How I Weathered the Airbnb Apocalypse, Manage 100 Properties


This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jamie Inlow, 32, the founder of Be Still Getaways. Insider has verified Inow’s earnings and listings. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I loved the idea of running an Airbnb. But it wasn’t until my family moved to Scottsville, Virginia, in 2019 that I had the opportunity.

I was working as a program director for Appalachian State University but wanted a better work-life balance to spend time with my son. I thought Airbnb would give me that flexibility.

My neighbor’s sheep barn was a golden opportunity

Our neighbor in Scottsville owned a sheep farm. In June 2019, he showed me his barn with an apartment above that was standing empty. The farmer and his family had a busy life and no time to do anything with it.

When I saw the apartment, I went home that night and wrote a business plan.

I proposed that my neighbor give me $2,000 to furnish the apartment and rent it on Airbnb. I’d manage it and we could split the profits. The following day, he left an envelope of money on my front porch.

Be Still Getaways luxury apartment

Inlow started sourcing the furniture for her Airbnb makeovers on Facebook Marketplace. Be Still Getaways via BI

It took 6 months to complete the apartment makeover

I sourced all the furniture from Facebook Marketplace driving for hours after work to pick up my bargains. As we were using an agricultural property as an Airbnb, we also needed to file extra paperwork. All in, it took six months to transform.

When I wasn’t working at the university, I was sourcing furniture and decorating. We opened in early 2020, and our first guests were a young family. They loved it so much, they returned three or four times.

I started a short-term-rental management company

While still working full time, I launched a short-term-rental management company that offered services such as interior design and maintenance.

I hired an SEO company for $500 a month during my first year of business to create hashtags for the property and help with the text for my Instagram page and website.

I also increased the profile of the barn by reaching out to rising influencers who would post in return for a free stay.

Be Still Getaways luxury apartment with pool

A property Inlow manages in Charlottesville, Virginia. Be Still Getaways luxury apartment via BI

Facebook helped me expand my portfolio

I posted on Facebook about my brand called “Be Still Getaways.” One of my old school friends messaged me to say she’d just bought two buildings in downtown Staunton, Virginia, and needed someone to manage them.

I was doing everything on my own for about a year — working as an educational consultant, cleaning the Airbnbs, and looking after my son. I was burning the candle at both ends. But I couldn’t leave my job as an educational consultant, as we also had taken out a loan on a new home for the family.

In late 2020, the business took a real shift when a local real estate agent sent me a DM on Instagram. She had clients who were looking for places to live temporarily until the house they were buying or renovating was available and the properties I managed were perfect.

By January 2021, I was managing 4 properties

In January 2021, I was managing four properties and had to hire some help for the cleaning. Through word of mouth, I found an ex-nurse who’d started to offer cleaning services. She is now our full-time operations manager.

In April 2021 we had to stop renting the barn because of new zoning regulations. That was the first bump in the road, but it didn’t slow me down.

The estate agent and I eventually went into partnership and launched Carriage House in August 2021. It’s an umbrella company for her real-estate company and Be Still Getaways that offers move-in ready homes for short-term investment properties.

Working with a local real estate agent streamlined my business model

She sells short-term rental properties as investment opportunities, and I manage them.

I’d suggest that anyone who runs an Airbnb connects with the Realtor in their community with the best reviews. That person will know all the contractors, plumbers, and electricians.

Initially, the projects I took on were facelifts; now Carriage House works on full-scale rehab projects.

Be Still Getaways luxury apartment in Virginia

Working with a local real estate agent meant Inlow could be more picky about the projects she took on. Be Still Getaways via BI

Interior of a Be Still Getaway logde

Be Still Getaways prioritizes the aesthetics of the short-term rentals they manage. Be Still Getaways via BI

I spent the first couple of years learning about the business and understanding the market. The units that I rented were based on what the owners came to me with. This still happens, but now my partner will match potential investment properties with investors and then the Be Still Getaways team will give the property a makeover.

Having control of the design process gives us an edge, and I strongly believe shaping each property in our unique style has contributed to our success.

We can turn around smaller units in two weeks, but large units that need renovations and architect meetings and involve engineers can take three months to a year.

My partner and I run this Airbnb business full time

I didn’t leave my consultancy job until July 2022 as my husband and I were also building our family home. We had made $300,000 in revenue in the first half of that year, and our future pipeline looked strong.

My husband worked as a teacher before he joined the team in June 2023 to oversee our lawn care. Some of our properties have acres of land. With the homes, inns, and motels, we now manage 133 individual listings.

Contracts with owners ebb and flow and not all travelers are looking for the same type of getaway, so having an array of properties has helped our business. We now have seven employees and 50 contractors.

The stylish interior of a Be Still Getaways property.

The stylish interior of a Be Still Getaways property. Be Still Getaways via BI

A great cover photo on Airbnb and a hot tub can maximize bookings

When I make over a unit, I’m always thinking about the cover photo that advertises it. You have milliseconds to appeal to guests scrolling through short-term rentals.

We also do a lot of leveraging of amenities. The No. 1 thing to do to boost your occupancy is to add a hot tub.

I cannot believe the number of people who go on Airbnb and filter by the words “hot tub.” I’ve added hot tubs to properties because of this. Our owners are receptive to our upgrades and will happily pay for them.

Hot tub and deck in a Be Still getaways apartment

A hot tub in one of Inlow’s managed properties. Be Still Getaways via BI

I use Eviivo to manage my properties. It’s a single system through which I can manage bookings on sites such as, Vrbo, and Airbnb.

I also use a pricing software called PriceLabs, which changes the rate depending on whether it’s a public holiday.

We’re also about to launch an AI concierge, which will answer guests’ initial questions and be a time saver for me.

We added midterm stays to keep our bookings up

One way that we’ve kept our bookings buoyant is that we introduced a large selection of midterm stays — 31 days or longer — to our listings.

It has been a huge way to diversify our portfolio. We found they’re popular with academics, people in the medical profession, or those renovating a home. I use hashtags such as #travelnurses or #mid-termstays on Instagram posts.


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