Monica Gauthier, Owner and Managing Broker of North Star Properties, grew up in the suburbs of Detroit where her father owns a construction company. As a young adult she worked for him as a Project Manager and the attention to detail the job required helped prepare her for her successful career in real estate.
She moved to Chicago and in 2005 began working for Coldwell-Banker in Lincoln Park. In 2009, she moved to Ogden Dunes and in November 2013 launched her own boutique real estate firm, North Star Properties. In addition to traditional real estate, Monica has a robust vacation rental business with properties from northwest Indiana to southwest Michigan up to Sawyer. At this point the rental arm constitutes approximately 50% of the business and she is planning to open an office in Michigan City before the end of the year.
According to Monica, “I really enjoy the vacation rental market, which is a little like running a hotel in 100 different places. I think what sets us apart from other vacation rental companies is that we are on call 24/7. Although I rarely receive a call from a renter, it is comforting for them to know that if they need anything they can call and a real person will answer the phone and take immediate steps to resolve the issue.”
The popularity of “staycations” has increased because people have realized that staying in a rental property closer to home is a much more cost-effective way to spend their vacation dollars. Monica continued, “Many homes sleep 12 or more people and, when split between siblings or multiple families, renting a home is much less expensive than the cost of a hotel. You also eliminate the cost of airline tickets and while people enjoy going out for certain meals, with a full kitchen, families can save money by preparing certain meals at the rental home rather than going out for every single meal. For example, they’ll stay in for breakfast, take a picnic down to the beach and then go out for dinner. I always provide a list of restaurants, breweries, wineries, and other attractions in the area (including kid-friendly destinations), and many homes are stocked with board games, outdoor grills, recreational equipment (like badminton or bocce sets), some have pools or beach access, so there are many activities for renters to enjoy.”
In addition to maintaining strong relationships with her homeowners, Monica cultivates relationships with the homeowners’ neighbors. She introduces herself to them and provides them with her phone number so that if there are any issues with renters, they may call her and she will intervene to correct the problem immediately. Also, she never allows more people to stay at a home than are allowed. If they do, they are in violation of the contract and will no longer be welcome as clients.
Many homeowners wishing to rent their homes have been referred to North Star Properties by satisfied customers who appreciate Monica’s level of professionalism and by prior renters who have enjoyed outstanding vacation experiences. “Many first-time visitors to the northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan are amazed by all there is to see and do in the region. Unless they have visited the area themselves, they are often surprised by the beauty of the lake and beaches. Often they think they have to get on a plane to get to such a beautiful place and, lo and behold, for people in Chicago, for example, they can find a beautiful rental with fantastic amenities that’s nearby. I have families from Chicago who may rent a house for a month or even the entire summer. One or both parents may need to work and they love the fact that they can drive or take the train into the city and be at work in less than two hours in most cases.”