In this interview I speak with Alicia Heber, a representative from Vacasa, a vacation rental property management company. They discuss the services offered by Vacasa, including their all-inclusive approach to vacation rental management and their use of technology to optimize rental rates. Alicia also talks about the benefits of vacation rentals for both homeowners and communities, and the challenges of navigating local regulations. She emphasizes the importance of providing a high level of service to homeowners and guests, and highlights Vacasa’s partnerships with listing websites and technology providers. Alicia also mentions Vacasa’s recent expansion into the San Jose market and their plans for further growth.
Alicia just moved back to this San Francisco Bay area. Well actually Santa Cruz a few months ago, she’d lived here before, but now she’s back to stay and she’s working with Vac Casa. Have you heard of Vac Casa? Vac CASA is a vacation rental property management company, and that’s all they do is vacation rentals. Now you’ve heard that expression. Hey, there’s an app for that. Well, like Vac Casa is the app for vacation rental management. It’s really cool. They are doing some very cool stuff in the vacation rental management space. And here in Santa Cruz, there are a lot of vacation rentals. A lot of people are very concerned about the ability to have vacation rentals, to manage them profitably, to make it easy. And the CASA has a lot of great solutions to typical vacation rental management headaches. It’s a very interesting company and I’m very excited that Alicia was able to cut some time out of her busy schedule to sit down with me and talk about what they are doing. So without further ado, sit back, relax, and listen to what Alicia Heber has to say. Hey Alicia, how are you doing?
I’m doing well. How are you today?
I’m great. Hey, thanks so much for making the time to appear on my podcast this morning. I really appreciate it.
Of course. I’m happy to be here. Thank you.
Right on. So as I think I told you at the beginning of my podcast, I like to ask my guests to tell us a little story so they can kind get a feel for who you are and what you’re about. Do you have a little story you can share with us?
Sure. Well, I’ll start at the beginning. My name is Alicia Heber. A lot of times my name is Mispronounced. I kind of answer to it all, whether it’s Alicia or Alicia, what have you, but just named after my grandmother, Patricia. But my father wanted to avoid me being called Pat, so he came up with Alicia. So I always tell people, Patricia, to help with that pronunciation, but I enjoy that. At the same time, it helps me think of that special lady. So a little background on who I am and how I got my name.
Well, your dad was really a right not to have you named Patricia. Do you remember that thing on Saturday Night Live? What’s that
Impact? Yes, that’s exactly the reason why. So I’m very thankful for Alicia and being mispronounced all the time. I think it’s a little bit nicer, so I am thankful for that.
Right on. Very good. Hey, so tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
Yeah, I grew up in the Mesa, Arizona area. I have two great parents and two younger sisters. Growing up, I played softball and did track and cross country and was always very active in school. But growing up in the hot Arizona desert, I always dreamed of being a lifeguard. I loved Baywatch when I was a kid and I wanted live that beach lifestyle and wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid.
Wow, okay. Well, you’re in the right town for that. There’s more marine biology labs per mile in Santa Cruz County, Monterey Bay, than anywhere else in the world.
So it’s a really special place
Doesn’t here. And that’s why you work for a vacation rental management company,
Of course, right? No, but I got two kids and I want to be able to have them to grow up with those opportunities. I know that they’re cut from the same cloth in that sense, and they want to have access to that kind of stuff. So it’s important for me to have my family here.
It’s like having kids is getting to relive your life all over again. You can correct the things that you wanted to correct, but you can’t because it’s too late in some respects. So you live here now in Santa Cruz? Yes.
And you just moved here from where?
From Colorado. So I initially moved to Santa Cruz in 2010. Really on a whim. My husband and I were on a road trip to check out different coastal cities to see where we might end up wanting to move, and we immediately fell in love and felt at home in Santa Cruz. And during that trip, my husband was hired to be a brewer at Boulder Creek Brewery, which unfortunately burned down a few years ago. During that time, I was an E M T and an ocean kayak guide with Monterey Bay Kayaks. But shortly after our son was born, we decided to move back to Colorado. So could be close to family, but we always longed to come back to Santa Cruz.
Wow, that’s super cool. So two things that caught my ear right there is your husband is a brewer and is like a microbrewery explosion going on here in Santa Cruz. Is he still brewing?
He stepped out of that profession, but it’s something that he is still very interested in. So we’re talking about him getting back into that role potentially. We’ll see,
There’s so many breweries now. There’s got to be like 10, right?
Oh yeah. No, there’s many. We’re still a beer enthusiast, so we’ll see if he wants to go down that route professionally again.
And then you were a kayak guide with Monterey Bay Kayaks?
Yeah, I worked mainly in Elkhorn Slough, and it was, like I said, growing up kind of what I wanted to do as far as marine biologists. I certainly didn’t have the education for that, but just being able to paddle out and share the diversity and the wildlife fit that the SL was pretty special and it was a very cool time for me to work there.
That is a super cool thing. My wife and I did that a few years ago. We went down and went up the slew on kayaks and that was awesome. And then one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken is of the Sea Otter sitting in a kayak on the dock.
Chilling. Yeah, what a great job.
Yeah, it was really cool. So we try to go kayaking when we can as a family too. I used to be a raft guide in Colorado, so being on the water is something that’s really important to us.
Wow, cool. Well, welcome back to Santa Cruz. And how long ago did you move back?
We recently got back in June, so it’s been a little bit of a transition over the summer, but we’re all into our normal routine. But I’ve been working with Vac Casa and the Santa Cruz market since about February. So was traveling back and forth during that transition time, but we’ve been living here since June.
Right on. Great. So you are working with Vac Casa, which I had heard of but wasn’t really familiar with. But it sounds like working with Lacasa is kind of like a big departure from what you were doing in your past career careers, multiple, it sounds like.
Yeah, prior to kids, my career was really outdoor pursuits, but when that sort of life event happened, it kind of changes your priorities a bit. And so when my husband and I bought our first home, I really enjoyed the home buying process and the role that our realtor played in such a life event. And at that point I decided I wanted to pursue my Colorado real estate license, and I worked as a realtor in Breckenridge, Colorado and assistant.
Oh, you did? I had no idea.
Yeah. Yeah. So that’s kind of how I segued from that. So I worked as a realtor in Breckenridge and assisted several buyers who were looking for their dream ski home and vacation rental and revenue was always an important factor in selecting the right home for them. So even before stepping into my role with the casa, I was well versed in the options and concerns that homeowners have when selecting an investment property and a property manager.
So Breckenridge, I’ve never been to Breckenridge. I’ve been to Colorado a number of times, I guess
Or four anyway, but never to Breckenridge, which is, I guess I gather a very big vacation market. So a lot of people who buy homes in Breckenridge and other ski communities, I imagine all throughout Colorado are interested in having their homes be vacation rentals when they’re not using them. Is that typical?
Yeah, no, absolutely. That market, the majority of the properties are second homes. And so really every buyer I worked with needed to know the potential rental revenue and what the companies were the best to work with. So when the opportunity with P Casa presented itself where I would assist homeowners to optimize their investment properties with the solutions that P Casa brings, it was a no-brainer for me to step into that role with Vac Casa as a homeowner consultant.
Right. Cool. So now how did you actually end up working with Vac Casa? I mean, there you are, you’re a realtor and you’re selling vacation homes, second homes, and how did you make the switch from realtor to working with Vac Casa?
Yeah, I was getting coffee with a friend and he mentioned that a close friend of his was working with this company, and I was familiar with the Casa, but not so much into the details of really the day-to-day aspects of what they do. But as I learned more the value that they bring, I connected with his friend who ultimately was my first manager with F Casa. So it was kind of a twist of fate in that way where it was just a simple coffee meeting with a friend that turned into kind of a fork in the road. But I really enjoyed it. I think it’s fulfilled me in ways that traditional real estate didn’t for me at that time, but it’s very much in the same vein of what I was doing previously. So it’s been a blessing,
A simple cup of coffee. Right. So just say yes, right. When someone says, Hey, do you want to go grab coffee? The answer is
Yes, yes, I do. As a matter of fact. Right. Okay. So SSA is a property management company, right? I mean, but they’re vacation property management company, is that right?
Yes, yes. Yeah, go ahead.
Oh, how did they get started? Fill me in on Vacasa, how they got started, and anything you can tell me about the background of the company.
Yeah, vac Casa started in 2009 when our C E O Eric Brion realized how much work was required to maintain his second home. So much so that when he was there to unwind, he found himself often doing more work than actually enjoying his vacation home, and he knew there had to be a better way. And from there, him and a small team developed software to optimize the listing and automate the smaller details that go into managing homes. And over the years, the Costa has grown at a tremendous scale. We are now the largest vacation rental property management company in the us and we manage over 10,000 homes worldwide. The cost is very much a tech company that focuses on vacation rentals. So we’re able to leverage those strengths with predictive analysis and yield management to benefit homeowners and their bottom line. We have a full service approach with vacation rental with the marketing and the property management, and we have the unique ability to simplify the vacation rental process while increasing homeowner’s net income.
So it sounds like you guys are just kind of like a one-stop shop for vacation rental management, is that right?
Yeah, we really try to make it as simple for owners as possible to be pretty hands-off as well. We handle everything from assistance with permitting, the marketing reservations, really everything that goes into it. So our mission statement really is vacation rentals made easy, and our true mission is to be the most trusted vacation rental company by owners and travelers alike with our data on the best markets to purchase vacation homes, connecting buyers with high integrity and knowledgeable realtors in the markets that they’re seeking. We also have an interior design program to help owners have the most aesthetically pleasing home to maximize the rental revenue. So our goal is to truly be a one-stop shop and to be the leading resource on vacation rentals worldwide.
Well, I love your mission statement. Vacation rentals made easy, right?
Yeah. I think a lot of people, you anticipate it to be something that’s fairly easy that one can do on their own, and you certainly can. But to run a successful vacation rental, it takes a lot of work and a single owner has to wear many hats, and oftentimes they’re not necessarily the best person for that when it comes to running it to full efficiency and maximizing the rental revenue. So having people who are the experts in that space simplifies it for the owners and makes it easier for guests too.
Wow. I am blown away. I can’t get off your mission statement right here. I want to change my mission statement. Home sales made easy in a nutshell. I think any company should be made easy, right? There you go. That’s very appealing. I mean, people have so much going on these days, there’s so much to do, right? You don’t want to have to worry about all this stuff. You just want to enjoy your property. I mean,
You don’t want
To have headaches that go along with maintaining it, much less running like a vacation rental business with it. So how is FSA different from FlipKey or Airbnb or V R B O? What’s your point of differentiation?
So we actually do have partnerships with those sites as we list all the homes we manage on their websites along with the casa.com. So by maximizing the visibility of the homes that partner with us and all the major websites, we help guests find the perfect home for every stay and driving unbeatable revenue for the homeowners. And so those other websites are certainly partners, but we do take it a step further from just being a listing site as we do handle the operations and the day-to-day tasks to maintain the homes as well.
So that’s the big difference, really, is that these
Are really, they specialize in just listing the property for sale and collecting money, I guess, and ratings and reviews of the property, but they don’t actually handle any of the grunt work really.
Exactly. And so that’s where a lot of the work lies. One of the things that the strengths we have is we don’t just put the listings on these sites and hope they do well. We have a team that’s looking to make sure that to understand the algorithms of these websites to help the homes that we partner with to display Hyatt at the search. So we look at that to try to make that work well for the owners. But yes, of course, then we have our team who’s available to take inbound questions for guests and a reservations team and people on the ground to assist guests if there’s any issues during their stay, and along with the general maintenance and house cleaning that we do as part of our service.
Right, right. Okay. Yeah, I know there’s a tremendous amount of work involved. I talk to people all the time and they’re like, gee, I want to have it be a vacation rental. I’m like, wow, are you really aware of all the work that has to go into that? And there are local vacation mental management companies that do that, but I’m not sure they would have necessarily the same reach and expertise that you guys would because it sounds like, I mean, 10,000 doors is a huge inventory
Anything going on by a local management company around here anyway.
Yeah, it’s true. And then for the amount of reservations that we see annually, we have a lot of experience in the customer service, the backend with the websites, how to handle homes operationally. So our scale is actually our strength being as large as we are because we do have an unparalleled level of expertise and experience on our side that we can use to benefit the homeowners and the guests who stay in our homes.
Okay. Very important. Now, what kind of properties make the best vacation rentals? I mean there you are, ski properties. I mean here locally we have beach properties, we also have non beach properties that, I don’t know, the vacation rentals. What are the best homes for vacation rentals?
So generally speaking, once where multiple families or friends can get together. So homes that have inviting indoor or outdoor spaces for guests to congregate a large kitchen for cooking and connecting separate living spaces where the adults and kids can spend time and having the fun stuff like barbecues, hot tub, boo ball tables and board games never hurt to have on hand, but homes don’t have to be luxury estates to be profitable as travelers are looking for varying options, excuse me, to accommodate their needs. So whether it’s a ski condo or a beach home or a place tucked in the redwoods, there’s a market for all of that. So it’s just about having an inviting space.
So big multifamily. So that makes a question, what’s the typical house look like? Is a four bedroom house, is that sort of the best economics for a vacation rental? I mean so many around here, there are two bedroom places because we have these small houses, but does it work out to be four or five bedroom houses are really kind of like the sweet spot for a vacation home.
It really comes down to the owner’s motivations and their financial abilities. When I was working as a realtor in Breckenridge, that would come up all the time, and my best recommendation is what is the dream second home for you and your family? Because there’s going to be families just like you who are looking for an experience like that in this area, but typically more heads in the bed is going to give you a higher rental revenue, so you’re going to be able to see a higher nightly rate when you have more beds, more bedrooms, things of that nature. But it does, it varies from market to market. In Santa Cruz homes that have four bedrooms to get a permit and to be in compliance require a public hearing. And so that can complicate things. And so in some ways, a three bedroom or a two bedroom can be advantageous to the area as it simplifies some of those hurdles. And so it can vary case by case on each market, but typically more heads in the bed equals more rental revenue,
More heads in the bed. Is that a thing you have on your corporate vision wall?
No. No. But yeah, it’s something that I think is pretty a common lingo in the spaces. Just the more people you can accommodate, obviously the more revenue you can get. So it’s a fun way of saying it. Yeah,
Right. It is. But the other thing I heard you say was that really it’s buy the house that works for you, the house that you’re going to love and that that’s going to be something that other people are probably going to want to love too. Right, exactly.
For people who are really investment minded who want to find the best place to find a vacation rental, we can certainly provide resources for that when people who are strictly numbers and not really looking to use it as a second home in that traditional sense. But for the majority of the owners that I work with, they bought these homes either as second home vacation homes for themselves, or perhaps these have been second homes that have been passed down through the family over time. And so providing a high level of service to these homes is almost more important than rental revenue for a lot of people too. So it really varies on what the homeowner’s motivation is, but our goal is always aligned with their specific needs.
Okay, that’s actually interesting. So the idea that people would just use it primarily as an investment vehicle rather than primarily as buying it for their own use. So that sort of begs the question is if I’m going to invest just as an investment in the vacation rentals, what markets in the United States or maybe even the world, I guess are especially good to invest in as an investment in vacation rentals?
So the Costa recently developed a report identifying the best markets to purchase a vacation rental, and the top three came in for the Forgotten Coast and Kissame in Florida, along with the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee based on median home sale prices and cap rates. But cities in Oregon, Washington, and California were also on the list of the top 25 markets. And this report is [email protected].
What’s the Forgotten coast,
Right? No, no, unfortunately kind of near the area. That was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Michael.
Okay. All right. So
There. Wow. So we shouldn’t forget the forgotten coast. It sounds like they might need our help. Okay, so the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, huh?
Well, we have Smoky Mountains right here in California. You don’t have to go all the way to Tennessee for that. So how about internationally? Are there any international markets that stand out? Was the report done on international markets as well?
We didn’t compile that list for investors that way, but we have homes in South Africa and Costa Rica and Europe, we’re really, we’re all over now. So there’s a lot of options for people to look worldwide. And so that’s what’s interesting about the Costa as well, is we can have someone stay at a home in Santa Cruz and enjoy that experience and then return to acosta.com to find their next vacation rental, to have that standard experience in their next home that they want to stay in. And they can expect that same level of experience from the reservations through the quality of the clean cleanliness of the home you even when they’re booking in France. So it’s a really interesting model for guests as well.
Interesting. Okay. So how about here in the Bay Area, right? I mean here in Santa Cruz we think that we’re a nice place for people to come and visit. I think the government doesn’t really think so because they seem to be deriving people out of vacations, vacation rentals in Santa Cruz. But what about in the Bay Area? Are there any places that stick out in the Bay Area as a great place to have a vacation rental?
Yeah, well, we’re managing a little over a thousand homes within, excuse me, within California. And that number is increasing daily. And many of our high performing homes are located within Santa Cruz, lake Tahoe, Sonoma, and Big Bear. And the top performers are usually close to local attractions and have great spaces for family and friends to gather and are well stocked.
Well stocked. What does well-stocked mean? A full bar? Well,
Kind of being thoughtful and the games or movie selection or the beach houses that have a cruiser or boogie boards for people to use, things that can elevate that experience for the guests.
Oh, interesting. So this just made me wonder, does Vac Casa go in and make recommendations like, Hey, you should have three Beach Cruisers and Twister Monopoly, and do you guys do that kind of stuff
Or no? Yeah, we provide a pretty comprehensive list of things we highly recommend for the home based on different reviews and guest recommendations over the years, specifically stuff as it pertains to the kitchen. I think that’s one of the big advantages to staying in a vacation rental compared to a hotel is the ability to cook a home cooked meal at home in the place that you’re staying. So having a crockpot, plenty of pans, plenty of dishes, things that make the home truly feel like a home, I think that really starts in the kitchen. So I think talking about well-stocked beyond just cruisers and bikes, those are recommendations. Certainly not something that is necessary but can definitely help the owners spot online is you want to have as many amenities checked off as you can because that’s going to affect how the listing is displayed online, and ultimately more of the check boxes that people are looking for in their vacation rentals.
So it was like Picasso go in and create a customized list for every particular house or generic checklists for based on a region.
We kind of have a general checklist of what we’d recommend specifically towards the kitchen and making sure, obviously one of the things that’s absolutely required is having the right amount of linens and towels to accommodate the guests so that they’re not running out and they’re adequately stocked. We also have a linen program that we can provide some high quality linens at a nominal cost to the homeowners. So it provides that kind of hotel standard experience of crisp white linens rather than musty old linens that some homeowners provide. And I think that’s something that having an outside perspective can help guide homeowners to make the better choices. I think sometimes homeowners think that, well, I enjoy my sheets, enjoy these sheets. But I think that’s not always the case as more people are looking for kind of that standard hotel experience. But in homes and condos,
I really do love some nice crisp linens, high spread count. Yeah, it makes big difference. That’s good stuff. And I think what you just said is really important in that those small details are oftentimes the most important details, more important to your stay than a beach cruiser might be having a full set of kitchenware, which
Is probably a lot less expensive than a set of beach cruisers.
And so it’s very good that Vacasa is able to recommend to people those things which are really going to make the most difference in terms of getting a good review. Because good reviews I imagine are pretty important to getting your property rented. I mean, I know when I’m on V R B O, if there’s no reviews or anything less than all four or five star reviews, it’s pretty unlikely I’m going to want to rent that place.
It’s true. So the reviews weigh heavy, not on just consumer choice, but also on the way that the home is displayed in the searches on these websites. Conversion is a huge portion of how these homes get displayed. So when a guest is searching on V RBO for a place and they click on your property, and if they ultimately don’t book, that will lower your standing in the search engine. And so we are really concerned and take action on trying to make those recommendations for homeowners specifically within the first month or two to maximize their conversion rate because that’ll increase their visibility compared to the competition in their market.
Right, right. Okay. So I’m wondering what is the CASA cost? What’s it going to cost me? I know that local property management companies are very expensive. It seems to me that’s the one caveat when I work with buyers, they’re like, yeah, I want to do a vacation rental. I’m like, there’s a huge overhead to running having a vacation rental if you use a vacation rental management company locally. I don’t know. What does the cost charge? I have no idea. How does your fee structure work?
Well, our management fee does vary quite a bit on the property itself, the homeowner’s goals and the local regulations based on if there’s a limit on how long you can run it as a vacation rental, all that plays into our management fee. But it’s really important to compare apples to apples because a lot of other management companies will still charge homeowners for cleans after a guest stays in the home. And there’s other various charges, if you have a light bulb that burns out or if there’s a TV remote loses batteries during a guest day, the homeowner could be charged for the replacement of those along with the time it took for their team member to address those items. And so with our approach to an all-inclusive marketing and property management, we help owners net the highest income possible even after our management fee. So talking with myself or one of my colleagues in their designated markets will help owners understand how we can service their unique home and set them up for success.
So that’s interesting. So you guys don’t have a SSGA smorgasboard or a pick your level of service. It’s like an all inclusive, all encompassing management service, and you guys basically handle everything for one fee, and that fee varies from property to property and region to region, but if you sign up, you’re going to pay one fee, one fee every month regardless. Is that kind of how it works?
Yeah, and it’s not even a fee per se. It’s a percentage of the gross rental revenue. And so there’s no startup cost for the owner necessarily beyond getting the proper permits if necessary and making sure the home is adequately stocked. But there’s no fees that we charge to be a part of our portfolio in that sense.
So I was on the VAC CASA website and I was looking around and I see that there’s a guarantee for homeowners that they’ll make more money renting their property with VAC Casa than if they do it on their own or through another property management company, even considering that you have this fee. So how does that work? How guarantee work?
So if you have been renting your home through another property management company, we will guarantee a net increase of $5,000 in your first year with picasa. And for those who have been self-managing guarantee that they’ll make at least as much as they did prior with us, even after our management fee. So in either case, if we didn’t deliver, we’ll refund the difference up to the full amount of our management fee. But of course, our goals are aligned with the owners. Our mission is to help them earn the highest net income possible and to exceed their expectations and revenue in the professional care that we provide to their home.
Yeah, that’s great actually. I love that. And the reason why I love that is because it goes to the heart of my own value proposition as a realtor, and that is do you add value? Do you subtract value? Right. And I think that a lot of people start with the idea that Vac Casa or any management company is going to be subtracting value, but the reality is that companies like Vac Casa and real estate brokers like myself wouldn’t exist if we didn’t add value. I mean, realtors have been around for hundred years or more. We were just a scam for a hundred years and we just took value. We probably wouldn’t have existed that long. And that’s why I think that people need to open up to the possibility that working with a company acasa who may charge, I mean I have no idea what the actual charge is. And it sounds like it varies from house to house and market to market, but you guys actually do provide more value than your cost.
We certainly do, and a lot of it is on the tech side of things, we have rate optimization, so a very sophisticated pricing strategy. So rates can fluctuate even a couple times daily based on how people are booking in the area, different events that could be taking place along with weather. And with that, we’ve been able to help homeowners increase their rental revenue by about 34% compared to even some of the strategic pricing that other property management companies provide as far as high season, low season weekends and holidays. By taking it that step further that the Costa does, we’re able to find the best nightly rate at any given point for the homeowner.
Wow, that is really cool. I just love it. I mean, I’m kind of a techie, so I mean, I just love the way you guys are leveraging that technology to really deliver for your clients. That is pretty awesome. So it sounds like Vacasa is kind of like a turnkey organization. You guys do so much. You mentioned a couple of things you don’t do, you don’t stock the house and you don’t pay for the vacation rental permit, but is there anything else that you don’t do? What about landscaping or maintenance or all that kind of stuff?
Yeah, well quickly on the permit item, we will assist with filing the permit. So making sure that all the adequate paperwork is submitted and following that process. So we can certainly facilitate with that initial thing that can be one more thing on a homeowner’s plate that they might not want to pursue when considering this. So we try to make that process as simple as possible. But with as far as operations in the day-to-day tasks of maintaining the home, our team does maintain the entryways, the decks providing, making sure the leaves aren’t there, just to elevate that guest experience so that there’s no negative reviews on the cleanliness of the decks and the driveways. But we do do general maintenance of the home. So if a light bulb needs to be replaced or propane tanks for the barbecue or the gas fireplace outside, we do those refills at no charge to the owner.
So really things that are kind of minor in scope typically that are under an hour of someone’s time that don’t require a specialist we can handle on behalf of the homeowner. So we try to simplify everything as we can for the homeowners as far as the maintenance goes there. So yeah, homeowners are still responsible for the landscaping of their home, especially if they have quite a bit of land to maintain, like I mentioned, we’ll do the driveways and things of that nature. But the homeowner’s main responsibility is paying the property taxes, paying their mortgage, and keeping the lights on with utilities. And then as far as everything that goes into running the vacation rental, that’s on us.
So let’s say I have a property in Breckenridge and I live in Santa Cruz, and then you guys tell me, Hey, the place doesn’t look great, it needs paint. Do you guys find a painter and get bids and all that? Or you guys do do that, then the owner has to pay for that, but you guys will assist with finding providers for that kind of stuff.
Exactly. So we want the homeowner to be the decision maker and those sort of things because like I mentioned, our approach is to be all inclusive and to minimize nickel and dime charges so the homeowner can really anticipate the revenue they’re going to get based off the reservations on the books. And so if there’s any unforeseen events such as if something needs to be replaced or if we recommend, Hey, I think you need new paint to make your place shine a little bit better in that way, and we can present some opportunity options to the homeowners and they still get to choose their provider that they want, or if they want us to really take lead on that, we can coordinate getting bids on it and scheduling contractors for those things. So once again, it’s really up to how involved the homeowner wants to be in those things. We want to make it as easy as we can for them. So if they want to be involved in picking the right person, if they have a connection in the community that they want to work with, we can certainly help with that or we can schedule it for them if that’s easier for their calendar and their schedule.
Alright, that is fantastic. Sure that a lot of out of area homeowners would really like to have somebody they can rely on to handle that for ’em. So I have a real estate listing right now. It’s a block and a half from Sea Bright Beach. It’s lovely. And it’s in the city of Santa Cruz and a lot of people like the property. And one of the big questions I get is, can you do a vacation rental? And I’m sad to inform them that you cannot do a vacation rental without a permit and there’s only 400 permits and they’re all sold out. So no, you can’t do a vacation permit. And that really cramps down on the market for the property. I mean, there’s not that many people who want to buy a house to live in year round, right? There mean a lot of people would, but not necessarily for as much money as they would otherwise if it could be rented as a vacation rental. So why do you think that so many municipalities are cracking down vacation rentals? I mean, for everything that I read, vacation rentals bring in lots of money into communities. So why do you think so many municipalities are making vacation rentals like the bad guy?
In my opinion, I think there are a lot of other factors that come into the concerns over housing markets and the way people vacation is changing with more and more people seeking to live a local rather than staying in hotels. And so with your specific listing, it is unfortunate because I’m pretty sure that the current owners, along with any potential buyers, wouldn’t purchase that home to be used as a long-term housing option. It’s just not even in the realm of possibility that a home in that area at that price point is going to be really offered as a year round option for renters. So I don’t believe it affects the vacation or the long-term housing market as most of these homes, like I mentioned, just aren’t meant for that purpose. And so I think it does a disservice to homeowners and as far as being able to fully exercise their rights with their property.
But at the same time, I understand the concern of maintaining local charm and community, a sense of community within the neighborhoods. And so we just try to be good stewards in our space. We recognize that the neighbors in the community could very well be potential clients of ours in the future or guests. So we do our best to operate with best practices as we can within the communities that we operate. But of course, compliance is key. So we try to show that we follow by the books and can be kind of an enforcing arm of these municipalities because we’re going to play by the books even though some other people who might self be self-managing, who are operating without a permit may be flying under the radar, we’re going to do it right,
Right. But I’m still wondering why they’re cracking down. I mean, it seems so wrongheaded because most of these neighborhoods, they’ve been not used as permanent year-round homes for decades. And what we have now is we have greater visibility and what’s happening because of V R B O and Airbnb and Vac Casa and the Flip
It’s easier to see what’s being rented and what’s being available. But most of these houses, most of these neighborhoods, I used to live on Coates Drive in atos, and when I was living there 30 years ago, every other house had a vacation rental sign on it. I mean, very few homes were lived in year round in the wintertime. It was a no man’s land. I mean it was just empty, right? I mean, it was wonderful. So why do you think that these municipalities are cracking down on vacation rentals in areas that have always been or pretty much heavily used by vacationers?
Yeah, as I just spoke on the point of these not even being long-term inventory options, I think it’s a reaction to just the changes that are happening. Like you said, there’s more visibility in it. And then I think they want to make sure people are doing it right, that they’re not just opening up their door and not providing a safe or good experience for the public, along with how it can affect the neighbors in the community as well. And so I think working with a company like the CASA certainly helps alleviate some of that because our goal is to being the largest vacation rental management company, we have a lot of eyes on us. And so we take that with a great responsibility of showing that vacation rentals can be done well in a way that benefits the homeowners and the community as it brings in more people to enjoy the area.
And a lot of the homes that we manage are in very much tourist destinations. And so Santa Cruz APTAs, there’s still a large amount of people who live there year round, but there’s a lot of other communities that we work within that can be kind of vulnerable to the volatile nature of being a tourist town where shoulder seasons can really shut down people, or if they don’t get good snow, they’re not going to get the revenue for the town that they’re anticipating. And one of the things that we can help is we have a really unique strength of being able to bring renters in during the slow time too. And so we’re not on town councils, we’re not on these boards that make these changes. Some of our colleagues are involved in Chamber of Commerce and trying to get involved locally, and I’m going to take the steps I can to show that we take our presence in the community seriously and do what we can, but the best we can do is just be good stewards of the industry and represent the CASA and vacation rentals the best we can.
You are so kind, because I would say that these governments are using vacation rentals and vacation rental management companies and vacation rental owners as sort of scapegoats or punching bags for their own failure to act and providing adequate housing for the community. I mean, that’s what it all boils down to because vacation rentals here in Santa Cruz, they make up way less than 1% of housing stock. So how are they the problem? And then you have to look at the benefits that they bring. I mean, I want the California Coastal Commission to come in and look because basically the city governments and the county government are restricting the public’s access to these coastal areas by cracking down on vacation rentals. They’re not letting as many people enjoy the areas and they wait in a sensible, environmentally friendly way as they could. So I understand you’re not going to be up in arms about it, but I’m up in arms about it. I think it’s terrible that they’re making scapegoats out of the vacation rental industry, and I think it’s just horrible. That’s my 2 cents as a realtor,
Ask you this. How do vacation rentals benefit communities? Because I feel that they do. How do you guys think that vacation rentals help the ecosystem of a community?
Yeah, well, kind of speaking to Santa Cruz and I’m sorry, I don’t think there’s very many I lovely hotel options to recommend to people. I had family in town recently and they had said, where should we stay? And I was just like, there’s not very many hotels that people, at least in this area, I think are that appealing. That’s my personal opinion,
Not for families. I mean, for a couple of people staying over the weekend or whatever, fine, but not for families. And a lot of these families will choose to vacation in other communities.
Oh yes, of course. I mean, having two young kids, I could not imagine me enjoying a vacation where we’re all staying in one hotel room. It’s just not where we’re at. And that’s just the way things are changing once upon a time, that was the way people used to travel. But whether cities like it or not, the way people are traveling is changing and they want to be able to stay in homes where they can cook their kids a proper meal where they can have room for the kids to enjoy and adults to enjoy the patio. Those things have changed as far as the way people vacation. And I think by putting a lot of negativity towards vacation, rental options for people is going to drive away tourists to the area. I think obviously it draws more people to the area who spend money and local restaurants and businesses in the area, which all benefits the community in that sense.
But at least with the casa, we employ local teams on the ground in each market that we serve. And so ensuring that the CASA homes are running in accordance with local regulations and paying taxes and securing the proper permits and our team care deeply about the communities that we live and work in. We recently sponsored a booth at the Open Street Santa Cruz on West Cliff at the beginning of October and trying to engage the community and be involved where we can, when I mentioned Hurricane Michael previously, we have several homes in that area. And so when that devastation hit our team on the ground, there was assisting homeowners, both who are partnered with us and those who aren’t in the recovery and the cleanup efforts in the area with bringing supplies and just doing what we can. And so having a resource like the community, I think is really a benefit.
Yeah, I agree. I’m on board. So you guys mentioned that you,
I know as a realtor, that’s a tough conversation to have. It’s unfortunate I’m going to leave it at that, but I feel you on the sense that your seller’s in a tough position, a highly sought after property, and it would make an extremely profitable vacation rental that would also still benefit the local community. But the way things are, unfortunately, it’s not an option.
So you mentioned that you were just an event in Santa Cruz, and is that the kind of stuff that you do to increase your brand awareness? And I’m just wondering how do you acquire new clients? I mean, what’s that process? I mean, how do you find folks?
Yeah, and so we have consultants like myself in all the markets that we work. And so building organically in that way by connecting with homeowners, realtors and other influencers in the community that can help us connect with people who have vacation rentals or considering vacation rentals. So a lot of organic growth that way. Despite being the largest vacation rental management company, there is still a little bit like, oh, what is the casa? Who is the casa? So we have a story to tell. And so being on the streets in Santa Cruz and engaging with people as they’re riding their bike up and down the street was really beneficial. We also are very strong in sending out letters to homeowners. And so I’m sure a few of your listeners probably have received letters from Picasa and myself sharing our value proposition. But when they can see us in the community and we can engage, that makes all the difference. So we’re looking forward to doing more on the ground here in Santa Cruz as well.
Direct mail, huh?
Wow. I’ve heard of that. I’ve never had any luck with it myself personally. Well, not much
With it. That’s a hard road to hoe. So it’s not something that’s happened overnight, you said started in 2009, so that’s like nine years. So it’s just a lot of work building a business, but it sounds like you guys are doing a fantastic job so far. So who do you partner with? I mean, you mentioned FlipKey and V rbo and Airbnb. Are there any other people that you partner with to help you in your mission of vacation rentals made easy?
So we have many partnerships that help us to be successful, but our main partners are those who help us keep heads in the bed, like I mentioned. So Airbnb, booking.com, Expedia, et cetera. Those listing websites, they all help us with that visibility to help get the rental reservations on the books for the homeowners. But we also work with some technology and operational partners like Noise Aware and Virtual Key and Point Central to help our homes run smoothly.
Say this again. Virtual key and point Aware,
Noise Aware and Point Central. And so we don’t roll these out in all the homes, but we do have these in some of the homes we manage. Noise Aware is a program where you can track decibel levels. So it’s not in any way recording, but it’s just levels noise. And so we’re able to help mitigate any potential noise complaints by keeping those levels in check as well. And Point Central, I believe is also where we’re able to see how many people are logged into the wifi. So we’re able to at least monitor in a way how many people are in the home. And so we do make it very clear in our rental agreement that beyond multi generational family get togethers and things of that nature, that the rental reservations really are not to exceed the maximum occupancy. One to protect the home itself. Two, to protect the guests to make sure that they’re not using the home in a way that they shouldn’t. And three, to just be good neighbors for the people in the area as well. So we use those different services to help keep our standards in line.
Right. Well that’s really cool. And another great use of technology and that noise thing is something that’s been cited specifically here in Santa Cruz is that vacation rentals are noisy, to which I say, well, there’s already regulations about how noisy any house can be. Right? Exactly. You just call the police, just call the cops, it gets too noisy. But it’s good that you have a proactive system for managing noise and rentals. That’s really cool. That’s a new one for me. So we’re going to have to start wrapping up our conversation here, and as we get to the end, I just want to ask you if there’s anything that I should have asked you that I failed to ask? Anything come to mind?
Well, just really excited that we’ve opened up the San Jose market. And so we’ve been operating in Santa Cruz County from Aptos to Boulder Creek, but we are opening up the San Jose market, and it’s not a vacation rental market in that traditional sense. And there’s still regulations that will have to take into consideration as well. But we do see it as a destination for people, for business travel, for sports events. So many people are coming and going from San Jose, and there are plenty of homeowners who are self-managing and those who have their homes available for corporate housing. So we’re looking to partner with more homeowners in the San Jose area. So for your listeners who are in San Jose and considering their options there, I’d be delighted to chat with them about the opportunity.
Well, plus people come for at Santa Clara Stadium for a big concert or a trade show, a company will be exhibiting at a trade show, many trade shows going on, and they have a team of six. In a situation like that, a three bedroom house probably is a better deal for them than a hotel a lot of times. Right?
So I think that a lot of markets which haven’t been thought of as vacation rental markets really are.
Yeah, exactly. And so we’re excited to expand in that area and continue growth within Santa Cruz and the Sonoma area and working with more homeowners in the bay.
Alright, very good. Okay, so if I wanted to get started with Picasa, like if I had a vacation rental that I wanted to have managed by you, or maybe I have it already managed by somebody else, but I’m just curious what else Vac Casa can do? What’s the onboarding process? Do I download an app or do I go to your website or do I call you or
What happens? Yeah, so you can go to the casa.com and learn a little bit more about who we are and what we do. From there. You can either request to speak with a homeowner consultant like myself within your market, but we also have the ability for homeowners to sign themselves up online. And so there’s still a little bit of an onboarding process. You don’t just sign on and your home’s live, but we want to be able to meet homeowners where they’re at. And we understand that people want to simplify even that process of it. And so we’re available to provide a consultative meaning in the home over the phone or homeowners can sign themselves up online and then we can assist with the permitting and onboarding. So I love being able to talk with homeowners about what we do and meeting them in person at their property specifically, so we can talk about the unique things that apply to their home and how we can help them get set up for success. So the best start is [email protected], but perhaps give me a call and we can put my contact info in this blog or excuse in the podcast as well so people can reach out to me
In those show notes. So that’s actually interesting. So if I sign up with a vasa, I’m going to meet with a Acasa rep at the property and go over it and talk about everything. And you mentioned you do that, you go and meet with homeowners in their houses. So what’s your personal service area? If I have a house in San Francisco, do I talk to you? Or if I have one down in Pebble Beach, do I talk to you? Or how big of an area do you actually service personally?
Yeah. Well, right now we manage, for my area, it’s really focusing on Santa Cruz County. So we also, I’m expanding a little bit into Cambria and Morro Bay. We don’t have any homes right now in Monterey County, but we are looking to expand there as well. But if we have homeowners who are interested in chatting about that, we certainly have the operational reach to facilitate that if there’s homeowners in the area who want to partner with us. But for me specifically, it’s going to be Santa Cruz and into San Jose right now. But if you have listeners who are in Sonoma or have properties in Lake Tahoe, I can certainly help them get connected with their market experts. So I can share the value that Casa brings. But I think it’s important to speak with the local experts who can speak to the competitors in the area, the local regulations and different ways we set those specific homes up to operate. Well,
I love that it’s really important to work with somebody local who knows the market because every community is different and things are changing. They change quickly sometimes, and there’s a lot of different stuff that you need to know what happens in Pacific Grove. It is not the same thing that’s going to happen in unincorporated Santa Cruz County, which is not the same as might be in Half Moon Bay. So it really is great to have a local representative. And it sounds like LaCosta has that and you’re growing, I would assume if you don’t have somebody in Monterey, you might be hiring somebody in Monterey County sounds like.
Yep. And so, like I said, we’re the largest vacation rental company, but we are so local at the same time. So we’re able to leverage being a large company and having the data and experience that we have on our side, but having the local team who understands the community and the help that we work with. So it’s a perfect blend to support homeowners and guests alike.
I love it. Alright, sounds great. I’m going to tell everybody I know, check out Picasso, I
Appreciate it. I’ll be there to help.
Alright, well I’ll get your contact info and I will link it on the show notes so everybody can get ahold of you. But are you on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or someplace or someplace where people can reach out to you on social media or any way to contact you directly if they’re listening to this right now?
Yeah, so my email is alicia dot [email protected]. Phone number is (831) 515-8683. And then yeah, I’m on Instagram as well. Not affiliated with the casa, but highlighting just the beautiful days the week I spend here in Santa Cruz. And that’s Alicia Heber on Instagram.
Right. Very good. Awesome. Alright, Alicia, thank you so much for taking the time. I know you’re very busy. You got a lot of vacation rentals to manage, I guess.
So thank you so much and I look forward to running you somewhere around town.
Of course. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you so much.
All right. That wraps up episode 31 of the Beta Bay Podcast. Thank you so much, Alicia, for being our guest. On this episode and listen, it’s time to wrap up, but before I do, I have to give a word from our sponsor, which is savvy seller seminar.com. That’s right. Go to savvy seller seminar.com so you can register to attend my upcoming home seller seminar this coming Thursday, January 24th at 6:30 PM at the beautiful best Western Seacliff Inn in lovely APTAs, California. I’m going to teach you everything that I know about selling your home quickly, easily, and for the very highest price possible, and have fun doing it. Well, actually, I got to say, it’s not really everything I know because that would take a lot longer than an hour and a half. But I will tell you the essentials, the most important things that you need to take away before you want to put your home up on the market for sale. So go to savvy seller seminar.com to learn more about it and to register for the event. We’re going to have some door prizes. We’re going to have some late appetizers and drinks, and it’s going to hopefully be a very fun evening. I’m hoping that you can make it out there. Alright, that’s it. Thank you so much for listening to the Beta Bay Podcast, and we’ll have another episode up for you real soon.