Growing up in a family that moved more than 20 times during his childhood, John Hildebrand had an early introduction to real estate. “My parents would take us around and show us properties,” he fondly recounts. Then, when it was time for Hildebrand to head to college, his family decided to buy a condo where he could live in one of the rooms, while renting out the remaining ones. “We sold it when I graduated, and it paid for my entire tuition. That was my first real taste of the real estate/’house hacking’ world,” Hildebrand says, “and it was super fun.”
With that early experience, it’s no surprise that Hildebrand gravitated towards real estate investing when he moved to sunny Malibu after college to pursue a career as a photographer. What was a surprise—to Hildebrand as much as to anyone else—was that he turned that investment into a short-term-rental. One that would eventually grow into a full-fledged STR business, and lead Hildebrand to the forefront of the short-term-rental industry in Arizona—the state where his family settled, and where he’d return to live.
Along the way, Hildebrand encountered some serious obstacles—the biggest being a growing resistance to short term rentals in the communities where he owned properties. A resistance that seemed to be fueled by both real frustration, and a lot of misinformation.
Hildebrand’s early short-term-rental experiences were overwhelmingly positive–if a little less than…professional. Newly arrived in Malibu in 2015, and looking for a way to generate income to support his photography ambitions, he recalls a friend asking him a fortuitous question:
“‘Have you heard of Airbnb?’ And I was like, ‘Nope. What is that? You want me to open up my house to a bunch of strangers, on an app?? This idea is NOT going to work. This is the weirdest thing ever.’”
-John Hildebrand, Hilde Homes
Fast forward a few months, and Hildebrand was singing a different tune. After initially renting out rooms in his Malibu townhome, he eventually shifted to renting out the entire property while traveling or staying at friends’ houses.
“I never thought about it as a business. And the money was fantastic, because I was competing with not very many others. The saturation just wasn’t there. There were just a very, very few. I could almost charge whatever I wanted. Even though I had no idea what to charge. I just charged what I thought was right.”
He jumped into his next STR investment—a house in Los Angeles’ Inglewood neighborhood, where ground was just breaking on SoFi Stadium, the soon-to-be home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers teams—with his realtor brother. There, things were even better than in Malibu.
That is, until…THE ONE.
It seemed like a totally normal booking: a mom and her kids, no red flags, nothing to prompt Hildebrand to ask a lot of questions. But once the guests arrived, things started to “get weird” real fast. “More cars showing up,” he says. “Then I noticed my front door camera got taped over, and I’m like, ‘Uh oh, this is not a good sign.’” So Hildebrand contacted the guests, who promptly replied: “You can’t tell us what to do!”
“Fortunately,” says Hildebrand, the guests’ constant smoking triggered the property’s smoke detectors, which eventually brought out the police and fire department. But it was up to Hildebrand, not the authorities, to force the guests off the property. “It was this horrible situation where we were trying to kick people out, and they were cussing me out on the cameras and saying they know where I live. And I was like, ‘Wait, what? Do they?? This is nuts!’ I was so scared.”
“I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better solution. This is insane.’”
Hildebrand eventually moved to Arizona, where his parents had settled. And that’s where he discovered NoiseAware. But not until he’d immersed himself in industry podcasts, videos and webinars, determined to professionalize his business as he continued to add more properties to his portfolio.
At that point, Hildebrand had short-term rentals in Los Angeles, Malibu, and Old Town Scottsdale, which he describes as a “mini Las Vegas—major noise issues.”
News stories about Airbnb parties were starting to ramp up. And Hildebrand thought, “I do not want to be a part of that bad crowd. I do not want to be a part of that conversation. That sounds horrible.”
Part of the Rent Responsibly network of city and state alliances, AZRT now has 2,500 members, and is rapidly growing. The STRA played a major role in shoring up Arizona’s 2016 statewide law protecting the rights of short-term-rental owners, in recent years.