The mission of StayMarquis is to allow owners and guests to “rent without reservation.” The undertaking provides first-class marketing, booking, rental management, and concierge services for the discerning vacationer. With the Hamptons serving as one of their active markets, The Independent spoke with co-founders Alex Goldstein and Bryan Fedner about their vacation rental service, StayMarquis, where they are involved at every step, in order to streamline the process for both homeowner and guest.
What a wonderful concept to make finding a vacation home more streamlined. Can you elaborate on what your motto “Rent without Reservation” means?
The significance behind “Rent without Reservation” is that owners and guests alike can rent without worry when traveling through StayMarquis due to our professionalism and reliability. We also frequently use the motto “Where Home Meets Hospitality,” which signifies StayMarquis being at the intersection of offering vacation rentals along with concierge service to make the vacation rental experience as seamless and stress free as possible.
In your first month, you had over 3000 renters booking properties through StayMarquis. How did you reach that many renters with your initial launch?
Over the years, we have developed a large base of repeat renters that come back year after year. Sometimes these renters will rent the same home over and over, but more often than not, they will seek other properties on our platform to try something new. We also advertise each of our properties on over two dozen websites, including Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO, which are great ways to reach vacationers who aren’t yet familiar with our company.
We have also formed partnerships with local businesses, brokers, travel agents, and concierge companies that refer their clients to book directly through us.
How did you come together to start this endeavor?
In 2009, we booked a vacation home for a long weekend in the Hamptons with a group of friends. We found the listing through Craigslist, which displayed a picturesque Hamptons home, complete with high hedges lining the property, a 20×40 in-ground pool, a salt-washed shingle exterior with perfectly manicured grounds, and a modern and clean interior that could comfortably accommodate 12 people.
When we arrived at the property, there were no hedges, no pool, and the structure that laid on the property resembled something found in a war-torn village. With our hearts already at our knees, they fell a little further when the “owners’” phone number was no longer in service. We got taken, and we vowed to never let that happen to anyone ever again.
We saw an opportunity to build a company that would be an industry game-changer, bringing a new level of professionalism and quality to an industry that was fraught with problems and run by individuals lacking the skills and experience needed to ensure property owners and guests had a hassle-free and streamlined experience.
Do you work with real estate agencies or are they considered your competitors?
We view ourselves as a supplement to real estate agencies, not as a replacement to them. While some real estate agencies view us as their competition, we view them as potential partners. For many agents, rentals have become a hassle, especially as the average duration of stay continues to decrease. Agents are more focused on the individual exclusive listings that they have to sell versus one-off rentals, however, in order to stay in front of their clients, they need to continue to service them, which is done by finding and effectuating rentals.
We have partnered with agents whereby they refer their clients to us and we handle all aspects of the rental and share commissions with them. This way, their clients are still being attended to, the agent still makes a commission but doesn’t need to put in the effort to carry them out. Everyone is happy.
How did you fill the inventory of homes needed to accommodate the large number of renters?
Initially, homeowners found out about us by word-of-mouth and flyers that we sent to homeowners. We then began working with real estate agents and local businesses to refer their clients to us, offering a very generous referral fee. The network effect took hold, which has resulted in our exponential growth. We are now marketing online and in print, but are continuing with our initial marketing efforts as well.
What is the process for homeowners to list their home on StayMarquis?
First, owners have to create an account on our website by going to www.staymarquis.com/signup. After they create an account, they are prompted to complete an onboarding form, which consists of describing property details, setting pricing and availability, selecting their package (Elite or Marquis) and setting fees (utility, cleaning and security deposit). From there, we schedule a time for a member of our rental management division to inspect the property.
After the inspection, we schedule a time for our photographer to capture new content (photos and/or video, eligible for video depending on the package). We then build out the listing, share it with the owners, and obtain their approval to launch it “live.” While their listing is up and running, we assist the owners with completing their house documents, including a welcome book, check-out instructions, and house rules.
What are the costs involved to the homeowner and the renter?
We have two programs that owners can choose between, which are described below:
• Elite Program (10 percent of rental revenue): Designed for owners who want to be a little more involved. Marquis handles all marketing, pricing, booking and guest communication up until the guest pays in full. At that point, we will introduce the guest to you (or your representative) to coordinate the check-in, cleaning, and other on-the-ground services.
• Marquis Program (20 percent of rental revenue): Designed for owners looking for a full turnkey experience. Marquis handles all marketing, pricing, booking, guest communication, and rental management services, which include preparing the house prior to arrival, checking-in the guest, acting as the point-of-contact before, during, and after their stay (and handling any issues or questions around the systems of the home), cleaning the property after they depart, and performing a prompt and full walkthrough of the home ahead of any security deposit return.
In a typical transaction, the renter is responsible for the following fees:
• Rental amount
• Utilities (this varies based on the property, duration of stay, and owner’s preference)
• Refundable security deposit (this varies based on the property, duration of stay, owner’s preference, make-up of the group)
• Admin fee of $200
• End-of-stay cleaning fee that is determined based on size of property
Are the rentals high-end only, as in, are there minimum requirements to qualify to get on StayMarquis?
Since the beginning, our goal has been to be “exclusive yet accessible,” offering properties of all different shapes, sizes, and price points, so long as they meet our quality standards. It is extremely important to us that we have inventory for everyone, and no matter what the price point is, that each of our guests feel that they are part of something special when traveling through us.
We have an initial inspection that we perform for every property to make sure that it meets our quality standards. We provide owners with guidelines of what they need to have and how they need to prepare their home in order to be listed with us. This inspection is performed on an annual basis or more frequently.
What does it mean that you provide concierge service?
We have a dedicated concierge team that is solely focused on guest experience. We take it upon ourselves to make each guest’s vacation as enjoyable as possible and offer a range of concierge services including: grocery shopping, running errands, pet care, babysitting, personal shopping, chauffeur service, kitchen help, surfing lessons, personal training, in-home massage, personal chef, restaurant reservations, and beach set-up.
We also offer guests the ability to book excursions including a boat tour around the Hamptons and/or North Fork, a wine tour, and yoga retreats.
Do you offer landscaping, pool upkeep, and maintenance services as well throughout the season through partnerships?
While property management services like landscaping, pool service, and other maintenance items are not included in either of our programs, we do have an extensive network of third-party service providers that can carry out tasks for our homeowners expeditiously. For the 2020 season, we will be rolling out our vendor coordination program, where we will be able to coordinate with individual owners’ third-party vendors to make it that much easier for owners.
All homeowners know that getting a hold of service providers, especially during peak season, is a challenge in and of itself, but due to the scale that we have built, our service providers provide our clients with preferential treatment.
What makes StayMarquis unlike any other?
There is a two-pronged response to this question, one focusing on how we’re different in the eyes of an owner, and the other in the eyes of the guest.
From the owner’s perspective: Our approach to how we market, price, and carry out our on-the-ground operations is unlike any other. Having been involved in the vacation rental industry since its infancy, we have seen, and experienced first-hand, what works and what doesn’t. We have developed our own methodologies and strategies to yield owners the highest return on their investment, while minimizing the stresses that come when renting their homes. Our vision for the industry, and our complete understanding of the differing needs of the owner and guest, allows us to bridge the gap between the two parties in a seamless fashion.
From a guest’s perspective: We are a one-stop shop when it comes to renting a vacation home. Not only do we hand-hold the guests through the entirety of the search process and answer any question that they might have about a property or the neighborhood, we continue to do so throughout the entirety of their stay. Our concierge team can handle any guest request, from grocery shopping, booking a sunset sail, organizing an at-home chef, or making coveted reservations, we allow the guests to relax before they even step foot on the property. Our partnerships with local restaurants, venues, service providers and other businesses creates a hyper-localized experience that allows our guests to live in luxury, like a local.
Do you plan to expand into other markets?
Our goal is to be in every market that is within a five-hour driving time of New York City and Boston. While the majority of our properties are currently located in the Hamptons, we do have properties in the North Fork, Berkshires, Litchfield, and Hudson Valley. We will continue to expand in those aforementioned markets, and will soon focus on Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Jersey Shore, and Vermont. Our main focus for expansion is to be hyper-localized, meaning that nobody else knows the market better than us, and we will not expand into that market until we have that intimate local knowledge.
To learn more about StayMarquis, visit www.marquisrentals.com.