From 0 To 165 Units in Two Years (Ep. 342)

From 0 To 165 Units in Two Years (Ep. 342)

If you survived the last 3 months, you can survive anything. The pandemic hit short-term rental (STR) units hard and it hit property management companies even harder.

So, how did major players handle the crisis? What advice do they have for anyone still trying to navigate rough waters?

Syed Lateef is the CEO and founder of Hostly, a property management company based in Chicago. He left his full-time job as a financial analyst in 2018 to start his master lease business and build relationships with landlords in and around the city. By February 2020, Syed had 165 units and was looking to bring in $6 million in revenue in 2020.

Today, Syed joins me to discuss how he and his team have handled the pandemic. Syed explains how he started his business and on-boarded units pre-COVID. He then pivots to his experience de-commissioning units after the crisis hit and how he negotiated his way out of contracts with landlords. Syed also reflects on how he and his company have weathered the pandemic and what his plans are moving forward. Listen in for Syed’s insight on identifying new business partners and growing the number of units you maintain.

Topics Covered

Syed’s Airbnb story

  • Background in finance
  • Bought multi-family property in 2017 (4 units plus basement unit)
  • Slowly converted all units to STRs

How Syed founded Hostly

  • Left full-time job in 2018 to manage STR properties full-time
  • Built strong relationships with larger landlords and property management companies

Syed’s approach STR seasonality in Chicago

  • Bell curve – Summer to October is when you make your money
  • Manage cash flow and reserves throughout year to pay for Winter

Syed’s advice on approaching landlords

  • No one responds to the first call/email
  • Leverage success with one landlord to bring another on board

How Syed on-boards properties

  • Negotiate up-front rent credits and waived security deposits
  • Furnish apartments but use an intake process
  • Hire handy-men using an app like TaskRabbit

Syed’s experience with COVID

  • Covid-19 was like hitting a brick wall – huge losses and no cash or bookings
  • Rented units at super low prices and hit 80 percent occupancy in March
  • Made a profit in May and planned to do the same in June

How Syed down-sized (decommissioned units)

  • Stuck with 2 or 3 landlords that he had the best relationship with and the most units
  • De-commissioned about 60 units total – settled out of contracts
  • Took furniture out and put in storage or in basements or garages of buildings he owns

Syed’s vision for the next year

  • Trying to survive month to month right now
  • Wants to add more units if the demand is back
  • 2020 is mostly a lost cause

How Syed mentally handled the pandemic

  • Knew it was out of his control and a once in a lifetime thing
  • Was super transparent with business partners and team
  • Little wins after biggest loss gave him motivation

Syed’s advice for newcomers

  • Reputation and the right business partners will set you up for success
  • Choose your partners wisely

Connect with Syed


Hostly on Instagram

Syed on LinkedIn


BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast

STR Profit Academy

STR Legends Masterminds


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