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  • Writer's pictureJoe

Happy Mothers Day!!! - The House2Play Story

Updated: May 13

In 2021, life became complicated, prompting me to chart a new course in several areas of my life. My career had been a growing concern for some time. Stuck in the complex structure of a multi-layered international organization, I had a good job but was frustrated by the inefficiencies that bureaucracy prevented me from addressing. I knew it was time to find a career path where I could take control, and I thought House2Home Realty, headquartered in Marion, IL, was the solution.

Nestled in the heart of Southern Illinois and familiar with our own flavor of lake life, House2Home was founded by Celia Robertson, who is still the owner and managing broker—and also my mother.

With a long tradition of family businesses in our background and some interest in real estate, it seemed like the obvious choice. However, after briefly dabbling in real estate, I realized that my structured corporate mindset didn't always work in the unpredictable world of independent contractors and eccentric personalities. Yet many bad ideas eventually lead to a good one, and that’s how House2Play was born.

The company’s name and logo pay tribute to you, Mom. Like you, our success comes from walking a different path than our peers. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Everyone in our spectacular, though sometimes dysfunctional family loves you!

Now, onto the rest of the story...

One weekend in July 2021, one of the original co-founders of House2Play joined me on a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks—a place we hadn’t visited since the pandemic began. While many places had closed their doors, the Lake of the Ozarks kept theirs open, which led to significant growth during this period. I was blown away by how much the area had grown in such a short period of time. I fell in love with it and conceived the idea for House2Play, envisioning a lake house retreat that would also serve as an investment property for personal use.

I then spent six months researching the vacation rental industry, learning about the tools and technology available for managing multiple vacation rentals. In February 2022, we were ready to launch and acquired The Hideout, a 720 sq. ft., two-bedroom cabin perched on a hill overlooking the lake. The view still gives me goosebumps to this day. Though it had its fair share of bumps and bruises, it was already a vacation rental grossing around $22,000 a year. We penciled that if we did what the previous host had done, we would make a small profit. It seemed low risk and a good entry point into the market.

We made minor repairs, brought in new furniture, enhanced the outdoor areas, and called in a photographer for professional real estate photos. I then went to work on the technology. As a veteran of the tech industry, even though I only had one property, I always asked the question what if I had 1000. And so I built for 1000.

The big day came. We listed the property live on AirBnb, VRBO, and this website. We instantly received a 10-day booking for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. As AirDNA will show, The Hideout’s revenue is now more than double what it was when we acquired it. Despite not having direct lake access, it’s one of the top-performing two-bedroom properties on the lake.

Encouraged by our success, we ventured into luxury property management. We want only the best for our hosts, and we understand that luxury brings success in this industry. However, luxury doesn’t have to mean high prices at House2Play. We believe in the performance of the properties on our platform, allowing us to charge competitive rates that are often lower than expected. We’re doing our part to address high short-term rental management fees, catering to investors like ourselves. Use your property occasionally without stress, but let it make money for you—and we can help you achieve that goal.

But why the lake instead of a more established market like Destin or Disney? Trust me, we will have a beach house one day, but we have good reasons for making the Lake of the Ozarks the foundation of our business.

In the travel and tourism industry, few places handle tourists as effectively as the lake. It’s a collaborative effort. With such a small local population managing a large influx of tourists, cooperation is essential. Family-run businesses dominate the lakefront. Children work alongside their parents, supported by seasonal workers who flock to the area for great summer job opportunities. Together, they ensure everything runs smoothly and guests leave with smiles. We want to be part of that, and that’s why the Lake of the Ozarks is our home and headquarters. We aim to help families and friends have fun.

By day, I work in cybersecurity—a demanding field that requires my undivided attention. Meanwhile, my technology and a small team look after our guests, managing everything from emailing reservation details to changing door codes and coordinating cleaners and maintenance staff—all autonomously.

Is House2Play a tech company or a vacation rental business? Perhaps the future will reveal the answer. But for now, we embody both roles. I’m looking forward to a promising season and hope to see many of you this summer at the lake!


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