Skift Take

Myriad ways exist for hosts to build their short-term rental businesses. And if the choices are complex today, just wait for the rush of new vendors and operators seeing gold in them hills.

Should the legions of short-term rental owners who operate a listing or two — or the increasing ranks of homebuyers who purchase real estate with the express intent of turning it into a short-term rental — partner with a tech vendor or a property manager?

S. Philip Kennard, co-founder and CEO of Futurestay, a pure-play tech provider, and Brian Egan, co-founder and CEO of property manager Evolve, politely clashed along predictable lines over the optimum strategies for homeowners. They debated that issue and others in a discussion Wednesday with Skift Director of Research, Data Product, Wouter Geerts at Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum in New York City.

Geerts characterized Evolve as not just a short-term rental operator and brand, but one that also provides owners with some tech.

Egan said the short-term rental market is increasingly complex, and homeowners can partner with Evolve to have the property manager take the hassle out of running a rental, and can operate it for the owner. He said if homeowners want to run things on their own, then they should sign on with Futurestay, or other tech providers.

Egan added that 72 percent of people signing up with Evolve are new homeowners.

Kennard of Futurestay said there are downsides to signing up with only one platform, such as Airbnb — or by inference, Evolve — because then the owner becomes beholden to that platform when they change cancellation policies, for example.

If you put your goods in one store, Kennard said, then “that’s the way your business runs.”

Of course, many hosts choose to distribute on multiple platforms as a hedge so relying on one booking platform is relatively rare.

Kennard said owners need to use multiple platforms for growth and to meet their financial goals.

Egan of Evolve said it would be an unattractive proposition for a homeowner to be on the phone or sort out guest issues 24/7 so “you’re going to need some help.”  

Platforms such as Airbnb, Egan said, have goals that might be at odds with the best interest of the homeowner. For example, Egan said, Airbnb might be pushing for an immediate booking while Evolve would want the homeowner to get the highest rate for a booking even if it meant waiting for a few days.

Kennard said he agreed with Egan that running a short-term rental can be tough, but he likened the opportunity to people driving cars in the early 1900s when there were no traffic lights. As short-term rental technology improves, Kennard said, “rentalpreneurs” will get access to wider services.

Both executives argued that their companies are well-positioned for growth.

Kennard of Futurestay noted that Airbnb added some 53,000 listings in a recent month. That’s “one Vacasa” in a month, Kennard said, adding that Futurestay has the ability to build scale on that pace.

Egan said Airbnb is supply-contained and is running advertisement to add hosts — as is — and that a business model such as Evovle’s that can add exclusive supply will be judged valuable by investors.


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Tags: airbnb, distribution, evolve, future of lodging, hospitality, property managers, skift live, skift research, tech

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