Entrepreneurs / Small Business  August 21, 2015

InvitedHome works to solve vacation-rental guesswork

Hotel-like consistency is the goal for hot Boulder company

BOULDER — The rise of websites such as AirBNB and VRBO has made the vacation rental market boom in recent years, making it easier for vacationers to pick private accommodations rather than hotels in almost any location. The flexibility and often the price – especially when it comes to finding a place for large groups – have been major selling points.

Perhaps the only downside of booking vacation rentals is that vacationers don’t truly know what any particular rental experience is going to be like until they open the front door to the home.

That’s where the co-founders of Boulder startup InvitedHome believe they’ve found their niche, with the aim of creating a national brand-like standard of accommodations and service for all of the high-end vacation homes that the company manages.

“We looked at the whole industry and really saw a gap without there being a national company that had the reputation of a hotel brand where you get the same results time and again,” co-founder Henry Parry-Okeden said in a recent interview. “We like to think of ourselves as the Four Seasons of vacation rentals.”

If early growth is any indication, the company seems to be onto something. InvitedHome recently landed at No. 28 in Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing privately held companies in the nation, with three-year revenue growth of 8,001 percent, from roughly $141,000 in 2011 to $11.4 million in 2014.

The company manages about 200 homes for private owners in nine high-end destination markets, including Steamboat Springs, Lake Tahoe, Maui, Telluride, Vail and Florida’s Emerald Coast. The number of homes and markets continues to grow.

InvitedHome officials don’t view themselves as competition to AirBNB or VRBO. In fact, InvitedHome lists its inventory on those sites, which provide a platform for vacation homeowners to market their properties to the masses. Parry-Okeden likens the relationship to sites such as Travelocity for air travel and hotels, which merely provide a platform for all of the accommodations or airlines available, with InvitedHome being just one brand in the mix as Hilton or another would be on Travelocity.

The difference between InvitedHome’s rentals and others that might appear on AirBNB or VRBO is that once a booking is made, those websites’ job is essentially complete. Private homeowners listing on such sites generally are responsible for the rest of the experience, from care and maintenance of the rental property to overseeing cleaning to dealing with guest issues. Some of those owners might provide amazing experiences while others might be more aloof.

InvitedHome takes over all of those duties, overseeing rental transactions and management of the properties from start to finish with its own full-time employees in each market where the company launches. For homeowners, who pay InvitedHome a commission on rental income, the service means added simplicity. For vacationers, it means that when they stay at an InvitedHome property in Steamboat Springs, they can reasonably expect the same level of accommodations, from linens and towels to upkeep of the property, as they would in, say, Maui.

InvitedHome also screens vacation rentals to meet a certain quality standard, with fewer than half of the homes that apply accepted into the company’s stable of offerings. Parry-Okeden said most of the homes are typically valued between $1 million and $10 million.

“The vacation rental industry is absolutely booming because of people like AirBNB and VRBO,” Parry-Okeden said. “But the inconsistency is just rampant. … That’s really the opportunity we saw.”

InvitedHome – co-founded by Parry-Okeden, CEO Michael Joseph and Tom Feldhusen – is in sort of its second iteration as a company. Joseph founded the company in 2008 as Vacation Partner, originally focusing on the management and reservation aspects of vacation rentals and not the management side. In 2013, the company made the shift in focus and changed names to InvitedHome.

The company employs nearly 80 people, including 15 at its downtown Boulder headquarters. Almost entirely self-funded to date by the founders, Parry-Okeden said the company is starting to explore funding options as a way to accelerate growth even faster.

Other locales Parry-Okeden said are on InvitedHome’s list include places like Nantucket, the Hamptons, South Florida, Jackson Hole and other Hawaiian islands.

The recognition from Inc., Parry-Okeden said, has been a “huge boost,” with the days following the Inc. 5000 release being the best ever for InvitedHome’s web traffic. But he declined to disclose revenue projections for 2015.

“We’ve got a lot of things we’re working on,” Parry-Okeden said, “and if they happen to go the right way it will be another extremely great year for us.”

Joshua Lindenstein can be reached at 303-630-1943, 970-416-7343 or jlindenstein@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at
@joshlindenstein

BOULDER — The rise of websites such as AirBNB and VRBO has made the vacation rental market boom in recent years, making it easier for vacationers to pick private accommodations rather than hotels in almost any location. The flexibility and often the price – especially when it comes to finding a place for large groups – have been major selling points.

Perhaps the only downside of booking vacation rentals is that vacationers don’t truly know what any particular rental experience is going to be like until they open the front door to the home.

That’s where…

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