Austin-based HomeAway said it is planning a major expansion at The Domain in North Austin, where the nation’s largest vacation rental company will establish its global headquarters in a 16-story office tower that will house more than 2,000 additional employees.
With the expansion, the company is “doubling down” on job growth in its hometown, where it now employs more than 1,500 people, HomeAway president John Kim told the American-Statesman.
“As a global company headquartered in Austin and as the largest and fastest growing consumer tech company based in our hometown, we are well poised to attract the very best talent,” Kim said. “We’re already hiring at a rapid rate across all disciplines worldwide, and our new offices will help us continue to grow, especially as we look for talented designers, engineers and data scientists.”
HomeAway’s expansion marks its continued rapid growth within the $100 billion vacation rental category, the fastest-growing segment in the travel industry. In 2015, HomeAway, which operates the world’s leading network of online vacation rentals, agreed to be acquired by online travel giant Expedia for $3.9 billion.
Mike Rollins, president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said: “Now a part of the Expedia family, it’s great to see HomeAway continue to invest in their Austin roots. As a home-grown tech leader, their decision to add jobs shows that Austin works well as a supportive environment for small, high growth companies.”
The new office building, called Domain 11, is one of two towers planned for the north end of Alterra Parkway. The towers are being developed by Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group and Dallas-based Tier REIT.
Scott McLaughlin, a senior vice president with Tier REIT, said Domain 11 could break ground in the next 60 to 90 days, once city building permits are issued.
HomeAway said it has signed a lease for the entire building, which will have 315,000 square feet of top-tier office space. HomeAway could start moving employees in by early 2019, including some who might relocate from existing offices.
Kim said the new office will accommodate more than 2,000 additional workers, many of which he expects to come from the local talent pool.
The new building will house HomeAway’s growing product and design, engineering and information technology teams, Kim said. The number of HomeAway tech workers in Austin alone has grown by 50 percent in the past two years, and the company continues to invest heavily in this area, he said.
HomeAway currently has locations downtown, in South Austin and in an existing office building at the Domain, which has about 750 employees.
While the new Domain tower will allow HomeAway to consolidate to a more centralized corporate campus, the company plans to maintain its presence in downtown, in South Austin and in its current space in the Domain.
Like other HomeAway offices, Domain 11 will have an open layout that fosters collaboration, Kim said. Perks will include bike storage, outdoor balcony space, an outdoor lawn for meetings and workouts, and showers and lockers.
Employees will be able to walk to Whole Foods Market at the Domain, as well as its restaurants, parks and hundreds of retail stores – all of which are amenities that local office brokers say continue to draw employers to the Domain as they seek to recruit top talent.
“The Domain is the ideal setting for attracting talent and nurturing creativity, and we are excited to raise the bar even further with HomeAway’s plans to expand their footprint” to Domain 11, Scott Fordham, president and chief executive officer of Tier REIT, said in a written statement.
“Austin employees are critical to our global growth and success,” Kim said. “Our transition from a subscription-based advertising platform to a tech-driven e-commerce business is already paying off as our owners and property managers generated $2.7 billion during the first quarter of 2017, nearly 50 percent more vacation rental gross bookings compared to the same time last year.”
HomeAway’s network of websites has more than 2 million vacation home listings in 190 countries.
When Expedia, based in Bellevue, Washingon, was considering acquiring HomeAway, its location in Austin -- one of the nation’s top tech cities, Kim said -- “was a big asset.”
“If you don’t have a presence here, you’re kind of nowhere,” Kim said.
Founded in 2005, HomeAway built a network of websites that include HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com in the United States, as well as sites in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
The company was led by co-founder Brian Sharples until late last year, when Sharples stepped down and Kim, an Expedia veteran who was serving as chief e-commerce office at HomeAway, was named president.
Saying HomeAway has “amazing growth potential,” Kim said he is a big believer in the future of vacation rentals, so much so “that I bet my career on it.”
“We have a plan for big growth,” Kim said, “and there’s no end in sight.”