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Meet Michael Vilardo of VHomes in Westwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Vilardo.

Michael, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
After graduating from UPenn, I moved to Silicon Valley to pursue the startup world. I joined a $2M seed-funded Stanford GSB startup Dispatcher Inc, an “Uber-for-Trucking” startup. I was the fifth employee at the company. We were later acquired by Uber to help begin the Uber Freight department. Post acquisition, I bought my first home in Chicago, moving back to where I was originally from. In Chicago, I experienced my rookie landlord moment when my first tenant broke their lease. In between searching for my next tenant, I began experimenting with Airbnb/short-term rentals. I quickly realized how much more profitable and fun this was, and immediately decided to pursue a business idea out of it.

With limited cash, I had to find a working way around purchasing the properties so I quickly began leasing properties and negotiating an Airbnb clause into the leases. This allowed me to scale up to 6 units in Chicago for my business, HomeTech LLC. My Co-Founder and I were moving to NYC and LA, respectively, so we decided to close down the business. From here, I was inspired to pursue my 2.0 version as UCLA awarded me a full scholarship to pursue my MBA and chase this dream.

VHomes is the new and improved business idea, with many of the HomeTech trials and tribulations tied into it. VHomes has four live properties in Arizona, We are excited to continue to grow and build our Real Estate Saas company into a venture-backed idea.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Entrepreneurship is far from a smooth road – it is all about hustling, iterating, and surviving. When in Chicago with HomeTech we really scrapped for every advantage possible. Originally we incorporated student interns as our housekeepers/cleaners, leased properties and Airbnb’d them without permission and had little to no long term vision. We were only focused on maximizing daily revenues in the short-term. This quickly catches up to you and we realized both models, albeit highly profitable, were not sustainable. Interns continually quit/needed to be replaced, and we were served an eviction notice for using our first lease as an Airbnb.

This is where the iteration comes into play. We quickly realized that in business, as in life, it is always best to understand the other stakeholder’s point of view and wishes. Landlords could be our ally when we provide them transparency and positive solutions – we started leading off each engagement bluntly asking for permission to use the properties for short-term rentals. We began targeting units on the market for 30+ days where landlords wanted liquidity, security, and a paying tenant, and we provided such.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the VHomes story. Tell us more about the business.
VHomes is building the future of budget travel. We strategically target vacant/unwanted rental units. Places that have noticeable issues require rehab, have been on the market 30+ days at minimum. We provide these owners with a tenant (us, VHomes), and give them long-term liquidity. We then on the back end turn these units into luxury on a budget accommodations. Since we target distressed real estate, we lock in much lower rates than typical and are able to pass those savings along to our travelers. We provide value for two key stakeholders: landlords and budget travelers. We create so much value we are able to keep the surplus which is the bonus and what drives the value/profitability of our business today.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Every six months a once in a lifetime opportunity comes your way – it is up to you to seize several of those across your lifetime and we are no different at VHomes. Firstly I am incredibly lucky to work at Dispatcher, later acquired by Uber. If it weren’t for this, I would not have developed a passion for startups/entrepreneurial hustle, nor would I have had the cash reserves to purchase my first house where another stroke of good luck hit – my tenant breaking the lease. When she broke the lease, I was stressed and discouraged. However, it turned out to be the best possible break as it inspired the Airbnb hustle that turned a side hustle into a $100K annual recurring revenue business while in Chicago.

Bad luck is most obviously the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful for my health and the health/safety of my loved ones, as many have been far more affected than I. COVID-19 has hit VHomes hard as we had substantial momentum with our live 4 Arizonan properties, however we have quickly pivoted to providing first responder “Quarantine Houses”. While we are not nearly as profitable, we are able to stay afloat and provide significant social good. We are blessed to spread positive vibes in a time of need.

Pricing:

  • COVID-19 Pricing $60 or less per night all stays

Contact Info:

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