Photo: All Star Vacation Homes
In the market for a 14-bedroom home?
All Star caters to a growing market for mega-home vacation rentals.
Steve Trover has been trying to find the angles since he was 17, when he started his first company, exporting cars. “I was always trying to figure out how to create a business out of something,” he says.
That “something” turned out to be vacation homes.
It began modestly enough. His mother, Sue Trover, had been a real estate agent in Osceola County since 1984. She found herself selling a surprising amount to British buyers looking for second homes near Walt Disney World — “holiday villas,” they called them. As she began to focus more on that market — selling a new home paid a higher commission than an existing one — she began to hear more complaints about the management companies her buyers were then hiring.
In 1997, Sue Trover bought the real estate company she had been working for and turned it into All Star Vacation Home Realty, specifically targeting vacation home buyers. A year later, the Trovers launched All Star Vacation Homes to maintain and manage vacation homes when they weren’t in use by their owners. And in 2000, they established Beyond Furnishings, selling interior design and home-amenity packages to homes in the All Star system.
Steve Trover became CEO of the management company. Once a BMX stunt performer in the Main Street parade at Disney World, he says the idea was to bring the customer- service ethos of the hospitality industry to an industry run mostly by real estate types. Some steps were deceptively simple — like making sure high-resolution, up-to-date photographs of each room in every house were posted online for prospective renters to see.
All Star then began working with big home builders, such as KB and Pulte, to design homes with five, six or seven bedrooms in rental-friendly communities within a few miles of Disney World. The first All Star-influenced homes opened in 2002 in a community called Acadia Estates in Kissimmee.
As All Star’s rental network grew, so it did its customer research. A 2009 survey filled out by 1,200 respondents found that a third of All Star’s customers wanted homes with seven bedrooms or more. What’s more, 12.5% of its customers were traveling in parties Of 20 or more. The company’s core market is made up of “multi-generational” family travelers — think affluent Baby Boomers who like to travel with their kids and grandkids — though it also regularly rents homes to luxury and business travelers, sports teams and groups ranging from family reunions to corporate retreats.
But bigger homes posed a new problem. When asked to design a seven-bedroom home, the mass-market home builders would simply add two more bedrooms to a standard five-bedroom design. They wouldn’t make corresponding increases to common areas like the dining room or pool. The floor plans usually had features unneeded in a vacation rental — libraries or walk-in closets.
The answer: Build its own homes. All Star launched an offshoot business, now called Fullhouse, to design and develop custom vacation homes. The first Fullhouse home was built in 2012: A nine-bedroom, nine-bathroom, 5,500-sq.-ft. behemoth that was featured on HGTV.
The company has since designed and developed 21 custom homes, some as big as 14 bedrooms and 12,000 square feet. (An 18-room design is in the works.) All have certain features in common: Each has an oversized pool and spa, an in-home theater and a game room offering a mix of modern-day systems and retro arcade games. Every bedroom is a master suite, and each kitchen has a pair of ovens, microwaves and dishwashers. The homes typically sell for between $1.5 million and $3 million and rent at an average daily rate of $175 per room. Fullhouse develops homes for individual buyers and typically All Star manages the property and rents it out.
Today, All Star rents to more than 50,000 people each year. It has about 150 homes in its network — including Fullhouse homes — that together average about five bedrooms each. Most are in Orlando, though the company manages some homes on Sanibel and Captiva Island, too. Occupancy is a little below 70%.
Trover won’t disclose financial details. But the company says it did $15.2 million in revenue in 2012, when it made the 2013 edition of Inc. magazine’s list of 5,000 fastest-growing private companies.
Now Trover is working on his most ambitious business plan yet. He hopes to reinvent the traditional vacation-rental market by partnering with institutional investors — hedge funds, real estate investment trusts and the like — who would underwrite the construction of entire communities of Fullhouse homes and then hold onto them as long-term investments. Fullhouse would be the development partner, designing the homes and providing the brand standards for construction and operation. All Star Vacation Homes — or third-party management companies in markets beyond Orlando — would get contracts to run them.
The company says it is now working on plans for resort destinations around the country.
“It’s the hotel model,” Trover says, “used in the vacation-rental industry.”
The Vacation Rental Market
7,811 – Vacation rental homes in Osceola County
1.24 million – Vacation rental home guests in Osceola County
25% – Percentage of travelers who have stayed in a vacation rental in the last two years
Source: 2008 Economic Contribution of the Vacation Home Segment in Osceola County by UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management