“Don’t be afraid to start when you don’t know what it’s gonna end up like.”

Zoey Berghoff went from being a broke college student living off of $250 to in six months living debt free at 22 years old, traveling around the world, making six figures a year, owning her own business, buying her first car, to having a salary sized savings account and investing for her retirement and future kids. Today, Zoey is a personal finance and Airbnb host and coach. She began coaching others after applying the same habits and steps to her own life, showing young adults the impact and importance of investing in your future, and how it changed the direction of the opportunities in your life.

In this episode, Trevor and Zoey discuss:

-Zoey’s experience and how it led her to real estate investing

-How she started Airbnb

-Overview on how Airbnb works

-The key to have a successful Airbnb or short term rental

-The things to look when buying a potential property

-How to automate your business to make those processes seamless

-The platforms where you can find freelance jobs

-Two financial tips for those who is planning to start a business

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Full Transcription Of Today’s Episode

Trevor Oldham  0:44  

Hey, everybody, welcome back to The Real Estate Investing exposure podcast. And today on the show, we have Zoey Berghoff, she went from being a broke college student living off of $250 to in six months living debt free at 22 years old, traveling around the world, making six figures a year, owning her own business, buying her first car, to having a salary sized savings account and investing for her retirement and future kids. Today, Zoey is a personal finance and Airbnb host and coach. She began coaching others after applying the same habits and steps to her own life, showing young adults the impact and importance of investing in your future, and how it changed the direction of the opportunities in your life. Today, Zoey also speaks from experience as relates to all the possibilities, owning your own finances and investments can bring. So I’m super excited to have you on the show today.

Zoey Berghoff  1:37  

Thank you, I’m so excited to be here.

Trevor Oldham  1:39  

And for our audience out there that’s listening in for the first time and they’re just dying to learn about yourself. I love you just to hop into your background and then just, you know, sort of go through your experience and what led you into real estate.

Zoey Berghoff  1:51  

Yeah, so like he said, I was in college not too long ago, and I’m thinking about a few 100 a month. And I realized that no one was talking about money, especially in college, and no one’s talking about what you should do with it, what you should prepare for when it comes to retirement. And I wasn’t willing to accept just not knowing as an answer. So I took it into my own hands. I spent about four years reading blogs, books, listening to podcasts, others who were teaching, you know, financial empowerment and ownership. And that’s really how I got to where I was. Today. Honestly, a lot of it was learning from others. No one you know in my family really taught me what to do when it comes to retirement. So I took it into my own hands. And within a year of graduating I found myself buying my dream car, which I do believe in manifesting as well and setting goals for yourself, but you can’t buy a car just off manifesting it. So I did have financials, allowing me to do that. I was taking on some freelance work, which allowed me to increase my income and I really focused on decreasing my expenses. And you know, reteaching, what materialism was to myself and why I was buying things for what reason, um, that was about a year into when I started to take on more freelance clients and was able to increase my income even more so. And it really snowballs. From there, I started having people reach out to me asking me about money and how I was doing what I was doing, how I knew how to responsibly handle credit cards, save for retirement when I was, you know, 22 years old. And that’s when I started coaching others in personal finances. And then my boyfriend, we were living in our glamping home, and we had an idea to just rent it out on the weekends with Airbnb. And we had absolutely no idea what it was going to turn into or if it was going to work. So I like to share that because you don’t have to have it all figured out to get started. Don’t be afraid to start when you don’t know what it’s gonna end up like. And from the beginning, it took off. And we started, you know, living in a rooftop tent traveling a lot more because we were letting people rent out more freely and weekly. And about six months later, we had a long term renter in a traditional style home, and they unexpectedly were moving out and we didn’t really know what to do we were like, should we get another long term renter? And we just had this idea of like, well, we’re trying Airbnb with the glamping you know your why don’t we try it with the house. And fast forward to a year later. Here we are, it has completely surpassed what a full time income would produce with I’m nowhere near full time income workload. And it’s been a long journey. We’ve learned everything we know along the way. My biggest tip would be to talk to someone who’s doing it when you’re getting started. There’s so many mistakes that we could have saved ourselves from talking to someone. But now we are here and I started sharing Airbnb experiences on our own on social media and I did not realize how many people were interested in short term rentals and Airbnb. So, I’m continuing to share the Airbnb journey’s personal finances. And we do prioritize traveling along the way. So we travel and manage 100% remotely from a sprinter van that we live in. So

Trevor Oldham  5:14  

yeah, that’s a perfect overview for an audience you know, walking through from you know, going through college to owning your first couple of Airbnb s. And that’s really why I want to bring this discussion is is honing in on you know, your experience of owning Airbnb s and when you went out there, and you know, you had the year and then you had this long term renter who ended up turning into the Airbnb, are these properties located close to you? Are they located? You know, I know some folks I’ve talked to in the Airbnb space, they have, you know, vacation rentals, and they’re, you know, hundreds of miles away, do you mind just giving our audience some context on what that looks like?

Zoey Berghoff  5:50  

Yeah, so our two properties, we are not full time located anywhere specifically. So we actually don’t have a mailing address ourselves. We are pretty remote we hop between family friends, a van traveling, you know, within the country or outside the country, so we manage them 90% of the time remote that 10% Looks like renovations that we do in summertime, you know, winterizing the home, removing the patio furniture for the winter, any of those bigger projects, we do like to be there for it, we’re not going to put that burden or workload on our maintenance or cleaning team. It’s also nice when you aren’t near the home consistently, every few months to check in on your property and just see how it’s going. If it’s open for a week or so we will, you know, go back and stay there and just restock supplies and everything. So if you are managing your property from afar, for us, it’s a reality that we have to check in on it and restock things. But I do know there’s people that manage them, and they never go to that home. But we personally enjoy it where it is the home itself. So we don’t mind going in and checking in on it. But most of the time, we are not there or within the state even.

Trevor Oldham  7:00  

Yeah, I think that’s excellent for our audience, as well. And I know for me, personally, I’m in Massachusetts, and I was talking to another real estate investor. And he had an investment property at Airbnb, in Newport, Rhode Island. For those of you listening who may not know where that is, it’s along the beach. It’s super nice. And for his property, he had a full team of people that let’s say, I guess comes in on a Friday, they check out on a Sunday, you know, he would basically they’re basically learn the system and they’re going in there change the sheets, they’re, you know, swap out the towels, that sort of thing. So someone from a systems and processes standpoint and being you know, far away from Airbnb at times, how do you sort of manage that? Do you have those sorts of folks coming in? Is there sort of the systems and processes in place there?

Zoey Berghoff  7:43  

Yeah, so it’s key to have a successful Airbnb or short term rental to have your processes in place. I always say Airbnb will be as easy as you make it if you have the automated processes. But if you don’t, it’s not going to feel as easy as it should. So we do choose to work with individuals, when it comes to the services, we don’t work with a cleaning company, I do think that saves us an expense. We have these individuals that are nearby the home, we do communicate with them on a monthly basis. So I will always tell her what’s coming for this month. And then I’ll also text her on a weekly basis. You know, I was talking to her today. I talked to her probably more than just weekly. But it’s really important to have a trustworthy, communicative relationship with those people that are in the house, who’s on the floor, they’re going to be the ones that relay restocking supplies, updating anything that needs to be refurbished, or active in the house. So we are very communicative with those people. And I do encourage if you are far enough from the house, that you could never really be there if they were, you know, busy that day. Having a backup person, whether it’s a family or friend, or just another person that’s aware of where your house is, and what would be expected is helpful. So if she’s busy, we do have like two people we could reach out to and if they’re busy, then it comes to us. And we’re like, okay, it’s our business, we have to make it happen some way how can we get there. So we do work with those individuals on a very consistent basis to make sure it all flows correctly.

Trevor Oldham  9:11  

I think that’s excellent for the audience to understand. And now let’s say that someone’s listening, and they have capital on hand and they’ve been thinking about, you know, purchasing, let’s say, a multifamily, you know, let’s say mobile home asset self storage, but they started to like the idea of Airbnb. And when it comes to that, when you’re looking at a potential property, just say buy in the future, is there a certain cash flow that you’re looking at to receive from the property? Are there certain guidelines that you have to look into if they’re state and local restrictions, you know, for short term rentals there are those sort of factors in play when you’re looking at a potential property?

Zoey Berghoff  9:46  

Of course, short term rentals are becoming a bigger thing, which also means there’s more regulations and permits that you’re going to have to abide by. So I always like to encourage people to have a few places you’d be willing to own it. Because once you start to look into the regulations and permits and zoning. If it’s not possible with that one spot you were hoping to have, you’re not just starting from zero again, you can have a fallback option to like, let’s look into this spot. Now, it’s important to understand what your initial investment is and what it’s going to cost to furnish that home because you do have to have a furnished home for Airbnb, it’s also important to see what that nightly average rate is for that area. How many nights do you need to have booked on a monthly basis to cover your initial expenses? And then what do you need to have to cover you know, some profit for yourself or income. And it is very important before you ever put money into anything to understand what the permits, zoning regulations, rules, HOA fees, whatever it may be, are because you never want to be that person that invested your hard earned money and then realize you can’t you know, invest because of HOA or you can’t start your Airbnb because of that.

Trevor Oldham  10:55  

Most certainly, I think that’s, that’s perfect for our audience to know, like some of the things to look out for when they’re buying, potentially the first property. Now, I want to hop back into your experience in owning these Airbnbs. I know earlier, in our interview, you mentioned you know, there’s been some mistakes along the way and, and you mind sharing, you know, obviously, I have to go through all of them. But do you have, you know, a few, you know, experiences or issues that you run into that you think would be helpful to provide for ions just to look out for, you know, down the road?

Zoey Berghoff  11:23  

Yeah, so one of our biggest things we learned from the beginning, which I’m so glad we learned in the beginning, was we are not the ones doing the cleaning. So it’s often our cleaning team. And I had the approach of let’s have them take photos of the house being done. This was kind of a quality control to see, you know, the work being done. It’s up to our expectations. But we actually had an incident where someone came into the house and accused us that the house was nowhere near what he expected. It wasn’t like the photos, he wasn’t happy with it, which was not accurate, I will say. And he refused to stay there. And he was requesting a full refund. Now, this was month two for us. So we weren’t really willing to lose, you know, 2000 plus dollar reservation. And it went up to the Airbnb corporate of deciding who’s correct in this case, because I had time stamped photos from our cleaning team of what the house looks like, they could see that those photos were taking it to 30 he checked in at four, they could see that the photos 100% were accurate to what the listing showed. And it was an eight week long case with Airbnb. And they actually deemed us 100% Winning in that case, because we had the photos. And you know, I had text messages from him. Always try to communicate with your guests on the platform. So it’s all transparent for them to read through. But yeah, they deemed us as the winners for that case, which was a great lesson to learn. I’m glad we did win, you know that reservation, because we really did need that to cover expenses. But I had never realized that taking those photos and quickly asking our team who’s going to, you know, pay off in the long run that way. So we continue that, to this day, to have them take photos just in case something were to happen. And it gives us the sign of it’s time to pay your cleaning team. They’ve done the job, they’re not there anymore. It’s all good. So that was a big learning lesson. I like to encourage people whether you’re doing the cleaning or someone else’s take proof of what the home looks like. Another tip I would say is to automate your business and tree Airbnb is passive income, which it’s not entirely passive, you will earn money and payouts while you’re sleeping. But if you’re doing the management, you are going to have to talk to your guests, send them messages, answer their questions when they come through. But we do have all our messages automated, so everything sends automatically, automatically, you know, when they book, when they are going to check in, when they check out everything goes without us having to send it. So that makes your business feel a lot more automated and passive per se. And so I would definitely suggest how you can automate as much as your business to make those processes seamless without you having to remember them, especially if you’re looking to do this while traveling. That’s key.

Trevor Oldham  14:09  

I think that’s an excellent overview for auditing and some of the things to look out for. And you know, so now that you have these two properties, what’s sort of the goal going forward? Are you continuing? Do you want to continue to look at your portfolio, what is sort of, you know, let’s say your one, three, you know, five here, your horizon is just continuing to add more, you know, properties in your portfolio.

Zoey Berghoff  14:30  

Yeah, so I will say, you know, we didn’t start this with the intention of what Airbnb could become, it was kind of a simple idea that we were like, Let’s try it and see how it goes. I’m glad it was that way because we really were so surprised and learned along the way how well Airbnb can generate income for you, and passive income per se. So we do have the goal to generate and acquire more properties. We do prefer the glamping style for Airbnb, we understand what the initial investment is with glamping and we see what the end Come has been, to give you an idea, our traditional home and glamping home. In September the glamping home surpassed a traditional family home that fit six people when the glamping fits two to four. So if you think of an investment for a traditional home and a glamping, it’s a little different when it comes to the amount of capital you need to have. So we do like that unique experience, we do plan to acquire more properties. But Airbnb isn’t our only job. It’s not our only source of income. I’m a very strong proponent of diversifying your income, especially at a younger age, not all of us can just have passive income at 25 years old. So how can you diversify that, save that to then acquire more real estate, so it does become more passive. So more to come, hopefully, we will have another property, we’re kind of waiting for the market to settle a little bit and find the area we really want to invest in. I encourage you not to just hop in, because you’re feeling pressured by everyone else hopping when you feel good about it. We’ve had multiple occasions where we’ve toured property, we’ve toured the land, we almost took the money out to buy it and it didn’t feel right, and we didn’t jump into it. So feel free to do it when you feel good about it.

Trevor Oldham  16:10  

I think that’s definitely excellent for our audience, especially not to jump in with the market right now. And being as crazy as it is, and a little uncertainty on the horizon. But I want to take this interview. And as you’re actually going through that question, and going through some of you know, building multiple income streams, I think that’s really important for audiences, a lot of the times, you know, younger folks out there listening, they sort of go through the motions, they go through college, they get a job, and they have that sort of one source of income, you know, for the next 40 years of their life. And from your standpoint, what is really the importance and how have you seen the impact of building multiple income streams, you know, impact not only the real estate business, but you know, potentially other aspects of your life?

Zoey Berghoff  16:50  

Yeah, so it has, since I’ve diversified my income, I honestly started diversify income when I was in college, and it continued when I graduated, and it still is to this day, I do believe you will be able to accept and take on new opportunities that you wouldn’t be able to say yes to with one income source. So I don’t have to live every day thinking if I lose this one job, I can’t pay my bills next month, both because I’ve set up a no emergency savings account investments to protect myself for at least eight months to a year without having any income. But also you never have to, you know, surrender to that one income, because you’re dependent on it. When you have multiple, you can say yes to new opportunities, you can take a step back from one if you want to try something else starting your business. So it’s really important and honestly diversifying my income was the way I was able to increase my savings to then you know, take those monumental leaps to advance my future and my career. So I do believe that it’s very important. And honestly, in your younger years, you have the time to do it, your life might not always be this simple. And I know you feel like you probably have very little time to do things. But you know, when kids come into the mix, multiple other jobs, house, everything you have to be responsible for in your future. This is the time to take that time spent an extra two hours in the morning to work that freelance job, build up that savings. And then you can invest in, you know, whatever you would like whether it’s real estate or something else, but it’s very important. And honestly, with the world today, there’s really no excuse to not have another type of income if you want that, because there’s so many ways to make money now.

Trevor Oldham  18:35  

I honestly couldn’t agree more with that. And I know for myself, I’d started freelancing in college. And that’s actually what allowed me to start the company that I now run, and I would definitely say that’s one of the best pieces of advice that I could give also to anyone in the audience. And then from your standpoint, let’s say to someone that they want to go out there and start freelancing. Obviously, there’s a ton of gigs out there. I know for me, I started using Upwork. And that’s how I found my freelance, freelance gigs. Early on, is there a certain platform you use? Are there certain, you know, skills that you had just used going through college? Do you mind just walking our audience through sort of how you got your start? Because I’ve talked to a number of friends and family members that want to start and they have no idea where to begin? And I feel like it’s hard for me because they don’t believe me as much. When I tell them I think coming from someone like yourself as someone outside of my own family and friends would be helpful for them.

Zoey Berghoff  19:26  

Yeah, so there’s tons of sites and your Upwork fiber. There’s so many platforms that you can put your services on there and people are already looking for them. Like how much easier can that be? But I actually found a lot of my freelance jobs through word of mouth, family and friends. I think it’s important to know, talk about what you’re doing, what you’re passionate about, what you’re learning and doing in your normal job, per se. You know, one of my gigs was when a friend’s parent was starting a job and they needed someone to do digital marketing for them. Someone found me through LinkedIn. So having your professional person files up to date and accurate for someone to see is really beneficial. I’ve always valued word of mouth. And if your work ethic is up there, they will come back whether maybe the business doesn’t need you right now, but it will in three months, that’s happened to me many times with freelance clients. And I also am very aware that whatever opportunities and positions I take on, I’m learning something new. I’ve had many instances where I’ve accepted a job solely because I wanted to learn more about it. And I would rather learn on someone else’s dime than my own. So don’t be afraid to, you know, fake it till you make it you could say, but really dive into like, I don’t know how to do this, but I’m willing to learn and you can’t teach willingness, let me tell you, not everyone is willing to learn and start fresh. So that’s how I’ve personally experienced it. But with social media, there’s so many ways to make connections and freelance jobs now.

Trevor Oldham  20:55  

Yeah, I think that’s an excellent overview. I think it’s better, better, better than ever. And even if someone in the audience is listening in, they think that they’re too young. I know, for me, personally, I think I got my first freelance clients when I was like, 1918 years old, I wasn’t even through concerts, definitely. You know, obviously, back then, you know, taking on, you know, the pay was a lot different than it was now being five years into the career. But for those listening, you know, age shouldn’t be a factor. But Zoey, I just want to say, I really enjoyed this interview, I just want to ask you a couple quick questions before we head out today. Yeah, of course. Now, you know, going back, I know this is a real estate podcast, but I know that you’re also a money coach, and really into personal finance. And a lot of our listeners are a little bit younger. And I was wondering if you had, you know, maybe one or two personal finance tips that if you could go back, you know, say five years that you wish you would have known that you could share with our audience?

Zoey Berghoff  21:45  

Yeah, of course. So my number one tip to increasing your savings, decreasing your expenses, increasing your investments, whatever it may be, track your expenses and understand where your money is going. I started tracking mine in college, and I would recommend it to anyone, it’s also a skill that I now do for the business. So you don’t realize that those personal habits you’re working on, could filter into a business. So tracking your expenses is my number one tip for anyone. And also start when you’re young, you don’t realize what compound interest and time can do for you. No matter how much money you have in the future. There’s a point where you can’t make up what time can do for you. So I started when I was 2122. And because of that, when I’m in my 30s, I’ll be in a completely different situation than someone who started at 28. So even though you feel like you might be too young to dive into it, you’ll start when you have retirement set up with your full time job. There’s no better time to start than right now.

Trevor Oldham  22:42  

I think that’s an excellent, excellent piece of advice, better, barely, or better now than ever. And then the next question I have for you is: Do you happen to have a favorite real estate or business book that you’d recommend for our audience to check out?

Zoey Berghoff  22:56  

Yeah, I highly recommend this is based on a bias I have. He really likes to read The Power of moments. And I will agree with him on that. Whether you’re in marketing, customer service, real estate, those moments and experiences you create for your guests or customers will keep them coming back and you can’t top customer service no matter how nice your house is, how great of a view you have. If that customer service isn’t there, you don’t have a business. So I definitely recommend it.

Trevor Oldham  23:27  

That’s an excellent book recommendation. And the last question I have here today is working with our audience to find you.

Zoey Berghoff  23:33  

Yeah, so you can find me I keep it easy for you guys. It’s just  zoeyberghoff on Instagram Tik Tok. My website is zoeyberghoff.com. If you are interested in learning more about Airbnb, or CO hosting, which is a variation of Airbnb income for $0 investments. You can book a consultation with me I have free resources for you guys a free Expense Tracker, so I keep it easy.

Trevor Oldham  23:55  

Awesome. Excellent. I’ll make sure to include that in the show notes of today’s episode. And Zoey thanks again for coming on.

Zoey Berghoff  24:02  

Yeah, thank you so much. I’m so glad I could be here today.