By TESS KALINOWSKIReal Estate Reporter
When the renovations began about 18 months ago, the locals probably suspected a flip.
By the time the exterior copper cladding and three levels of floor-to-ceiling windows had transformed the narrow red brick, all anyone cared about was when the construction would end, say the owners of Luloo Boutique Homes.
The three-unit house won't be sold. Instead, it will be let in whole or in parts, on Airbnb, part of Luloo's 21-unit portfolio of short-term rentals that finance the family firm's remodeling business.
Neighbours were among those invited this week to the celebration of Luloo's third major home makeover — the second on Dovercourt Rd.
Sisters Pouneh, 32, and Laleh Rouhani, 35, along with mom Mahyar Nourbakhsh and dad Reza Rouhani, are treating their latest makeover as a trial for their longer term ambition of creating a boutique hotel, said Pouneh.
Luloo's back story could have been scripted by an Airbnb ad writer.
Pouneh, who has a background in advertising and marketing, started renting out her apartment to finance her travels. The family also rented her parents' place when they were still going back and forth to Iran. About three years ago, she acquired a second rental property as a source of income.
That led to more properties — some rentals she manages for others and some are owned by Rouhanis. Most of the properties are downtown, but there are some in North York in the Yonge and Sheppard area that attract many Iranian and Asian tenants.
Dad is the president and CEO and mom is the company controller. Pouneh, Luloo's managing director, has an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at U of T.
For about the last two years, Pouneh has worked full-time for Luloo. The day of the interview with the Star, she was at the house supervising the cable installation.
Laleh, who has an MBA from the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, is the creative and acquisition director and still works as a realtor.
"We take the exact same positions in the company as we do in the family," said Pouneh.
Like the Dovercourt house, Luloo's furnished suites share a modern, light industrial aesthetic. The rental applications are rigorously vetted. Most of the properties require a minimum five-night stay. Some condo buildings insist on at least a month.
"Shorter terms tend to draw parties," she said, adding that she's "so specific about the type" of tenants she chooses that the most damage she has experienced was a spilled glass of wine.
Eighty per cent of Luloo's rentals are through Airbnb but a few come through the company's website. Pouneh said she's tried other sites but Airbnb's reviews and community "are such a strong platform" for the business.
Each of the three units in the latest Dovercourt property has two bedrooms and its own laundry. But the basement unit, which is as light as the one above it since the front wall was blown out to accommodate a giant window, does not have a kitchen.
"Nobody likes to cook when they're on vacation," said Pouneh.
Nevertheless, she will experiment with how to best let the home — either as one entire house or as two units, treating the upstairs as a separate rental to the combined main floor and basement. The entire house would likely let for about $1,200 to $1,500 a night and would have a minimum stay of at least five nights.
But each of the three units could also be rented separately for $250 to $290 per night or the main floor and basement could rent as one unit for $590 per night.
Luloo bought the home for about $750,000 two years ago. The makeover, including the back garden landscaping, cost about $500,000.
The interiors are open concept. Each level includes laundry and stylish touches such as sliding barn doors..
"We hire designers but it's 90 per cent my sister dictating to them," Pouneh said joking.
Laleh, who still works as a real estate agent and eventually wants to get into the business of building green homes, denies any suggestion she's a design diva.
Luloo works with JA Architecture Studio on Queen St. West.
But it's clear Laleh has a voice in the aesthetics of the properties.
"I wanted to go with a material that was vintage to go with the neighbourhood," she said of the home's copper exterior.
Read the full story in Toronto Star here.