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STR Opportunities in Small Towns (EP 301)

Think you need to operate in a major metropolitan area to run a successful short-term rental (STR) business? Think again! As STR hosts in larger cities are faced with more and more competition and mounting regulations, Airbnb property managers in small towns are thriving. So, how do you identify a small community with BIG potential in the STR market?

Christian Gissing is the CEO of True North Property Management, Northern Michigan’s short-term rental experts. TNPM is dedicated to building strong relationships with clients and providing memorable experiences for guests. In 2018, Christian and his team expanded to Mexico, Barbados and the UK, and today, they manage 100-plus units around the world. TNPM is a VRBO, HomeAway and Expedia Premier Partner, and the company has been recognized by Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Booking.com.

On this episode of Get Paid for Your Pad, Christian joins me to share the romantic story of how he got into STR property management in Traverse City, Michigan. He offers advice on optimizing your listing (no matter how many units you manage) and making your guests feel special with extras like a free bottle of bubbly or gym access. Listen in for Christian’s insight around how to handle seasonality and learn the benefits of operating your STR business in a smaller city!

Topics Covered

How Christian got into STR property management

  • Met woman on vacation in Traverse City, MI
  • Decision to stay + look for investment properties
  • Huge opportunity in STR, expand to other’s units

Traverse City trivia

  • Population 14,674 according to 2010 census
  • Cherry Festival attracts 500K annual visitors

The benefit of operating STRs in small cities

  • Less competition, fewer regulations
  • Charge higher rates (huge demand)
  • Respectful guests

How Christian navigates the challenge of seasonality

  • Switch to six-month lease in wintertime
  • Advertise on Airbnb, Craigslist, Facebook

Christian’s insight around diversifying across platforms

  • Airbnb and HomeAway primary in his market
  • Adjust rates to accommodate platform fees

Christian’s advice for optimizing results on one listing

  • Find amazing photographer + stage unit well
  • Charismatic writing for descriptions
  • Use dynamic pricing (base on hotels, AirDNA)
  • Personal touches to make listing stand out

Christian’s top ideas for making guests feel special

  • Free bottle of bubbly or local wine tasting
  • Cherry-themed gift bags and spa discounts
  • Partner with local gyms (guests use for free)

How Christian thinks about dynamic pricing

  • Services like PriceLabs use comps
  • Still need to modify yourself

Christian’s tips for hosts facing regulation in metro areas

  • Consider managing units remotely
  • Scope out small cities with < competition

Connect with Christian

True North Property Management

Christian on LinkedIn


VRMA International Conference

Traverse City on Wikipedia

Article on Millennial Millionaires


Beyond Pricing



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