The Lakeside Rental Business, with Brian Zerges

Episode 152:

Brian Zerges is a Licensed Real Estate Broker and sole owner of Finger Lakes Premier Properties (FLPP) for the last 25 years. After earning a BA from t0he Rochester Institute of Technology, Brian spent over seven valuable years as a Licensed Real Estate Broker in California specializing in commercial sales, syndication and property management. These experiences positioned him well to return to upstate New York and become the owner-operator of the largest lakeside real estate firm in the Finger Lakes. Brian is certified by the National Association of Realtors as a Resort and Second Home Specialist and an active member of the Vacation Rental Managers Association.

With over 60 full-time year-round employees, FLPP maintains offices in Canandaigua and Penn Yan and specializes in property management and real estate sales. FLPP currently manages over 300 privately-owned single-family lakeside vacation rentals, along with over 50 single-family homes. Its portfolio of commercial accounts has grown to include Keuka College and Best Western’s Vineyard Inn & Suites, Penn Yan. Many investors rely on Brian and his team to locate, purchase and manage lakeside investment properties with maximum rental income.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Brian Zerges about his special niche of selling real estate in the lakeside hospitality industry and the challenges that go along with it.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The special aspects and systems of selling real estate in the hospitality industry
  • Similarities between hotels and house rentals in terms of visitor experience
  • Creative solutions and features FLPP uses to stand out in the industry
  • Why Brian’s niche is so challenging and how he and his team rise to the challenge
  • Data Brian’s team gathers from its properties and customers, and how that data is used
  • What FLPP does to remain flexible and accommodate clients
  • What “co-opetition” does for Brian’s team

Lakeside Real Estate

Brian Zerges is the sole owner of Finger Lakes Premier Properties, the largest lakeside real estate firm in the Finger Lakes. Brian’s experience in California real estate has made him a perfect fit for the competitive industry of real estate hospitality. He and his team of 60 full-time employees have discovered the ins and outs of operating in this unique niche, the required systems, and how to deliver the best visitor experience.

Finger Lakes Premier Properties runs over 300 properties along hundreds of miles of shoreline. Each building is different due to topography, distance, client profile, and more. As the largest growing section of the lodging industry, vacation rentals require marketers and owners to keep up by implementing systems that go above and beyond. For example, FLPP has a large, commercial laundry service that is constantly ensuring its properties have clean linens and other laundry supplies. This is just one of the many moving parts of making sure that all of those properties have maintenance and housekeeping 24/7, just like a hotel would.

Brian’s team goes the extra mile to make their customers confident in the visitor experience. Finger Lakes tourists can rest easy knowing that the FLPP staff will be there to meet their every need, no matter the time. FLPP accomplishes this by thoroughly vetting its high-performing staff, evaluating metrics, and constantly searching for feedback from guests. Data about timing, costs, efficiency, quality, and numerous other things are gathered from the renters and taken into account when FLPP develops its systems, trains its staff, and updates its fees and policies.

Innovation and Flexibility

In a niche as hot as lakeside rentals, FLPP has to constantly adapt to meet the shifting needs and demands of the competitive industry. As always, this requires creativity! Brian and FLPP have leaned heavily into the lakeside aspect of their real estate properties, highlighting and optimizing a lake experience for their guests. Brian grew up on the lake, so he knows all about what lakeside living really means. This is where the team’s creativity comes forward, whether it’s having houses along Lake Street or having the word “lake” in their phone number.

Alongside creativity, flexibility is incredibly important. With lots of clients at lots of different properties, FLPP has to be able to change plans at the drop of a hat to accommodate customers. One way they do this is through scattered check-in and check-out dates. While some of the property owners were resistant, Brian and FLPP have successfully made it so guests can successfully check in and out based on their needs without having to commit to a full Saturday to Saturday stay. This makes it easier for guests with hectic schedules and prevents FLPP from having to clean and prepare 300 houses on a given Saturday.

One of the biggest ways FLPP continues to learn and grow is through collaboration and even competition. FLPP is always in touch with property owners to make sure they’re delivering the best experiences for guests and has helped form the Finger Lakes Vacation Rental Managers Association, a lakeside association helping to handle issues around the lake ranging from problem guests to pollution. They also collaborate with the Vacation Rental Exchange, a coalition of 13 vacation rental companies in the Northeast that come together to exchange ideas and have great discussions. Brian Zerges and FLPP are another fine example of creativity, innovation, and “co-opetition”, and I’m so glad I get to share some of their knowledge with you.


Episode Transcript

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