Master Leasing, Highest-Best Use. Increase Your NOI with Airbnb. Oh, my.

In Chicago, as of 2018, the multifamily market is in flux. 8,800 apartments are coming on-market in 2018, according to Crain's Chicago, and Landlords are uncertain because the market appears soft.

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Deals in Chicago's transition areas, which were once selling for 8-9% cap rates, are only trading for 6% cap rates now. If real estate is your preferred investment vehicle, what do you do with your money now? Is a 6% cap rate worth it? 

What if you could turn a 6% cap rate into a 8%, or even a 10%? How do you get highest and best use in multifamily investing for your money? 

How Master Leasing Helps

With a Master Lease you lease a property as a tenant and then sublease it to occupant tenants (or, in the case of short-term rentals, guests.) The tenant, also known as the lessee, secures control of the property with the Master Lease, and then manages the property. 

The goal is to increase the cash flow from the property and pocket the difference between what your master lease payments are and what you are collecting.

Why would a property owner agree to this?

A common reason is the owner is just tired of managing the property.  They have what we refer to as ‘tired owner” syndrome.  Another common reason is someone or a group of people have inherited a property and have no idea how to manage it.

In the case of short-term rentals, a single unit in the property may be vacant. The owner may want rental income from a short-term rental operator, rather than let it sit empty.

Marrying Short-Term Rentals and Master Leasing

The key tenet in the section above is the ability to increase cash flow from the property. How do you do this? One way is with a proven Short-term Rental Program.

This is commonly known as rental arbitrage in the short-term rental operator world, and many large Landlords have began to use short-term rentals in order to fill vacancy and increase their NOI.

Redefine Highest and Best Use.

With a proven short-term rental system and a market that warrants higher short-term rental revenue than long-term revenue, short-term rental operators can signs leases in your new (and old) developments, accelerate lease-ups and boost your NOI.

Proven short-term operators can lease and manage a number of units with a building, and fully design and outfit these spaces to host clients for monthly or nightly stays.

Taking Short-term Rental Master Leasing to Market

The Idea is simple:

  1. EXPEDITE YOUR LEASE-UP - Obtain 100% occupancy on day one after completion; no lease-up and no ramp-up.

  2. NO VACANCIES - Eliminate vacancies, credit loss, ongoing maintenance, leasing commissions, and turnover costs.

  3. CREDITWORTHY TENANTS - Virtually guaranteed monthly income; on-time, every time.

  4. INCREASE YOUR NOI - Increase the value of your building by increasing your cash-flow.

With too much money in the market, and real estate investors seem to be chasing yield. There are creative solutions to increase your returns. If you’re interested in increasing your multifamily returns with a proven short-term rental system, we’re here to help.

The Best Bars Close the Chicago L: The Blue Line

So you've arrived in Chicago and booked an Airbnb. You ask the host where and what the nearest public transportation is to check out some of the great nightlife around Chicago. They tell you that a short few blocks away is the "blue" train line.

Huh?

Have no fear! If you’re looking for a good night out on the town, and  a way to get around at the same time, you're in luck.  Welcome to our 4 part series of “The Best Bars Around the Chicago L”.

We’re going to go over the 5 best bars around the various stops on the Pink, Red, Blue and Brown L lines. This piece will be about the Blue Line.

Let's hop on this train and get going!

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Revolution Brewing

Neighborhood: Avondale

L Stop: Belmont

If you say you are from Chicago, then you have had a Revolution! Revolution beer and Revolution Brewing that is. Revolution Brewing is Chicago's favorite craft brewery. Since its opening in 2010, Revolution has become such an iconic Chicago brand, that it has virtually revived neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Avondale. The main brewery is in the Avondale neighborhood.

This is the best beer in Chicago in our opinion. The brewery has a HUGE taproom where the brewing process is in full view with wooden barrels in every corner, overseen by a glorious American flag. I love taprooms but this is my favorite one. Though huge in space, the taproom has a neighborhood feel, comfortable whether you're with friends or alone. But even when you are there alone, it doesn't feel so. Like America's favorite fictional bar, this is where everybody knows your name.

The brewery also has brewery tours almost daily.  On Saturday, they have it at 4, 5, and 6 PM. The brewery tour is very popular and is first come first serve and no appointments. You will see what a real micro brew operation is like. Unlike an Anheuser Busch tour, it's much more homey and cozy and the tour feels as if your drunk Uncle Johnny is giving you a good story to tell. Plus at the end of the tour, you get a nice cold can of Anti-Hero beer!

So, come check out why Revolution beer is the best craft beer in Chicago. Check out one of the greatest looking taprooms you will ever see. And check out the newest Chicago hot spot, where artists, professionals, and craft beer enthusiasts all happily converge in one place called Revolution Brewing! 

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Logan Bar and Grill

Neighborhood: Logan Square

L Stop: California

A new kid on the block seems to be appearing every week in Logan Square. Home of hipsters, artists and long time locals for years now is catering to the newest yuppies, young parents and wannabes (first the skyscrapers, what's next Baby Gap?). But if there is one thing constant, it's good old Logan Bar and Grill. You see, long before the newest, trendiest bars and restaurants opened in LS, LBG was already there. Serving the locals and the newest community members with happy service and good selection of beer, liquor and food.  

Yes the food! Such good bar food! That's usually my stop when I want good bar food with good beer because LBG has both. Options are plentiful from your typical nachos, wings and sandwiches to burgers. But what's not typical is how delicious they are. Hand crafted burgers with tastes for every palette. Your stomach won't feel empty as the dishes are sizable though your mouth might savor for more because it's so tasty.

Another reason to stop here besides, the food, drinks selection and being right next to the California Blue line, is how chill and relax the atmosphere is. Sure, you can go to a more crowded bar. A more dive-y bar. Even a more pretentious bar (yes they are creeping in Logan Square now, argh!), but Logan Bar and Grill has never changed - in a good way. Their service is impeccable from the moment you walk in, to the moment you leave the table. They seem to know how to hire the right people. Maybe it's because they want to keep the old Logan Square we knew and loved before it started changing. I'll stop myself there before I hurt anyone's feelings about their neighborhood. Bottom line, make Logan Bar and Grill your first stop in Logan Square before going to any other bars and you'll see that at the minimum, you'll have made at least one right choice that night.

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Flat Iron

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

L Stop: Damen

Speaking of neighborhoods that are losing their way...cough, cough, our next stop is Wicker Park. In its heyday, Wicker Park was the Logan Square of Chicago. Every weekend and sometimes it seems, every weekday, people were always out and about. The energy level was vivacious and contagious. Besides plenty of original watering holes, places like Double Door would attract the coolest and best local acts that only people in the know have heard about. Unfortunately Double Door is closed and many other bars that made Wicker Park have been replaced by venues that are not beholden to the original contract of keeping it authentic. But the good news is there are still some places that exist for that purpose. And Flat Iron is one of them.

Flat Iron, for some novice to Wicker Park, may seem to him or her as not their cup of tea. Large, dark, grungy, dive-y, full of interesting wall art. But look past your mental box of what a bar you like should be, to what it feels like instead. And Flat Iron feels just right.

Come to Flat Iron because you miss the old Wicker Park. You know the one where you can be yourself. The one where beer is still affordable. The one where the guy sitting next to you may be from a different background but still can shoot the bull with you. The one where you can be alone and not feel alone. The one where playing pool or bar games isn't a hassle to start. That's Flat Iron. Now, isn't this nice and the way more bars in Wicker Park should be? 

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Easy Bar

Neighborhood: Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village

L Stop: Division

Continuing on our quest to find another cool yet unpretentious bar, let’s stop and take a look on Division Street. There’s so much going on on Division Street, so let us make it easy for you: Easy Bar.

Easy Bar on Division street is easy alright. Walk right in, and the music doesn't stop. Walk right in and easily play a game of pool with a stranger. Walk right in, and the bartender or even the GM will say hello and serve you a beer quickly, yet have time to chat with you until the next customer beckons. Walk right in and sit at the bar, watch a game or go all the way to the back to their comfortable, yet history laden lounges. Yes it is dark and has an unassuming decor but that's part of what makes Easy Bar easy. No pretension, no fluff, no BS. But it's more romantic than meets the eye. The lit candles and the smooth music generate the mood for you and your significant other or the interesting guy or girl that you have an eye for. Easy Bar can get crowded late Friday or Saturday night but no matter what time you go, you'll feel at ease and at home.

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Richard's Bar

Neighborhood: River West

L Stop: Grand

Alright, we have mentioned many good bars in our "Best Bars Around the Chicago L" list including some old school type bars. Holiday Club in the Red Line is a good example. But for a truly old school experience you have to visit Richard's Bar.

Located in the Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted six corners area, Richard's Bar is usually not the first bar that comes rolling off someone's tongue. And that’s because the neighborhood is not the newest or trendiest one to go to (though that will probably change quickly). That award goes to the likes of River North or Logan Square. And that’s just fine cause Richard's Bar is not built or catered to mass appeal. Besides, the look and feel of this bar hasn't changed for 50 years (even the bartender seems like he came of the 1940’s!). For one, the bar sells cigarettes and even have patrons smoking. Now, I know this will turn off many people, as most of us don't smoke anymore, but if you can handle some second hand smoke, the experience at Richard's is one to take home with. Some people come dressed like the "old movie" days with their hats and long blazer coats. Listen or play the jukebox that's always on and beloved by everyone in the room. People watch and let time slow down for you. That's Richard's and if you like all that, then step off the Grand station and immerse yourself in a different era.

Five great spots on the Blue line for you to check out. There are plenty of more bars along this route but since we cannot make them all, check out these five first! 

15 ways to get more bookings on Airbnb

What if you could increase your booking percentage by 1-10%? 

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Getting more bookings means more money in your pockets. It is a challenge in a market like Chicago because you are going up against 6,135+ other listings on Airbnb. However, there is not a magic formula to achieve this goal.

Here are the top tips to get more bookings in Chicago on Airbnb:

1. Build a complete listing with a competitive and descriptive title.

Fill all the blanks and be as descriptive as possible. Don’t hide any defaults and remember to mention whether you have pets or not. Keep in mind your title show up in google and SEO is your friend. Mention other selling facts, i.e., “Close to Wrigleyville, Navy Pier, best view in the city, best restaurants, parking etc.”

2. Get verified.

If you are into serious business, provide as many verifications as you can (You can have as many as 7).

3. Fill in your personal profile, have a friendly picture and write an honest description of yourself.

A lot of people chose pictures where they are with their family, pets, etc. It helps you look friendlier.

4. Wish-listed and referrals/recommendations. 

Ask your friends to favorite your place. Ask your guests to write nice, yet honest reviews. Connect your Facebook account, check which ones of your friends have Airbnb accounts and ask them to write a couple of nice things about you. They can fill in the spot until you get some solid reviews. 

5. Have a competitive price and always start low:

At the beginning, offer discounts until you get the first bookings and gain traction. Then, offer competitive prices. Check what is provided by your direct competitors and try to beat their prices. Also, use the extra charge per person option, have a lower rate for one person then gradually increase for added guests. It will make your pricing fairer.

6. Upload nice and professional pictures with their titles in.

 If you can’t hire a photographer, remember to use a good camera, clean the property, and make sure there is enough light. Check your main picture and how it appears on multiple devices. Even if it’s a good picture, you might need to crop it or change it.

7. Get as many "tickable amenities" as possible especially if you want to get into the business category (Spending $30 on a steam iron and a hair blower is worth it). 

8. Start with low standards.

Having the strictest rules on the neighborhood won’t help you get your first bookings. This doesn’t mean you should aloud crazy parties on your property, but cheap cleaning fees, friendly cancellation policy, and friendly house rules will help you to start out.

9. Allow 1-night stays. 1-night stays are less profitable because you still need to clean the property between guests.

However, it will increase your impressions on search results. Also, it will increase the number of bookings, and therefore, the number of reviews.

10. Turn On Instant Book. 

Although it might look a bit intrusive at first glance, the instant book option shows how flexible your listing is and therefore, match more potential guests’ targeted searches. Allowing guests to directly book your Airbnb without your pre-approval opens up your listing to a new market: travelers with strict planning time frames. Also, listings that can be booked without first making an inquiry get booked more often and are therefore favored by Airbnb.

11. Reply ASAP.

Replying within the hour shows you are an active host and makes guests feel more comfortable. Even if you don’t have something to say to your guest, write a quick “Thank you for your interest, I will come back to you with more info ASAP” within less than an hour of the original message.

12. Keeping your calendar up-to-date is one of the easiest ways to increase Airbnb SEO.

Updating your calendar on a daily basis shows the Airbnb algorithm you are an active host and awards you a better position. Airbnb’s algorithm identifies hosts who frequently update their calendars as active and responsive. And with Airbnb, hard work pays off: active and responsive hosts are rewarded with priority seating in the search rankings. Preparing your listing for the summer/winter season is also a good technique to keep your calendar up-to-date.

13. Be a good host and become a SUPERHOST! 

Airbnb works with ratings, the more 5star ratings you get, the higher you will appear in the search results. Good and many reviews will also attract more potential guest. Commit to Airbnb and your hosts and don’t cancel confirmed reservations unless extenuating circumstances.

Superhost status places you under better order on the search engine. Moreover, guests have the option to search only Superhost listings.

14. Promote your listing through Google or Facebook.

Your Airbnb is a business as any other and you can advertise it by any digital means such as Facebook, Google, etc. Use SEO tools, set up a website with links to your listings, make videos, in other words, be creative.

15. Register with other similar sites competitive to Airbnb.

The tools are provided to you to migrate listings and sync calendars. Booking.com is a great option, and people on that platform are willing to pay more.

These 15 tips set you off on the right foot. Remember, these need to constantly be monitored and adapted based on the week, weekends, Seasons, events, etc. The more diligent you are, the better your results!