Do you have a place that calls you back endlessly? When you’re back home, eagerly awaiting your next trip, it can feel lonely—almost like missing someone you care about. That tension is what I feel when I’m not in the Bahamas and I’m convinced it’s no accident. Maybe it’s leading me toward my purpose. That’s what it’s done for international property owner and AirBnB Superhost April Hubal.
I found April through Instagram in early 2019 when I was searching for the perfect AirBnB in Nassau (and she certainly has it). We’ve been friends ever since, passing messages back and forth about our love of the Bahamas.
April has been an entrepreneur in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, since she graduated from university. She’s always been a visual storyteller. From Maniac Magazine to the ICONS book, April forged her entrepreneurial path by helping business owners—movers and shakers with messages to share—reach their audience through print, photography and social media.
I had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with April to discuss what it’s like to buy property in the Bahamas and run a short-term rental business ahead of her House Hunters International premiere. April’s episode aired on June 13th, 2019, at 10:30 pm EST on HGTV.
Before we dive into her slice of paradise in Nassau, let’s see how it all started!
You’re a business owner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Describe your business and what inspired you to create the ICONS concept.
The concept of ICONS was actually an accident. We were celebrating our 10-year anniversary of Maniac magazine, which was a publication I started right out of college. We wanted to put out this coffee table book to thank the entrepreneurs that helped us along the way. We also realized there weren’t any companies helping the local businesses with advertising, so we created the concept, which would be a complete integrative package including print and social media, as well as a photoshoot and branding session. We saw a need that wasn’t being met in Pittsburgh, so we created the ICONS of Pittsburgh to help small businesses achieve their marketing goals.
How were you introduced to the Bahamas and what about that trip inspired you to keep coming back?
My first trip to Nassau was honestly the first time I had ever been on a plane! Me, my mom, and my best friend went. We just found a cheap flight and decided to go. I think I was 18 at the time. Everything was so beautiful—the beaches and the people. Everything was better than I pictured and exactly how it looked in the movies!
How old were you when you decided you wanted to buy in Nassau? And what did you do to make that dream real? Were there many sacrifices involved?
I really did love it so much the first time I went! I would joke about it to friends, saying “One day I’m going to have a home in Nassau.” Then, I set it as a goal that it would happen by the time I turned 40. Last year, as I approached 39, I said, “Ok, it’s time. I need to do this!” I put it as a goal on paper and decided I wouldn’t let anything stand in my way. In addition to sacrifices, there were certainly a lot of lessons learned along the way. It’s extremely hard to purchase a home in a foreign country and there were a few mishaps, like my new furniture getting stuck in customs, but, all and all, no regrets!
You’re an entrepreneur in more ways than one! Was joining the “short term rental” community and entrepreneurial decision or a side effect of owning a beach-front condo?
It was always a dream to own a home in the Bahamas, but I’d never really given the short-term rental business a thought. Then, realized it could be a great way to subsidize the costs and expenses while I wasn’t using the condo. I was shocked to find how quickly people embraced sites like AirBnB! It was so exciting that I could create an amazing experience for people!
I could take my passion for the Bahamas and have people experience it through my window, literally.
I knew that I wanted to rent the home short-term when I was away but didn’t solely purchase it with that in mind. When I listed my condo, Isle of Icons, on Airbnb, it booked up quickly. It was exciting and completely unexpected!
What have you learned from becoming an international property owner and AirBnB host? Do those things influence your life and business back in Pittsburgh?
I have learned so much! There is actually a lot more to Airbnb and renting your home short-term than one would think. Thank goodness I have a great property manager, wonderful cleaning company, and an amazing team I can trust.
I’ve basically done business now internationally. I was able to take my marketing skills, photography background, and passion for fashion design, and apply those things to the hospitality industry through Isle of Icons. Those skills have helped make me a successful “Super Host” on Airbnb.
I feel like I’ve learned so much about being in the hospitality industry. Now, I cannot wait to bring that back to Pittsburgh in some kind of format! I’m excited to do more.
How did you end up on International House Hunters – did you actively look for that opportunity or was it just luck?
My real estate agent told me HGTV was looking for a young female buyer for House Hunters International and asked if I was interested. So, I said, “Sure. Why not?”
Typically, three possible properties are shown on House Hunters. How many properties did you actually consider before choosing your Isle of Icons condo?
I started looking at real estate in The Bahamas close to seven years prior. I was just looking at different locations to get a feel. I knew I loved the complex and area of Delaporte Point, so when I got serious about choosing a property I probably only then looked at ten options. In the end, I decided on the first condo I’d visited.
What happens behind the scenes of House Hunters that might surprise viewers?
A lot! The crew was extremely fun to work with really just great people. It was a lot more filming than I anticipated—close to 6 days of shooting! I had to wear the same jean dress three days in a row while we were looking at the properties. That was a real bummer because we brought down all of this amazing wardrobe but were forced to wear the same outfit over and over.
The Bahamas are beautiful but a lot of people think of Nassau as a cruise ship stop or the home of Atlantis. What is it about Nassau (and the Bahamas in general) that made you decide to buy property there?
This is both hard and easy to explain, but I want to get to the point. First, I’ve never seen beaches as clear as the Bahamas and I’ve traveled extensively. Anytime I’d ever gone to Florida, it was fine but never excited me. I was largely disappointed in Hawaii, so the beaches in the Bahamas kept me coming back.
The people in the Bahamas are just so wonderful, too! I feel like you realize it’s such an international destination when you’re able to spend a lot of time there. I love all of the culture and food! Even though I’m now gluten-free, I can still find fresh fish and other things to enjoy.
The other thing I love is the fact there are 700 islands in the Bahamas! You can just get on a plane and explore endlessly. My dream is to charter a boat someday and hit as many islands as I can!
When you’re in Nassau enjoying Isle of Icons, where do you like to go?
My favorite spots are:
- Louis and Steens Coffeehouse for coffee
- Blue Sail restaurant for the amazing beach vibe.
I go there at least once a day if I’m in the Bahamas.
- Mahogany House, which is a bit further west. They have an extensive wine collection.
- Shima, which is a South Eastern Asian restaurant at The Island House.
- I love the restaurant Cleo at Baha Mar. It’s great for people with food allergies.
- Lyford Cay Club is a private club. Now that I have a few friends there, I’m invited often. It has an incredible history as a yacht country club and housing development. There are a few restaurants there that are top notch.
- Compass point is an all time favorite! It’s comprised of 20 little colored beach huts with an awesome view of the ocean. Very relaxed and fun!
- For a super local vibe with fresh seafood, Nesbitt’s is as local as you get. You will find the local Bahamians frequenting it, so you know the food is good.
- Another cool spot that I don’t want to forget to mention is Cafe Matisse, which is a French restaurant downtown.
The local list goes on there are so many great places to go!
Many women (and men) would say buying a beach-front property in a tropical locale is a nice idea but completely unrealistic. What would you say to people who think their goals are unattainable?
Every single person told me I was insane for wanting to do this. They said that I would regret it and that it would be a disaster. No one said it was a good idea! To everyone that said how much I would regret buying a condo in the Bahamas, I would tell them I’m looking at a second property as we speak!
For anyone else who thinks they have an unachievable goal, I would say anything is possible but great things take time. People have unrealistic expectations now because of social media and think that success happens overnight. I finally got my house at age 39, but I appreciate it more now because it took a long time! Have a plan and follow it. I put post-it notes on my mirror and remind myself daily to keep going.
Where do you see yourself and your business going in the next 10 years?
I see myself owning a few boutique hotels around the world focused on a social impact while catering to young entrepreneurs and female-centric businesses. That’s the goal, anyway!
Find out more about April and Isle of Icons!
Are you inspired by April’s relentless desire to place roots in the Bahamas? Watch her episode of House Hunters International Thursday, June 13th, at 10:30 pm EST on HGTV or on-demand on the HGTV website. To experience Isle of Icons for yourself, book your stay on AirBnB!
Photos by April Hubal and Lacey Williams.