When Portland startup Vacasa raised $103 million last year, it set the stage for a flurry of new products, and now the company is pulling back the curtain on the first one.
Vacasa is expanding beyond its bread and butter service of vacation rental management to offer a new network aimed at helping people through the process of buying and selling second homes. The Portland startup is not buying and selling vacation houses itself — not yet, anyway — but it is offering a variety of tools to help people looking to buy a vacation home, connect them with the right agents and share data and learnings from managing more than 9,000 properties with agents.
The program resembles something of a Zillow for vacation homes, with Vacasa offering data on how much vacation homes can rent for and creating a platform for select real estate agents to connect with buyers and sellers. But CEO Eric Breon says the Vacasa Real Estate program goes beyond that, and the company is not seeking to monetize these offerings. Right now, Vacasa just wants to increase the supply of vacation homes on its platform.
“We’re incredibly good at booking out the homes on our platform, and this is all about adding more homes to our platform,” Breon said. “If we can be there from the start, helping them find that home, our hope is that they choose us to manage their home.”
Vacasa Real Estate has operated quietly for a couple months and is formally launching its website today. Six Vacasa staff members are dedicated to the project, and the company has already signed up more than 250 real estate agents.
Vacasa has found that every year, nearly 5 percent of homeowners using its platform sell their property. By facilitating more of those transactions, Vacasa believes it can keep those units on its platform after they sell.
Buyers can submit their information to Vacasa online to connect with national and local teams. Vacasa’s new real estate platform does not include the ability to search home listings online like what you might see on a Redfin or Zillow. Breon says he would be interested in exploring a partnership with companies like those to add that feature.
As part of the new program, Vacasa is offering a rental income calculator, which helps both buyers and agents see how much a property could rent for. Vacasa says it will use its experience managing vacation homes to help buyers set up their second home as a rental property, handling everything from interior design to local regulations. And then it will funnel the unit to its website or other sites like Airbnb or HomeAway, which Breon doesn’t view as direct competitors, when it’s time to offer it for rent.
“It’s really about the full life cycle of the homeowner” Breon said. “From when they start thinking about buying a house — probably when they are on vacation — to buying the house, figuring out which one will have a great return on it, to helping them get started: the licensing, the permits, all of that.”
Vacasa, the number two entry on the GeekWire 200 ranking of privately held Pacific Northwest companies, sees big things for its new real estate program. Breon projected that it will make up half of the company’s long-term growth.
Vacasa, which bills itself as the “largest U.S. vacation rental management company” has been around since 2009 and bootstrapped until taking its first outside investment in 2016 with a $40 million Series A round. Today, the company has 507 employees spread across offices in Portland and Boise and more than 1,790 people across its markets serving on-the-ground “field-based roles” — housekeepers, reservations agents, local managers, etc. — for a combined 2,297 employees. In August, Vacasa will move into a new 61,000 square-foot office in Portland, nearly doubling its current office space, with room for approximately 675 people.