How rentals helped Tammy wave bye-bye to the 9 to 5

Oct 26, 2017

We’d like to introduce you to Tammy: a former nurse from North Carolina who first started renting out her cabin in 2001. Just five years later, she gave up her stressful job as a nurse to pursue it full-time. In her own words, “This is what I do now and life has got better every year”.

In 2017, her beautiful, remote cabin in North Carolina and town house in downtown Asheville, are booked up all year round. She also received a Certificate of Excellence in June this year, identifying her as one of the best owners on TripAdvisor.

So how did a nurse with a regular full-time job transform her life in such dramatic style? We found out…


Tammy’s story is inspirational – there’s no better word for it. But it’s also deeply personal. After starting over and moving somewhere new, she was faced with a dilemma.

“I can’t live in two places. How can I keep this up? Also, I was a nurse and it was stressful. I thought how am I going to get out of nursing and not do it until I’m 70 years old? Because it’s a really physical job.”

The answer? Setting up the cabin as a vacation rental. That was easier said than done back in 2001, when the concept of listing a property online didn’t really exist. But that didn’t stop Tammy. In fact, she was already way ahead of the trend.

“When I first started, I created my own website. I think I was really a pioneer in the area because not many people were doing vacation rentals at that point.”

When FlipKey—now part of the TripAdvisor Rentals family—started up in 2006, Tammy decided to try listing her cabin online.

“I thought, I’ll give it a whirl and see how it goes. And most of my folks ended up coming from you.”

And that same year, she gave up nursing and the cabin became her full-time job.


The cabin itself is a special place for Tammy, with deep connections to her family. The decor includes antiques and furniture from her grandmother and even her great-grandmother. Guests seem to pick up on this, too.

“It has this kind of energy – most people know it when they walk in the door. And some people even call me while they’re there and want to know how I found it initially and the story behind it all.”

She’s really hands-on, too, and even helped to build the incredible sun room at the cabin.

“My grandma gave me the money to build that room and now it’s got real antique wicker furniture that actually belonged to her. It’s really special.”

Tammy also owns a townhouse in downtown Asheville, which she rents out. But it’s the cabin that’s really special.

I’ll have that forever.”


With the cabin being such a special place for Tammy personally, it’s not surprising she found it difficult at first to open it up to travelers. The books and music on the shelves are all her own, pretty much as she left them.

“So it just took me a while to open it up and just kind of trust that people would, more than not, be respectful. And people are.”

She soon found guests were commenting on her “incredible library” and appreciating all the personality and character the place has.

And as a keen traveler herself, Tammy has a natural understanding of what travelers are looking for—especially when they’re bringing pets along. She’s a keen animal rescue enthusiast and makes sure animal-loving guests have everything they need when staying at the cabin.

“I know how difficult it is to find places that allow pets. I just think people shouldn’t have to pay an outrageous amount of money to bring their animals along with them.”

Does she do anything special for her guests? It seems that Tammy is a real fan of keeping things simple – with great results.

“I don’t charge cleaning fees or extra pet fees or any of that. I just try to go with treating people the way I’d also like to be treated.”


When a rental is booked pretty much all year round, there’s always going to be a certain amount of wear and tear. Tammy deals with this by always making sure she keeps everything feeling fresh and new.

“I’m constantly updated and replacing. I replace the grill every two years, I get all new bedspreads, sheets, towels… everything’s new and crisp, and everything matches.”

She’s also very detail-oriented and meticulous – two traits which have no doubt contributed to her success over the years. Many owners provide little hotel-like touches, like chocolates or welcome gifts. And while they’re a nice touch, at the end of the day Tammy believes it’s the place itself that guests find so irresistible.

“I do leave chocolate for guests, but it’s just ordinary. And little things like Q-tips and toothpicks, and making sure that condiments are stocked. But really, I think it’s just the place that people love.”

Judging by her glowing reviews, she’s absolutely right. And speaking of reviews, Tammy really appreciates that owners can now review their guests, too, with TripAdvisor’s reciprocal reviews feature.

“I think knowing they [travelers] are going to be reviewed as well makes people that little bit more mindful and respectful.”



Talking to Tammy, you quickly realize she has a real warm and open personality. That probably explains why so many of her guests often come back year after year, season after season.

“I also have some other people who originally came in June for two weeks that found me through you. And they’ve been coming for eight years now. They even invite me out!”

Building these kind of relationships with guests isn’t for every owner, but it certainly means more repeat bookings. And the guests who keep coming back really do see how much Tammy reinvests in her cabin.

“I have a multitude of returning guests. They’re the ones who know the money I’m putting back in. And I do on a regular basis. Maybe about 30% goes right back into the business. For instance, I just had central air put in.”

Constantly throwing money back in keeps the cabin at the standard she wants it to be. And ensures her guests are always tempted to come back.


After 16 years renting out her cabin, Tammy is way more experienced than many short-term rental owners. So what does she think of listing with TripAdvisor?

“My cabin rents like crazy through TripAdvisor! Out of other places I’ve tried, for this cabin TripAdvisor is definitely the way to go.” 

Want to hear more stories of owners like Tammy who’ve built their rental businesses with the help of TripAdvisor Rentals? Check out our Customer Stories section.


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