Cindy Diffenderfer Talks About Her New Home Sharing Business Model

Cindy Diffenderfer, Co-Founder and CEO of Orion Haus, was interviewed on the Mission Matters Money Podcast.

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Cindy Diffenderfer shares how Orion Haus is playing a pioneering role in the sharing economy, turning everyday renters into real estate investors.

What mission matters to you?

Diffenderfer says Orion Haus turns renters into real estate investors through home-sharing made accessible to all by creating affordable, high-quality, and flexible housing solutions.

How did the journey begin?

Diffenderfer has been an Airbnb host since 2011, first using the platform to monetize her home in New York, but her building’s owners “prohibited short term rentals of any kind,” she shares, “as it posed a security issue for other residents and in their opinion would deteriorate the quality of living for all residents in the building.” She started brainstorming how to make home-sharing valuable for owners and transform transient lodging to make it more attractive in residential buildings. When she relocated to South Florida three years later she started working on the idea.

“When we met with leadership at Airbnb, they were facing host and traveler attrition since there was no commercial control or system in place to ensure the stability of inventory,” she says. “Through our partnership, we created a business model that suited the needs of travelers, residents and property owners for compliant, safe and easy short-term and long-term rental management.” That led to the launch of Niido, Natiivo and now Orion Haus in 2020.

The real estate and housing landscape

“We are witnessing the sharing economy grow in a lot of different verticals, through ride-sharing, co-living or homesharing,” Diffenderfer says. “It is now a commercial product that appeals to all age demographics from millennials to their grandparents—everyone is participating.” She admits that hosts can face emotional barriers at first, i.e., how/why to let a stranger sleep in your bed or drive your car, but she says financial motivators help them get past those roadblocks. Once they experience the benefits of the sharing economy, they continue to expand how and where they use it.

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Who benefits the most from homesharing and flexible leases in real estate?

Diffenderfer says Real Property owners, investors and renters benefit the most since they have inventory and opportunity to monetize it. But, she says, residents benefit as well. “Our model creates additional revenue opportunities for people which allows them to pursue their financial and lifestyle goals that they otherwise would be struggling with on a fixed income.”

How does Orion Haus function?

Orion Haus allows renters to monetize their homes without homeownership, creating an investment income through their rental. 

“All you have to do is rent an apartment with us and we run it for you,” Diffenderfer explains. “So if you have a home in another city which you use only when traveling, you can earn revenue off it. If you’re a primary resident, you can rent your house when you’re on vacation, or spending the weekend with your family, or there’s a seasonal event in your area.”

She says that the brand also focuses on professional hosts who are also traditional real estate investors; you can become a real estate investor even if you don’t have huge capital, she notes, by owning a single condo and renting it out. She describes Orion Haus as a “real-estate partner agnostic” platform, noting the wide variety of relationships the brand takes part in to bring its value proposition together. 

“We work with different developers, private equity, and pre-existing buildings, and are open to all distribution channels,” she says. “We’re in the process of converting 22 depressed hotels into home sharing-friendly micro-apartment units. Moreover, we are also syndicating and distributing the short-term rental product on a nightly basis through over 100 online travel agencies.”

The company is currently targeting secondary and tertiary markets across the southern US, from Florida to Texas, and up to North Carolina.  

What’s it like to partner with Orion Haus?

To participate in the home-sharing program, Diffenderfer says, all you have to do is manage your calendar; and your Orion Haus app alerts you each time you get a booking. 

“We’re like hotel partners, so we handle everything from marketing, lease up, interior design services (and) furniture packages, to pre-cleaning and post-cleaning. We collect the revenue, take our portion and transfer the rest to the renter’s account,” she explains.

“If you want to become a renter, enroll on our waitlist at our website,” she advises. “When the inventory becomes available, we’ll let you know. Once it delivers, you can put in an application and move and keep it as a furnished or an unfurnished unit. You can tour the apartment, select the floor and furnishing plans, and put your deposit down digitally.”

What’s next for Orion Haus?

Diffenderfer says Orion Haus is in the process of opening up in 12 different markets. It has secured almost half a billion dollars in funding to be used for the acquisition of portfolio properties. “We’re looking to buy more depressed hotels and motels in the Southeast corridor, which we’ll redesign and rebrand,” she says, noting that deals are currently in development in Atlanta and North Miami. 

To learn more about Orion Haus Homes & Hotels, visit orionhaus.com.