Short Term Rental Needs – Wanaka Holiday Homes
One of the things I love about my job is meeting a wide and varied group of property owners, buyers and property professionals. I was fortunate to be able to secure a new rental property for Heather Kahl recently. Heather is the owner of Wanaka Holiday Homes. Her business allows property owners to maximise their homes when they’re not personally using them, providing strong economic returns.
I have witnessed first hand the returns Heathers team can generate, which has meant that buyers have been able to increase their buying potential by several hundred thousand dollars. Heather very generously gave me an hour of her time recently so that I could find out what makes her tick and discover how her business has developed and evolved over the years.
How long has Wanaka Holiday Homes been active and how long have you been involved?
I started Wanaka Holiday Homes in 2007. As a solo parent I could no longer keep my job as a restaurant manager. Julie Scaife asked if I would clean her holiday house for her between bookings. Soon after, I started doing my own advertising and it basically snowballed from there. I now have 10 employees and manage just over 40 properties.
What were you doing before moving to Wanaka?
I was living in Toronto working as a professional waitress and front of house manager. Customer service has always been critical in past roles and this skill set has been paramount to my success in dealing with property owners here in Wanaka.
How is Wanaka Holiday Homes different from other rental / management companies?
We specialise only in holiday homes which means that you will be getting a personalised service above and beyond what some of the large property management companies can offer. Unlike the ‘big guys’, your house will not just sit in a catalogue – we put a great amount of effort into maximizing occupancy by adjusting rates and marketing on different websites. We believe that communication with home owners and guests is key!
Is there an ideal type of home that performs better than others?
I always tell people that big is not necessarily better. In fact, a smaller home is often easier to heat, less time consuming for cleaning and requires lower maintenance. 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with all the mod cons will always perform well. The returns on smaller homes can be much better than large ones.
What do you believe are key characteristics people search for when wanting to rent a home on a short stay basis?
Lake views and free WIFI seem to be really important at the moment. Another key factor is heating in winter. Many of our Australian and North Island visitors are not accustomed to the cold.
What is the most rewarding part of your role with Wanaka Holiday Homes?
I love that I can work from home, enabling me the opportunity to spend quality moments with my daughter, but conversely the nature of the online world means that I can be contacting owners over emails outside the typical 9-5pm work hours.
What do you believe are key considerations for opening and successfully running a business here in Wanaka?
One thing that really helped me was doing the free business courses offered through Mylrae Bell. I have a degree in business however these courses involve goal setting focus solely on your business. Another thing I believe has helped with my success is treating my staff well. I have been lucky to have mostly all local conscientious employees.
Have there been any learnings that you would share with others who are looking to potentially relocate or start a business here?
Wanaka is small and you need to work hard to build a reputation here. There are no short cuts.
Best place to get coffee in Wanaka?
Wanaka offers so much in both winter and summer, have you seen any changes to accommodation demands throughout the year?
Summer is busy right from December through April. Winter is busy mainly July to August with September being a bit hit and miss. Aside from May, things seem to keep ticking along nicely. The shoulder season seems to get shorter and shorter now which is great for property owners!.
What is Wanaka’s best kept secret?
I’m great at keeping secrets…
Best advice for people moving to Wanaka?
Join a gym to meet people. The Fit Collective is amazing!
It’s 10am on a Sunday morning – where would we find you and what are you doing?
I would be in my PJs making coffees for the girls (cleaners) who would be laughing and chatting in the prep area about their weekends. Then I would snuggle up by the fire with my girl to do homework or maybe be really lazy and watch a movie.
Favourite time of the year in Wanaka and why?
May because it gives me some down time and also allows me to best plan the year ahead.