It isn’t often when I meet with managers to chat about their property that I have the privilege of meeting one of the first (and still current) occupants of the 41-year old building, as well as being able to speak to the chairman of the body corporate who remembers running around the building site at the age of ten.
Mick Innes is the said serving chairman and the son of Ian Innes, the original developer of the historical six-storey building that was considered “an absolute tower” in 1978.
Mick remembers there only being one or two other multi-storeys along the Esplanade, with The Sands and Focus being the largest. Back then, Surfers Chalet was built of white brick and had one lift, and he recalls sweeping and cleaning every unit while the builders were on site.
And he laughs about the relatively narrow balconies. “The building was developed long before alfresco dining became trendy, but if truth be told, my father intentionally moved the marker for the rails to ensure the interiors would be as spacious as they are,” adds Mick.
Opened in 1980, Ian presented Mick’s grandmother with a unit that she revered.
“My grandmother loved living in Surfers Chalet,” says Mick, “she would walk along the beach every morning, and it was my favourite place for sleepovers as I could literally get out of bed and straight into the surf in the morning.”
That same unit, which has never been rented, has been renovated a couple of times and is now the much-loved weekender for Mick’s Brisbane-based family.
He admits to being ‘particular’ about the property and how it is cared for. Having been on committee for 15 years, he has experienced the complete rendering of the building as well as an extensive recarpeting and repainting exercise 10 years ago, and the instalment of new lifts three years ago.
“Surfers Chalet is a great property, in a picture-perfect location,” says Mick, “and it’s wonderful to have onsite managers that have embraced the property and management as ours have.”
The onsite managers that Mick is enthused about are Carolyn and Garry Witt – new to the industry and taking on the property in November 2018, just one week before ‘Schoolies’ started.
And if that wasn’t challenging enough, Carolyn says that when they purchased Surfers Chalet it was all run manually. Setting up the booking software, a channel manager and OTAs, while also settling into the property, was daunting and very challenging, but also exceptionally rewarding once she mastered it all.
“During the first three months, Garry was also kept extremely busy with maintenance issues and bringing the building up to scratch,” adds Carolyn. “He has also managed to build a new reception area, renovate the managers apartment and create a number of ‘beachy’ artworks for the refreshed common property zones.”
One would think with all this going on that the personable couple have had a lifetime of experience in hospitality, but Carolyn has a background in sales and admin as well as overseeing their other business that Garry runs which is a building and pest inspection company.
So why management rights? Carolyn says that Garry had always wanted to go into management rights and she was tired of the excessive driving she was doing for work, so the idea was hatched and they started looking for properties.
“We fell in love with Surfers Chalet,” adds Carolyn. “It’s an older building but offers everything we were looking for.
Surfers Chalet is a mixed property of holiday, long-term and owner occupiers in a range of studio/hotel rooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom self-contained apartments. External facilities include a large outdoor pool with heated spa and a Swedish sauna.
The property also features a spacious and bright manager’s unit that has plenty of room for the most important member of the family (and security detail), their beloved Labrador, Barney.
Ideally situated just moments from the beach, close to a park with a children’s playground and BBQ’s and almost opposite the Northcliffe Surf Club as well as just an 8-minute walk into the hub of Surfers Paradise, Surfers Chalet is close enough for guests to participate in all the fun and then to relax in a private and more tranquil setting.
Not that they plan to rest on their laurels. When asked about future plans for the property, Carolyn happily shares that they have a great relationship with the committee and body corporate who have indicated that they are very pleased with the work they have done since arriving. “There are a number of projects that have been identified, but like all things, it’s a process.
“In addition to trying to modernise some of the apartments, we will be working hard to attract new visitors as well as welcoming back our many repeat guests,” says Carolyn.
And it appears from the multitude of enthused and complimentary reviews, being listed as a ‘Super Host’ with Airbnb and taking the Booking.com rate to 9.4 that they are already doing things right.
So, what I ask is their secret?
“We both love the people-side of this business,” says Carolyn. “We enjoy meeting new people and helping to make sure that their stay is as relaxing as possible. We write to guests regularly, always personally escort guests to their rooms and explain about the area and what’s on offer and know every guest’s name. By the end of their stay we always feel as though we’re saying good-bye to friends or family as we get to know them so well. Surfers Chalet is like a big, comfy family.”
Being so new to the industry I wouldn’t normally ask how they feel about management rights or if they have advice to offer newbies considering a purchase, but Carolyn and Garry seem to have this complex operation in hand.
“Management rights is a great industry to get into if you love meeting and dealing with people from all walks of life,” says Carolyn. “If however, you are brand new to the industry like we were, then give yourself time to adjust. We were told it takes about six months to settle in and I have found this to be true. Treat your guests with kindness and respect and keep you listening ears on all the time. Attend to any guest issues immediately and make your place their home away from home.”