East Point, GA

Atlanta couple goes from struggling to make mortgage payments to $700K in vacation rental income in 10 years

Ellen Eastwood

The main treehouse exteriorPhoto byAirbnb

When Darrel and Patrice bought their home in East Point, Georgia, it was an act of faith. They paid $250,000 for a small house on 2.5 acres in 2012. As Patrice said:

That was a lot of money to us. We hugged, and I cried because we didn't know how we were going to pay the mortgage the following month. We had $1,000 in the bank between the two of us."

The urgent financial need forced them to get creative, so they started renting out rooms in their home via Airbnb. Family and friends questioned them about it. Says Patrice "we were kinda told we were crazy for doing that."

They started to rent out the entire house and found it was a lucrative venture. An idea was formed. "We started toying with the idea that we could rent out micro-spaces and still command the same dollar."

But not just any micro-spaces - spaces that felt special - beautifully decorated with a real getaway vibe.

They started with a $65,000 tiny house they built on their property. It was cool and geometrical on the inside and outside. When it was featured on the HGTV show, Tiny House Big Living, it became so popular it was booked for 9 months solidly.

Tiny house exteriorPhoto byAirbnb

This spurred the couple on and they decided to convert the 16x16 pre-made shed that was already on the property into a warm, rustic living space with two floors.

From there they built a triplex of tiny spaces each with its own personality. There's a darker, funkier place "for the guys", a farmhouse chic home, and a bohemian spot.

The Maxams look to upcycle materials whenever they can. The triplex's interior wood is from a boat ramp that was originally on the property. The exterior wood is reclaimed from an old slave plantation the couple purchased.

While Darrel does the building with a small crew, Patrice completes the decor - often within a day or two of the structure being completed.

The rental properties were doing well, but Darrel was interested in building something more unique that would bring in higher-paying customers. He subsequently built three treehouses on the property, one of which is an Airstream trailer in the sky that's on Airbnb's list of most popular unique spaces. The space has a 70s vibe with funky stripes on the exterior and Atlanta stickers festooning the windows.

Another of their treehouses is a stunning geographic shape with a metal exterior called "Tin and Juice."

The treehouse properties are more whimsically decorated with vintage touches. Patrice says she wanted the largest space to feel like a bridal party could get ready there. It's beautiful and feminine with vintage touches.

The treehouse has a vintage feminine feelPhoto byAirbnb

If you've lost count, that makes 7 short-term rentals on their peaceful, leafy green property. In 2021, they brought in just over $700,000 in revenue from these ventures. It's easy to see why when the treehouse's rating is 4.79 out of 5 stars.

The Maxams are now at the point where they are financing their projects themselves and have an 18-months rule - they don't enter a project unless they can pay themselves back in that time.

With The Atlanta Treehouse property all built up, the Maxams are moving onto 48 acres they recently purchased in upstate New York. Their plan is to build 20 treehouses there. They've created a YouTube channel to help chronicle that journey.

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