Vacasa goes multifamily
Vacasa is moving into multifamily.
The vacation rental property manager just launched a new program called Vacasa Multifamily to grow its urban short-term rental portfolio.
The company may be associated with beach homes in Tillamook and Croatia, where absentee owners rent their space out while Vacasa manages the process, from dynamic pricing and online booking to cleaning and maintenance and sorting out last-minute requests from the tourists. Its new plan is to ease into the world of big city condos and guest apartments.
Vacasa Multifamily will partner with real estate developers and property managers to provide short-term rental management services for vacant units, resulting in stable and reliable revenue for the properties.
"The industry has seen an increase in guest demand for urban short-term rentals, and we've been approached by developers and property managers seeking our vacation rental management services," said Joshua Viner, senior manager of Vacasa Multifamily.
The firm is targeting "business and leisure travelers, as well as families looking to stay in urban destinations." The goal is long-term lease agreements with real estate developers and property managers that are looking to turn their vacant units into short-term rentals.
The Business Tribune talked to Josh Viner and Colin Carvey, senior VP of growth, at Vacasa's new offices in the Pearl District.
Carvey explained that this sector would only amount to about 5 percent of Vacasa's business, but that they offered financial stability to property managers.
They have identified a type of consumer who might normally stay in a big city hotel but now wants more. "We're looking at people who want to stay in a hotel, but two rooms and kitchen is better," he says. "We're trying to create the experience of a hotel-ish amenity."
Such people might be traveling with kids or want a space where they can relax in the evening, and not have to go out to dinner every night.
"We have a huge advantage, we are a more secure solution than others whose full business is in the urban market, such as Stay Alfred and Sonder. People want to go with someone who is going to be around a long time. We're well-funded."
Their hope is that Vacasa will be the default booking system for travelers who know them from the resort-type offerings but who also travel for business.
Part of Vacasa's pitch is that they will do everything above board and not get into battles with local municipalities like some companies.
"We start with regulations," says Viner, who was hired for his background in corporate housing. "When we go to Dallas, Texas or wherever, we get state and city approval, and the community too." In some places vacation rentals are legal but a particular condo or apartment building may not allow them.
"We're transparent, we tell them we want to list as a corporate rental and a short-term rental. If people say 'We don't want it,' we say 'Thanks and if you change your mind get back to us."
The pitch is they can boost short-term occupancy in certain properties and boost the net operating income. Vacasa plans to start small, building a relationship with a property manager to manage a couple of units, and then sell them on the idea that short-term rentals might benefit them in the long term.
"In some buildings there might be units that are not all that desirable, they're hard to rent. But someone renting for a night might not care that they're looking out at the garbage facility."
Many condo and apartment buildings have guest suites which are a lot of work to keep clean, maintained and on the calendar. Vacasa offers to take over that task.
Locks and fobs
One value add they offer is security. Vacasa will offer to pay to upgrade the locks on a building.
"Some buildings might have antiquated technology. If it's worthwhile, we can provide and pay for an upgrade so all members have fob or elevator access that's dynamic."
"For guest access we're always trying to improve the technology," says Carvey. For example, using single-use codes. No more having to hand over your key or fob to guests or even a plumber. They get a code access to the elevator and apartment unit which expires when they are done.
"We're working with developers. We know the locks, we can get discounts."
Vacasa has its own design team to help homeowners best present their units. Now it wants to work with developers before buildings have even been built.
This means offering design criteria to developers. For example, don't build so many units with walk-in closets. Ones with standard closets are easier to rent out short-term.
"And granite countertops: don't spend a lot that isn't going to make a difference," says Carvey.
Viner explains: "Composite. Some people prefer the granite feel, but if you're only there a couple of nights you don't care. It's more about durability than luxury finishes."
Another suggestion might be how many elevators are needed in a mixed-use building, one that contains office, hotel, short-term rental and long-term rental people.
To get on board with developers, Vacasa joined the National Multifamily Housing Council and attending its conferences such as NMHC's OPTECH Conference & Exposition.
"We don't lobby state by state," says Viner. "We don't do much lobbying, we follow all the letters of the law in operating and paying our taxes."
Vacasa lists its properties on the sites of perceived rivals as Airbnb.com and on Booking.com. They appear with Vacasa branding. Fees are split but Vacasa declines to say how. "They get their percentage as the marketer and we get ours to manage the property."
"We have good relationships with those companies, we use them to attract guests," says Viner.
Booking on one website immediately takes the property off the others.
That type of calendaring is hard to do, Carvey says. "But we built the technology to manage across channels. We are a tech company and that's part of what we've done."
In July, the company launched Vacasa Real Estate to connect vacation home buyers and sellers with the most qualified local real estate agents. Earlier this month, Vacasa Community Association Management began providing management services to vacation rental homeowners through their community associations. Vacasa Multifamily is the next step in the company's evolution.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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