Equity Estates

Prior to launching Equity Estates about 15 years ago, we met with experts in real estate, hospitality, legal, finance, and tax. We had a novel idea – to supersize the friend-share vacation home concept into a Luxury Residence Fund, where residences would be available to investors for personal use and financial benefit upon sale. We wanted to refine our business model and figure out the fairest way to structure this for all investors. One CPA we met with, Steve Gross, had a memorable reaction, “you have a nice little pony there”. I can still hear his words and mutter them out loud when good things happen at Equity Estates. To this day, it still makes me smile.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a global pandemic would lead to our best sales quarter ever. Now, more than ever, we are reaping the fruits of our labor by finding likeminded investors who agree that Equity Estates is the right way to own and enjoy luxury vacation homes. Our offering makes common sense.

Why now? What’s different? I think you can boil it down to two main factors. First, the combination of global uncertainty with highly overvalued stock indices are leading savvy investors to find new ways to diversify their portfolios. Second, we’ve seen an unprecedented level of demand for private vacation homes among affluent travelers. They want a safe place to go.

The Reality Of Overvalued Stocks And Global Uncertainty

You would be hard pressed to pick up a serious financial publication these days without seeing an article on overvaluation. Here are a few that I found in a quick Google search:

With a global pandemic still lurking around, a growing number of people are looking for safer harbors to ride out a possible “tropical depression” in the financial markets. Luxury real estate is proving to be one of the more attractive vehicles for those who can afford it. It is something they can touch, feel, enjoy. The pandemic pulled at our heart strings by pointing out what is most important and how fleeting life can be. Time with loved ones matters. And yes, people still want to vacation and even work with a better view for extended periods of time. If you move to a resort town, eventually, when the pandemic is behind us, you will want to go back for vacations. If you live in a city, you want to get out and relax on a beach.

The catch, of course, is the ongoing cost and effort of owning and maintaining a second, third or fourth residence.

The Appeal Of Private Vacation Homes

COVID-19 has also succeeded in shining a bright spotlight on one of our company’s best features — privately maintained homes that are well-cared for by a discrete group of people. People who love Equity Estates and see the value immediately are the type who prefer the intimacy of our homes over a large resort or hotel. This is what we do best. We take care of private homes and our investors who travel to them. Many of our destinations have team members have been with us for over ten years. They maintain our portfolio homes to our standards.

My 77-year-old mother, a polio survivor, shared stories of being sent to the Poconos, the Jersey shore, and other vacation spots nearby to get out of the big cities for safety. It’s happening now once again. And while I am confident the cities will all rebound, this Equity Estates “little pony” will be scooping up good deals along the way…in the city, in the mountains and on the beaches.

Now Is A Great Time To Join

Six months ago, at the onset of the pandemic, we were nervous as potential investors who had previously committed to Fund IV abruptly changed their mind. Fast forward to today. Nearly all these people have come back, along with significant numbers of new prospective investors. They took the time to learn about our novel approach to owning and sharing homes, including how we care for them over time…especially now.

We would welcome an opportunity to discuss why now is a great time to invest in Equity Estates. Allocating a small amount out of your equities into a diversified portfolio of luxury real estate assets may pay dividends of outstanding experiences and long-term financial return.

There are incentives for any new investor who acts before Monday, December 7, 2020. This includes unlimited travel for $600 per night and delayed annual dues until you are ready to travel.

Call us at 404.445.8501 or click here to schedule an appointment with one of our Investor Relations Team members.

Until next time, safe travels!

Philip Mekelburg
CEO, Equity Estates


Editor’s Note: The entire Calistoga Ranch property was tragically destroyed by the Glass Fire in October 2020. Equity Estates has since acquired a new Napa Valley residence that’s only 15 minutes away. 

Dreams of a trip to Napa Valley, California conjure up visions of hillside vineyards that dot the landscape, private wine-tastings from the cool confines of an underground cave, and regional gourmet food prepared by renowned chefs. Equity Estates’ homes at Calistoga Ranch put you in the center of these unforgettable experiences.

We interviewed Kaitlyn, Destination Manager for Napa, to create a perfect three-day itinerary. She generally begins with a few important questions for the guests to understand what they’re thinking before adding her thoughts. Read on to explore her itinerary for Three Perfect Days in Napa Valley.

Equity Estates Residence in Calistoga Ranch

Day One: Arrive on Resort and Get Started

Our bungalows in Napa Valley are just off the Silverado Trail in Calistoga, California and are managed by Auberge Resorts. Calistoga Ranch offers an atmosphere of casual sophistication enhanced by exceptional, personalized service. Our investors enjoy access to an array of amenities from the celebrated spa to the exclusive Vintner Member Program.

After you arrive and settle in, “We have an excellent partner who will come to the residence before dinner and sample wines from area vineyards.” Says Kait, “In addition, I’ll make reservations for dinner out, so our guests don’t have to prepare something their very first night on vacation. There are some really nice choices close by, including The Lakehouse, which is onsite at Calistoga Ranch.”

Day Two: Wine Tasting Tours

There are more than 800 wineries in Napa. So, whenever we’re making recommendations, we need to ensure the logistics work to travel from one place to the next without spending too much time in the car. “Tastings begin around 10 a.m., and I plan for no more than three separate sittings to fill up the day. After the 10 a.m. reservation, we schedule a noon tasting with lunch, then a 2 or 3:30 p.m. visit to wrap up the afternoon,” she notes, “I also hire a limousine for the day, so they can fully enjoy the experience of each winery.”

September through October is “Crush” season for Napa and is typically the busiest time of the year. Some say it’s the most beautiful time of year as well, with the warmer summer months giving way to cooler fall weather. If you’re traveling during the busy season, Kait will reach out to you a few months in advance to curate your itinerary and ensure you get into the best wineries in the valley.

Day Three: More Local Fun, then Relaxing Poolside

If you’re an early riser, reserve a hot air balloon ride that lifts off at 7 a.m. sharp. From there you can enjoy a local olive oil tasting and a visit to an art gallery or two. We can schedule lunch at that winery you’ve been longing to visit, then you’ll return to Calistoga Ranch to relax poolside until dinner. “The French Laundry may be the most storied restaurant in the area, so investors will need to make reservations firsthand, long before their arrival,” she says. “Plus, there are a handful of alternative farm-to-table eateries that are sure to put a smile on your face. I’m delighted to recommend them as well.”

Your visit to Napa Valley with Equity Estates can be anything and everything you’ve dreamed about. If you are an investor with Equity Estates, contact your Personal Travel Concierge to learn more about your Napa Valley vacation.

If you would like more information about investing with Equity Estates, please reach out to our Investor Relations team at 404.445.8501 or tap this link to schedule a call.

We interviewed Jim S. from Houston, Texas about his decision to become an Equity Estates investor, and how that experience has benefited him and his family over the years.  

When did you become an investor with Equity Estates? 

My two business partners and I joined Equity Estates in June of 2008. We created a business called Platinum Estates. The three of us manage our 45 nights internally and we split them up however we wish. It works great. Gives us a lot of advantages. We can trade nights (when) somebody wants to have more (nights) one year or when one of us wants to have less. 

What attracted you to the business model? 

Equity Estates is built on the model of less than 60% occupancy. Most of the other competitors sell 100% of their nights and (with that model) you’re going to have a hard time getting in when you want to vacation.  The 40+% vacancy ratio is designed so the homes are available, and you can (plan to) use them.

Now that you’ve been an investor for 12 years, how do you feel about the investment? 

My business partners and I think it was a great investment.  We believe the pro forma they put forth was conservative. We think it’s going to actually do better than that. They’ve assembled a really good team… good business people.  

Plus, you’re an owner in a business.  We can inspect the books at any time. These guys have an outside, independent auditing company, no affiliation whatsoever. They audit the books every year. We get a full accounting of what went on last year.   

In 2021, I get back my initial investment. And maybe I get back the dues I’ve paid over the 12 years I’ve been in the program. At the end of the day. I will have vacationed at $3 million plus homes for 15 nights a year. It doesn’t get any better than that. You can’t do that on your own. 

Have you enjoyed your vacations over the years? 

I’m blessed. It’s an incredible experience every single time. I’m taking two, three, and four trips a year. Sometimes I just do long weekends. The homes are incredibly beautiful. They have everything stocked, everything you’ve asked for is there, even down to the special requests. We had a chef in our group who wanted to prepare a birthday meal for us. He put together the list. The Equity Estates Local Host had everything on his list waiting for him… ready to make the meal. 

Every time I bring guests, they say, “It’s the best vacation I’ve ever had.” It makes me feel bad sometimes because I realize I’m doing this every time. 

What would you tell potential investors about Equity Estates? 

I tell everybody… if you believe in real estate, this is the investment for you. The reality is, if I put all the money I’ve been investing in the real estate market, into something like this, I would be so much better off than the money I have or have not made in the stock market. 

Unlike commodities, stocks or bonds, Equity Estates Funds invest in multimillion-dollar vacation homes which have an enormous potential to appreciate. Investors own and enjoy the homes for a decade or more until the Funds divest and return 100% of investors’ initial investment plus 80% of the appreciation.  An open booking calendar means investors have the freedom to travel at a moment’s notice or plan far into the future. In addition, Equity Estates does not rent properties to the public so as not to compromise the availability of any residence. With a little flexibility, investors can vacation anywhere in the portfolio, anytime they like.  

If you would like more information about investing with Equity Estates, please reach out to our Investor Relations team at 404.445.8501 or tap this link to schedule a call. 

The magnificence of our mountain and ski destinations in the summertime is not to be overlooked. “Travelers are looking to escape the heat and commotion of the city and opt outside,” our Equity Estates Destination Manager tells us. “In warmer months, Big Sky, Montana positively revolves around endless opportunities to revel in the great outdoors.”

We pride ourselves on anticipating the needs of our investor families and ensuring that the trips they take to our homes are both seamless and restful. Check out this ideal three-day itinerary for families who are making their way to the beautiful Rocky Mountains this summer.

Day One: Yellowstone National Park

The Equity Estates residence in Big Sky is about an hour and a half’s drive from west Yellowstone and one of the Montana gates. With three hours to and from and ample miles to explore within the park, allowing a full day for this trip is highly recommended. We can book a private tour company for your group to be chauffeured around the wilderness in a Mercedes Sprinter. Your drivers are expert tour guides and will explain the scenery, wildlife and the park’s incredible history in great detail.

Halfway through the day, tuck into a picnic basket lunch at a picturesque stop within the park. Yellowstone spans 3,500 square miles and the Gallatin Range is seemingly infinite. “If you’re traveling with children, this hallmark day trip is one that they’ll remember forever,” the DM shares. “They’ll see Old Faithful, alpine rivers, hot springs and elk, bears, wolves, bison and more. It’s a trip the kids will talk about for months and years to come – true memory-making.”

On the way home, make a stop at the world-famous Riverhouse BBQ. The restaurant bills itself as the “Best BBQ Under the Big Sky” and their Texas-style specialties are so irresistible that travelers even pick up takeout to bring onboard during their flights home. Order a family-style takeout meal of baby back ribs and brisket to share back in the comfort of your residence.

Day Two: Fly-Fishing

If you have ever watched A River Runs Through It and longingly admired the dramatic backdrop in each scene, Big Sky is your destination and fly fishing is the order of the day. A half-day morning trip is recommended for beginners or, if you’re an avid fisherman, a full day with an early morning start is suggested.

Wades and walks in the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers are booked by half- and full-day increments. Gear, beverages and lunch (if booking a full day) are all included in your excursion. Equity Estates is partnered with the most experienced fly-fishing staff and guides in the region. Even if you’re a novice, these friendly guides will ensure you soak up every moment of your experience in the water, hopefully with a catch like a Montana blue-ribbon trout to show for your efforts.

Equity Estates’ Residence in Big Sky features vaulted ceilings and spectacular views

Day Three: Outdoors at Home Base

Our residence is located on Lone Mountain just off of the White Otter Ski Trail. It’s on-mountain and, in the winter months, ski-in, ski-out. In that same vein, your convenient location means that single-track mountain biking and an abundance of hiking trails are available just outside the door. To meander the shops and outdoor patio dining, the mountain village below is a 20-minute walk away.

“I love to research the activities that families are interested in to make their vacation great. Recently a family wanted to enjoy some swimmable lakes in Big Sky and I mapped those out for them. Big Sky is very much down-to-earth, the opposite of pretentious. Families love it here for that very reason.”

Adrenaline junkies can make reservations to zipline or try their hand at archery. Families can take in the scenery at 11,166 feet above sea level – Montana’s highest scenic overlook – by taking a ski chair and an expedition vehicle to this world-famous spot. Just a short drive away, tee times can be arranged at Big Sky Golf Course, an 18-hole par 72 course designed by none other than Arnold Palmer.

At the end of a long day, spread out in the comfort of the residence’s 4,000 square feet or soak in the private hot tub. “Most families will want to linger close to the expansive view from the great room. It might be my favorite feature of the home. It’s a gorgeous view of the Gallatin Valley down toward the mountain village.”

With groceries conveniently delivered before your arrival, your family can play all day and grill steaks at home for dinner. If you prefer, a private chef can also be arranged. Take advantage of the large outdoor dining area to dine under the stars and truly make yourself at home.

For fourteen years, we have prided ourselves on providing the best service in the industry for outstanding vacations in private homes. Our diverse portfolio combines the intimacy of a private residence with the services and amenities of a five-star resort. We sat down with Satish, an investor who hails from Atlanta, Georgia, to discuss his family’s decision to join Equity Estates and their experiences traveling within the portfolio. Read on to see how our fund delivers a return on investment measured in far more than financial equity.

Why did you decide to invest with Equity Estates?

We decided to join for two reasons. The first was the investment aspect of it—we liked that you actually own a piece of the real estate and we were looking for a vacation opportunity. I’d seen a lot of the destination clubs and looked through how their financial model worked and it really just didn’t make any sense. Being in the real estate business myself, it made a lot more sense the way that Equity Estates structures the program. The second was the timing.

As a real estate investor yourself, what was appealing about our model?

When we invested, the timing couldn’t have been better. We had seen the market crash and we knew there was an opportunity to go out and buy resort real estate at prices we’ll probably never see again. We looked at Equity Estates almost like a mutual fund of homes, rather than having to pick a location and put all our eggs in one basket. This was a great way to diversify the investment and have someone else take care of it. We get to go visit great destinations at the same time.

How has investment worked out for your family?

Our oldest child is 16 and she’ll be moving out in a few years. We just value any time that we are all together but can be doing our own thing. What’s so nice about pretty much everywhere we’ve been in the portfolio is the homes are big enough to spread out. There’s such a big choice of what you can do that everybody’s not feeling like it’s forced family time. We’re making memories that they’ll remember as adults. They’re going to say, ‘Oh, remember when we were in Turks and Caicos and Byron built that sandcastle and everyone stopped to take pictures of it?’

Hilton Head, South Carolina

We’re glad to hear that our residences are ideal for your trips.

Yeah, very much so. The great thing about the properties is that they’re so well thought out. Everything that you could want is there. They’re in great locations and, you know, our kids are to the point now where they jockey for position on how many friends they can invite because they want to share that experience with their friends. We’ve had a great time at every location we’ve ever gone to and we’ve had a lot of fun. Equity Estates, it’s like your own house because somebody has thoughtfully put everything that you’re going to need there. You’re just bringing your clothes. The first place we went to was New York City and there were guidebooks, games, umbrellas, there was just everything. And then when you go to places like Hilton Head there are bikes and boogie boards. In Turks and Caicos there were fins and masks and snorkels. It just makes it easier.

Having been investors for a few years now, how does this investment compare to owning a second home?

It’s like having many vacation homes. We had a house on a lake in North Carolina for five or six years and the challenge is that you just don’t get there that often. As the kids got older, there would be six months in a row where we’d never get up there. And then when we did have the time to go, we felt obligated to go there. The nice thing about Equity Estates is that we check the calendar and we pick different places to go. We’ve been to Southern California, we’ve been to Hilton Head, to Florida, New York City, and Cabo. It’s nice to not feel tied down or obligated to go to the same place every time, and knowing that wherever we go, the quality and services in the homes is going to be consistent. They’re all going to be outfitted nicely. Equity Estates has been one of the best investments we’ve made, so far.

If you’d like more details on what investment for your family looks like, please schedule a call with our Investor Relations Team to learn more about Equity Estates Fund IV or request additional details here.

Why Buy One Vacation Home When You Can Own Dozens?

What motivates a buyer to purchase a second or third home for their vacations? The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Investment and Vacation Home Buyers’ Survey determined that 42% of buyers are looking for a home base for personal vacations and a family retreat, 18% want to make the house their primary residence upon retirement, and 12% bought when a home was priced so competitively that it was “too good to pass up.”

If you’re considering a second home as a vacation residence, are you prepared for all the research, work, and costs (planned and unplanned) that can accompany such a long-term decision? Do you want to visit the same destination, year after year? Do you want to spend the first day of your vacation grocery shopping and getting the home up and running? 

Costs Associated with Second Home Ownership

  • Down payment
  • Ongoing mortgage expenses
  • Property and liability insurance
  • Utilities
  • Landscaping
  • Storm preparations (often at a moment’s notice)
  • Remodeling and refreshes to keep the value of your investment up
  • Cleaning services when the home is occupied and vacant
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Property taxes
  • Property management
  • Décor and furnishings
  • HOA fees, if applicable
  • Time management of all helpers and vendors

Real Estate as an Investment

Luxury real estate is a strong hedge against inflation and a haven from volatility in the stock market, especially during times of great economic uncertainty. Luxury real estate has shown strong year-over-year growth, and is considered a lower risk, higher reward investment regardless of where we are in the economic cycle. Inflation plays a significant factor as well.

Considering these details and the liquidation timeline for Equity Estates Funds, we believe Equity Estates provides a better alternative to purchasing a second home of your own.

Equity Estates home on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Pros of Investment with Equity Estates

  • A diversified real estate investment – we take care of finding, buying, and selling the vacation homes
  • Multi-touch concierge service that will take care of your every need like dinner reservations, private chefs, and pre-arrival grocery shopping
  • Daily housekeeping so everyone can truly relax
  • Best availability in the industry given we underutilize the homes so you can travel when the inspiration strikes
  • A collection of 60+ luxury residences in more than 25 countries so you’re not stuck with just one destination year after year
  • Achieve long-term financial goals
  • A hands-off investment that you can actively enjoy before divestment

Equity Estates Fund shares the actual expenses of owning and maintaining the homes with all the investors evenly. Annual Dues cover these expenses and are typically a quarter of what you’d spend on a vacation home of your own. Plus, there is no surge pricing on using your Equity Estates residences during the holidays. Each investor’s Annual Allotted Nights are usable anywhere in the collection, anytime of the year. These savings are yet another factor in your return on investment. 

Other vacation alternatives rarely include true equity ownership as our fund does, nor do they typically offer one-on-one personalized travel planning and concierge services. Our level of service and attention to detail truly makes traveling to your portfolio of homes both convenient and memorable.

Because we won’t make money on the sale of real estate until you do, you can rest assured that your investment is in skilled hands. We align with our investors and focus on their lifestyle needs and long-term financial goals. When we divest, proceeds are dispersed first to you, until 100% of your initial investment is returned, and then 80% of any appreciation thereafter.

We are real estate buying, property management, and customer service experts, highly experienced in caring for both our investors and the properties in their portfolios.

If you would like to review additional comparisons of Equity Estates to other vacation investment options, see our Comparison page.

Seeking Investors for Fund IV

In these times of stock market volatility, it’s a comfort to know that the luxury real estate market remains rock solid. When the markets rise and fall, we find buying opportunities that provide a return on your investment dollars.

Equity Estates handles every aspect of owning a luxury vacation home for you. Simply enjoy the perfect getaway and figure out where to go next. With close to 15,000 investor vacations under our belt and continued portfolio growth year after year, no other alternative comes close.

Fund IV is currently open to investors and slated to raise ~$50 million. The fund will acquire up to 12 vacation residences. A typical residence is located in a beach, mountain, leisure or city destination convenient to area amenities, attractions, and airports. Residences vary in cost from $2 million to $5 million and range in size from two to six bedrooms and 1,500 to 7,000 square feet.

If you’d like to learn more, please call our Investor Relations team at 404.445.8501 or schedule a time to speak (all times listed are Mountain Time).