Brad Greiner, CEO and Founder of Open Air Homes, sat down for an interview with us and gave our members insight into how he founded an incredibly unique STR operation. His homes in Southern California inspire all to live cleaner lifestyles while still having luxury. Once you know more about Brad, you will understand how he has created a profitable company based on equality of the worker and sustainability. Read below to see his tips on how to create “moments” in your home, what our members can look forward to on the Open Air Homes blog and the launch of their Effortless Ownership System!
How did you get started in real estate investing and when did you decide to commit full time to Open Air Homes?
I began investing in real estate in 2012, and I spent about 9 months looking for my first home purchase. I think my real estate agent was starting to feel I wasn’t serious, but thankfully he stuck with me! When the home I bought first came to the market, I knew within minutes of viewing the listing that it was the one. I texted my agent that I wanted to see the house, and I received a response that they wouldn’t be showing the house until the weekend. I asked if they could make an exception, and I saw it the same day it came to the market and put an offer in by end of day.
This first home was for myself and I had no intention of listing it for rent. When my financial situation changed, I decided to rent out the home instead of selling it. Fast forward 8 years, and what started out of a necessity to pay my mortgage turned into a business.
By 2016, I was both developing and managing homes. I had been managing my own properties since 2013, but it was when I took on the management of someone else’s property that I established Open Air Homes. We grew for 6 years by word of mouth, and I learned the business from every angle. I now know how to make a bed as fast as any cleaner in the business, and I feel fortunate to truly understand the intimate operational details of this business as we begin to scale.
Whenever I speak to young people, fresh out of college and eager to start a business, I realize how fortunate I was to fall into a career that I am passionate about, and one that I grew into.
Was Open Air Homes always a luxury rental company, or where did you start?
When Covid hit, we had to make some serious decisions at Open Air Homes to stay in business. We decided at that time to drop a bunch of our inventory that wasn’t as luxurious as we would like.
We decided at that time to focus exclusively on great experiences for guests, and we work with our homeowner partners to make their homes nicer over time.
We realize that our niche is offering a consistently high-end inventory of homes. There are so many rental options available, but our intention is to offer incredible homes that are a step above.
What do you think sets Open Air Homes apart from other vacation rental companies?
The team we have at OAH sets us apart. Our people are dedicated to their mission of providing Effortless Ownership for our homeowner partners and continually receiving 5 star reviews from our guests.
Open Air Homes also brought the real estate buying and selling experience in-house through our sister company OpenAiRE, the go-to place for real estate investors looking to get into the short-term rental industry. Many vacation rental companies outsource real estate services to various agents and earn a referral fee, but we believe that the Effortless Ownership experience starts with offering homeowners an in-house, data driven approach to finding the ideal short-term rental property.
I think what also differentiates us is our focus on the 5 star experience for each and every guest. This starts with design, and I’m fortunate to be married to a designer that does a lot of the work for Open Air Design through his firm, Interior Particulier.
From my point of view, a lot of chain hotels went wrong by offering a mundane, homogenized experience that feels the same no matter where you travel. The same is occurring now within the short-term rental industry; when you look at rental sites, you’ll see a standardization of home design, with all the same companies for furnishings and amenities.
Think about your rental from the POV of the renter: guests want to be challenged, intrigued, and inspired by their short-term rental experience. They don’t want to see the Wayfair catalog in your home. Make inspired choices with the design of your home, and focus on providing a fully realized experience. Your guests will leave revitalized by the design choices you make, and will treat your home better as a result.
Your homes have all jaw droppingly beautiful designs, what do you believe are the top 3 tips for hosts when setting up new units?
Tip 1: Design starts with buying the RIGHT SIZE item, regardless of price point! Whether you are buying a 5K couch or one from a thrift store, make sure you buy the correct size of furniture to fill up the space (not too small, and definitely not too large).
Tip 2: Make unique choices with your design. The people renting your home are coming for a weekend or a month, and therefore it gives you a bit of leeway to make interesting choices when it comes to paint, art, etc,. Try to stay away from on-the-nose choices (like using bright orange accents outside with every home you manage), and instead view each home as its own space with an individual personality. You can also follow Open Air Homes’ instagram where we share our favorite colors, patterns, and design styles.
Tip 3: Create “moments” in the home that can be photographed beautifully. When a renter is looking at your property online, think about the experiences that you hope they will enjoy. Design these moments, whether it be a reading nook or a spot to relax outside, and capture each of them in a beautiful way for the renter to see. The renter is hoping to escape their normal life, and you want them to envision the experience they will have in the home. The more moments you capture, the more you will compel people to book a stay in your home.
Follow up question, from a design perspective, how do you think setting up an STR is different from setting up a regular home?
My answer to this question is above for the most part. A home you live in full-time is designed with you in mind: it should be calming, inspiring and have the energy you want for your life, whereas at a rental property the guest is staying short-term, so you can get away with more daring choices. It’s important to find the right balance and create a space that has the ability to welcome a wide range of people.
I see the Open Air Homes Blog is under construction right now. What can our members look forward to there once it’s up and running?
Our Marketing Director, Keolani Young, recently joined the team and brings expertise in successfully launching startups. Our intention with the blog is to elevate the entire STR industry. We don’t believe in withholding best practices, and our goal is to work together to make the entire industry better. We feel that if individual hosts get better, we all succeed as an industry.
You can also look forward to us taking a hard stance against instant bookings, as we believe they are inherently bad for communities. The STR industry has a long way to go to improve our image, and my challenge to all hosts is to strive to create rental properties that are not the nuisances of the neighborhood. The communities in which we work and live deserve peace and quiet at night, and it’s up to us to work together on industry-wide best practices that respect the neighborhoods in which we operate, so stay tuned for an entire series on what we feel are these best practices.
There will also be a ton of design tips, and hopefully an interview soon with Jeff from this great company called HostGPO 🙂
Do you always stay in vacation rental units and if so, what do you look for when booking?
To be honest, I almost exclusively stay in hotels when I travel. When I am in a vacation home, my brain starts working on all of the changes that the home should make to operate better and be a nicer experience. Therefore, I’ve learned to stay away from STR properties. I love the boutique hotel experience above all else, and I also stay in these hotels because I think we have a lot to learn from the hospitality industry, and I pick up amazing ideas with each new hotel stay.
I would challenge you with this idea: I think the future of the hotel and vacation rental industries will play out like this: people will look to hotels when they are booking a 1-3 night stay, and will look to vacation homes when they are booking a 3+ night stay. Hotels are designed for shorter stays, and homes are designed to relax, use a kitchen, explore like a local, and stay for multiple days on end, if not months!
Most of my trips are weekend trips, so this probably explains why I choose hotels.
What is your favorite listing you’ve ever designed or managed? Can we see a link?
I would have to say that my favorite home is the Avocado House that I designed and built with architect David Hertz and interior designer Julien Marbot (my husband, who owns Interior Particulier).
This was an incredible opportunity to learn from the best about the use of space, how light enters in through a building, and how magical a home can be when you incorporate vast windows with great landscaping and trees. The house was a moving art piece with the way light came in through the windows each day, and it’s still the most inspiring place I’ve been able to work from on a daily basis.
We ended up selling the home and are onto the next development project, but I will keep the lessons about design and architecture I learned from Hertz’s team.
What’s the craziest hosting story that’s ever happened to you (good or bad)?
We manage high-end homes in the Hollywood Hills, so I have countless stories I cannot share because we value the privacy of our guests above all else. We have hosted some of the most publicly-known people in the world who value privacy above anything else, so you won’t ever get a crazy celebrity story from our team.
Probably the most endearing story I have is how the name Open Air Homes came about. We had the founder of a major marketing firm staying at one of our homes, and she invited me to an (approved) afternoon barb-que in my own home!
After lunch was served, we ended up in the Airstream on the property with a number of executives from her company. At this point, we had managed and built 4 homes that were for rent, and didn’t have a name. She went through an exercise with the management team of her company and over a round of margaritas, she and her team came up with the name Open Air Homes, because she felt the design of our homes was all about this transcendent indoor/outdoor living experience.
I was very fortunate to have incredible guests like her staying regularly, and while it is rare that I meet up with them for a BBQ, I’ve learned so much from many talented individuals, and I’m genuinely in awe of our guests. I strive to offer a better and better experience for them every day, because I know how busy they are when they arrive in our homes. Our goal is to give them an absolutely stress free experience.
What is the biggest problem you see in the STR industry today? What do you think can be done to fix it?
The biggest problem I see in the industry is our lack of commitment to making homes and neighborhoods better as a result of managing rentals. The industry grew so fast that we are now playing catch-up to create a better image in the communities in which we operate.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing how bad short term rentals are for communities, and want to use this opportunity to take concrete steps to address the issues and create a better path forward.
Palm Springs has come down with some of the most stringent regulations around rentals, including the collection of taxes. You can see in the streets of PS that the town is using the TOT money wisely, and I’m proud to say that we are actively contributing to the success of Palm Springs with each renter that stays in our homes.
I have challenged my entire executive team to come up with our own set of rules and regulations that we adhere to as a company to prevent parties, vet guests properly, and take a stand for the communities in which we operate. The future of this industry is bright, but we have to be leaders who continue to enact change so that when I introduce myself as someone who runs a vacation home management company, I am not met with disappointment in the community.
One idea in my head is the creation of a nighttime security staff that patrols communities. Almost all hotels have a nighttime security staff to protect the neighborhood from noise violations, yet our industry hasn’t addressed that we rely entirely on police forces to handle disturbances. We owe it to the community to take a hard look at ourselves and come up with a set of policies to enact change.
Anything else you’d like to share about Open Air Homes?
We are very excited to announce the launch of our Effortless Ownership system and will be raising a crowdfunding round through Republic starting in October!
We believe owners of vacation homes are seeking Effortless Ownership, and we want to devise a system that allows them to live in the home when they choose, and monetize it when they are away. We believe Effortless Ownership starts with property management, and we are doubling down on our commitment to making sure Open Air properties get better over time instead of falling apart, which is common in the STR industry.
The Republic raise will allow us to open exciting new markets, develop our property management and hospitality app for owners and guests, and advertise for both property management and real estate services with OpenAiRE.
Craving more inspiration? Read our interview with Annette and Sarah from Thanks for Visiting Here.