Andrew McConnell initially came up with the idea for VacationFutures after hearing two vacation homeowners who were self-managing their properties tell horror stories of the time and hassle involved. Fed up with paying high commissions to professional Vacation Rental Managers who were not delivering, these homeowners found self-management online was no better. They were still saddled with the financial risk, but now they also bore the burden of all of the management responsibilities.
Knowing there had to be a better way, Andrew and his Co-Founder Mickey Kropf created VacationFutures – an online marketplace that enables vacation homeowners to receive guaranteed income for all of their rental weeks in a single transaction. With customers registered on four continents, the VacationFutures team is committed to making all parties in the vacation rental process better off.
BusinessInterviews.com: How is VacationFutures revolutionizing the vacation rental space?
Andrew: VacationFutures is the first and only vacation rental marketplace to address what most vacation homeowners actually care about. Namely maximizing income while minimizing their financial risk and time commitment. While the existing retail listing sites are great for those people who do not value their time, and who enjoy taking on the job of renting and managing their vacation home, most vacation homeowners do not fall into this category. By creating an online marketplace where professional vacation rental managers compete to buy weeks from homeowners, VacationFutures offers a better option that simply did not previously exist. Homeowners receive the highest possible amount of guaranteed income in a single transaction, and the best rental managers grow their inventory more quickly and easily than has been possible to date.
BusinessInterviews.com: How does VacationFutures help provide a better experience for the traveler?
Andrew: By putting management into the hands of professionals. There are some homeowners that do a great job managing their homes, and treat it like a job. However, most do not. On average it takes 9 days to book a vacation rental on the leading site because most homeowners are unresponsive since this is something they just do on the side. Even once you are able to book the home it is difficult to know ahead of time if the photos will match what you get on arrival, and what the service levels will be. And if any problems occur, how is a homeowner several hundred miles away going to be able to address them in a timely fashion? By helping professional rental managers to grow their inventory, buying the rental weeks from homeowners, VacationFutures enables more vacationers to rent from more professional management companies, leading to an easier, streamlined, and superior rental experience.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you elaborate on how you’ve impressively managed to register customers and attract interest across 4 continents while spending less than $2,000 in marketing?
Andrew: It seems to come down to offering a superior product. We founded VacationFutures because the first people we shared the idea with said: “Well of course, if something like that existed I would definitely use it.” Since that time, 60-80% of vacation homeowners across markets list with us as soon as they hear what we are doing. As a result, when people hear about what we are doing, or read about it, or simply stumble across our site, they want to take advantage of what we offer them. The great thing about what we do is that it only ever works where all parties are better off. The homeowner has to feel she is getting a better deal in order to accept the manager’s offer, and the manager has to really want the property in order to guarantee the income in the first place. It is by definition a win-win.
BusinessInterviews.com: How important is social media to your overall marketing strategy?
Andrew: It has certainly contributed to our growth. This is probably truer when it comes to adding rental managers than homeowners. Management companies, since they are trying to attract renters, tend to be relatively active and savvy users of social media. Given their demographics, vacation homeowners tend to be less active on things like Facebook and Twitter.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you give to a homeowner looking to enter the vacation rental market for the first time?
Andrew: Be very clear with yourself on what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking for a pure investment? Are you looking for a vacation home for your family and just want to subsidize the cost? Are you looking for your retirement home, and believe that by renting it out until you retire that you can afford a nicer one than would otherwise be possible? Every homeowner has a different situation, and a different objective. Depending on what you want to achieve, and what you are willing to do in order to achieve it, how, when, and where you enter the vacation rental market will vary.
BusinessInterviews.com: How do you think that the vacation rental industry will evolve during the next 5 years?
Andrew: We will see the emergence of large, meaningful vacation rental brands. It wasn’t that long ago that there were no real national, much less international brands of hotels. Holiday Inn changed that, and soon Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and the rest followed suit. At present vacation rentals and rental companies are incredibly localized, but that is changing. The increased visibility and distribution created by sites like HomeAway and Airbnb, the Priceline and Expedia equivalents of the vacation rental space, is helping to accelerate this shift. It is difficult to say who the ultimate winners will be, but one early leader is Vacasa, who was recently named the 9th fastest growing private company in the country by Inc. magazine. It will certainly be exciting.
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