Fractional Ownership Where Everyone Wins

By Michael Waddell Managing Director, INTEGRITYOne Partners | September 02, 2010

Imagine a real estate scenario where investors enjoy higher margins, developers plus sales and marketing teams enjoy decreased costs, managers enjoy streamlined operations, buyers enjoy the very real perception of getting more than they paid for, everything is legal, and everyone is happy. Welcome to the world of fractional ownership.

The term "fractional" here refers to the concept of second-home purchasers obtaining a deeded partial interest in a specific part-time or vacation residence. Interests can range from four to 13 weeks per year. Fractionals may be individual homes or villas sharing major attributes. They offer the benefit of second home ownership at a fraction of the cost of full ownership and carry no maintenance responsibilities. Many fractional developments are affiliated with luxury hotel companies, lending them added cachet and the promise of assured market value.

Sounds Like a Timeshare

That's the knee-jerk view. Closer examination, however, will reveal dramatic differences. Like timeshares, fractionals identify a specific unit that can be purchased for a prescribed amount of time per year. And like timeshares, many fractional properties are located in popular beach, golf, and ski areas and sometimes offer exchange options. But the comparisons pretty much end there.

Unlike most timeshares, fractionals are not merely small ownership slices of vacation properties. They are a hybrid vacation option specifically designed and developed to appeal to affluent households. Small entrepreneurial developers have achieved remarkable success in this market, and as a result, all of the major hospitality brands have some commitment to fractional real estate.

Among fractionals, basic amenities, such as exercise and pool facilities, are viewed as costs of entry. Beyond this, there is a growing list of "must-have" amenities associated with the fractional market. Fractional owners are looking for a high-end vacation experience that offers a luxurious recreational lifestyle for a prescribed portion of the year. Amenities, therefore, often include luxury linens, high-quality towels and robes, showers with multiple shower heads and steam, built-in bars, high quality cocktail glasses and stemware, gourmet ranges and high-end appliances, fully stocked kitchens, and of course, the latest in technology. Flat-screen televisions with DVD players are present in every room, along with wireless technology and iPod interfaces.

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.