Key To NOLA
Shannon Uschold’s house on Second Street was hit by a tornado during Hurricane Katrina.
Built in the 1860s by famed architect William Alfred Freret, the Greek Revival and Italianate style home is the first Uschold ever owned. She said she loved being a New Orleans homeowner and landlord since she used the attached rental property to help pay off the mortgage on the designated historic landmark.
But, during the hurricane, the house’s roof flew off, and landed in her courtyard, intact.
Others may have appraised the damage and fled for their lives.
New Orleans native Uschold assessed the situation and decided to double down.
“In the months before Katrina I was burnt out working for a local non-profit,” Uschold said. “My dream was to run a Bed and Breakfast, and I found one with 200 acres in rural Mississippi. I was thinking of buying it and turning it into a retreat for people like me, who wanted to escape to nature, and I actually evacuated there for 5 months, but, as lovely as it was, I came to realize I wanted to be in the City. Katrina changed my path. I found myself no longer retreating from the City. Instead, I created my own sanctuary within it.”
Uschold invested in a real estate license and transferred her post-storm nesting instincts into the energy to grow a business managing furnished, short-term rental properties throughout New Orleans.
She first helped fellow displaced evacuees find refuge inside the City. Next came places to roost for those looking for temporary residential respites during their own renovations or relocations. Accommodations for the FEMA workers and shelter for the insurance adjustors followed. After that came cribs and crash pads for medical residents, dwellings for retirees, abodes for Snow Birds and digs for empty nesters who wanted to spend time in the City but didn’t want to live here permanently.
Most recently, Uschold has been finding hip pads and boutique bungalows for clients in the movie industry.
“I like the combination of real estate and hospitality,” Uschold said. “We get a lot of joy finding people great houses in great neighborhoods.”
Today, as the principal broker and owner of Key To NOLA Properties, Uschold owns and/or manages several dozen properties. With more than 15 years of real estate experience as a property manager, investor and agent, Uschold is licensed by the State of Louisiana as a broker holding designations as a Historic House Specialist, a Short Sale and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) and a Certified Real Estate Negotiator (CREN) with At Home with Diversity certification (AHWD).
Uschold said she set Key To NOLA apart by offering corporate travelers a convenient credit card payment option, accidental damage insurance to help mitigate the high costs of security deposits and by building a descriptive website showcasing every nook and cranny of her properties.
“We put a lot of energy into developing a website that offered comprehensive photos of all properties for sale and for rent,” she said. “We only post pictures that are good enough to base a decision on from afar.”
“One of the things that distinguishes our properties is that every one has been furnished by the owner or by a designer,” she said. “We want people to feel at home and be comfortable in a genuine neighborhood and enjoy an authentic New Orleans experience.”
Uschold’s Key To NOLA manages properties ranging from quaint studio apartments to large single-family homes that rent from $1,200 to $7,000+ a month. They furnish corporate and vacation rentals, advertise owners’ properties, screen prospective tenants, execute leases, collect rents and deposits and distribute net proceeds.
Uschold said she negotiates a fee in the 15% range for placing tenants and managing properties, and rents most units for an average of 3 months in the Uptown, Mid-City and Downtown New Orleans areas.
Finding living quarters may even become easier to find and to book, Uschold said, if Councilmember Stacy Head’s Motion No M-15-35 comes into consideration.
Uschold said Head’s motion in front of the City Council for a public hearing to discuss removing “any express prohibition of ‘transient vacation rentals’ from, and to authorize ‘transient vacation rentals’ as permitted uses in,” certain zoning districts could lead to an amendment to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) of the City of New Orleans which would allow owner-occupied houses outside of the French Quarter to legally rent for less than a 30-day term.
“We would like that for our corporate rentals,” Uschold said. “People are savvy, and they want value for their money, whether it’s a property for sale or for lease. They’re more discriminating because they have more choices, and we want to put good products out there for them.”
Uschold said she also offers her temp tenants additional amenities through contracting with Every Thing Lovely, a personal assistance, concierge and event planning service.
“Let’s say one of our movie industry clients is on set all day and can’t find the time to run their own personal errands,” Uschold said. “Every Thing Lovely can stock their refrigerator, make all kinds of arrangements for them and do the little things needed to make our clients’ lives easier.”
“It’s my observation that the movie business is a glamorous industry, but a hard working industry,” she said. “These directors, producers, actors, set designers and technicians work hard, and we try to make their housing options easy, simple and worry free because they have plenty else to worry about.”
Uschold said she and others who work with Key To NOLA often feel like New Orleans ambassadors, showcasing what the city has to offer through their homegrown hospitality. In 2015, Uschold said she’s looking forward to growing Key To NOLA by hiring 2 additional agents. “We have more business than we can handle,” she said. “It’s a happy dilemma. There’s a lot of demand, and it’s hard to keep up with it.”
Uschold also finds a lot of happiness working side by side with her husband, Jim, renovating homes for re-sale through their Yes Dear, LLC.
The Uscholds starting combining their talents, and their sweat equity, 5 years ago and have bought, renovated and sold 6 homes together.
“We share a lot of joy as husband and wife fixing up old houses,” she said. “We found out we work well together and share a similar aesthetic. Renovating a home can divide a couple and bring them to the brink of disaster. We found it brings us together. We kind of get a high going into a lumber yard and smelling all the fresh lumber together.”
“If you’re doing something you really like it doesn’t feel like work,” she said. “My husband and I have similar interests, and we like working together. To me, going to work is great because it means spending time with family. We get to work together on projects where we share a common goal, and that’s very rewarding.”
Uschold is a busy wife, a mother of 2 daughters, aged 6 and 12, and a multi-tasking businesswoman managing and renovating multiple real estate holdings, but she somehow found the time to recently graduate from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.
“It was so good to step back for a while and look at what we were doing,” she said. “The program forces you to look at the big picture not only for your business but your life. It taught me a good business can and should run without you, and it needs to run without your daily interaction.”
When Uschold’s not spending time with her girls at Mardi Gras parades, celebrating successes with family dinners at The Irish House, or driving up and down St. Charles Avenue admiring her favorite stone-faced mansions, she is looking ahead to the next profitable real estate prospect.
“I see many development opportunities in Central City with affordable housing units and renovating neglected homes,” she said. “There’s lots of potential there.”
“It’s a great time to be in New Orleans for so many reasons,” she said. “The energy of the people coming through and deciding to make New Orleans their home, that’s what keeps me going. It’s a real benefit of working in New Orleans right now.”