Nationwide home rental companies offer rebuke to local criticism
March 6, 2018
Nationwide rental management companies this week responded to criticism after three Fraser Valley rental management companies launched a campaign to inform second home owners about the potential risks of working with the larger, nationwide organizations. Their message: think of us as locals.
Last month the Winter Park Lodging Company, Stay Winter Park and Winter Park Resort Lodging joined together to send out informational mailers to more than 1,000 second homeowners in the area, urging them to stick with local rental management companies in lieu of switching to nationwide brands that have entered the market in recent years.
The mailers, essentially post-cards, claim higher levels of service and better guest satisfaction within the local companies, and also say that local companies do a better job of supporting the local community. On Tuesday, the coalition also participated in a short speaking engagement with local real estate agents to better inform them of their respective business models.
Nationwide companies like Vacasa based out of Portland, Ore., and TurnKey out of Austin, though relatively new to the county, argue they are quickly becoming part of the community.
"When we enter into a market, and as we gain trust in that community, we continue to grow and identify where there are opportunities and where we can employ more local staff," said Sara Worthen, business development manager for Vacasa in Frisco. "We have support both in the Portland office, and some of the other offices across the nation. Sometimes the best ideas don't originate in town. We can bring some of that technology, support and innovation to the area. We are trying to grow, and really promote and show owners and guests that we are local, which is always a challenge."
Vacasa entered the Fraser Valley market in April 2015, and they manage about 20 properties in the area with four local employees. TurnKey is even newer, entering the market last July and managing about 30 properties with three local employees. For comparison, Winter Park Lodging Company employs about 40 individuals and manages about 150 properties.
Despite being dwarfed in size by a few locally born businesses, the nationwide companies believe they can offer the same level of service and contribute to the local community and economy.
"I think the aspect of us being a nationwide company is a little bit misrepresented," said Alicia Lesmann, general manager of TurnKey Winter Park, who works out of Denver metro area. "Yes we're headquartered in Austin, but our markets are built before we ever go live. So we are very much local, attending chamber events and becoming as involved in the community as we can. We're doing our part to help the economy grow, and to help the community grow."
Local companies like Winter Park Lodging Company, SkyRun Winter Park and Visit Winter Park say they encourage the bigger companies to root themselves in the community and become "locals," but expect their actions to reflect that effort.
Both Vacasa and TurnKey are chamber members, though perhaps not yet as visible or vocal in the community as other businesses.
"We welcome them being part of our community, and welcome them to become more active in chamber committees and just local involvement in our community," said Sarah Bradford owner of Winter Park Lodging Company. "But until we see that, and see that all the jobs are here locally it still has impacts on the local economy."
Others believe that the arrival of nationwide companies into the market is a natural reaction to higher commission rates charged by some local companies. Philip Vandernail, owner of Visit Winter Park, said nationwide companies setting up in the area don't bother him.
"I think that competition is good, and maybe it will bring down some others' prices to more competitive levels," said Vandernail. "These national companies are at 20 to 25 percent commission rates, I'm at 30 and some of the bigger companies are close to 50 percent. If I was a homeowner I'd look at that and if there's a smaller company or national company that can do the same job for 20 percent less, why wouldn't you go with them?"
Vandernail is more concerned that companies like Vacasa and TurnKey aren't owned by anyone in the area. He said without that extra "skin in the game" of an owner, managers and employees leaving is a much larger concern, and that locally owned franchises are a much more attractive option for the community.
Jeff Gallegos, owner of SkyRun Winter Park, a franchise, agrees. But he also believes that national companies entering the market are a natural evolution, spurred by rapid growth in Colorado over the last several years. But everyone, local and nationwide, agrees that there are enough properties to go around.
"There's construction going on all over town, and new houses being built every day," said Gallegos. "Winter Park is growing, and we're going to have growing pains. Part of that are national brands coming in, new grocery stores and other things that communities need. But you've got to work through the growing pains … I think there are a lot of local people, myself included, that see how much the state has changed over the last 20 years.
"We need to embrace that we live in a cool place that everyone wants to come live in, but it's also figuring out how to all work together to make it good without infighting."