By June Naylor
A former sportswriter finds her calling as an international landlord with properties in France, Greece and stateside in Las Vegas
Moments after the sleek black Mercedes sedan delivers us to our apartment in Paris’ Montmartre neighborhood, a smiling young woman named Karina greets us with a box of confections from a nearby chocolate shop and a wealth of guidance aimed at making our time in the City of Light a success. Such concierge-level service is expected from a five-star hotel, but it is rarely found at a $150-per-night vacation rental.
Our secret weapon is vacation lodging guru and expat Paula Caballero, a former Fort Worth sportswriter and Dallas publicist with a decade’s experience in the Paris hospitality business.
The Southern California native relocated to Texas after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees there in dramatic literature and theater history. She eventually segued into reporting about high school sports and, later, professional hockey. “Makes perfect sense, right?” muses Caballero. “I recently came across my press pass from the 1999 finals — a lovely souvenir.”
With then-husband and fellow sportswriter (still good friend and business partner) Darrin Scheid, Caballero began flipping houses on the side. The venture gave them money to travel, and they fell hard for Paris, returning so often that they decided to invest in a tiny apartment there in 2003. Three years later, they quit their jobs to move to France with a few belongings, two cats and the seeds of a new career.
“I started cleaning apartments for the young woman who’d managed our Paris apartment,” Caballero recalls, noting that her boss didn’t enjoy the business end of her work. “She always told me I’d be great at it, and she was right.”
Between scrubbing toilets and doing laundry, Caballero used her fluency in French to help other rental owners and managers. “Turns out I’m good at emailing, and that’s the bulk of the work, answering questions, getting arrival information, organizing for cleaning, sending instructions to guests.” Starting her own service called Frenchy Rentals, Caballero eventually managed 10 furnished vacation rentals, including the beautiful, comfortable one-bedroom flat called Modern Montmartre. Others include one she calls Left Bank Bliss, a three bedroom apartment in the Latin Quarter with breathtaking views from its romantic balcony. All feature modern kitchens and bathrooms and are located in districts with much to see and do. Caballero steers clients to the best local dining, boutiques, markets, walking tours and cooking classes, as well as offering tips on how to best navigate the city’s transit systems. She or a colleague meets each guest upon arrival to help with every possible question.
A visit in 2011 to a childhood friend living in Las Vegas inspired her to buy in Sin City, where she now owns three homes, renting them through the business she rechristened Reserve With Paula. The transition from Paris to Las Vegas turned out to be a no-brainer, as the short-term rental business proves easier in some places than others. “Paris has become an extremely hostile marketplace for vacation rentals, along with pretty much every other major city in the rest of the world,” she explains.
Today, along with properties in Paris and Las Vegas, she represents accommodations in the southern Greek town of Neapolis. “I was completely charmed by everything about the area, not the least of which were the friendly, welcoming people,” says Caballero, who fell in love with what she considers the most beautiful beaches in the world. “These places are untouched by the kind of overwhelming tourism you find in Santorini and Mykonos. I just kept driving around and saying ‘Wow!’ at a spectacular hillside or sunset or sea view.”
She hasn’t cut Texas ties. A condo purchase in Dallas’ Lower Greenville area early this year let her reconnect with DFW pals and work with her ex-husband, now in real estate. She appreciates a city that is vacation-rental friendly — a plus in an industry of ever-changing rules.
Caballero loves her gypsy life and her work. When she’s in a particular city, she greets guests personally and answers all emails herself. “I’ve grown to like the idea that every day is a work day, but every day is a vacation day, too,” she reasons, noting that Las Vegas gives her sunshine when wintry Paris is gray. “Sometimes it’s exhausting not knowing where home is, but it’s a very good life, and it’s the one I made for myself, so I’m proud of that. Besides, anyone who knows me would tell you: If it was too easy, I’d be bored.”