A pool upgrade by InHouse. Photo courtesy of InHouse

Like many of us, brothers Michael and Jono Schafler became frequent users of Airbnb during the pandemic. And, like many of us, they noticed that properties, particularly when it comes to interiors and amenities, often fell short of expectations. You know those luxe-on-the-outside properties with ratty towels and polyester sheets? 

“While the cabin had the exterior that you expected from the Airbnb listing, when you got inside, there was a clear gap between the guest experience that you expected and what you were paying for, and what actually manifested on stay,” Jono said. “We were having conversations about this and said, ‘hey, what would it look like if you put these pieces together?’ A rising interest in short-term rentals and the $100 billion dollar Airbnb IPO, the great experience we are observing in the microcosm of trade, and the increased expectation for guests’ experience that we really felt was not being met by the existing brands in the market.” 

The New York-based brothers, who had previously started several businesses together including Trade Coffee, combined their expertise — Michael is an industrial designer and Jono has a background in finance and business —to launch InHouse last year.

They made it clear that InHouse is explicitly not a property management company. Instead, it’s a dual-pronged platform for short-term rental hosts that focuses on procurement, staging and guest experience. The Escape Home’s Danielle Hyams chatted with the brothers to find out more about InHouse.

The interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Brothers and cofounders Michael Schafler (L) and Jono Schafler (R) 

The Escape Home: So, how exactly does InHouse work? 

Michael: The business basically has two parts; we have a procurement business, which involves supporting hosts with the procurement of everything they need to go from empty space — or a tired space that needs an update — to a high-performance short-term rental, ready to go in just a couple of weeks and on budget with the right products. We have two entry points to the service. In some cases, a host is already working with an interior designer, at which point we are very happy to and frequently work directly with the designer to handle all of the procurement aspect of things. 

The other way we work is, when a host comes to us who has usually just just purchased a house and says, ‘hey, I need help with everything.’ What we’ve done for that is we’ve assembled a very large network of interior designers who are approved by InHouse and we then match the host to a designer based on their budget and any specific needs around design. Some of them just want what we’ll call a virtual design service, meaning they want somebody to go and do a bunch of mood boards and pick out a bunch of products, but they’re never actually going to go to the home or manage the installation of those items. More commonly, what we’ll see is the host wants to work with somebody in a more full-service capacity, meaning the designer will handle all of the floorplans, mood boards, specs, renderings and whatever else and they will physically go to the home and manage the installation.

A rental property set up by InHouse designer partner Sarah Bronstein. Credit: Sukkha Interior Design

The Escape Home: Is there a fee associated with joining the platform? 

Jono: It’s free to join but we speak with hosts through a basic onboarding flow when they sign up to confirm that they are in fact in the process of setting up a new rental or operating an existing one. That is the requirement of our brands in order to access the discounts.

The Escape Home: Do you typically work with small-scale hosts or management companies? 

Michael: We mainly work with individual hosts, not large management groups, although we do work with them as well. The reason being that these folks are amateur real estate investors who are really excited about the Airbnb space, they have the property, but they have very little else in terms of hospitality expertise, design expertise, etcetera. Our hosts have an average of 3.5 properties. And setting up a property on their own, hosts often spend 12 to 14 weeks. Properties set up on InHouse can be guest-ready in under 30 days, including delivery and installation.

The Escape Home: Is there a minimum spend? Do you work with hosts with tighter budgets?

Jono: When we started, we went out and developed direct relationships with around 200 brands, covering all categories of the home before we sold our first item to a single host. The brands are proactively interested in the fact that we’re servicing high turnover properties. What we landed with are deals of 20% to 80% off retail for our hosts. Having these deals means that we can oftentimes take someone who has a relatively modest budget by a lot of measures. The average budget for a three-bedroom property set up is $27,000, which includes furniture, decor and all household items like linens, cookware and accessories.

The Frontdesk interface, where stay information and products for purchase are easily accessible to guests.

The Escape Home: You mentioned the business has two parts. What’s the second part?

Jono: It’s called Frontdesk by InHouse, because it’s synonymous to how we think a really high-quality hotel or classic hospitality property would meet and interface with a guest, both through their concierge, and through some of the other onstage offerings. It’s a free, digital guidebook that we automatically set up for every host that signs up with InHouse. It’s a really beautiful initial arrival experience for that guest; it’s got all the info you need about arrival: parking, check in, check out, on-stay offerings and it also includes a local guidebook with host recommendation and insider tips as well as a guestbook. 

The cool part is it also gives the host the ability to sell products to guests while they’re on stay. So when you are a guest physically in the radius that we established from your mobile device of where that property is operated, you unlock for that period of time access to the same deals that your host had when they bought those Boll & Branch sheets in the first place. [ed note: Boll & Branch makes organic cotton sheets]

The Escape Home: And the host makes a commission on that sale?

Jono: So when that happens, the cool sort of alchemy moment for us is the guest had a great experience, the guest gets a deal, the host makes a commission, the brand meets that customer and acquires them for a future relationship, and we take our portion in the middle. This is a business meant to be a win-win-win for hosts, guests and brands. 

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