Scott Kelly was looking for accommodations as flexible as he is when he found a standby apartment. Actually, make that standby apartments.
Kelly, who is the CEO of an accelerator that helps startup companies, didn’t need to be anywhere in particular. That’s when he found a new program from Landing called Standby that let him hop between rental units in Orlando, St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Florida.
Landing apartments are fully furnished and stocked with the essentials for a long-term stay, including kitchen utensils, linens and towels. But the best part of its Standby program was the price: Kelly says the subscription service saved him a bundle by going with Landing’s Standby option.
“I save an average of $2,000 a month,” he says.
Standby is at the vanguard of new flexible lodging options designed to appeal to digital nomads, retirees and location-independent entrepreneurs.
“The extended stay category is one of the hospitality industry’s fastest-growing categories,” says Tim Hentschel, CEO of HotelPlanner.
How fast? Extended-stay lodging is growing by 11% each year and will reach $132 billion by 2032, according to CBRE, a real estate company.
Hentschel has had a front-row seat to the growth. He’s seen a 19% year-over-year increase in bookings of more than a week, which is the traditional definition of an extended stay. In many of those cases, customers are locked into a hotel contract. But that’s changing.
How Standby works
The idea behind Standby is that in exchange for a lower price of between $1,195 and $1,995 per month (not including the $399 annual fee), you get to choose from apartments that would otherwise be unoccupied in one of 375 cities. It’s a little bit like flying standby back in the old days of air travel.
“People today have more freedom in where they work and live than ever before, and they don’t want to be locked into a single location with a long-term lease,” explains Bill Smith, Landing’s CEO. “For those with the highest level of flexibility, Landing Standby unlocks the ability to take full advantage of this newfound freedom by moving around and exploring new places – at a highly affordable cost.”
There are some restrictions. For example, Landing excludes some California and New York apartments from the Standby program. And there are terms and conditions that you don’t usually get with a standard lease. Standby members may have to relocate with a 72-hour notice, and they may need to go to a different city where there’s available inventory.
Customers like Kelly are part of the nomadic, location-independent class of workers who are looking for new experiences and don’t mind moving. For those who want stability and certainty, Standby’s standard corporate housing membership is probably a better fit.
How other extended stay options have embraced flexibility
Standby joins a crowded field of long-term options that already promise a high degree of flexibility for guests.
Blueground adds new options
Blueground, a major operator of furnished rentals in 30 cities, now allows guests with a one-year rental agreement to pause their contract and return to another fully furnished Blueground apartment of their choice. Blueground guests also have the option to relocate to another Blueground apartment at any point during their stay. The company offers guests a 16-day window to check in and lets them terminate a lease with 30 days’ notice in most cases.
Zumper, a marketplace for privately owned rentals, late this spring launched a program called FlexPass by Zumper. For a $300 annual membership fee, the service gives members access to thousands of furnished short-term rentals on Zumper’s marketplace, without security deposits, contracts and booking or hidden fees for cleaning, applications or brokerage. “Consumers no longer see a strong distinction between vacation, monthly and long-term rentals,” explains Anthemos Georgiades, Zumper’s CEO.
Furnish your own place at WaterWalk
WaterWalk, an upscale extended-stay hotel brand, has taken flexibility a step further. The extended-stay brand offers hotel-like terms. For example, changes or cancellations to your reservation require a 24-hour advance notice, and cancellations may subject you to a one-night penalty. But for longer-term guests, WaterWalk offers the option of booking an unfurnished room, which is an industry first. The idea is to compete with the traditional and “archaic” apartment leasing processes, according to the company.
What’s the future of flexible living?
Standby options, passes, lease flexibility, and unfurnished units — all light a path to the future of long-term accommodations. But what does that future look like?
I’m no hotel consultant, and the lodging experts I spoke with for this story don’t have a clear idea. But as someone who has been living on the road for the last few years, I can tell you what it doesn’t look like.
Signing an apartment lease for 30 days at a time is out. The newest flexible options allow travelers to move between units when they need to, as their schedule changes. I’ve also noticed that many of the fees associated with home rentals are also being phased out. But you may have to sign up for a paid membership in some cases.
Companies like Landing and Blueground have drawn a distinction between a more consistent, almost hotel-like lodging experience and the Airbnbs and Vrbos of the world, which offer vacation rentals. It’s now clear that these companies also want to compete on flexibility. The biggest beneficiaries may be the guests.