The Lakeside Rental Business, with Brian Zerges

Episode 152

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Brian Zerges is a Licensed Real Estate Broker and sole owner of Finger Lakes Premier Properties (FLPP) for the last 25 years. After earning a BA from t0he Rochester Institute of Technology, Brian spent over seven valuable years as a Licensed Real Estate Broker in California specializing in commercial sales, syndication and property management. These experiences positioned him well to return to upstate New York and become the owner-operator of the largest lakeside real estate firm in the Finger Lakes. Brian is certified by the National Association of Realtors as a Resort and Second Home Specialist and an active member of the Vacation Rental Managers Association. With over 60 full-time year-round employees, FLPP maintains offices in Canandaigua and Penn Yan and specializes in property management and real estate sales. FLPP currently manages over 300 privately-owned single-family lakeside vacation rentals, along with over 50 single-family homes. Its portfolio of commercial accounts has grown to include Keuka College and Best Western’s Vineyard Inn & Suites, Penn Yan. Many investors rely on Brian and his team to locate, purchase and manage lakeside investment properties with maximum rental income. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Brian Zerges about his special niche of selling real estate in the lakeside hospitality industry and the challenges that go along with it.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The special aspects and systems of selling real estate in the hospitality industry
  • Similarities between hotels and house rentals in terms of visitor experience
  • Creative solutions and features FLPP uses to stand out in the industry
  • Why Brian’s niche is so challenging and how he and his team rise to the challenge
  • Data Brian’s team gathers from its properties and customers, and how that data is used
  • What FLPP does to remain flexible and accommodate clients
  • What “co-opetition” does for Brian’s team

Lakeside Real Estate

Brian Zerges is the sole owner of Finger Lakes Premier Properties, the largest lakeside real estate firm in the Finger Lakes. Brian’s experience in California real estate has made him a perfect fit for the competitive industry of real estate hospitality. He and his team of 60 full-time employees have discovered the ins and outs of operating in this unique niche, the required systems, and how to deliver the best visitor experience. Finger Lakes Premier Properties runs over 300 properties along hundreds of miles of shoreline. Each building is different due to topography, distance, client profile, and more. As the largest growing section of the lodging industry, vacation rentals require marketers and owners to keep up by implementing systems that go above and beyond. For example, FLPP has a large, commercial laundry service that is constantly ensuring its properties have clean linens and other laundry supplies. This is just one of the many moving parts of making sure that all of those properties have maintenance and housekeeping 24/7, just like a hotel would. Brian’s team goes the extra mile to make their customers confident in the visitor experience. Finger Lakes tourists can rest easy knowing that the FLPP staff will be there to meet their every need, no matter the time. FLPP accomplishes this by thoroughly vetting its high-performing staff, evaluating metrics, and constantly searching for feedback from guests. Data about timing, costs, efficiency, quality, and numerous other things are gathered from the renters and taken into account when FLPP develops its systems, trains its staff, and updates its fees and policies.

Innovation and Flexibility

In a niche as hot as lakeside rentals, FLPP has to constantly adapt to meet the shifting needs and demands of the competitive industry. As always, this requires creativity! Brian and FLPP have leaned heavily into the lakeside aspect of their real estate properties, highlighting and optimizing a lake experience for their guests. Brian grew up on the lake, so he knows all about what lakeside living really means. This is where the team’s creativity comes forward, whether it’s having houses along Lake Street or having the word “lake” in their phone number. Alongside creativity, flexibility is incredibly important. With lots of clients at lots of different properties, FLPP has to be able to change plans at the drop of a hat to accommodate customers. One way they do this is through scattered check-in and check-out dates. While some of the property owners were resistant, Brian and FLPP have successfully made it so guests can successfully check in and out based on their needs without having to commit to a full Saturday to Saturday stay. This makes it easier for guests with hectic schedules and prevents FLPP from having to clean and prepare 300 houses on a given Saturday. One of the biggest ways FLPP continues to learn and grow is through collaboration and even competition. FLPP is always in touch with property owners to make sure they’re delivering the best experiences for guests and has helped form the Finger Lakes Vacation Rental Managers Association, a lakeside association helping to handle issues around the lake ranging from problem guests to pollution. They also collaborate with the Vacation Rental Exchange, a coalition of 13 vacation rental companies in the Northeast that come together to exchange ideas and have great discussions. Brian Zerges and FLPP are another fine example of creativity, innovation, and “co-opetition”, and I’m so glad I get to share some of their knowledge with you.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:20 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of [inaudible], the nation on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry and that is why I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest. Brian’s urges. Brian is a licensed real estate broker and sole owner of finger lakes premier properties for the last 25 years after earning a bachelor’s degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Brian spent over seven valuable years as a licensed real estate broker in California, specializing in commercial sales, syndication and property management. These experiences positioned him well to return to upstate New York and become the owner operator of the largest lakeside real estate firm in the finger lakes. Brian is certified by the National Association of Realtors as a resort and second home specialist and an active member of vacation rental managers association with over 60 full time year round employees. Finger lakes premier properties maintains offices and Canada, agway and Penn Yan and specializes in property management and real estate sales.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:25 The company currently manages over 300 privately owned single family lakeside vacation rentals along with over 50 single family homes. It’s portfolio of commercial accounts have grown to include Cuca College and best westerns vineyard and in suites in Penn Yan. During the first two quarters of this year, finger lakes premier properties has successfully sold more lakeside real estate in the finger lakes than any other realtor. Many investors rely on Brian and his team to locate, purchase, and manage lakeside investment properties. Okay with maximum rental income. Brian’s love for lakeside living started at the young age of five as he spent the summers on Cuca and Seneca lakes. Voting. The lakes continues to be a favorite activity for him and his family to enjoy together as a lakeside property owner himself. Brian knows what a serious investment a lakeside home can be. He appreciates the cost of ownership, can locate the best investment properties on the market available and the benefits of a quick and profitable sale.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:26 He’s extremely personal and professional and will listen carefully to your real estate objectives to create a custom action plan just for you. Brian is a strong communicator and values his commitments to his client’s customers and his team. His values of honesty and dedication are demonstrated through his strong work ethic and exemplified by his team. Brian, I’m so excited to have you on today. Thank you so much for joining us. Well, thank you Nicole. That was quite an introduction and very much appreciated. Thank you. Yes, and I’m, I’m a, it was quite an introduction and I’m really, uh, you know, excited to have you on and to share your perspective with our listeners. Um, this is a new topic for this show and I know there’s so much that they can learn from you, but before we get started, um, you know, I find that the bio only tells a portion of the story and I’m wondering if you can share with us a little bit more about your journey and how you got to where you are.

Brian Zerges: 03:21 Well, I think you summarized it quite well and, and in great detail. Uh, one thing I might add is, um, the background that I have, my degree was in hotel tourism management and I also work did a co op at Disney, the tennis corporation of America. I had worked for Marriott and spent two years at Hyatt as the assistant manager on Hilton head after I graduated from college and before I went into real estate. And it was that hospitality tourism experience blended with the real estate experience that I got in California that allowed me in position me to, to manage vacation homes because that’s essentially what vacation foams, vacation rentals are, is it to, it’s quite a blend of accommodations, tourism, lodging, and real estate. So I guess I’d leave you with that point because that’s the foundation of our industry.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:15 Okay. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a really great point, um, because it is a mix of, you know, the hospitality, the accommodations, uh, and the real estate. And maybe before we dive into these questions, I’d have you share a little bit more about finger lakes premiere properties and [inaudible] and exactly what you do and how the business is made up. I think that would probably help give a little bit more context as well.

Brian Zerges: 04:38 Yeah. Great. Great. Uh, people ask me what I do. And in a nutshell, we are a real estate company and our real estate company sells homes. Specifically, our focus is on lake homes. Um, but we also manage properties. And in addition to managing commercial properties and year-round residential properties, our main focus is on the short term rental market, the vacation homes. And that’s where the tourism and comes in. It’s your working and representing private owners and you’re also dealing with guests and you deal with guests in the same way that a hotel would deal with guests. But we do it on steroids. We’re dealing with hotel rooms that are not hotel rooms. They’re houses. They’re not just [inaudible] big suites, their houses, they’re all unique without different systems all scattered out over hundreds of miles of shoreline with different, yeah. Topography, different owners, different everything. So, you know, that’s that, that’s it in a nutshell.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:43 Yeah. So can you just describe a little bit about, um, how the whole system works because you have these, you know, you have owners who are all different types of owners, right? They could be investment owners, they could folks who maybe inherited a home. They have all different reasons for having this home on the lake. Is that, am I right in that?

Brian Zerges: 06:03 Yes, that’s correct. We have a variety of different customers. Some of them live locally, well live, even live next door to a vacation rental. Some of them will live out of the country. Um, every, every owner’s uh, situation is different. Their needs are different. Some of them are, uh, or leave leaving the properties. Their kids have grown up, they’re older. Um, they’ve moved down to Florida and they, they still have an attachment to the home and they want to keep it. Um, others are inheriting the home. The siblings are all trying to figure out what to do with it and they all want to keep it, but they don’t want to pay for it, pay the taxes. So that’s a, that’s a typical owner profile. Um, we’re dealing more and more with investors, people who are weary of the stock market or w or who want diversification. Um, they come to us often because we have great data and metrics on revenue. So we’re very skilled at forecasting what the income will be, the profit loss, um, cashflow from a vacation home. So our sales department is finding themselves more and more working with investor buyers, um, who are looking for a vacation home. Um, so the, the owner profile is different. Um, and we’re set up to handle all of them.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:25 Right. So yeah, different owner profiles and then, um, when an owner is in a situation like this where they, where they’re interested in getting into the rental market, um, they have different choices. I know, you know, when it comes to accommodations, the, the online options that are out there now have been a bit of a pain point. Um, you know, for, for some hotels and for travel agents and tour operators, there’s also in, you know, in your case, the VRB owes, right, those online options that are out there. And so when the owner is thinking about working with finger lakes premier properties versus doing something on their own, what kinds of value do you bring as you know, as an organization to that owner when you’re talking to them about your services?

Brian Zerges: 08:10 Well, we’re, we’re full service. I mean, and the vacation rental industry is changing every year. It’s very dynamic. Okay. It’s the largest growing segment of the [inaudible] of the lodging industry at this time. Um, owners who use us are usually professionals. They have jobs. Um, they have other responsibilities. They appreciate high customer satisfaction and they realize that when you rent out your home, he just don’t give a guess the keys and leave them. They, like most guests who stay in any accommodations, need services. They need 24, seven. Um, maintenance, housekeeping. They have questions, um, where to shop, how’d it get into the home if something breaks? Um, they’re, they’re seeking that same level of service that a high end or professional brand hotel would provide. Um, and that’s what FLP p offers. We [inaudible] we manage a hotel. My background is in hotels. There are many parallels between the vacation rental, the industry and the hotel industry.

Brian Zerges: 09:22 As an example, we have a commercial laundry facility, the largest laundry commercial laundry facility in the finger lakes. We have a team of people who wash fold. We have vans that distribute linens because anytime a guest checks into a finger lakes from your properties, the linens are on the bed, the house is clean, it’s been inspected, there’s appropriate branding and communications in the home. We do that provide the folks with detergents, the starter packs for the Washer and dryers. We do the conventional toilet paper fold and we feel the toilet just like many fine hotels will do. Um, and that’s the experience we provide. Um, so if somebody’s looking for that level of services, then then they would gravitate towards a company like finger lakes, premier properties. If they want to do it all themselves and take on those responsibilities, then that, that is also an option for them in many, many owners do that. I will add that as the vacation rental business industry expands the RBO as we call those, the services, the Airbnb, the VRB [inaudible], their fees are going up considerably. And so there is an increasing amount of frustration on the part of the RBO owners in those fees and many of them are now looking more carefully at a, a managed Tome because for the extra services we provide, many are finding a lot of value in that when they did not before.

Nicole Mahoney: 10:55 Yeah, I think a, I think that’s a really great point. And um, I love how you laid this out because it really does, you know, um, help for our listeners to understand how this is very similar to a hotel, the guest experience. And I would imagine, you know, if you’re a tourism professional and you’re marketing a destination and the visitor experience is extremely important. And so what you’ve just described is how the visitor experience can be impacted in a more positive way, right. By, um, through the services that, that your company provides.

Brian Zerges: 11:31 Yes, exactly. They, they, we, we track, we were, we’re a feedback organization. We seek feedback or our guests are expecting quality, they’re expecting cleanliness or expecting service. They’re expecting the confidence of knowing that when they show up at a home, it’s going to be there. It’s [inaudible] and there, that’s a whole subject in itself. People have rented homes on craigslist and other places and they don’t actually exist or aren’t available. So we give, we give the consumer that confidence that the home will be there, that it’s not oversold that it is what it’s supposed to be. [inaudible] that okay arrived to it. I find it clean and then when they’re there, if anything comes up, we will be there for them. So we, we keep somebody on call 24 hours a day to deal deal with all of our guests in house. We have maintenance staff ready to dispatch on 24, seven because if a hot water heater goes out on a Sunday, um, the guests don’t want to wait two days for the repairman to get out. So we have people in, on staff with trucks, with all the equipment they need to get homes back up and running. I’ll also add that if a home is down for a couple of days, even one night, the cost of the refund that the guests will expect, well more than often more than outweigh the cost of sending out a repairman quickly like we do. So, um, those are just some of the nuances of this industry.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:55 Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you giving us a, that context as we move into some of these questions. And I’d like to dive in with the very first question. I love to ask my guests, which is on the topic of creativity and how competitive the hospitality industry as, and I, I’m wondering what things, um, finger lakes premier properties is doing to really kind of stand out from the crowd?

Brian Zerges: 13:22 Well, being a real estate company are, our unique value proposition is lake revolves around the lakes. We are a lake real estate firm with a lake focus and our focus is more regionally versus on one lake or in one town or in one county or even two or three counties. So are our unique value proposition is our, the fact that we focus on the lakes and we focus on the lakes regionally. So somebody comes to us, they’re going to get a broad, someone with a broad understanding of what’s going on on all of the lakes. Um, 98% of our sales are lakefront sales, 95% of our vacation homes or lakeside vacation homes. And so that, that’s one of our key differentiators from others

Brian Zerges: 14:13 or the crowd as you refer to it. Um, we also provide one stop shopping for the lakefront homeowners. Many of them live outside the area and coming into a region and dealing with the complexity of finding vendors, finding real estate, real estate professional, finding someone that can help them with their needs, but that’s often challenging. I’m always getting calls from people wanting referrals, so we’re kind of set up to deal with I’m a home owner and all of their needs, if we don’t know or have someone that can do it, we’ll refer them to somebody. Um, so it’s kind of a one stop shopping a situation, which it then again helps us stand out from the crowd. We also do things in smaller ways like, um, we have offices and candidate dwell on lake shore drive in Penn Yan on Lake Street and our toll free number is eight, eight, eight four one four Lake La k.

Brian Zerges: 15:09 E. So our focus is on the lake. We study the lake markets, we study there [inaudible] um, and like you’ve suggested earlier, we often find ourselves dealing with buyers who come to us for that understanding. It used to be a buyer would say, I want to be on Cuca [inaudible] we still see that or I want to be on Canada ag where I want to be on Seneca. Now we deal with a lot of people that are interested in the finger lakes. They come into the region and they don’t know what lake they want to be on. And as you and I know most of the lakes have their own personalities, their own differences, and we’re able to kind of share that with them and address many of the questions that are lake buyers. I’m half.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:49 Yeah, I, uh, I love that. And that you’re living your brand that you hit, you know, your addresses are on Lake Street and your phone number, um, has the word lake in it. Um, but what I would I really like about what you described is that you have identified your focus and your Uber focused on it. You know, you were, you’ve established your, um, as you mentioned your unique value proposition and you are just extremely focused on being the best you can be in that niche rather than trying to be too broad. Right. And to, to offer such a variety. And I think that that’s an important lesson, um, for, for listeners to pick up. I really appreciate that. Is that something that you intentionally did from the start or is it, has it evolved into that focus?

Brian Zerges: 16:37 No, it’s an intentional, it’s, it’s very important that we, we live our brand, that we, we offer something, um, that brings value to people and having grown up on the lake. And I really pride myself on, I spent my summers on the lake, not just living on the lake, but I mean on the lake, on the water and, and, and I worked at a local marina oh. For three years and, and uh, had lots of friends on the lake. We used to travel by boat to each other’s houses versus get on our bikes. So yeah, I really live the, the lake life and I feel, feel like, and I, I’m aware of how much people who live on the lake crave somebody who can really help them understand what lake living is about. So are [inaudible] team is focused on that and that’s kind of why we’ve oriented, oriented our focus in the way we have.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:32 Absolutely. And I, and I imagine that that focus, um, translates not just to the owners, but also over to the guests, right? You’re able to, um, not only provide the experience like we talked about a few minutes ago with, you know, with the, the linens and the maintenance and, and all of that, but also to provide, um, you know, good insight, right onto what the guest experiences having this focus on. What is an experience of staying on a lake right in a lake home and, and what are all the activities that you have to do that are nearby? Can you, can you speak a little bit to, to that?

Brian Zerges: 18:06 Sure, sure. I’ll also, I’ll also add that our art guests and our owners are often one in the same. Our owner’s, believe it or not, often rent from us and our renters often become owners. Our buyers often buy homes and then rent them from us or sellers who fell. Lake homes often come back and rent. They don’t give up on the finger lakes entirely. They sell them, but don’t want the taxes and the hassles that come along with home ownership. So oftentimes they come back and deal with us as a renter. So many times our contact or clients profiles of buyer-seller owner guests, many times one client will be one or more of the same at the same time or change between them. So in our CRM they kind of move around and we kind of track, well who is this? This is the feller or an owner.

Brian Zerges: 18:57 Both them and we get a whole rundown on their history and sometimes it’s interesting to see that history. Um, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll also add, and I don’t know if this addresses your question, but our owners who work with us, who, um, oftentimes, uh, don’t appreciate the amount of upkeep the home requires. A, they’ll spend their weekends cutting grass and painting and fixing, fixing things. Many of our owners fall back into that guest experience. So when they bring their home into finger lakes premier property, they hire us to manage it, put the docs and mow the grass and, and do all the things. So many of our owners will check into their home. Um, they’ll drive in, fly in wherever they live, and they’ll come into their home and they will go through the guest experience. They’ll walk in, it’ll be spotless, there’ll be sheets on the bed, soaps, everything is turnkey, ready to go. They have their owner closets, which gives them access to their food and their alcohol and their clothing and water toys and all that. But um, they, they come in as a guest. So that’s a neat, um, transition to see when we bring on an owner and they experience that for the first time there. So many of them have slaved to their home, been slaves to their home and now they’re able to realize the home in a much, uh, different and many would argue a better way. Um,

Nicole Mahoney: 20:21 absolutely. Yeah, I think that is a very interesting, so Ryan, this next question, I, I love to ask this question of our, of our guests because I think that we are at maybe our creative best when we’re faced with some sort of a challenge that we’re trying to problem solve. And I’m wondering if there is a challenge that you have faced and if you could share a solution, um, that came from, from that create the, that problem solving that happens when you’re in faced with a challenge or some sort of adversity.

Brian Zerges: 20:57 Well, our, our biggest challenge in the industry, unlike the hotel industry, which, which we manage a hotel right now, it runs like a Swiss watch, say that it’s just everything is so smooth. One owner, standardization of whatnot. Our biggest challenge has been to manage, um, uh, diversified accommodations over large geographical territories. So every home, every, every situation, every home is different. Um, different systems, different decor, different beds, different owners,

Brian Zerges: 21:34 um, all scattered over hundreds of miles of shoreline. And so that has been our single biggest challenge over the years. And I’ve had to tap into every ounce of business skills and experiences I’ve had to address it. And the way we’ve addressed that is to basically start with a great team. It takes people [inaudible] make a company work to, to make systems work. So we’ve worked very hard to too develop a team of motivated, um, professionals that are all focused. Uh, we invest heavily in them. We train them, we do profiling before they’re hired. Um, we have, we have a lot there. It’s a subject himself itself, so I won’t get into it further, but our people is one, one way. We’ve combated that issue. Um, we, we rely heavily on metrics. We’re, we’re very [inaudible] data centric [inaudible] we focus on feedback, we thrive on feedback. We want to know how we’re doing, we want to know what’s going on right and what’s going wrong. Um, so we have, uh, I have a team of two full time professionals and all they do is work on metrics. Um, we want to know what our stakeholders think. We want to know what our employees think. We want to know what our guests think. We want to know what our owners think. So we’re constantly harvesting that data and adjusting accordingly. So I think, I think just the, the challenges that are faced by vacation rentals more so on the finger lakes because everything’s so spread out,

Brian Zerges: 23:08 um, has been our biggest challenge and then the, the development of a team and that the use of data has been our biggest solutions to that challenge.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:17 Yeah. And I love that. Um, I love both of those things. Actually. I couldn’t agree with you more how important the team is and how developing the team, and I’m sure we could have a whole episode and conversation around, you know, how you hire, uh, train and develop, uh, those team members. Um, and I also love that what you’re talking about is grounded in data and that you’re invested in the data to have, to, uh, you know, team members dedicated to, to the data and to you to figuring out how to take the insights out of the data to make your company better I think is, uh, just speaks. Um, you speak so highly of, you know, how committed you are to the experience and to improving. And I’m curious on the data side, if, if you could just talk briefly about the types of data that you’re harvesting. So it sounds like it feedback right from the s from the surveys. Is there other types of data sets that you’re looking at?

Brian Zerges: 24:13 Yes. Yeah, we, we, we strive for operational excellence. We, I throw that out there if one of our goals and we talk about what does operational excellence means, it is customer satisfaction. It’s providing value to our consumers. So obviously there’s that element of it, but you also have to do it efficiently and profitably. So we, we measure financial data efficiency. We, we track, um, how long each work order takes, how many times it takes to do two work orders. Yeah. We tracked the cleaning times for each home, what the cleaning time was and, and what it is should be. We make that comparison as for the department as a whole and for each individual housekeeper and inspector who works in a particular zone. Um, we do a lot of, uh, tracking of data for revenue management. Deal management is big in the hotel industry. We do it there.

Brian Zerges: 25:12 We put a lot of money and understanding, uh, fees and, uh, revenue rates. It used to be, many of your viewers will probably recall how people would set a weekly rate on a summer home. It was always Saturday to Saturday and it was always a 500 a week. That was long time ago. But now it’s much differently. We have a full time revenue manager, um, and they’re one of the best in the industry. They’re highly trained eye. I take them to conferences and they, when they go to some of the trade, uh, conferences there, sought after to speak and give advice. But we, uh, you know, basically track like the hotel industry, like the airline industry, like the rental car industry, um, how much a home, what the demand is for a home on a given day, night, week, month, and they track it right down to the day and we adjust rates with the owner’s permission.

Brian Zerges: 26:08 We don’t do that unless they owners want that. Oh, we can still go back to the, it’s a one, one price for the whole summer type of arrangement. It’s a Saturday to Saturday, but many of our homes or now we have scattered check-in day, so second any day of the week, uh, we do usually have a two or three night minimum. Um, but its no longer the Saturday to Saturday. It’s no longer the set price. Um, demand changes like in most industries throughout the season, whether it be an event, whether it be the weather, whether it be supply. Um, so that’s, those are just some the ways and there’s many other ways. Um, but those are just some of the ways we use data routinely.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:48 Yeah. No, I think those are great. Uh, great examples. And um, one of the things that just came to mind is you mentioned the scattered check in days. Um, is that an evolution for this industry that you, you have those scattered checking days and more flexibility. Is that that based on changing trends and you know from the guests or how did that come about?

Brian Zerges: 27:12 Uh, it is, it is. The consumers require that, um, it’s, many people have been resistant to it. Many of our owners did not want to do that at first. [inaudible]. So we took it slowly with them and we, uh, basically, um, try to accommodate the owners and we try to accommodate the guests. And I also draw down on my own experience when I travel. You know, getting me to fall into a Saturday and Saturday schedule is virtually impossible. Um, so I’ll come in and stay nine days or three days and it’s, it usually revolves around a conference or some other events. Um, so [inaudible] it’s basically in response too. Uh, consumer demand and changing veterans. But we, we offer everything. So we, we do that and we [inaudible] still, I can go back at a conventional Saturday to Saturday. Um, but the consumer drives what we do, they give us feedback and from that we, we adjust. It also also also added has helped operationally because when you have to clean 300 homes on a Saturday, it’s quite a, quite a feat. So, uh, daggering the check ins to other days has helped us operationally, ah, quite a bit as well.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:28 Oh, absolutely. So Brian, is there anything, uh, coming up in the future that you’re particularly excited about that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Brian Zerges: 28:39 Well, there’s always a lot of things. We have strategic plans and we look forward and, um, our, our company’s by no means stagnant. I think it’s the change of the industry and the change of the company that helps keep our staff energized. Um, we’re excited about the growth of our inventory this year. We’re going to top 300. Um, and more and more people are renting every year. So we’re excited about the growth in our inventory and at the same time maintaining, growing and maintaining that high quality services that we provide. Um, our real estate operations are booming. Um, more and more people are investing in lake homes and they’re seeking us out. And as you mentioned earlier, this was a good year for us. We were the leading lakefront real estate sales realtor in the finger lakes the first half of this year. And that’s exciting for us.

Brian Zerges: 29:35 So we’re looking forward to that in our future. Um, we’re also getting sought after by some commercial accounts that businesses, even up in Monrovia county who are finding out that we manage, um, commercial accounts, a golf course, [inaudible] and colleges and hotels that rather well, my team is pick that up, uh, relatively, uh, quickly. Um, and, uh, we’re getting, uh, interest from commercial businesses that are seeking out management services and we’re approaching those accounts with a degree of caution but also the degree of success and provided that it doesn’t conflict with our other focus, which is lakefront real estate and rentals. Um, we will be entertaining that. And one of the, one of the key reasons we’re doing that is because we run very hard in the summer and then our off season, spring, winter a fall are a little bit slower. So looking at that commercial yeah. Area allows us to balance out the year and return [inaudible] more good quality people 12 months out of the year and reduce it. The seasonal swings that we like to get away from.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:51 Yeah. And that makes a total sense, uh, as well. And I can imagine, um, not only filling out the year or balancing out the year, but also the efficiencies that are happened. I think you mentioned earlier you have the largest commercial laundry facility in the finger lakes. So to, you know, the efficiencies that you have if you to keep that busy year round, um, and to take those systems that you’ve, um, been able to really, um, tool and retool over the years and apply those, uh, to, to another type of account, I think makes a lot of sense. And, and then the long run, I think the more that you’re able to do that, the stronger your company will be, the stronger your team is. Um, for that, you know, that consistency, you’ll be able to attract better people, keep them employed longer and all of that. Correct. Exactly. Yeah.

Brian Zerges: 31:42 But yeah, we don’t want our laundry machines to sit idle all winter, so we’re very, very healthy to keep our laundry came, which does a great job in place folding and washing throughout the winter cause they really do a great job.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:56 Yeah. That’s awesome. So, um, Brian, I wanna switch gears a little bit and talk about collaboration. It’s a favorite topic that, uh, I like to cover on the show and, um, you know, we see it in the finger lakes so often where what I refer to is as Colab petition where essentially, you know, perceived competitors come together and create something bigger than they can do on their own. Um, but really the whole idea of collaboration throughout the region. Um, you mentioned, you know, multiple lakes, multiple counties, multiple communities, there’s, there are all of these different, um, players that go into creating the experience, uh, in the region. And so I’m wondering if there’s a collaboration comes to mind for you, um, that is, that has really, um, worked well that you could share with our listeners.

Brian Zerges: 32:47 Yes, yes. Be Happy to, um, yeah, well we leave, um, collaborate with anybody and everybody that wants to, cause we really thrive on what we do and, and, uh, we, we share a lot of our information with those that compete with us. Okay. Um, we’ve recently formed a forum, the finger lakes vacation rental managers association, and I’ll get into that and th entity and a little bit with one of your future questions here. Um, [inaudible] that is a entity that engages competition on a local mission here. But in addition, addition to that, um, our competition is not just in the finger lakes. [inaudible] compete with other regions for tourists. And so we’re a member and a leader in a association. It’s called BRX, a vacation rental exchange where 13 of the largest vacation rental businesses in the northeast to come together every year. It’s usually in March.

Brian Zerges: 33:45 And we’d come together and we share ideas and have discussions about vacation rental topics, technology, what’s working, what isn’t. And it’s pretty much, we’re pretty much an open book to each other. And last year, uh, finger lakes from your property hosted this event locally here in the finger lakes. It wasn’t widely publicized, but we had 13 of the leading vacation rental businesses in the northeast all the way from Canada down to Florida. Um, and they all came here. They all stayed in local hotels. Some of them had seen snow for the first time, so it was kind of fun. So we view, we view other businesses as competitors, so we work with them. Um, and we also, some of our competitors, our friends’ competitors are these rent by owners, these owners that rent on their own. And we have great relationship with these owners. Some of these owners we work for, we, we clean their homes, we take care of them, we do maintenance for them. Um, we share our contracts or agreements with them. Um, some of it’s not uncommon for me to have one come into the office and talk to me about how to do, how to deal with a guest that’s fighting them on a refund or something like that. So, um, those are just some of the small ways that, uh, we collaborate with a competition. And, and I agree with your fundamental question that competition is good and you know, it’s, it’s great to work with them to make the whole industry and area a better place.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:12 Yeah, exactly. Um, you know, I’m a firm believer in a rising tide lifts all boats, right? So the better that the whole industry can be, the the better that that you will be. Absolutely. And I love that. And I think those are some really great, uh, great examples. Um, I love the idea of the vacation rental exchange. Um, you know, I belong to a peer, a few peer to peer networks actually that you know, for our industry. And, and I know that you get so much out of that when you can share, um, ideas and you’ve talked about technologies and just ways to make your business better. Uh, I think it’s fantastic. And so I am curious about the finger lakes vacation rental managers association. And I’m going to actually ask you this next question, which is probably where you’re going to get into it a little bit more. Um, but one of the things that we’ve been, um, digging into on this show quite a bit is the evolution of tourism marketing and, and the whole idea of destination marketing and destination marketers becoming more like community managers, um, this kind of more holistic approach to marketing a destination. And so I’m wondering if you have an example of the evolution of that in your, uh, you know, in your work.

Brian Zerges: 36:29 Yeah. Yeah. Be Happy to share that. We, we, we enjoy what we do. We enjoy the people we get to work with. We work with owners and guests, but we’re also residents of this area. We have friends that live on the lake. Um, I live on the lake. Um, we, we know what it’s like to be a, a resident in the finger lakes and we as much as anybody want to protect our region from, um, anything, whether it be habs harm for harmful algae blooms, um, guests that don’t behave, whatever we’re, or as much on, um, side of that goal is anybody. Um, but before I get into the finger lakes, a vacation rental managers association, I just want to add that we’re sponsoring a economic study for local government and communities, um, which will be out early next year. It’s basically going to address the, uh, economic impact of vacation rentals in the finger lakes.

Brian Zerges: 37:26 So we’re, we’re, we’re sponsoring that, doing that on our own. There’s been a lot of, um, discussion about vacation rentals, the value of vacation rentals to the, to the, to the region, um, from an economic [inaudible] perspective and from a social sense perspective. And so we’re getting ahead of that and producing that report. We’re going to [inaudible] put it on our website and distribute it to the local governments and hopefully they can use it to understand vacation rentals better and then make decisions accordingly. Um, but back to your question, um, the finger lakes vacation rental managers association was formed for vacation rental management companies and those that run in town their own. So, uh, and this is in response to the increasing concerns by local residents of the quality of management of random homes on the lake. And so we’re looking to form this organization, use it as a platform to communicate and to address and bring forth standards in the rental process.

Brian Zerges: 38:29 We’ve already done that on a scale, small scale by supporting and providing to others what we do. But let’s say that the vacation rental business is, is very important to many owners [inaudible] rent who need to rent, pay the taxes. It’s also part of the culture here. I mean, I don’t, I know too many people that have spent summer’s on, on the lake, even if it was staying at a friend’s cottage for a week in the summer, it brings him back. So renting is just part of the finger lakes. But we also understand that renting orally or without a process, without a strategy, it can be very disruptive. Um, two neighbors to communities too, drives associations, all work. So we formed this organization as a means to, um, create a local dialogue about best practices, about, about what, what it means to run a vacation rental, about how to avoid, not only deal with problem guests, which should be the last resort, but how to prevent problem guests from coming into our region and polluting the lake and disrupting the area. Um, so that’s something we’re very proud of. We started this about five years ago that then became dormant and now with the, uh, now we’re firing it back up. Yeah. Um, we look forward to working with our [inaudible] competition and we look forward to working with owners who rent on their own. And anybody else that wants to join us in discussing vacation rentals, um, and the impact of vacation rentals moving forward.

Nicole Mahoney: 40:11 Yeah, I think I’m, I love that example. I think it’s, um, it’s definitely, it’s very progressive of an idea, I believe just the way that you described it. So you’ve, you’ve seen an area of concern and there certainly has been. I think it really [inaudible] exploded once airbnb came on scene. I mean, it’s not just the vacation rentals around lakes now, you know, there’s people that are renting rooms in their houses. It’s just so much easier to have this more transient type of visitor within neighborhoods and communities. And so to see, uh, to see that those concerns coming and to listen to those, you know, local residents as you mentioned. Um, and then to think of a way to provide that platform, a way to try to, um, really instill some standards into the industry. I think it’s just awesome. And it seems to me even though you, you explained these and kind of in two different, um, thoughts if you will, between the finger lakes, vacation rental manager, Managers Association, and then that economic study that you’re doing. But I can see how they both tie really well together and dovetail off of each other because in both scenarios what you’re doing is trying to provide better information and more information to communities so that they can make better decisions, you know, and understand how the rental fits with into there community.

Brian Zerges: 41:36 Yeah, that’s correct. That’s exactly correct. These discussions are occurring anyway. I mean, I don’t end up on somebody’s stack. Even if, if I wasn’t the owner of, of a vacation rental business, you could end up on somebody’s stack. And over here I’m talking about renting. I go to a local restaurant and I’ll sit there and the table behind me will be two couples talking about how are they rented or the rent or down the street or, so it’s, it’s a discussion and you go to a, an association or some of the neighborhood associations or even some of the town board meetings, these discussions about vacation rentals are occurring and they’re very healthy and positive discussions. Um, but the vacation rental industry to survive and flourish in this area, which it is doing, needs to be proactive at addressing those issues that are concerning to residents and government. And oftentimes it’s been, there’ve been knee jerk reactions to one situation, one or two properties where the owner is absentee and Kinda doesn’t know what they’re doing and it gets out of control and then the whole industry ends up suffering. So we’re trying to be proactive and get ahead of that. Hmm. Provide as much information as we can about the industry, share things that work well for us. Um, and you know, just be proactive and getting involved.

Nicole Mahoney: 42:58 Yeah, I think that’s wonderful. Well, Brian, this has been a very informative conversation as I knew it would be lots to talk about and you have so much to share. Um, but, uh, I think it is, we are coming to a close. Um, is there any final words or uh, anything maybe that I didn’t ask you about that you wanted to share with our listeners and then also if you could share where our listeners can find, uh, find you in finger lakes premier properties?

Brian Zerges: 43:25 Well, I think you did a great job with this interview. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and, and your listeners. Um, and I’m happy to speak with any of your listeners directly. They can call me. My, my cell phone is three one five six nine four, one two nine, seven. And one of the things I enjoy about my work, if, you know, I’ve built this company, I have a great team and they feel most of the calls, but I always enjoy it when I get a call from an owner with a question or a guest with a situation. Yeah. It’s something that I love doing. I love helping. And I love being part of the whole process. So, um, feel free to call me on my cell at three one five, six, nine, four, one, two, nine, seven. Even if you rent on your own and you have questions, I’m happy to help.

Brian Zerges: 44:09 Anything I can do to help is, is, is good from my perspective. Um, if you’d like to learn more about finger lakes from your properties, we have our website, you can type it into any search engine and it’ll finger lakes Kamir properties. We’ll pop up or you can meet our team up there and see our inventory and learn more about our culture and our values and some of the things we’ve been doing. Um, and beyond that, Nicole, I thank you for having me on today and if I can help you in the future, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Speaker 1: 44:38 Thank you so much, Brian. It’s been great. Okay. Have a great night. It’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

Speaker 4: 45:27 [inaudible].

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