote her property. “There was no website and they didn’t take credit cards. Additionally, the onsite phone was rarely answered,” says Jennifer. “They asked me for photos of my property so that people who walked in off the street could look at the property. Even back in 2007, I knew travel was being booked online, not on walk-ins!”
Jennifer knew that getting her property online was crucial. “I literally got up one morning and said, ‘I’m not going to bed until I have pictures of my condo on the internet,’” says Jennifer.
Jennifer began generating $25,000 a year renting her two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo and developed GreatOceanCondo.com. “It was nothing but a simple landing page—just a place to show photos online,” says Jennifer. “Our company has trademarked the phrase ‘Look Before You Book,’ and our customers do!”
Soon, other owners shared their similar struggles with Jennifer. She began marketing their condos on her site, and the properties she managed multiplied. Jennifer says she has been able to double—and in some cases triple—their rental income. Last year, her properties grossed over $4.1 million in rental revenue. She now manages 230 properties, and has upgraded to a more accurate website: GreatOceanCondos.com. Jennifer employs a staff of 15 and has office hours seven days a week.
When Jennifer gained traction after listing her property online, others took notice. Jennifer shares how she built fruitful relationships with other owners:
Prior to starting GreatOceanCondos.com, I served on the rental committee for our beautiful oceanfront complex in New Smyrna Beach. We hit roadblock after roadblock with the board of directors, most of whom were nonrenting members of the community. In the building of 85 properties, 60 of them were rental units, so the majority was certainly on our side. Without the support of the board of directors we were going nowhere fast. That’s when [I decided] to take over the management of my unit myself. I went from generating $12,500 a year to $25,000 a year. I shared my stories with others in my building, who shared that story with their friends in other buildings, picked up a few in my building, starting sending direct mailers to other complexes around town, and here we are today with 230 properties serving 5,000 reservations a year with over 20,000 guests driving $5 million in revenue to our property owners.