From A Single Unit To 100 Active Listings: How These Two Brothers Are Offering Contact-Free & Instagram-worthy Stays For Anyone Looking To Explore The Great Outdoors
Less than three years ago, Evan Wilburn, a former engineer and veteran of the United States Air Force, decided to leave his full-time job and start a property management company.
Together with his brother Philip Wilburn, Evan founded Hoste in 2017 and capitalized quickly on the rising popularity of the sharing economy. The company grew from one listing to one hundred in less than three years. All properties are located in Colorado Springs, a quick drive from national parks near the Rocky Mountains, including the picturesque Garden Of The Gods.
From A Basement to 100 Active Listings
It all started when Evan listed the basement in his house on Airbnb, generating a nice amount of revenue and soon realizing the potential of the short-term rental market. Within time, the brothers were renting out a handful of privately owned properties across Colorado Springs, with enough demand that they began looking for a property management company to handle daily operations for them. Without finding any suitable options, the brothers decided to take the job on themselves, and with that Hoste was born.
Hoste provides a turnkey solution for short-term and mid-term rental property management. Today, the company has grown to 20 employees, doubling the number of listings managed in the last year alone. Currently, the brothers are experimenting with hybrid listings – properties that are rented out short-term in the busy seasons but are converted into minimum 3-month mid-term rentals in the slower months.
How COVID-19 Has Yielded Growth
Although many Airbnb and short-term rental hosts are struggling amid COVID-19, Hoste has seen success, so much so that they are setting their sights on expansion and growth in the next year.
After seeing that guest inquiries around health and cleanliness increased dramatically with the start of COVID-19, Evan and Philip quickly pivoted to promote their stringent cleaning procedures on their website and across booking channels, and ramped up their internal cleaning staff to ensure all properties meet these standards. They also made sure that all of their listings reflected the 100% contact-free nature of their properties – all are equipped with keyless entry and self check-in/check-out technology.
All of Hoste’s properties are private homes – there are no shared spaces for guests – which minimizes concern over high “high-touch” surfaces such as doorknobs or dining room tables. This, coupled with a lower guest turnover than traditional hotels, means that these short-term rentals significantly reduce the risk of exposure between guests.
COVID-19 also forced Evan and Philip to rethink some of their operations, and they soon realized that they could use technology to automate and streamline even more tasks. The result: they were able to achieve more in less time and with fewer resources, while still providing top-notch experiences and services to their guests – helping them thrive even during a global pandemic.
The results speak for themselves:
- In Colorado Springs and the surrounding cities, Hoste has been at 100% capacity as of June 1 when restrictions eased.
- The company has not needed to lower their nightly prices or make any changes to their cancellations policies to attract guests.
- Right now, occupancy rates are the same as this time last year and Evan expects this trend to continue throughout the peak months into September.
- Although they are fully booked, lead booking time has decreased dramatically – travellers are booking last minute, on average 15 days out.
- Length of stay has increased slightly – before COVID-19 the average nights booked per reservation for Hoste was 3-4 nights. Today, this has increased to 6 nights on average per booking.
- Guests are a mix of domestic travellers from key surrounding states like Texas, Kansas, and New Mexico.
Relying On Tech For Smooth Operations
As their business began to grow, Evan and Philip knew they needed help if they wanted to scale efficiently and effectively. Between answering guest inquiries, keeping track of listings across various platforms, and managing staff, the two knew they couldn’t do it alone.
Eventually, the pair turned to Guesty to help them simplify and streamline their property management business. Guesty helps them centralize all guest communication via a Unified Inbox that syncs all booking platform messages so that no guest inquiry goes unanswered, send automated messages to guests with check-in/out instructions, and keep track of all reservations across various booking channels in one Multi-Calendar.
Evan relies heavily on Guesty’s Marketplace, an ecosystem of vetted and approved third-party vendors, including home automation systems, payment processors, guest experience solutions and more, to stay up-to-date with the latest tech tools and software available in the short-term rental ecosystem. So far, Evan has directly integrated with dynamic pricing tools, cleaning and maintenance management software as well as guest verification and fraud prevention technology.
In addition, Evan was able to build an internal automation software using Guesty’s Open API, which makes all of Guesty’s functionalities accessible on the Hoste platform. By using Guesty to build their own software, Hoste now has its own accounting system and analytics dashboard to provide owners with better insights into their properties’ performance.
Overall, Guesty has helped Hoste grow to 100 listings, maintain a lean team of about 20 employees (including the internal cleaning staff), integrate with various tech solutions that help them run their business, and ultimately spend more time focusing on growing their company and expanding into new markets in surrounding cities.
Evan and Philip plan to launch a new initiative this year in mid-July, which will provide guests with outdoor experiences and activities they can book as add-ons to part of their stays directly through Hoste. Their new concierge service would include private hiking trips, brewery tours, in-house massages, and even aerial tours via a private jet.
They also are planning to expand their business into more cities surrounding Colorado Springs, potentially adding a mix of long-term rentals or residential homes to their existing portfolio.