Interior Design by Shanna Middleton
Photopraphy by Catherine Nguyen
Photo Styling by Heidi Donohue
My husband and I have begun a new and adventurous chapter in our lives that neither could have imagined just a couple of years ago. If it hadn’t been for a few life events and “aha” moments, we might not have conceived the idea of becoming what I have termed “Modern Nomads.” After providing a brief overview of the events that put us on the “road,” I will outline the plan, the benefits, and the challenges. Finally, I will provide tips for success should you decide to become a modern nomad yourself.
We all have a story and reasons we make certain life decisions. Here are the main catalysts that pushed us to make ours. First, as a child, my family moved just about every year, so I am pre-wired to enjoy and crave change. Second, as an interior designer, I have always wanted to design my own home precisely the way I like. Third, my husband and I love adventure and outdoor activities such as surfing, golfing, biking, snowboarding, and hiking. So when I found myself living in the same unfinished home after fifteen years and working eighty hours a week helping my clients create their dream homes, I realized that I needed to make some changes. After this revelation and a few personal life events reminding us that life is precious and short, my husband and I devised a plan. The plan addressed my desire for having a finished home, our desire to spend more time with family and friends, our love of adventure, and so much more!
- Both of us retire from our current jobs.
- Renovate our house and put it on the short-term rental market (STR).
- Purchase, renovate, and put vacation properties on the STR Market. (One at a time).
- Manage our own properties.
- Block out and use our properties for vacations, holidays, and special events.
- Purchase an RV as a home base.
FINISHED HOME – We were finally able to renovate our primary home, designed for our needs.
FINISHED VACATION HOMES – We also get multiple finished vacation homes in various locations.
AMENITIES – Adding amenities and designer touches not only attracts higher rates of and more frequent rentals, but we also get to enjoy them!
RV – We had been researching RV’s for several years, and this plan made it possible for us to pull the trigger. The RV has become one of my favorite parts of our new lifestyle; we call her “Telli.” In addition to providing us a work and living space, we also use her for travel.
ADVENTURE! – Every day is an adventure! We can block out our properties for special occasions and use our houses whenever they are not booked. When our properties are rented, we jump in “Telli” for an adventure!
SIMPLIFIED LIFESTYLE – We had to downsize our belongings to fit into our class B RV and one storage area to make this plan work. We are not hurting for any of the benefits typically associated with having a primary residence since we have designed our properties with all of the comforts of home. Also,”Telli” has everything we need when we are on the road.
TIME WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS – This plan affords us the opportunity of entertaining family and friends at one of our properties or hopping in the RV to go and visit them.
INCOME – Our properties are providing us income, which allowed us to retire from our previous jobs.
EQUITY/NET WORTH –We are essentially putting money in the bank for our long-term retirement portfolio by paying off our properties as quickly as possible. Having no mortgage increases our monthly income. By having our money in real estate, we feel confident that we are shielded from inflation and that the value of our money should exceed our future financial needs during retirement.
SHARING – This was the biggest challenge I faced. However, because we have housekeepers that come in and clean between guests, our places are always clean, and we hardly notice that people have been there.
HARD WORK – This plan is a full-time job that includes purchasing and renovating the properties, dealing with maintenance and guest issues, hiring housekeepers, keeping an inventory, marketing and branding, bookkeeping, and managing the bookings. In our opinion, the work is a small price to pay for all of the benefits this new lifestyle affords us.
Tips for success
DON’T OVER-LEVERAGE YOURSELF
Many real estate investors tout leverage as a way to make money in the real estate market, but this approach can be risky and leave you financially exposed. We recommend paying off your properties as quickly as possible, which will give you peace of mind, provide you more monthly income, shield you from inflation and contribute toward your long-term retirement portfolio.
CHOOSE YOUR PROPERTIES CAREFULLY
We recommend choosing your additional properties in vacation areas for a couple of reasons. First, it will give you fun places to vacation (YAY!). Second, with the uncertainty surrounding the regulations on STR’s in suburban and urban areas, vacation rentals are a safer bet because they have been used in this manner long before the house-sharing fad began.
*Always do your diligence on each property.
THE “ADURABLE” FACTOR
We have found that there is a real niche for higher-end accommodations in vacation areas. By providing a five-star resort experience, we get more bookings and higher rental rates than the competition. So go ahead and spend the money on the designer touches, amenities and upgrades but make sure you make the items durable and beautiful, I call this “Adurable”.
There are times when it is crucial to hire a professional. For example, I highly recommend hiring an interior designer if you are not one. Your properties must stand out from the rest, and you want to make sure you are spending your money correctly. The same rule goes for all other aspects of your business. Go ahead and do the jobs you are qualified for and hire professionals for the rest. You want to make sure that your brand comes across as highly professional and your properties do not look DIY.
TURNOVER SYSTEM (housekeeping)
Make sure you have your turnover system in place before hiring your housekeeper. You want to train them on how you want your luxury space cleaned and set up. Don’t let them tell you how it is “normally” done. Be prepared to go through two or three housekeepers before you find the right fit, and be ready to pay more than the “normal” rate for the extra care you require.
MANAGE YOUR PROPERTIES
There is undoubtedly a place for traditional property management companies but for this plan to work; you will need to build a brand and a reputation as an excellent STR host. Thankfully, with the advent of listing services such as Airbnb and VRBO along with booking channel/property management software like Beds24, managing your own STR is achievable.
As I finish writing this story, I am sitting in “Telli” drinking my morning coffee, looking out over the North Topsail Beach ocean as my husband “shreds the nar”! We are waiting for a guest to check out of our two-bedroom, oceanfront condo at the Villa Capriani where we get to spend the next week! After that, we plan to head up to the High Country to research our next property. We are considering a “ski-in, ski-out” place that we can use in the summer for golfing, biking, and hiking and in the winter for skiing and snowboarding. We thank God every day that we found a way to live a minimalist lifestyle while maximizing adventure. If you are interested in learning more about our company, Middleton Getaways, or want to book a luxury vacation for yourself, please visit our website www.middletongetaways.com.
If you are looking for an interior designer to help you with your STRs, please check out the Alliance of Interior Designer’s “Find a Designer” page, where you can search among the Triangle area’s largest local group of active interior designers. https://allianceofinteriordesigners.org/find-designer
Shanna Middleton is the President-Elect of the Alliance of Interior Designers of Raleigh. She has been practicing interior design since she graduated from Arizona State University’s Interior Design program in 2004. In addition to running her full-service interior design firm, Middleton Inc., she has owned and operated two other businesses. From 2005 – 2014 she owned Real-Estage Inc., a full-service Realty and Staging company where she renovated, staged, marketed, flipped and sold properties. From 2014-2019 Middleton opened and ran “One of a Kind Find and Design” A unique custom furniture manufacturing, retail store offering a complete line of customizable furniture. In 2019 she started Middleton Getaways, a luxury short term rental company along with her husband Paul Middleton. Her extensive background has uniquely positioned her to own and operate Middleton Getaways.