Photograph by Eliza Morrill
Columbus native Haley Lyman has taken accommodations in Columbus to new heights as the top local manager of AirBnbs in our city. With eight listings and another to list any day, her success in hospitality management has never been better. Haley sat down with The Columbusite to talk about how she began working with local short term AirBnb properties, who's booking, and her recommendations for visitors when it comes to booking local. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get into AirBnb in Columbus? It started with a career transition. I had been working at a local boutique called Pursona for many years, and decided I wanted to transition into working in commercial real estate. In the commercial real estate industry, a lot of times the deals will not go through for quite awhile. For example, one of my latest commercial real estate sales just closed after a year and a half. So I needed something that provided a more steady income every month. You know, just to have something that would pay the bills and help me be able to think clearly. I partnered with a colleague who I work with, and we decided to transform one of his longterm rental properties in the historic district into a short term rental property. I started doing hospitality management for him on that property. I communicated with guests, met their needs, and managed the turns for him. He started doing really well with that, so he decided to take a renovation job he'd been working on and renovate it specifically for an AirBnb. That one did really well, too. This led to me getting several calls from other people who had heard that I was doing some hospitality management for local AirBnbs. They contacted me to ask if they could list their properties with me. That's how the Illges House started. Then, another client of mine bought a house on 1st Avenue for an investment property and ended up transforming it into an AirBnb short term rental as well. Several of my clients were looking to build a way to turn their real estate into a source of income. You can do that with commercial real estate in volume, or you can do it like this with AirBnbs. It's just a different model because it's short term rentals. It's a similar concept, but it's a very different management style. You go from the real estate industry to the hospitality industry. Making that shift is very important. You have to know which model you are working with in order to best serve your clients and guests accordingly. What happened after you listed these first few properties on AirBnb?
At that point, I started to get quite a lot on my plate, but we kept going. It was going really well, so we took a house on 1st Avenue that is a beautiful duplex built into the 1800s. It was an incredible house that had a lot of historic charm, but needed some work done. The owners took the house and restored it to its original details. They did it quickly, between April and September, and they did an incredible job. The completely renovated it. Bathrooms, flooring, everything. It's beautiful. We listed the first unit of that historic house in September and it went really well. Then, we listed the other unit. That made seven listings for me. How did you manage seven listings? When I got to the point of having seven listings available, I realized that I needed a way to make things more efficient. I needed a way to keep everything straight and communicate effectively with each customer. Bookings were coming in fast, and I needed a better way of keeping track of everything. In comes my friend's husband. I used to work with his wife at Pursona years ago. They moved back from Nashville where he has over 20 listings on AirBnb. He has been very successful with it. So he and I partnered together to develop a software that helps us be more efficient at managing our properties. They already had the software model in place for Nashville, so they helped me build a model for Columbus. It's really, really great. It helps us manage communication, cleans, turns, and everything. It took my hospitality management for these local AirBnbs to the next level. A side hustle turned into a full-fledged business. How many units do you have listed locally now? Right now, I have eight. There is a ninth in the process of coming on the market as a new listing this summer. What has been the most exciting part of developing a local AirBnb market here? I am personally all about growth and positive development for our city. This is something new and very progressive for Columbus. It's really exciting. However, many people aren't aware of the incredible options that are available for booking local. They don't even know this exists in Columbus. Who is booking your listings, if it's not locals? The majority of my guests are from out of town. I'm not just talking about people coming from around the South, either. I've had people come from all over the country and the world. I'm talking about California, Germany, England, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Japan. It has been amazing to see who is coming to Columbus. You would be shocked by the amount of people who are coming to this town. Not only to visit family or military graduations at Fort Benning, but there are so many things bringing visitors to Columbus. What types of events bring visitors to your AirBnbs? Many of our guests are visiting family or soldiers at Fort Benning, but there are lots of other reasons people are coming to our town. For example, The Bo Bartlett Center Opening brought people in from all over. That was really exciting. Paddle South and all of the Whitewater Express events bring in a lot of people as well. We can always tell when there is an event going on, because we book up so quickly and very far in advance. One of the biggest weekends that we booked up for was the weekend of Creative South. I could not figure out why I was completely booked by the end of January for a seemingly random weekend in April. After a little research, I could see that the push was for Creative South. It was very exciting to see how many people were coming to town for that conference. That is wonderful! Yes. Being from Columbus, it's been so cool to see how many people are traveling to our town for such neat events. We're seeing these people, our customers, coming to Columbus and loving it here. My question as a host is to figure out how I can share the best of my hometown with them, so that they view Columbus as somewhere they want to be. How can I share the best of our city with visitors, so that Columbus really is seen for the beautiful place it is?
That is the heart of The Columbusite, and why we're here. I love that we share in that mission together. Yes! It's great, and just so important. Let's talk about booking local. If someone is coming to Columbus and they want to book with you, how would they access your listings? They can easily access my listings via my personalized link. Just click here! I'd love to help them find something perfectly suited to their needs. I will say though, lately lots of things have been booking up fairly far in advance. So if you're looking to book local, book early to ensure you get the listing of your choice. This is especially true in the summer! Last year, I had the most adorable couple book with me for a Pasaquan event. They were from somewhere up north and were in their seventies. They had just heard about Pasaquan and wanted to see it. They came for Pasaquan, visited Omaha Brewery, visited the Columbus Museum, and just explored our area. They loved it, and I just thought they were so amazing. I hope I'm that cool in my seventies! Haley, it has been such a joy to talk with you today. I just have one more question. Would you be willing to send over the links to some of your listings for us? I’d love for our readers and visitors to Columbus to have easy access to booking local while they're here.
Absolutely. I'd love to share them with your readers and any visitors to Columbus! ◼︎
For a link to each listing in this collection,
simply click each corresponding photo.
(Listing photos by Matt Gillespie)
The Illges Carriage House
An Eclectic Retreat in Uptown
The Cozy Historic District Bungalow
Uptown's 9 South House East
For more information on booking local with Haley Lyman, or to view all of her listings click here.
To connect with local photographer Eliza Morrill, and to see more of her work click here.