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  4. We're budgeting $400,000 to flip 5 train cars into Airbnbs. It all started with a 1970s caboose we bought on Facebook marketplace.

We're budgeting $400,000 to flip 5 train cars into Airbnbs. It all started with a 1970s caboose we bought on Facebook marketplace.

Dan Latu   

We're budgeting $400,000 to flip 5 train cars into Airbnbs. It all started with a 1970s caboose we bought on Facebook marketplace.
Nightly stays in a historic train caboose from the 1970s will be available soon.. Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite
  • Real-estate investors Ray and Karen DeVite weren't sure what to do with land they bought in Xenia, Ohio.
  • One night, Karen spotted a historic 1970s caboose on Facebook Marketplace and got inspired.

One Ohio couple is all-in on ambitious project to turn historic train cabooses into short-term rental getaways.

Ray and Karen DeVite spoke to Business Insider about the project, which all began with a fateful Facebook Marketplace scroll. The couple had purchased land in Xenia, Ohio with the intention of developing it. One night, Karen was scrolling Facebook and by chance saw an advertisement for a historic train caboose.

"When I put in 'trains', I was just expecting to find some lights or lanterns," Karen told BI. "I sure wasn't expecting to find a full-sized caboose."

Now, the couple has a historic 1970's Chessie System caboose and 1950's Nickel Plate Road caboose, purchased from the same seller they found on Facebook.

As the short-term rental market becomes more competitive following the post-lockdown boom, middle-of-the-road offerings have fared worse in staying booked. Some hosts have turned to offering unique stays, like the DeVites, and highlight off-the grid experiences.

The DeVites unknowingly tapped into a massive community of train enthusiasts and have been connected with historic caboose fans through Facebook groups. They're expecting to host many of them once the cabooses are ready for overnight guests by the summer.

For those interested in pursuing similar projects, Ray's advice is to "just go for it."

"You can't anticipate everything, you just learn along the way," he said.

Here's how the project is unfolding:

The DeVites had some experience in real-estate investing, before purchasing a tract of land in Xenia, Ohio — located 20 minutes west of Dayton.

The DeVites had some experience in real-estate investing, before purchasing a tract of land in Xenia, Ohio — located 20 minutes west of Dayton.
The Chessie System caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

One night, Karen found a 1970's Chessie System train caboose for sale on Facebook marketplace. Initially, she was just looking for lights.

One night, Karen found a 1970
The Chessie System caboose lifted by a crane.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

The couple immediately saw the potential for an Airbnb and bought the caboose in October 2023. They also picked up another historic 1950's caboose from the same seller.

The couple immediately saw the potential for an Airbnb and bought the caboose in October 2023. They also picked up another historic 1950
The Nickel Plate Road caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

With two on the lot, the DeVites are now budgeting at least $400,000 to flip and rent out five train cars altogether.

With two on the lot, the DeVites are now budgeting at least $400,000 to flip and rent out five train cars altogether.
Ray DeVite poses with the Nickel Plate Road Caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

Renovating has not been easy for the two cabooses, which are around 400 square feet each.

Renovating has not been easy for the two cabooses, which are around 400 square feet each.
The Xenia, Ohio home of the cabooses.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

Unexpected costs, like $16,000 for a "tap-in fee" for local water access, have piled up.

Unexpected costs, like $16,000 for a "tap-in fee" for local water access, have piled up.
The Xenia, Ohio home of the cabooses.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

But the joy the cabooses bring has been infectious. When they were moved to the property on a tractor trailer, it felt like a special event. "You just don't see a train every day going through your neighborhood," Ray told BI.

But the joy the cabooses bring has been infectious. When they were moved to the property on a tractor trailer, it felt like a special event. "You just don
The Nickel Plate Road caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

Xenia is well-known for a network of paved bike trails, so the DeVites also hope to entice bike enthusiasts with the future rentals.

Xenia is well-known for a network of paved bike trails, so the DeVites also hope to entice bike enthusiasts with the future rentals.
The Chessie System caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

Renovation is underway in the Chessie System caboose. The DeVites hope to host their first guests this summer.

Renovation is underway in the Chessie System caboose. The DeVites hope to host their first guests this summer.
Inside the Chessie System caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

The Chessie System caboose includes a coupla, where there will be lofted beds. Stairs are being built into the storage space.

The Chessie System caboose includes a coupla, where there will be lofted beds. Stairs are being built into the storage space.
The Chessie Sytems caboose is expected to be completed in a few months.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

The couple is also trying to keep the cabooses as authentic looking as possible, while updating plumbing, heating, and air. Karen plans to decorate each space with train-themed items.

The couple is also trying to keep the cabooses as authentic looking as possible, while updating plumbing, heating, and air. Karen plans to decorate each space with train-themed items.
Mid-progress on the Chessie System caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

Eventually, the DeVites plan to list the cabooses for $150 to $200 per night on Airbnb.

Eventually, the DeVites plan to list the cabooses for $150 to $200 per night on Airbnb.
Updates are being installed daily inside the caboose.      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

The DeVites have already tapped into the train enthusiast community, who are anxious to stay on the premise. Some have already reached out to share their memories of different trains.

The DeVites have already tapped into the train enthusiast community, who are anxious to stay on the premise. Some have already reached out to share their memories of different trains.
Nightly stays in a historic train caboose from the 1970s will be available soon..      Courtesy of Ray and Karen Devite

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