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From Dated To Dazzling In Days

An interior makeover has transformed an Akaroa beach house into a modern Airbnb, which is paying its way while offering its owners holidays, writes Joanna Mathers.

By: Joanna Mathers

1 May 2022

Not many investors can claim to have undertaken a major property makeover when 37 weeks pregnant, but that’s exactly what Christchurch investor Ana Meredith did late last year.

Her 1960’s two-bedroom unit, which was turned into Airbnb accommodation, was transformed from dated to dazzling in seven days.

And Meredith’s hard work paid off: the home had zero vacancies in late December and January.

“I am very pleased with the outcome,” says Ana. “Airbnb is such a great, easy model to use.”

Ana and her husband Matthew have been investors for eight years, but this is the first short-term rental in their portfolio. It was bought as a family bach, but the couple realised it would need to “pay its way”.

Located on a hill overlooking the harbour, the unit has glorious harbour views. And they picked up the property for just over $600,000, with a pre-auction offer the owners were happy with. It was fully furnished, too, but dated. The Merediths were determined to modernise for discerning Airbnb guests.

“Looking online we found a gap in the market for a nicely presented bach. All those available were very ‘Kiwiana’, which was fine, but we wanted modern, beachy décor for the bach that would really make it stand out,” says Ana.

Mood Board

They set to work establishing the look and feel of the house in the month leading up to settlement, and went buying furnishings.

“I created a mood board with images from Instagram, which I put on a Pinterest page,” she says. “I chose pictures that represented how I would like the unit to look.”

The Merediths intended to use the bach themselves, and wanted everything to be perfect. Ana wanted a modern and beachy look, with a colour scheme of white and blue, and some wood thrown in for good measure. This conceptualisation really “brought the outside in” — a classic interior design trick. And by settlement the couple had a garage full of furniture (including some of their own) ready to use.

Painting was the first priority and they engaged a local tradesman. On the day after settlement he painted the interiors in Resene Double Alabaster and Resene Rice Cake. They also brought the home up to Healthy Homes standards: “There are no long-term rentals in the area so if we decide to do this we know there will be a good rental pool,” says Ana.

This was a simple job, installing extractor fans and panel heaters to the living spaces.

Then it was time for the fun stuff. While the carpet still needs replacing (they will be doing that later this year) it was decided it was important to get the house on the Airbnb site quickly. With settlement on the eve of the summer holidays, the couple knew it would have to be a fast turnaround.

‘There are no long-term rentals in the area, so if we decide to do this we know there will be a good rental pool’ Ana Meredith

Once the painter had left, it was all go for Ana. At 37 weeks pregnant she was in charge of cleaning, making up beds, and styling the entire home in just a couple of days.

The furnishings for the beach house were sourced from different places, including the family home, which had also been undergoing a style makeover.

Designer furniture company French Country has an outlet in Christchurch, where Ana was able to pick up a table and buffet at a 50-60 per cent reduction. She brought in a coffee table and chairs from home – the white wicker chairs create a light and airy beachy vibe, and the white slatted table on wheels is the perfect counterpoint.

Amazing Bargains

Couches were bought from a home staging company. “You can get amazing bargains from home staging company sales,” says Ana. “You just need to watch out for them: they are always great ways of getting high quality furniture for a great price.”

Then there were the all-important touches for Airbnb styling photos. Ana sourced cheap pots from Bunnings and spray-painted them white; all cutlery and mugs are from The Warehouse. She splashed out on decent pillows and duvets (a surfeit of soft bedroom furnishings are an Airbnb essential) from Bed Bath & Beyond. The wicker lightshades were courtesy of Kmart.

All the painting, cleaning, furniture moving, and styling had a seven-day turnaround. It was hard, fast work.

“I was very nervous driving home as I thought the effort had put me into labour,” says Ana.

The following day the home went live on Airbnb, and was booked for the next six weeks.

The summer holiday season was flat-out, but now things have quietened down there is time to consider future plans.

“There is still great potential to continue to add more value which we love in an investment,” says Ana. “We will look to upgrade the bathroom in a couple of years and build a big deck out the front. We will also turn the laundry large space that flows into the internal garage into a third bedroom with bunks.”

The model works well for them: they have their own bespoke holiday spot, and a local is able to manage it for them.

“Our cleaner is a co-host, meaning she knows exactly when check-outs are and we don’t even need to liaise, she just does her thing. It’s too easy.”

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