Vacasa has purchased Meyer Vacation Rentals and Meyer Services from SH Enterprises, doubling its short-term rental footprint along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Starr Textiles and Meyer Real Estate will remain under the SH Enterprises umbrella and will be managed by president Michelle Hodges and CEO Les Williams.
Founded in 1967, Meyer began as a real estate company and moved into vacation rentals as the Gulf Coast witnessed an explosion in development in the late 70s. Meyer Vacation Rentals was the largest property management company in the area for decades, managing 2,200 homes and condos at its height before 2008’s recession. Increased competition slowly eroded its market share along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, and Vacasa reported today that it is acquiring 980 units at Meyer.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Vacasa is set to go public this fall through a merger with TPG Pace Solutions, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), with a $4.5 billion valuation. Company information presented with the SPAC announcement (source: Skift) shows that Vacasa receives a 30% commission on rentals and then adds a number of fees resulting in a 49% take rate (fees and commissions that the company collects on gross rental revenue).
According to SH Enterprises president Michelle Hodges, “While l appreciate everyone’s kind words about me and especially Sheila (Hodges), what makes this team special are the people that get up every day and come to work. That’s not going to change, they are what makes Meyer special, they are the team that just landed us as one of the best companies in Alabama. They will also be what makes Vacasa special; it may be another name but they are the ones that Make It Happen. Those aren’t just words. Truly Vacasa could have acquired a few smaller property managers to pick up inventory but they chose this team and fought for it, and I believe the reason is the talent and professionalism of a world-class group of professionals who know vacation rental operations like no one else.”
With previous acquisitions of TurnKey, Wyndham Vacation Rentals, and Mandoki Hospitality, Vacasa already has a large operation in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area outside of Meyer Vacation Rentals, and the company touts its ability to create synergies for scalability and efficiency. For example, when Vacasa purchased Wyndham Vacation Rentals, the company let go a significant number of Wyndham’s employees in Alabama within months following the acquisition.
Impact to the Destination
The leadership at Meyer Vacation Rentals has served in critical roles with the state tourism department and the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, consistently advocating for promotional funding for the destination, beach renourishment projects, workforce development programs, and development of conference facilities and the airport. The company is a key supporter for shoulder-season events that bring people to the area, including Hangout Festival, Shrimp Festival, concerts series, fishing tournaments, and nation-wide youth and collegiate sports. In addition, Meyer Vacation Rentals funds area charities, schools, and community events and initiatives. Vacasa, historically, hasn’t invested as heavily in the destinations or communities it enters.
According to Glen Kaiser, broker and partner at Kaiser Vacation Rentals, “When you begin to think about all the influence Shelia (Hodges) and Meyer have had in the community through her passion and entrepreneurship you can’t help but wonder how losing that presence will affect the business and community.”
Kaiser’s vacation rental division sold to Wyndham Vacation Rentals in 2013, and Vacasa purchased Wyndham Vacation Rentals in 2019. Earlier this year, Leonard and Glen Kaiser reentered vacation rental management with the relaunch of Kaiser Vacation Rentals.
“Change is inevitable,” Kaiser said. “Those who are left after a change are left with a responsibility to ensure that whatever the change affects will result in a positive outcome. We at Kaiser Vacation Rentals have experienced and learned from the effects of change like this sale of Meyer, so we work every day to ensure our actions are dedicated to reach positive outcomes. Our approach to business is what has been the cornerstone of how Shelia and the other pillars of the industry in our community—Kaisers, Bodenhamers, Bretts, Robinsons, Bollers—work toward, and that cornerstone is relationships and family-friendly business practices. So change such as this can be a little concerning that we don’t lose what has been worked so hard for and for so many years.”
Kaiser continued, “I guess I’m being a bit nostalgic, but I am proud of our community and of the reputation this community is known for. My hope is those of us still in the field working never lose what people like Shelia have worked so hard for so many years to build.”
According to Vacasa’s press release, “To support the portfolio expansion and continuation of service levels, Vacasa will maintain the Meyer Vacation Rentals Gulf Shores office and the Meyer Services office in Foley, Alabama, in addition to welcoming more than 200 employees to its field and management team.”
Vacasa expects that Meyer Vacation Rentals’ homes will be fully integrated and bookable on Vacasa.com by October 2021, with Florida units to be managed by Vacasa LLC and Alabama units to be managed by licensed subsidiary Vacasa Alabama LLC.