Vacation rental sharing and management platform Vacasa is getting into interior design. The company is launching a new tiered service in partnership with the cheap, trendy furniture giant Wayfair that gives clients access to affordable home refurbishings. The offering is part of a broader trend among real estate companies to use amenities to compete for consumers’ dollars. But it may also have the effect of giving even more vacation rentals and homeshares the same sterile look.
Vacasa, for those who aren’t familiar, is more property management service than home rental platform. While vacationers can book stays through the Vacasa website, the company also lists its properties on other sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. Vacasa handles property maintenance and manages guests during their stay. It also promises clients that it will help make them more money than if they list directly themselves. The company takes professional photos of all the properties it manages, and now it will help broaden their appeal with updated furnishings and suggestions for light cosmetic remodeling.
Vacasa is hardly the only company to serve the home-sharing economy. Since Airbnb has gained in popularity, several other management services have sprung up, including Airconcierge, Bnbsitter, GuestReady, and Guesty. But only one of those, Airconcierge, offers redesign services.
For Vacasa, design guidance is just the latest service it’s offering. Last June, the company began matching investment properties with potential owners. The company has also started exploring concierge services for guests–essentially a point person who can help coordinate activities on a trip, though that is still in a pilot phase (last October, the company acquired luxury rental brand Oasis, which offered concierge).
The interior design business is meant to cater to property owners who want to increase the value of their properties. The fee starts at $200 for a mood board, redesign strategy, and tips and tricks for staging. A full furnish costs anywhere from $599 to $1,119 plus a staging fee. Roughly 60% of the furniture comes from Wayfair. Imagery on Vacasa’s website shows apartments designed in the composite mid-century style of West Elm.
The company’s early data suggests that such redesigns garner more bookings—up an average of 12%. Revenues increased as much as 20% in revamped apartments, which means renters who sign up for the service may be able to increase the nightly price of their rental. “The point is to enable higher booking pricing,” says Vacasa CEO Eric Breon. “If each of our homes books for 20% more because it has exactly the amenities and furnishings that guests are seeking, we don’t have to do any more work even though it’s now renting for 20% more—so the economics work out very favorable to us.” He says Vacasa breaks even on the service itself.
The move into services is reminiscent of another trend in the world of real estate. Increasingly, commercial building landlords are competing for well-heeled tenants by offering restaurants, fitness centers, stores, hotels, and coworking spaces in their buildings. They even make apps, so tenants can gain access to anything they want at the touch of a button.
There is a comparable phenomenon within the hotel industry. When competition is high, hotel companies lean into amenities: wine tastings, dining options for pets, and crushed pearl packets in every room. “These kinds of activities, many of which are food-and-beverage-oriented, are not about creating new food and beverage profits or function profits,” says Bjorn Hanson, a hospitality consultant. “They really are about other things that create positioning and awareness of the hotel or more room occupancy.”
Likewise, Vacasa is seeking more occupancies and at a higher price. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the company purchased a Gulf Coast chain called Sterling Resorts, which will add 450 condos to its roster. Sterling also handles food and beverage services in its buildings, pushing Vacasa more firmly into hotel territory. The company manages a total of 13,000 properties.
Everyone wants to stay in a stylish home rental, but not every vacation home owner has the vision to make it so. Now, more people can outsource their interior design (rudimentary though it may be). As summer holiday season hits, don’t be surprised when a home you rent has a couch with tapered wooden legs and faux marble topped coffee tables. The more home-sharing platforms structure their businesses like hotels, the more they will look like generic hotel rooms (but like more hygge, you know?).