If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of keeping up with the regulations and legislation for short-term rentals, and you’re worried about the impact it could have on your business, then you are not alone! The risk of waking up to a sudden shut down of your entire rental operation can be a real cause for concern, especially in the face of ever-changing regulations and laws. It’s a lot to keep track of and it’s a risk that many property managers are facing in today’s market.

You have nothing to lose by putting together a website or, you know, leveraging the PM’s to do it for you and just having that available access to get direct booking. – Brianne Hamilton

In this episode, you will be able to:

My special guest for today’s episode is Brianne Hamilton. Brianne Hamilton is  the co-owner of Junction House property management company in Ontario, Canada, brings a wealth of experience in transitioning from long-term to short-term rentals. With a portfolio spanning urban city centers and rural vacation properties, Brianne’s insights into managing diverse rental types and locations provide invaluable strategies for increasing direct bookings and navigating the impact of regulations on short-term rentals. Her background in marketing and real estate investing infuses a creative and thoughtful approach to property management, ensuring a unique and optimized guest experience for each distinct property.

Connect with Brianne: 



Avail Brianne’s Complimentary Property Revenue and Occupancy Analysis to listeners: https://jhp.myflodesk.com/podcastfreebie

The key moments in this episode are:

00:00:00 – Introduction and Background

00:02:36 – Portfolio Expansion

00:08:45 – Operational Challenges

00:10:02 – Marketing Strategies

00:11:42 – Amenities and Guest Experiences

00:13:54 – Pros and Cons of Urban Market

00:14:57 – Rural Market Unique Opportunities

00:16:15 – Regulatory Concerns and Industry Impact

00:19:13 – Local Community Engagement

00:21:30 – Direct Booking Success and Freedom 

FREE GUIDE: 10 Ways to Drive Guests to your Website instead of Airbnb: https://directbookingsuccess.com/10-ways-to-drive-guests-to-your-website-instead-of-airbnb/

Show notes are available at: https://directbookingsuccess.com/podcast/

Follow Jenn on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/directbookingsuccess

Join Jenn’s free Facebook group – the Marketing Hub: https://www.facebook.com/groups/strmarketinghub


00:00:00 - Jenn Boyles

Hello and welcome to another episode of the direct booking Direct Booking Success podcast. I'm Jenn Boyles, your host, and today I have Brianne Hamilton with me now. Brianne is the co-owner of Junction House property management company in Ontario, Canada. Welcome, Brianne.

00:00:17 - Brianne Hamilton

Hello. Thanks, Jenn. I'm happy to be here.

00:00:20 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, it's great. Let's start with you telling us a bit about who you are and what you do.

00:00:26 - Brianne Hamilton

Absolutely. So myself and my husband Doug started, started Junction house properties and Junction house getaways about four or five years ago now. So we originally started more as investors. So buying, you know, properties, doing rentals on them, getting them rented in the long term rental market here in Ontario. But after a couple of years of doing that, you know, the hype of short term rentals started to come out and we thought, hey, we have a couple of properties that would be well suited for short term rentals. And in Ontario, the landlord tenant rules are quite strict, so it's not always in your favor to have long term rentals. So we started looking really more seriously into short term rentals and turned a couple of our own properties into that type of property and absolutely just fell in love with the whole process from start to finish. You know, we both have always loved traveling and just the hospitality side of it mixed with real estate investing and design. It's kind of basically like our dream come true, finding this kind of niche in the real estate investing world. So from then we really just dove all in and have now got to the point where we are co hosting and managing for other owners. So we've really built out our own property management and hosting business, which we absolutely love. And we've spread out across Ontario or in Nova Scotia and also we've done some properties in the US. So I think that there's really no borders when it comes to this type of work, which is great.

00:02:02 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. So whereabouts in the states have you expanded to?

00:02:06 - Brianne Hamilton

So we've managed some properties in Arizona and also now in Florida. We have a couple coming up.

00:02:12 - Jenn Boyles

Great. Oh, my goodness. So how many properties are you looking after in total?

00:02:17 - Brianne Hamilton

So in total, we have just over 20. I think we're at 22 now. And then we have, our pipeline is growing every day, so again, probably another ten or twelve in there that we're hoping to get launched in the next six months or so. Wow.

00:02:32 - Jenn Boyles

Okay. You're on a real growth spurt right now.

00:02:35 - Brianne Hamilton

Yes, we are.

00:02:36 - Jenn Boyles

And you told me 20% direct bookings, which is brilliant. And I wanted to ask, because when I talk to people who come from the investment side of things, sometimes direct bookings is a bit of a leap because they're. I don't know how to say this, but they, you know, they're driven by Airbnb and booking.com and Vrbo and think that's good enough for a return. So what made you get into direct bookings for your portfolio?

00:03:07 - Brianne Hamilton

Yeah, that's a great question and I think that's a very good insight that a lot of people just gravitate towards the popular channels for themselves. So my background before this in the corporate world was communications and marketing. So to me it was almost just like a no brainer. It's like, why wouldn't I just market our properties or sell and use that money we would have given away to the channels to pay for some marketing of our own. So to me it was just a natural kind of like, of course I'm going to do this. And yeah, so last year, as you said, we had 20% direct, which was amazing with, you know, obviously there was some marketing behind it, but it wasn't pushed as much as we probably can and are looking to do going forward.

00:03:51 - Jenn Boyles

And what are the plans this year?

00:03:52 - Brianne Hamilton

So as we've obviously been growing and continuing to grow, we really want to ensure that everything under our management is as optimized and out there as it can be. So we really do look at each property and almost give it its own kind of brand and avatar, if you will. So we can make sure we're attracting the right type of guests, you know, for that property. So I know we didn't get into a lot of the various things we manage, but like, we have everything from bunkies to sleep. Twelve beautiful cottages in the Muskoka area of Ontario. So we have a wide range of properties which bring all different types of guests our way. So we really, you know, fine tune our approach on how to get the right guests to the right property that they will hopefully book.

00:04:39 - Jenn Boyles

And you have to explain what. Because bunkie is very much a regional term, I think it's. I don't even know if we use it, really in Vancouver. I know what it is, but I think it might be more of an Ontario type term. So what exactly is a bunkie for people outside of Ontario?

00:04:53 - Brianne Hamilton

I should have looked it up because it's just like saying cottage or camp or cabin or. Right. So bunky is basically an off grid structure. We, some of them have heating, like a wood burning kind of mini fireplace in them, but they usually have no electricity, no water. It's basically like a wood structure in the forest with no amenities. So, yeah, and this is right now, like from January to now, we have two bunkies in this area. They're booked every weekend. Like, people love it. It's the experience, right?

00:05:26 - Jenn Boyles

It's camping, but it's camping with a structure, with shelter.

00:05:30 - Brianne Hamilton

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And a bed. We do have beds in them, but that's pretty much it.

00:05:35 - Jenn Boyles

I love it. I love it. I think that I've seen on your website, there's a great picture of one that just.

00:05:40 - Brianne Hamilton

Oh, it's so sweet.

00:05:42 - Jenn Boyles

So I really wanted to talk to you today because your portfolio is so vast in an area. You have these rural cottage country bunkies and other properties, but then you also have some properties that are very urban in city centers. So I really wanted to get into the dynamics there of managing properties that have very distinctive, like, as you said, very distinctive, ideal guests coming to them, but also in very different locations. So let's start by maybe understanding the lay of the land. So where, where sort of are your properties located?

00:06:22 - Brianne Hamilton

So most of our properties are in the, I guess, southern Ontario area. So we have some in Toronto, Niagara on the lake, along Lake Erie, and then up north in the Muskoka area, which is where a lot of cottages are, and also actually out towards Ottawa in Coburg, we have another property, so we're kind of spread out mainly in southern Ontario. And then I have cottages in Nova Scotia along the south shore. So that's geographically where we are. And I guess how it led to that, it wasn't all by fluke, as, you know, as investors ourselves, like we always kind of, you know, you buy in different areas, and as we started looking into doing more property management and taking on more clients, we felt that for us, it was ideal to have some different types of properties because they all have different seasons. So if we only focused on cottages, it's. We would really be crazy from May to October, and then we'd have nothing to do all winter or, you know, and for us also, income would be, you know, very, it would fluctuate quite a bit. So we thought, you know what? It's better to have a mix because then we'll have our more kind of urban properties in the city generally are more stable and you do have your peaks, but you're going to have income throughout the year. And then in our cottages, we can focus, obviously, during the summer and high season and then have other things to do in those off seasons. So that's why we decided to just kind of be open to whatever comes our way. From our company, kind of like higher level standards. To us, the guest experience is always key and it may be a little different for the different types of properties, but that's always something we focus on. So regardless of the type of property or where it is, we can always have fun with the guests and do something unique and creative to give them that great experience. So we found a high level. Your guest experiences, your processes, your policies can all relatively be similar and it doesn't really matter.

00:08:27 - Jenn Boyles


00:08:27 - Brianne Hamilton

Where you're located or the type of property.

00:08:29 - Jenn Boyles

Well, you've just answered one of my questions because I was going to ask about some of the operational challenges, but it sounds like there aren't very many operational challenges. Managing rural as well as urban properties in one portfolio.

00:08:45 - Brianne Hamilton

Well, there can be. I'm not saying it's all roses. The one thing that is a bit or is difficult, I'll be honest, is obviously our teams on the ground, right? So we run a lot more, you know, virtually. Obviously I'm not running out to every property. So we have to have teams locally, right, for our cleaning, for kind of handy stuff, you know, our runners, inspectors. So that is, I guess one of the drawbacks of being more spread out is we have to count on a lot of different people to kind of help us with that operation side of it and obviously then maintain our standards as well.

00:09:20 - Jenn Boyles


00:09:21 - Brianne Hamilton

So it's a bit trickier to do when you have like a group of 20 cleaners versus maybe five, but it's still. It still works and, you know, we just have to put a bit more effort into that area of the business and make sure. Yeah, make sure things are where they need to be.

00:09:36 - Jenn Boyles

And with marketing, what do you find is unique? Like what is effective uniquely with urban markets versus rural markets? What are the differences there that you're finding in your marketing?

00:09:48 - Brianne Hamilton

Yeah, so we find for our urban properties, we rely a lot more on trying to stay close to, like, events happening and like different celebrations or, you know, peak times. And we leverage a lot of that content to help drive bookings. Whereas on the more rural side, it's really more about the location or the property because, you know, if people are coming to a bunkie in the woods or a cottage, they may be 2030 minutes away from anything. So they're really coming to stay there. So that's when we really work to feature the properties a lot more versus like, hey, it's Canada Day weekend, right? So it varies that way. And we find that's been kind of a good way to separate them, but also reach, you know, the guests we want.

00:10:38 - Jenn Boyles

And you mentioned that because of the differences, you know, sort of each sort of property, each, I guess it wouldn't necessarily be each property, but each location would have a different ideal guest. So how are you managing all of these ideal guests, the properties, the locations, how are you managing that in your, in your marketing?

00:10:58 - Brianne Hamilton

Yeah, so I think it's been, we've been able to see some patterns now that we know. We've been operating a couple of years on the type of guests that are coming through and, you know, the experiences that they're having or what they're, they're looking for. We do spend a lot of time, you know, we don't want to annoy our guests by, like, talking, checking up on them all the time and over communicating. But we do try to pull out some nuggets whenever we can around what something we could do differently, you know, things that maybe we could add or take away to get that feedback just to help really grow the property as a desirable spot. But then it also helps in our marketing around what we can focus more on to attract people. So that's really helped us keep fine tuning our approach on how we're talking about the properties.

00:11:42 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. And amenities, I guess amenities differ, do they, from rural to urban?

00:11:47 - Brianne Hamilton

Oh, absolutely. The amenities, again, more about what to do right there.

00:11:52 - Jenn Boyles


00:11:52 - Brianne Hamilton

So anything by water. You know, we have paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes. We make sure there's, you know, beach toys, kids toys, all of that sort of thing. If there's any given more property or like acreage, you know, we want fields or, you know, volleyball, stuff like that. That can kind of keep people active as well as stuff to do inside if it's raining. Right. So nothing worse to be stuck, stuck someplace with a bunch of people and nothing to do. So wherever we can, a lot of, you know, board games, all of those types of things. We have an arcade in one of our cottages that people love and even come back to. Like, I get requests sometimes saying, are my high scores still there? Because we're coming back and I want to see it. And then also, hot tubs for the out of the way properties are always a big draw. They can be, you know, a nightmare sometimes from the maintenance side of it, but everybody always wants a hot tub. So that's one of those amenities. We try to put in a lot of those properties, and then for the city, more urban stays. We try to make sure that they're just equipped for the various guests that are coming through. So we find stuff like and it's just little stuff like ironing board your iron. Like people are usually coming for work or for something, so they need all those things to just be able to get ready. Right. So your fully stocked kind of kitchen area, they don't necessarily care so much about cooking. So even though, you know, all of our kitchens are usually quite equipped in that we find our city properties, people don't care as much about that, but definitely just those little nice to haves around, a really good hairdryer, you know, the robes, things like that. People like those extra touches. Yeah.

00:13:36 - Jenn Boyles

I find that in urban properties, the ovens don't really get used. So, you know, one less thing that the cleaner needs to do is clean that oven every stay, which is quite nice. So for people that are listening and thinking, I want to get into this, I want to look at doing more urban or more rural. What are some of the pros and cons of each market?

00:13:59 - Brianne Hamilton

So I think some of the pros are urban. So as I mentioned, your seasonality, usually it's a bit more steady. So you're going to have your peaks, but you can definitely be a bit more consistent from an occupancy perspective. I think though, sometimes there's less opportunity to really increase your rates and maybe maximize in that perspective because there's a lot more competition. Right. So you definitely need to be competitive to kind of keep that occupancy where it should be. Also, there's a lot of people right now looking to rent out their properties because they've bought in the last few years and don't want long term tenants. They think, oh, switching to short term is the way to go, but it's often not like we have actually quite a few people who come to us to talk about, you know, us managing them. And when we actually dig into it, they're better off getting a long term tenant because it is expensive to get properties set up and. And fully equipped. And then, you know, by the time you start seeing any revenue coming in, you have to be able to carry those costs. So it can be a big investment upfront where the return might not be there or it might not be there for quite a while. And a lot of people may not really have thought that through on the, on the rural side. I guess to us, a lot of the pros are, we love that we can make properties really unique. So whether it's just through how they get, you know, decorated and we add all those extra touches to make them really fun and up those amenities or also just in the way that where the, all of the just kind of little extra things are within the property.

00:15:40 - Jenn Boyles

And with you being in Canada a bit on the other side of Canada from where I am, with the regulations that are coming in, the sort of hard hitting regulations that are coming in and be, I wanted to ask you, you know, are there any trends that are coming in with regulations, legislation that is worrying you? And the second part of that question is urban or rural? Like what, where are you, where are your concerns?

00:16:06 - Brianne Hamilton

Yes, they can't, they are actually really concerning us and that's a bit why being spread out again makes us sleep a little better at night, you know. So I am in Toronto, we do have a couple properties here and you know, they haven't come down as hard as they have in BC, but they are crossing a line around what is really overreach versus like let's just do the right thing for the economy and so on. Right. So it definitely is worrying. And on the rural side, we are finding some of the municipalities, they're not banning things, they're coming out with some bylaws and some rules around getting licensing, which we're totally for. Like we actually are rather be in municipalities where there already is that in place because then we know what the rules are, you know, we can abide by them. We're pretty used to filling out license applications now, that's for sure, you know, so that's fine. But it is scary when, you know, some people's whole livelihood could be totally changed just by the government deciding, hey, no more STRs. When people have been renting out cottages and cabins and camps forever, like this is nothing new and this is how a lot of people sustain having those types of properties. So we just try to make sure our clients and those we work with are well informed on what the current state, what we see may be happening. We do try to pay close attention to the various things happening, which, you know, there's a lot again, given because every little municipality can just make up their own rules. So it can be a lot to kind of keep on top of. But yeah, you know, again, it is a risk to being in this business definitely because we never know, right? Like with what's happened in BC, we don't know if one day we wake up and hey, all of Canada is just shut down. So, you know, we're doing as much as we can to try to speak up and message our municipalities and those that can hopefully speak up when some of these things are coming to the table.

00:18:06 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, I think that's, yeah, and I can totally see how I'm going to use a word that doesn't exist. The spread outness of your portfolio is working for you in the sense that if a harsher regulation comes in in one area, you can pivot to the other areas, which is great. But then I guess on the other side it's, there's a lot more to keep up with and a lot more municipalities, you know, cities to work with. Are you finding that you have a seat at the table in these areas?

00:18:38 - Brianne Hamilton

There are a couple, yes. So we're actually finding some of them, actually along Lake Erie. So in Haldimand county, where we manage some properties, they've actually invited local hosts and those in the tourism industry to come and join together and like, let's talk about how can we all work together to bring more tourists and how do we support, you know, the rentals and the local businesses. So that was amazing to see. You know, we do try to join some of the other meetings where possible, where there's not necessarily voices being heard, which is unfortunate. But wherever we can, we are definitely trying to speak up, that's for sure.

00:19:12 - Jenn Boyles

Well, that's wonderful. And that's the type of area that you want to be in.

00:19:16 - Brianne Hamilton


00:19:17 - Jenn Boyles

And, yeah, that fills me with a lot of hope and I hope that there are more areas like that out there in the world because it's tourism, it's money for the local economies and, you know, it's very important. And I think by the time this airs, there will be laws in place in BC and this summer is going to be very interesting when the tourism falls away because they have nowhere economical to stay anyway. I'll get off my sofa. I want to hear your advice, your wisdom, or like a mistake to avoid for new property managers aiming that are coming into this and they're not wanting to rely just on the otas for the bookings, but wanting to do more direct bookings. What would be a piece of advice or a mistake to avoid that you could share?

00:20:14 - Brianne Hamilton

Sure. So I think on the advice side, I would say that really you have nothing to lose by putting together a website or, you know, leveraging the PM's to do it for you and just having that available access to get direct booking. I think it has definitely been a game changer for us, which is great when you can even just start small, like start a little Facebook group or a Facebook page for your property and just start to get the word out. It's definitely you know, keeping kind of giving you a bit of leverage, I think, for the future is how we see it. Right. And, you know, you're starting. Starting to get it out there, I think is just really great.

00:20:55 - Jenn Boyles

I completely, completely agree. And it doesn't have to be fancy or time consuming. I had a call with a client today and she was saying to me that she's been looking at her analytics on her website. And she said, you know, since I've been telling everybody my website address, my traffic has increased. And I'm like, yes, this is exactly what we want. We want to get people over to our website to book. So, yeah, it is that. It's getting the word out. That's exactly it. Wonderful. So while I have you, I need to ask you, what does direct booking Direct Booking Success mean to you?

00:21:30 - Brianne Hamilton

So, to me, this is maybe a bit corny, but it feels. It's freedom. I feel just so in control of our business and the guests that we have that book with us directly, you know, we feel a better connection with them because it's like, oh, my God, they actually found us through our website like it was, again, like the person you spoke to. And we don't feel like we're working for the channel and, you know, giving away that, that income as well. So to me, whenever I see those bookings come through that are direct, like, I just get a little like, oh, I'm excited about this, you know. So we're hoping to grow that 20% for sure.

00:22:08 - Jenn Boyles

And so lovely. Wonderful. I know. Maybe we should start a direct booking Direct Booking Success dance because I know that all of us across the world, when those bookings come through direct means so much more than when a booking comes through an online travel agent. Well, Brianne, thank you so much for coming on today. What is your website? I'm going to put your links in the show notes for people to get in contact with you. But can you tell us your website address?

00:22:38 - Brianne Hamilton

Yeah, so you can find us at www.junctionhousegetaways.com.

00:22:43 - Jenn Boyles

Wonderful. And I'll put your Facebook and Instagram social links there. And you also have an offer for property owners, don't you? Do you want to share a little bit about that for sure?

00:22:54 - Brianne Hamilton

So if anybody is looking for some help or maybe a refresh on the revenue and occupancy that their properties should be getting, we're offering a free analysis for folks. So I think I sent you a link so people can click on that and we can reach out and walk you through that.

00:23:13 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, I'll put that link in the show notes. That is very helpful. Thank you so much for coming on. Thanks.

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