When you find it, you know- the FOREVER home. A place where you can envision starting or expanding a family, hosting holiday dinners, holding gatherings with friends, imagine growing old. Whether it hits you right away or you grow into it over time, the forever home can give you a sense of permanence that can be so comforting.
House hunting with Rachel and Kelly in the summer of 2016, it was clear, they wanted that forever feeling. Rachel, from Utah and Kelly, from Texas, met in Arizona, fell in love, got married, made a lovely home….then got job transferred back to Texas. After a couple years in Texas in a great rental, the couple had another job transfer opportunity to bring them back to Phoenix! They were ecstatic- the desert really felt like home to them, they missed their friends and were eager to buy, put down some roots and make their home a forever…
(both photos taken on closing day in 2016)
During the house hunt in the summer of 2016, the market was hot, houses were selling quickly and prices were rising. They made two trips out to view homes during that time and we just couldn’t find the right fit. We looked at many homes together and began narrowing down what mattered most- a great neighborhood, a cool house and room to expand.
When the perfect house hit the market, Rachel and Kelly were in Texas. The couple put in an offer sight-unseen and Kelly booked a flight. In fact, Rachel never saw the property in person until after they had closed on the home! The house was beautiful then, but since that time, Rachel and Kelly have really made the property something special. The couple added professional landscaping to the expansive front yard, recently added a modern pool to the side yard and inside the home, they continue to collect art and furniture- making the house come to life with color and decor.
As life would have it, or rather, as work would have it, Kelly was just transferred again to California! The family, excited for another adventure, wasn’t sure about what to do with their home. Selling their “forever” was not an option. They began exploring the possibility of leasing their home both long term and temporarily- and settled on their home’s new normal. They would rent in California and keep their home for when they wanted to visit and in the meantime, rent it out as a high-end vacation rental.
One weekend while Rachel was back in Phoenix to put the finishing touches on the house, we met up to talk about their new vacation rental business venture, their future plans and their brand new pool! Kelly joined us via face time to join in on the fun.
N: Why do you consider the desert home?
R: I don’t know, but It definitely feels like home versus anywhere else. I grew up in Utah and moved to Phoenix when I was 21. So maybe it’s because I’ve spent my adult life here. When I originally moved here, I actually didn’t see the beauty in the desert. It may have taken a year or two, but it’s almost like I just woke up one day and thought, this place is so beautiful. Since originally moving here this is my 2nd time moving away from the desert and I always miss it when I’m gone. Whenever I get into town (Phoenix), it just feels really good. This might be a little out there…but sometimes I wonder if it has to do with my Native American roots. But most importantly, I met my husband here, we’ve created a life here together and for the past 3 years, have raised our son here.
K: I have moved around a lot. I’ve lived in 10 states – never really staying anywhere long enough to plant roots until I met Rachel. Work has forced us to move a couple of times which is fine – the adventure continues. But when we’re gone, we appreciate home even more. And even if we’re gone for longer than we expect this time, we’ll remember those early years with Quinn here. The last few years here we have made a lot of new, quality friends as well. So they are a big part of making home, feel like home.
N: What made your family decide to vacation rent your home vs. long term rent?
R: We absolutely love Phoenix and our home. We loved the idea of vacation rental vs a long term rental, so that we could visit throughout the year.
K: I think we have always had the idea of having a vacation rental property of some kind and we love sharing our home with others, so in some ways the idea of sharing our home this way seemed natural and fun. Also, I think holding the home as-is, not taking our things and being able to come back to what we remember, makes the whole transition easier on the family. We didn’t really say goodbye
N: What reservations do you/did you have about it?
R: I don’t think I’ve really have any… Kelly?
K: Ask me again in 2 months! For better or worse, we are pretty trusting people. Maybe just a little worry that others may not always respect our home the way we would. But, if things don’t work out – we put our things in storage and rent it out traditionally. It’s somewhat of an experiment.
N: Did you consider having your home professionally managed? Who did you consider?
R: We did consider having the home professionally managed. We considered a couple companies. Turnkey came to mind and they seemed like a great option.
Kelly: Evolve is another I looked at because they just handle the bookings and charge a much lower commission.
N: What made you decide to handle it on your own?
R: We decided to handle the rental on our own, because the management companies take a pretty hefty commission. They definitely earn their commission, but I feel like I’m up for the challenge of managing the house myself. I’ve stayed home with our 5 year old since he was born, but now that school has started, I’ve got the time and am excited to figure out this little business venture on my own. Worst case scenario is that we need somebody in Phoenix managing the house and then we hire one of the companies we originally looked into.
K: One more thought just came to mind…I also wasn’t loving handing over total control of our house. The management company wanted to take over the landscapers, pest control, utilities and even down to the keyless entry. I was just starting to feel like it wasn’t going to be our house anymore. I’d be happy to have the house booked throughout the year, but just feel better about handling all the little odds and ends myself.
R: And the keyless entry was pretty nit picky of me…I literally didn’t like the hunk of metal they were wanting to put on my door, so of course found my own “pretty one”.
N: How did you learn about setting your home up for a successful vacation rental?
R: From interviewing a couple different management companies and reading vacation rental tips online. Also through talking to the companies and hearing about what they handle for you and seeing their list of expectations for the house. For example, they talked a lot about 3rd party vendors (landscaper, pest control & cleaners), possibly not being honest about their duties around the house, yet billing you for work performed. As a double check, we had ring cameras installed on the perimeter of the house so that I can monitor that the landscaper or pool guy really showed up when they said they did. Also, the maids have their own keyless entry ID, so I can monitor the actual time spent at the house vs what I was billed for. Through talking with friends who have their own vacation rentals, I’ve heard quick communication has been the most important tip when dealing with the guests. And from somebody who actually prefers vacation rentals to hotels, I couldn’t agree more and will definitely make that my top priority (along with cleanliness).
K: We were early Airbnb adopters and have used it for both short and very long term rentals all over the world. I think we learned a lot about what made certain places a cool and unique experience versus a more corporate like experience.
N: What made you add a pool after you already decided to rent it out?
R: Through talking to the management companies, friends and friends of friends, we started hearing about how profitable a pool can be in Phoenix. The management companies had no doubt the rental would work without a pool, but adding the pool could possibly double profits and make the house enticing during the hot months. Without a pool, the house probably wouldn’t have many (if any) bookings in the summer months. Also we have always wanted to put a pool in, but were waiting until our son was a little older. We loved the idea of putting in the pool now, increasing bookings and having the pool eventually pay for itself.
K: Um…I think it was just a good excuse for Rachel to get a pool at our house! We knew there was a good deal of stuff we needed to do to get the house ready anyway, so we felt it would be good to put the pool in now while the house was off-the market. In the future we might have to cancel bookings or take the house off the market in order to get the work done. So it seemed efficient to take advantage of the downtime and put the pool in upfront.
N: What sort of special things will guests find in your home vs. others?
R: The house is a special place and what makes it so special is the surroundings. The house has several views of Piestewa Peak. Whether you are enjoying one of the many outside seating areas, the pool or even on the couch watching TV, you can see that pretty pink AZ sky and Piestewa Peak.
The house is also pretty unique to a lot of vacation rentals we’ve stayed in since we mostly left the house “as is”. What I mean by that is we basically just took personal belongings and left all the houses decor. We didn’t generically decorate the house, so I like to think the house has something interesting to look at throughout.
K: I think the house is fairly eclectic. It’s somewhat mid-century, it has plenty of modern as well and it’s got a fair bit of quirkiness in terms of décor. I also think it appeals to young professionals as well as families with all of the space and stuff we already have there for Quinn. But maybe more than anything the outdoor spaces are pretty amazing and most folks come to AZ to enjoy the weather and outdoors.
N: What is your favorite restaurant, boutique, etc – nearby your home?
R: There are so many….The Parlor is definitely a family favorite and one of my husbands favorite spots after a long day. I’ve always enjoyed living around the corner from the Biltmore Shopping center in case I needed a last min gift or didn’t want to venture out far for dinner. The Biltmore is always beautiful to walk around. Oh and Hillstone…I’m such a fan. It’s a chain, but a great chain. I love it’s patio and that you can always count on great food, service and ambiance.
N: What are your hopes for this home now and in the future?
R: My hopes would be to have the house booked and paying for itself while we are living in California. While at the same time, enjoying little stays here and there and then in the long run have it waiting for us to enjoy full time again. I also hope to have some fun sharing this home with others. It’s a really special place and I hope to have people enjoy their stay as much as we have loved living there.
N: What will you miss the most about your neighborhood?
R: The open space, desert views and sunsets. The house is in a unique neighborhood. The neighborhood is slightly tucked away behind the canal in the Biltmore area. The home is close to and within walking to distance to so much, yet at the house, I just see pretty views.
The authenticity in Rachel and Kelly’s home and their willingness to share their space and their personal decor is something truly special. With the pool and landscaping complete, Rachel and Kelly have listed their home on airbnb, received their first booking and look forward to what the future brings. We wish them much success with their new venture and look forward to the day when they can call Phoenix their forever home again.