Steamboat Springs Keri Couchoud was always fated to help people in Steamboat Springs find lodging. She just didn't know it until she'd already moved here and started her new business.
Couchoud is the principal in Steamboat Rent Finders. She matches apartment hunters with landlords and takes a one-time fee when the lease is inked.
So imagine Couchoud's surprise when she received an e-mail from her mother explaining about Aunt Lydia.
After marrying late for her era, only to be widowed within a year, Lydia McGettigan came to Steamboat Springs by stagecoach in 1902 to own and operate the Sheridan Hotel. Ultimately, she sold the Sheraton and moved to Hollywood, Calif. McGettigan was Couchoud's great, great aunt
While, Couchoud and her late aunt's businesses don't line up perfectly, it's safe to say that three generations later, she's helping people find a place to lay their heads at night, just as McGettigan did. Couchoud said she was surprised and happy to discover her previously unknown connection to Steamboat.
"I love historic places and walking the walk," Couchoud said. "Maybe this explains why Steamboat felt like home to me."
Couchoud's clients are landlords they pay her a fee of $500 for 12-month leases and $350 for six-month leases. Many of them are absentee landlords who own property here, but live elsewhere.
Laura Dirks is one of Couchoud's clients. She originally purchased a townhome at the Villas at Walton Creek as a vacation home. Subsequently she purchased across Whistler Road at Quail Run, and kept her Villas townhome. Although she lives in Denver and visits Steamboat often, Dirks found it impractical to make the drive every time she needed to show the property.
"Couchoud is so responsive either by phone or in person," Dirks said of Couchoud. "She has a talent for matching properties with the lifestyle of renters. It's a real gift for those of us who cant be here all of the time."
Couchoud says she gets most of her leads from an ad she places in Steamboat Today. She's trying to drive renters to her Web page to see properties she is representing.
"What I have to offer is one-stop shopping on the Web," Couchoud said. "I have a pool of renters who call me and hopefully I make quick matches with the owners. I want that quick match. It's kind of a benefit to both the renter and owner that way."
It's premature to say whether Couchoud's fledgling business is a success; she has rented three of six properties she has represented.
Steamboat Rent Finders is more than just a clearinghouse. She asks potential tenants to sign a release and asks for contact information on their previous landlord as well as personal references. "I call them all. That's my job," she said.
For out-of-town landlords in particular, Couchoud's service means they don't have to be here to show the property. Couchoud takes care of that chore. Similarly, Steamboat Rent Finders can eliminate the need for apartment and house hunters to run all over town, meeting landlords. That's especially helpful for people who haven't yet relocated here.
If Couchoud shows apartment hunters six places without getting a lease signed, she doesn't see a penny. While Couchoud is working with them, landlords remain free to make their own deals without any obligation to Rent Finders.
"I don't get paid until the lease is signed," Couchoud emphasized.
The current rental market seems to favor tenants and that seems to favor Rent Finders, Couchoud said. "Right now it seems like it's a renter's paradise," Couchoud explained. "Everyone is lowering their rents this year."