Quick Q&A: Janera Soerel, SecondHouse

BHN talks to Janera Soerel, founder of sharing economy second-home platform SecondHouse.

• How did you have the idea for Second House?
“Before living in NYC, I lived in Milan (Italy), and every Friday, my friends and I would leave the city, and depending on the season, go to one of their beach, mountain, or country homes. Here we would cook, eat, drink wine, talk, go for walks, ski, swim, and luxuriate in idleness. On Sundays we’d go back to Milan, live our full busy work and social lives, and do it all over again the next Friday. Maybe at a different house, and with a different composition of friends, but always engaging in a similar ritual.”

“When I moved to New York, I terribly missed that life. I launched SecondHouse to recreate the happy, healthy, town and country ritual, which enables members to get out of the city regularly and connect to new friends and nature, hassle free.”

• Describe SecondHouse and what differentiates the company?
“We are for individuals and families who desire owning a second home, but don’t want the expense, guilt, or headache. Our people are looking for a regular escape from the city, and love the consistency of going to the same house, and meeting others in the community. The members use the homes as their own, go back-forth to the city, and leave their stuff. We operate on a first-come first-served basis. And, when a member wants the house to him/herself, they have to book before everyone else and reserve/pay for all rooms. We created a point system to allow for that flexibility.”
• Travellers have many options for getaways: hotels, apartments…for whom is SecondHouse the best choice and why?
“We are ideal for individuals and families who are new to the city and are looking to get out of town regularly and meet new like-minds. We have split the weeks between kid-free and kid-friendly. When we have more houses, some will be for families, and others for singles. Overall our group is well-educated, well-traveled, mindful, relatively progressive, and consists of entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives who are curious and enjoy conversations with new friends.”
• How many members do you have? How do people join and what’s the vetting process?
“We don’t disclose the number of members. Vetting happens through the online application process, and a call with someone from the team. Then the potential member comes for a trial, and if there is a fit they become members.”

• What is the process to match like-minded members for the property stays?
“We are building an online matching platform with member profiles that will suggest people to share homes with.”

• How do you find the homes?
“The ones we have now have come through our network and from online searches. I foresee that we’ll be also be working with real estate brokers in the near future.”

• What is your long-term plan?
“To own and manage a global network of second homes which are close to big cities. The houses cater to the local members, however, if for example a New York member goes to Milan, then he/she can share the Portofino house with the Milanese members, get the insider’s perspective and connect with locals in an organic way.”

• Do you have stories about members who have developed relationships or begun collaborating through the program?
“Members are inviting each other out to drinks, parties, and dinners. I know
things are thriving when I hear about connections that have happened without my intervention. For example, one of our first members, Anna Konstantinova (who is also our brand ambassador) was hired by one of our members who runs a big advertising agency. SecondHouse itself met its creative director – Camillia BenBassat, the principal of branding agency Avec, through the community. And, at one of our recent events, the speakers won a new corporate client. Great things happen when you put smart, driven, people in the same house.”

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