Brand Story – Where Property Management Meets Hospitality.
Beach and mountain towns along the Oregon coast, Bend and Sunriver have become top vacation destinations for visitors not only from Oregon, but from around the world.
Given this demand, vacation homes in Oregon can be a lucrative investment. And on the guest side, visitors have more choices than ever when planning their vacations.
This intersection of property management and hospitality has created a strong business opportunity for companies who can provide excellent service while ensuring a strong return on owner’s investments.
That’s where Meredith Lodging, a premier vacation home rental company with regional headquarters in Lincoln City and Bend and six offices along the coast (from Seaside to Waldport) and in Sunriver, has asserted itself as an industry leader. The ‘how’? By keeping the needs of their owners and guests front and center.
Meredith Lodging was launched in 2016, but the company’s story began back in 2005. Founders Meredith and Jon Oksenholt previously owned and operated a construction company that built high-end vacation homes along the Oregon Coast. Many of those homeowners loved the Oksenholt’s ‘above-and-beyond’ approach to communication and customer service, and were dissatisfied with their prior vacation rental management companies.
Based off this established level of trust, the homeowners asked the Oksenholts to consider taking on property management. During that same time, the Oksenholts had also been trying to find a trustworthy vacation home rental company to represent their personal investment property–yet had not been able to. All signs pointed toward the opportunity to create their own company—one which invested in its people and treated homes with highest degree of respect. Many happy owners later, Meredith Lodging (previously called Seahaven Rentals) was born.
Since then, Meredith Lodging has grown rapidly, expanding into different markets and demonstrating continued strong returns for their owners. Having acquired more than 12 companies since 2015, Meredith Lodging currently has more than 600 properties in its portfolio. Recently, it added resort properties Bella Beach, Olivia Beach, and Mt. Bachelor Village to its collection. “These resorts have an established fan base of repeat renters, and with good reason—each one has a truly unique and special identity, and all are treasured communities,” said Meredith.
The Oksenholts attribute the company’s success to developing a unique business model and maintaining a strong overall vision.
“Our focus has always been on keeping an “owner-first” philosophy,” said Jon. “We know if we partner with our owners to take impeccable care of their homes, if we invest in the teams and technology to keep their homes well cared-for and effectively marketed to renters, then their homes will succeed. And that’s where we’ve been able to deliver.”
Happy, modern interiors at Meredith Lodging’s Beach Vibes Cottage, Lincoln City
Meredith acknowledges superior customer service and vacation planning as other critical elements to the company’s success. The company ensures homes are easy to find and book—either online or by phone—and that their highly-qualified guest services, housekeeping and maintenance teams are available at all times.
Meredith Lodging’s “owner-first” approach and commitment to white-glove service is fundamentally different from its competition.
Many regional and national vacation rental management companies operate an “asset-light” strategy. Jon describes it as an “Uber-like approach”—companies outsource their labor to people working without the benefit of a local, physical office; they rely heavily on technology to manage properties remotely (even, at times, from across the country, with remote reservationists who might never have been to the markets they represent), and avoid as much overhead as possible. “Too many companies think that technology is more important than experienced, knowledgeable customer service,” said Jon. “Of course, investing in innovative technology is a key part of our owners’ success. But for us, this business is first and foremost about taking care of people by offering a local presence and market knowledge to our owners and guests, and investing in the employees and infrastructure to support that.”
One of the company’s core tenets is that “property management is best done locally”. The Oksenholts invest heavily in fully-staffed physical offices in the markets where their owners have homes and in the communities where their employees live and work. “Our owners love being able to come in whenever they want and meet with a real, qualified person to answer their questions,” said Meredith. “On the other hand, our guests love how we can handle issues on the spot or give insightful recommendations on homes, restaurants, and activities.”
Meredith Lodging staff meeting
The emphasis on keeping local offices and staff has become the platform for one of the company’s main goals: to be active and engaged members of the community. “We want the local communities to know that we are here to stay,” said Meredith. “Our boots-on-the-ground mentality shows we care deeply about our communities and are committed to investing in their success.”
Meredith Lodging also supports charitable organizations and causes, especially ones focusing on child education and development, veteran support, and those that provide aid to stray animals and animal shelters.
Most importantly, Meredith Lodging prides itself on being privately held and family-run. This independence means the company does not have to appease a larger corporate structure when making decisions for their owners, guests or employees. Jon is adamant that their company has no interest in flipping their business or aiming for an IPO. Instead, when growth opportunities arise, the Oksenholts prefer to play the role of acquirer which otherwise allows them to maintain the overall vision.
“We grow both organically and by acquisition, thanks to the hard work of our employees and the excellent service they provide our owners and guests. We are always open to opportunities to grow by acquisition, and our structure allows us to be nimble and responsive to the right opportunities while still maintaining a laser-like focus on the needs of our owners, guests and employees,” said Jon. “By not being beholden to a board or to investors, we can move swiftly and successfully to complete deals without the hassle of having too many people involved.”
“Family-run” extends beyond ownership and helps foster a familial internal culture. Many of the company’s employees–including the Oksenholts–have deep family roots along the Oregon coast and in Central Oregon that go back generations. The office environment is busy and focused but also fun and friendly—employees refer to each other as their “work family”. The Oksenholt’s son, EJ, is a frequent visitor to their offices as is their German Shepherd Ooshka. The children and dogs of employees are a welcome and regular presence in all of their offices. (At the company’s Lincoln City Headquarters, Meredith designed an on-site “kid’s room” for children to play or do homework, and also installed a dog run for employee pups to enjoy).
This welcoming and positive work environment is strengthened by the Oksenholt’s generous attitude toward compensation. In 2018, Meredith Lodging was the first to pay seasonal workers an industry-leading $17.17 per hour, which was especially significant given the scarcity of living-wage jobs along the coast and in Central Oregon. The company also offers full-time employees a robust benefits package as well as abundant opportunities for growth. For example, Aaron Linfoot, Meredith Lodging’s VP of Operations, started with the company as a member of the reservations team.
“Our teams are an integral part of every success. Recognizing hard work and giving employees opportunities to succeed has manifested into excellent service to our owners and guests,” said Jon. As a result, the company has been able to outpace larger, national competitors in markets where Meredith Lodging has been established for two or more years.
Meredith Lodging’s Seaglass Cottage
In terms of the future and relative market conditions, the Oksenholts agreed that their plan is to keep building on what’s been successful and to continue raising the bar on service. “From the beginning, our focus has been on continually improving our guest experience so our owners see their return on investment increase year over year and to make sure our employees feel appreciated and inspired,” said Meredith. “Our long term plan remains the same—stay open to growth and stay true to our culture, keep learning and listening, and make sure to keep our owners, guests and employees at the center of everything we do.”
Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues. The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.