Graduate Homes is the latest offering from Graduate Hotels, a quickly-growing brand that has scaled its portfolio from 13 to 32 properties over the past three years. I recently spoke with Graduate Hotels President Kevin Osterhaus on why they launched short-term rentals, how they did it, and what they are hoping to achieve.
Why Graduate Hotels launched Graduate Homes
“Graduate Homes is our way to leverage our presence in the market during periods of high demand,” Kevin told me. “With football Saturdays, we’re driving premium rates in Oxford, Mississippi, and Ann Arbor, Michigan at our hotels – and we see there’s still demand.”
Kevin sees both a revenue opportunity and the opportunity to introduce the Graduate brand to more people.
“Graduate Homes came out of thinking about how to expand the Graduate brand presence in these markets, and provide extreme value to both homeowners and guests. We felt that our ability to manage the whole operation end to end would be key to delivering the Graduate brand experience that guests expect of us.”
“Over the past few years, many schools weren’t able to host events, graduations, and back-to-school events as they traditionally had. This year we’ve seen a lot of excitement coming back into that. There’s a lot of excitement around sports programs. What’s exciting for me is offering the ability for families to experience all of this together. To provide guests with a 3 or 4-bedroom home where families can spend time together and experience all the amazing things about a college experience.”
“We’ve put together teams to ensure we design and deliver a bespoke, delightful experience for guests. That starts the moment they arrive at one of our homes and includes amenities such as access to our hotel rooftops during busy weekends. It’s been a really fun way to extend our brand.”
Starting with the team
The launch of Graduate Homes began with the formation of a working group dedicated to this initiative.
“We built the task force internally to focus on identifying what we needed to do to launch. It might seem easy, but short-term rentals were a different business for us. We needed to understand all the logistics and legal requirements to secure and rent homes as we planned.”
Identifying the markets
With the team in place, the next step in launching Graduate Homes was identifying the markets that made sense for this offering.
“It goes back to occupancy, ADR, and brand recognition. In our launch markets, our hotels were earning up to several thousand dollars for multiple-night stays during high-compression weekends such as graduation or game days.”
Preparing operational support
Once launch locations were identified, Graduate needed people that could provide the sort of guest experience they sought to deliver.
“For a long time, we’ve hired guest experience managers at each of our hotels to take care of our guests from their first inquiry through to the time they leave to make sure that every step of their journey is as enjoyable as possible. We had to tweak the process a bit from what we provide at our hotels, but we’ve maintained the same general approach with Graduate Homes, and have received very positive feedback from both guests and homeowners.”
Results from Graduate Homes so far
So far, Kevin says they’ve learned a lot – and their planning has paid off.
“Our thesis that creating a distinctive brand experience and delivering on that operationally would create value for both us and our guests seems to be playing out.”