OWNER: Jim and Susan Leonard
VACATION HOME: South Congress Condo
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
HOMEAWAY OWNER SINCE: 2010
JIM and SUSAN'S STORY: Jim and Susan Leonard first met 38 years ago at the University of Texas in Austin. They knew then that Austin was a great college town and a fantastic city with plenty of culture and live music. However, it wasn’t until 2006 that they purchased a downtown condo as a long-term investment.
They initially bought the property with the intent to rent it to students attending the area’s colleges and universities. Despite renting their home to students, the Leonards were unable to fully cover the mortgage, HOA dues, insurance and fees; however, they were eating the cost at the time because the property value had been going up.
After two years of ownership, Jim and Susan explored the idea of selling their condo. Unfortunately, the value of the property had dropped by about 30 percent from when they bought the condo. To help increase the value of the property, the Leonards remodeled the home with new floors and upgraded the appliances. At first, the upgrades seemed to work as two potential buyers contacted the Leonards in the summer and fall of 2009. However, both buyers eventually fell through. And because the fall semester at the University of Texas had already started, they lost the opportunity to find students interested in renting the condo.
They might’ve missed out on the college market, but September meant the Austin City Limits music festival was just around the corner. Anticipating the influx of travelers who come for the three-day event, Jim and Susan decided to list their condo for rent on Craigslist. However, they were unable to find renters and actually ended up encountering a series of con artists.
Not willing to miss out on potential rental income, the Leonards began researching vacation rental Web sites that could provide a more secure experience for owners and came across VRBO.com. With nothing to lose, the Leonards decided to give VRBO.com a try. Shortly after listing their property, they began receiving inquiries from travelers and were able to rent out the condo for Halloween and the entire month of December.
Today, the Leonards are happily renting their condo to travelers and covering their entire mortgage, including the homeowner’s association dues, insurance and bills. In fact, they generate about $500 in rental revenue after subtracting costs and are now looking to buy another property in the same complex.