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HomeAway’s Eclectic North Austin Abode

From an over-water bungalow in the Maldives to a one-bedroom hilltop studio in Wyoming, HomeAway is the world leader in the online marketplace for vacation rentals.

The Austin-headquartered company connects homeowners to vacationers looking for short-term holiday rentals.

Pre-dating Airbnb, HomeAway offers two million places in 190 countries. Their rent-by-owner platform specializes in second homes and vacation properties for families and groups, offering entire spaces spanning from mountaintop hideaways to beachfront villas.

The vacation home company was co-founded by Brian Sharples and Carl Shepherd in 2005. The rental platform has acquired more than 20 competitors since inception, including VRBO, a pioneer in the online vacation home booking space founded in 1996. Today, John Kim is at the helm, joining the Expedia-owned company last year.

Despite transitioning to a tech-driven business, HomeAway has maintained its family-centric focus and Austin roots. More than half of their 2,000 plus employees are based in offices around the Texas capital.

HomeAway boasts international offices in Geneva, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Sydney, and Singapore. Domain is the company’s newest space: four storeys in northwest Austin aptly named after its location in the city’s high-tech corridor, The Domain. HomeAway moved into the 114,000 square-foot short-rise in 2014.

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A living room beside the reception welcomes visitors and employees alike to have a seat on the L-shaped sectional. The company’s signature bird house logo is peppered around the office—you can see it on a living green wall or replicated physically (without the live birds) in almost every corner of the space.

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“But what if we like, made the bird house out of a birds nest?”

Work

From the sleek concrete floors to the pastoral wooden ceiling beams accented with track lighting, the Domain office embraces mixed and reclaimed materials in the homey, LEED gold certified space.

Domain houses HomeAway’s website developers and designers as well as part of their operational and e-commerce teams. Each workstation and its lighting can be tweaked specifically for the person who pulls up their custom ergonomic chair.

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For a company in the vacation business, it’s no surprise that a travel-theme takes shape inside the office. Employee vacation photos are proudly displayed alongside eye-catching installations, a personalized and cozy feature found in every HomeAway offices.

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(insert key-party joke here)

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Quiet breakout spaces extend off the hallways. The Austin-proud company named its meeting rooms after notable streets and parts of town.

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Do you even lounge, bro?

Each floor is home to a chill space for employees to get away from their workstation, while the ‘bird bar’ offers a change of scenery with desks ready to plug and play.

If your internet goes down, you can try unplugging and plugging it back in again or head to the IT service desk, ready to help solve tech headaches.

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The pool-table is normal size. Everything else is just really big.

Food

Snacks and beverages are stocked to fuel workers during the day. The week is capped off with a catered breakfast every Friday, serving up Texas favorites. Special events and unofficial holidays come paired with an all-staff pizza lunch too, evoking that pizza-day feel from childhood.

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Culture

HomeAway’s desk away program gives employees the chance to work remotely from another city’s office for a short period of time, letting them mix in a vacation with work. Employees start at HomeAway with four weeks of paid vacation and ten paid holidays.

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Maintaining an active lifestyle is made a little easier at HomeAway as the office also features a gym, bike lockers, personal lockers and showers.

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Workers are offered reduced rates on public transit and incentives for driving smart cars—into the skywalk-attached free parking garage, of course. A shuttle runs from the downtown office to northwest Austin, helping urban dwellers get to and from work.

The company has a long-standing relationship with the local Habitat for Humanity. It’s all hands on deck each December during the charity’s holiday three-week “Blitz Build” where employees build a home for a family from the ground up in less than a month.

HomeAway also has award incentives including a Vacationer award to put $1,500 towards a holiday away, and smaller recognition awards that pay for a night on the town or present employees with loaded gift cards.

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Domain has a designated learning space for employees, a collaborative classroom that hosts different career development courses and learning opportunities. Through an internal platform, employees can register for classes, some that are employee-led and others headed by experts, coaches and mentors. These courses teach everything from how to be a better manager to the ins and outs of project management.

Fun

The lunchroom offers the classic startup amenities of foosball, ping-pong, and arcade and video games.

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Everyday they’re shuffling.

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A tranquil space to mow-down zombies.

Two company-wide events each year bring the team and their families together: the holiday party and family-friendly picnic. The theme of the holiday party is kept secret until the lead-up to the highly anticipated event that has local musical talent taking the stage to keep the party goers on their feet.

An unofficial annual cross-company event brings the Austin teams together for a friendly kickball tournament game or flag football game.

And finally, the building offers an amazing patio space for those willing to brave the Texas sun, or better yet the Texas sunsets.

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Photos by Matt Odynski

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