We had the good fortune of connecting with Juliana Collins and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Juliana, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
When my family first started working on reshaping the family house in Del Mar from a family home into a short term rental, we were faced with many challenges in finding balance between our work, our family time, and our free time.

To give some context into our business model, after many years of being a family house, it became clear that the aging house that my grandma, Julie Brownell Sr. and my grandpa Joel Brownell had built in the 1970s was in dire need of not only a facelift but some major TLC in order to bring it into the modern rental market. Initially, our aim was to update the property enough and make the necessary repairs such as to have the property be a long term rental. However, we soon found that despite the panoramic ocean views, prospective tenants could not look past the dated kitchen and small bathrooms.

With this, I proposed to my grandma the idea of having the property be a short term rental, for while people seemed to not want a dated house for the long term, for the short term, the quirks could become part of the charm. That said, we didn’t want the house to become the dreaded short term“Party House,” we wanted to appeal to families looking for a unique way to experience San Diego County. With that in mind, we decided to make the former master bedroom a studio apartment for my husband and myself. In this way we could be the “Front Desk” for our guests and our mere presence and description of our living situation in our listing, would act as a deterrent for those guests that would potentially abuse the system. Additionally, all profits for the short term rental would be split between my grandma and maintaining and continuing to improve the property, and in exchange for running the business, my husband and I would have a place to live free of rent.

And what success we had! We greet each group personally and give them a tour of the property and when maintenance issues, accidents, or questions arise, we are right there to assist our guests. Very quickly however, this started to take a toll on me and my wellbeing as suddenly I was chained to my devices to answer inquiries and respond to bookings, all the while making sure that our current guests were happy and had any issues fixed quickly. I felt like I had to be accessible and on 24 hours a day. If I was away from my phone for any length of time I would worry that I could have missed either a prospective guest or an emergency with a current guest. Eventually, my husband and I found balance in this on call lifestyle by simply dividing up the responsibility. During the daytime hours I am in charge of all communications for the rental and he, as the person who can fall asleep on a dime, is in charge of anything that arises during the nighttime.

Furthermore, especially with the challenges and restrictions of the pandemic, we shifted our stays to be a 7 night minimum rather than our original 3 night minimum. Just this has made our balance between work and life more manageable. Instead of four to six groups booked with us in a month, we went down to two to three bookings that made the same amount. This is when I realized the most important lesson I have learned on this journey. It is not about getting every booking you can. It is about getting the right people for your listing- and with that realization, suddenly so much of the anxiety and stress lifted.

Now I can have days where I am not a slave to my devices and I can go on a hike without worrying what will have transpired while I was out of service. Since we live at our place of business, the ability to detach from work and schedule these times free of technology, have made running the business no longer an all encompassing chore, but a simple, daily task that can be approached with calmness and clinical joy. I enjoy greeting and meeting guests. My work no longer feels like a chore. I no longer dread hearing my phone ring with a guest notification and I find pleasure in the routine maintenance and improvements around the property as our little business continues to grow.

What should our readers know about your business?
As simple as it may, be one of the things that excites me the most about running a short term rental is getting to meet new people and share with them my love of San Diego. And it is just that- the personal touch that I feel sets us aside as a short term rental manager. The market has been diluted with mass managed short term rentals, making it ever more important to go back to the basics of sharing a home for short term rental. We run our business to make enough money to get by, and in that we can thrive. It is about balancing the funds the house needs to operate, the income my grandma needs for her caregiving, and the time the house needs to breath between groups. And with every group, I make sure to personally greet them, in this way they know that the money they are splurging on for their vacation is not going to some large corporation. It is going to the care a 90 year old woman and the ability of a family to keep a home they lived in and loved.

That said, the road has not been without challenges. Foremost for me has been the challenge when people are unhappy with their stay. Not everyone appreciates the unique quirks of our old place, and while hurtful on a personal level, I now understand that it is impossible to please everyone. This is why we now shape our descriptions of the property to be fully open and honest, we can’t and shouldn’t hide the drawbacks or flaws with our rental. It is not a perfect house, but then again what is perfect for one is not perfect for another person. We do our best to make it the best experience possible. Still, sometimes things break, sometimes things are just old and we do what we can in the moment. You can’t make everyone happy but you can hope that they leave having had a good time.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Day 1: Breakfast at Stratford Court Cafe
Pack up beach gear and go to Torrey Pines State Beach North and walk below the Torrey Pines Bluffs
-Burritos for lunch at Roberto’s on Carmel Valley Road
-Hike Torrey Pines State Park
-Dinner at the Del Mar Heights Shopping Center Sky Deck, Spices Thai Kitchen or Royal India depending on taste in food.

Day 2:
Early Start at San Diego Botanical Garden
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Lunch at El Pescador Fish Market in La Jolla
Walk La Jolla Shores and then snorkel the reef for the remainder of the afternoon (only with experienced swimmers/divers).
Watch the sunset over the tide pools
Dinner at Tony’s Jacal

Day 3:
Pick up sandwiches from Jimbo’s or Sprout’s
Drive the 8 out to the Sunrise highway (S1) and head north.
Hike up to Garnet Peak and eat lunch at the peak
Drive to Julian, walk the town and get the baked apple tart at MOM’s
If time stop at thrift shops in Ramona and grab dinner to go.
Watch a movie at the Santee Drive in

Day 3:
Wander Balboa Park Museums with one of the museum day pass
Lunch at Hachi Ramen. (temporarily Closed Due to Covid-19)
Continue Exploring the Museums
Buy unique souvenirs and gifts at Spanish Village
Dinner at Point Loma Seafood

Day 4:
Drive up Coast Highway and stop at anywhere that sparks interest: Dog beach, Credos Street, Moonlight Beach, Lou’s Records, Coffee or tea at the Pannikin, walk downtown Carlsbad.
Norte’s Mexican Food for Lunch
Hike the Buena Vista Lagoon
Walk Oceanside Harbor
Dinner at the Whet Noodle or the Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub

Day 5:
San Diego Safari Park

Day 6 (if departing from SAN):
Breakfast at Los Cuatro Milpas
Walk the waterfront and visit any of the maritime museums until time for flight.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I could not have had the success with our business without the support of my family. Running a rental can be quite taxing and running a short term rental is a constant demand of time and energy as each new group, with their habits, lifestyle and expectations, familiarizes themselves with the property. My mother, Julie Brownell, is the person I can always go to when I need to talk through how to handle a situation so that everyone can come out of a problem or issue feeling good about the resolution. My father, Dan Collins, is my go to when there is a plumbing, electrical, or other house related problem that I can’t solve. What’s more, they are so dedicated, that they are willing to reasonably drop whatever they are in the middle and power out a solution to a issue. And my husband, Graham Morgan, just knowing that he is there and has my back whatever challenge we find ourselves in gives me the bravery to face even the most daunting of household problems. You know- like when the upstairs bathroom starts raining water through kitchen ceiling three hours before a guest is due to arrive for their dream summer vacation.

Website: www.airbnb.com/h/delmarterrace

Instagram: @delmarterrace

Image Credits
Juliana Collins Julie Brownell

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