Vacasa, which helps hosts not only list but manage their rental homes, is thinking about becoming a publicly traded stock, multiple sources told CNBC, looking to take advantage of an expected recovery in the vacation business as Covid vaccinations accelerate in the U.S. and federal and state governments lift virus mitigation measures.
The Portland, Oregon-based company is considering an initial public offering, a direct listing, or merging with a SPAC, special purpose acquisition company, those sources said.
In a CNBC interview, Vacasa CEO Matt Roberts said “no comment” to questions about whether the company is planning go public. However, he did talk about Vacasa’s future from a business standpoint, saying the company expects to “generate more than $1.25 billion in gross bookings, an all-time high for us,” in 2021. That’s about double 2019, which closed out before the coronavirus pandemic decimated the travel industry.
From monitoring inquiries to fixing a broken toilet to increasing the number of nights a home is booked, Vacasa helps homeowners manage the whole end-to-end process of renting a property on a short- or long-term basis. The company — founded in 2009, one year after Airbnb — said it sets itself apart from the online rental giant and Expedia’s offerings by providing end-to-end services. While operating its own rental marketplace, Vacasa also feeds home rental supply to Airbnb and Expedia.
“We create supply for the market. Retail it through our distribution partners. … That’s what makes us different. We are actually the ones creating the product on the shelf,” Roberts said.
Danielle Martini, who has her Rockaway Beach, Oregon, home listed on Vacasa, told CNBC, “One of my favorite things is the owners’ portal … where I can compare my bookings to the previous year. I also get email notifications when there is a new booking. It’s pretty sweet.”
Martini’s family lives in Spokane, Washington — seven hours away from their second home — making it difficult to manage the property on a regular basis.
“We basically breaking even … maybe making a little money,” Martini said of Vacasa, which charges a 35% commission. But that’s OK, she said, because she and her husband view their beachside property as a longer-term investment that they hope to retire in one day.
When her mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Danielle Martini started to think more seriously about the next phase in life. Last year, she and her husband cashed out part of their 401(k) money to buy their dream vacation home.
“I told my husband we can’t be like my parents. We need a place to retire. Need it to be managed in an efficient way to cover our costs but also make sure we can one day spend more time out there,” she said.
On the East Coast, in Ocean City, Maryland, Patrick Brady is slowly growing his portfolio of homes: Brooklyn Estate, Brooklyn Cottage and Brooklyn Meadows — all named after his daughter Brooklyn who helps him fix up every property.
Brady started investing in homes in 2015. After the purchase of a large six-bedroom estate, he listed the property on Vacasa. “I was shocked by how many bookings it got me.”
The fight for a vacation rental is putting increased focus, and pressure, on homeowners to keep up with demand and ensure their tenants are happy. But it can be a time-consuming process, and one bad review can hurt your ability to get new guests.
As a manager of three restaurants, Brady was motivated to find a property manager who could help overlook the entire process, and ensure it was profitable.
“From taking care of guest inquiries, processing payments, Vacasa is a one-stop shop,” said Brady.
But competition is fierce. Airbnb and Expedia are both investing in their business models while Marriott continues to expand its small but growing market share through its Home & Villas platform.
Starting last year, Expedia deployed a large sales team to attract Airbnb’s most valuable and experienced homeowners, using a strategy involving a mix of direct targeting and social media.
Last month, multiple sources recently told CNBC that Expedia was poaching so-called superhosts from Airbnb in a fight for quality vacation rentals. Expedia did not respond to a request for comment.
In a separate conversation, Cyril Ranque, president of Expedia’s Travel Partner Group told CNBC “there is a fight for supply.”
Expedia launched its Fast Start program, which allows homeowners from a competing site to transfer their superhost status, late last month. That way they don’t have to start fresh on VRBO, Expedia’s vacation rental platform.
However, at Vacasa, Roberts is betting that a dearth of high-quality rental homes as people start come out of their Covid bubbles will continue to push more homeowners and travelers to his site and the others, too. He said demand is so acute that he’s expecting occupancy above 90% in popular vacation destinations such the Outer Banks in North Carolina this summer.